Board Games in Academia V
Making wood games
In Catalonia the national Curriculum for Secondary Education (12-16)
allows pupils to choose certain courses of study. At Guinards School, in
Barcelona, an optional course of study called 'Making Wood Games' is being
taken since 1.999. It combines a part of the 'Design & Technology'
curriculum with board games from around the world. In fact, technology makes
the perfect excuse to play board games.
The main approach followed in the classroom is divided into four
phases: firstly, pupils learn a set of 10 board games. In order to achieve
this, they become experts on two of them that will be taught later on to the
other classmates in small groups. As a result, they know how to play the ten
board games. The second phase consists in playing all these games in order
to enjoy and deepen their understanding of them. Thirdly, they should
reflect on the games. At the beginning, they pick up some features or
patterns such as the aim of the game, the board type (reticular, linear or
areal) or the way pieces move. After that, they try to solve some
challenging questions by playing repeatedly some of the games. Finally,
students are requested to create new games through making alterations or
combining characteristics of the ones they have previously learnt.
Some conclusions have arisen from this experience. Curiously, pupils
felt deep fascination by solitaires such as Pentalfa or Triple Exchange.
Solitaires constitute a challenge because students play against themselves
rather than a competition. You should not wait for your turn and can develop
your own strategy without being disturbed by an opponent. As far as their
knowledge of games is concerned, most of them didn't know anything about
Chess and had scarcely played Draughts, Ludo and Three Men's Morris.
They were spontaneously fond of games such as Jungle (Do Shou Qi) or
Surakarta. Therefore, those games were their favourites when they had to
build a game with wood. At first, almost all of them created hazard games
usually played with dice. Perhaps they preferred hazard to strategy, as it
was more convenient for them.
Furthermore, when creating a non-hazard game, they were not worried
about its 'playability'. Nevertheless, they realised that some games such as
Nimbi or Pong Hau Qi were predictable and, consequently, they were not
strictly 'playable' and had some limitations. In some cases new games were
slightly different from the original ones, whereas in other cases they only
had little resemblance. Finally, it was difficult to check if they had
understood all the rules due to the learning method explained above.