Tag Archives: board game


“Comma”-nd and Conquer — Battleship Grammar Mod

I will upload the resources/assets I used for this lesson in the near future, but I just wanted to report the INCREDIBLE response I receive from my students for this exercise. Here is what I did: first, I gave students a short grammar lesson on commas, maybe a half-hour. Then I distributed a 7×7 grid on a sheet of paper and had students draw–secretly!–a three-square-long ship on it. I then paired them up and gave them sentences to punctuate. If they got a question right, they got a torpedo to launch at their partners, a la battleship. Anyone with a ship still afloat by the end of the exercise got a prize (this was a mistake, by the way; I should have said “Anyone who sinks a battleship gets a prize”).

This is the sort of “gamified” exercise that makes Ian Bogost rage against the machine, but the fact is that it is one of the best grammar lessons I’ve ever conducted. Students were eager to learn from their mistakes, eager to send their classmates to a watery grave, and audibly improving with comma usage as the lesson went on. I say “audibly” because they cheered and fist-pumped and cabbage-patched in their desks when they were right, and groaned when they missed a question. It was everything we want our classes to be. And it came about because of a simple, quick-and-dirty game mod.

Monopoly Mod

Created by Francesco Crocco

To simulate how class inequality increases over time due to inherited wealth, land, and privilege

1. Define the word “monopoly” and talk about the ideas that the game embodies (competition, monopolization, survival of the fittest, level playing field, social mobility, the American Dream)

2. Make teams and assign each team a different class profile. I use the American profiles in Gregory Mantsios’ “Class in America: Myths and Realities,” Rereading America, 6th ed., ed. Colombo, Cullen, & Lisle (NY: Bedford St. Martin, 2004) 331-45.

3. Answer and discuss question one

4. Review the rules and write each profile’s starting assets on the board

Modified Rules
1) Players start with unequal amounts of money and land (this corresponds roughly to
“Samuelson’s Pyramid” in Mantsios’ essay)
a. Harold, Capitalist: $4000 + Boardwalk, Park Place, & 3 Railroads
b. Bob, Middle Class Worker: $1500 + New York Ave
c. Cheryl, Lower Class Worker: $1000
d. Maria, Immigrant Worker: $500

2) Fortune Die: Each time a player passes go, roll a six-sided die for a random event to
simulate privilege. Implement the outcome in terms of monetary rewards or fines.
a. Capitalist: 1 bad, 2 nothing, 4-6 good
b. Middle Class Worker: 1-2 bad, 3-4 nothing, 5-6 good
c. Lower Class Worker: 1-3 bad, 4 nothing, 5-6 good
d. Immigrant Worker: 1-4 bad, 5 nothing, 6 good

3) No private transactions are allowed

4) End the game after 3 turns around the board (3 Rounds). Should take 60 minutes.

5) If someone besides Harold is winning after three rounds, they get extra XP

5. Answer and discuss questions two and three

Sample Random Events
Good: stock gain, tax cut, subsidy, award, raise, promotion, welfare

Bad: rent hike, stock loss, unemployment, tuition hike, bail money, tax hike, medical expense

Pre-game Question
1) How do you think the game will end for your character?

Post-game Questions
2) How did inherited wealth, land and privilege affect the outcome of the game? How did it specifically affect your character?

3) How can opportunity be made equal?

Image credit: mtsofan

AudaCity the Game

I just spent the last few days at the Urban Affairs Association 2011 conference in New Orleans. It was an amazing collection of researchers and practitioners working on urban issues, with many papers focused on the post-Katrina recovery. I also had the pleasure of meeting Matt Cazessus and Colby King, urban sociologists from the University of South Carolina, who have designed a game to simulate the process of urban development. With everything else going on at the conference, they did not actually run a playtest, but I have to say that it looks very promising, and I’m looking forward to playing it and to trying it out in a classroom environment.

The game is constructed to illustrate various urban concepts, such as regime theory, which emphasizes the interdependence of governmental and non-governmental forces. To this end, the players take on different roles, such as the mayor, organized labor, or the chamber of commerce. A game design problem emerges in that it can be very difficult to create fair game where players have different goals (i.e., different winning conditions), so how would you create a game with identifiable actors who, in the real world, would have different goals? King and Cazessus borrow a mechanic from games like Puerto Rico, where players adopt different roles on different turns. In the context of teaching an urban politics class, that means that each player gets to experience these different roles, while solving the game design problem by having the player strive for the same goal (maximizing income from development) while the roles are nonetheless differentiated in their power and influence.

The board represents a platted street and block grid. Imagine New York City in the early 1800s. The Commissioners’ Plan of 1811 has just been adopted, so development must take place within the blocks that have been laid out on paper, even if the streets have not even been extended that far North on Manhattan Island. Each round, each player proposes a development plan, which is a set of roads and buildings to be built, along with where (within the established grid) they are to be built. Then the players vote among the plans, and the plan with the most votes wins. As observed by one playtester, the players are both competing and cooperating in the process. I asked the designers about the power of the mayor in the game, and they said that the mayor is a powerful role in the game, but if the player with the mayor role is too autocratic or self-interested, the other players will usually gang up to defeat the mayor’s proposals. And, since roles get shuffled during the game, someone else will get to be mayor soon…

The game only exists in prototype currently, but if you are interested in finding out more about it, particularly for classroom use, you may contact the designers at AudaCityTheGame@gmail.com, or check out their Facebook page.

This page duplicated at my Free City blog.