Who says learning isn’t fun?

While it may be a little unsurprising – after all, our hobby is a little on the nerdy side – there are a wealth of board games out there that do an incredible job when it comes to educating games about past events. From the birth of civilization to the conflict of the modern day, gamers can be spoiled for choice and have some fun round a table that will leave you wanting more.

So, here are 6 games that can help educate as well as fill an evening or two. Starting with-

6 | A FEW ACRES OF SNOW (2011)


Or ‘the conflict you never knew about’, this stunning deck builder covers the events of the sporadic French-Indian Wars that took place throughout the 18th century. A relatively streamlined game with a powerful engine at its core, the game maps out the struggle for modern day Canada as both sides grapple with each other, managing their colonizing efforts, and ensuring that you have the economy you need to secure a foothold in the land. This is perfectly mapped over to your card drafting and management, mimicking the efforts of an invading force attempting to secure a foothold in a hostile, unwelcoming territory. With many real-world events and concerns marked on the cards, players effortlessly learn about the mechanics of the conflict, key events, and how colonialism treated the indigenous populations that helped secure their survival as an afterthought.

5 | FRESCO (2010)


As soon as you see that ‘Spiel des Jahres’ badge on the side of the box, you know you’re in for a winner. A light-touch, worker placement game – Fresco does a surprisingly deft job of recreating the life of master painters in the renaissance. And if you though it was slapping some paint about and getting praise, guess again. The game has you controlling your apprentices as they are sent to market for supplies, paint, mixing, and more – letting you get a taste of the balancing act that being a famous creative would have been. Players work on a massive Fresco that is the Sistine Chapel in all but name – giving an excuse to learn more about the stunning work of art. The game also drip-feeds rules and modular extras to let your group find the sweet spot of complexity, allowing the game to be an exceptional pick as an introduction to the worker placement genre. Or if you want all the extras, pick up the Big Box or the frankly insane Mega Box version of the game and get &^%ing painting, son.

4 | HERE I STAND (2006)


Politics! Religion! Calvinism! All the classics are addressed by the iconic Here I stand, an exceptional representation of the caldera of change that swept Europe throughout the sixteenth century. Letting you play as some of the factions in the time including protestants, the papacy, the Ottomans, and more – players are required to manage the spread of their ideology, secure vital deals, and grapple across the map in an eye weakening 5-6 hour battle. With each team enjoying a unique path to victory, players get a sense of the unique character of their side and how they fit into the broader picture. Board Games: making the Protestant Reformation into a taut, pulse pounding event since 2006.

3 | BLACK ORCHESTRA (2016)


While there are hundreds – if not thousands – of WW2 themed games, the most interesting (and enjoyable) are ones that step outside the battlefield and look at the history of events and how they shaped the world. Taking the name of a band of conspirators who planned to overthrow Hitler and the Nazi regime – players work together to fight through the seven stages (re: stacks of cards) of the third Reich, playing real world individuals who were motivated for different reasons, which ends up being a mechanic that is placed at the heart of the game. The game’s creator has also poured untold hours of research into folding real-world events in the story, making it ideal for WW2 nuts and those seeking to learn more about the German resistance and their often less-than-noble motivations for overthrowing the regime. Light on rules and heavy on theme, Orchestra is an exceptional addition to any collection. But if you’re looking for something that’s a little more violence free-

2 | KANBAN: DRIVER'S EDITION (2014)


Or ‘billboard’ when translated from the original Japanese is a game about running a car production plant. Sorry, about running a car production plant really, really, really well. The game is built around the development practice that sees positive iterative change, the removal of bottlenecking, and taking a light-touch approach to project management. And it’s fantastic. The game uses egg timers to replicate the pressure of production and charges players with managing their innovation departments, operating efficiently, and even recreating a factory production line. With the end goal of securing a seat on your company’s board (every middle manager’s dream) the game ingrains Kanban practice to such as degree that you can even find yourself following it in your daily life. So long as you can get your head around the game’s 4.35 BGG difficulty score that is.

1 | LABYRINTH: THE WAR ON TERROR , 2001 - ? (2010)


Reimplementing the exceptional (and equally educational) Twilight Struggle, Labyrinth does an exceptional job in clearly, and objectively, laying out all the pieces that led to conflict and the protracted war in the Middle east. Players are put in charge of the side of terrorists and the combined forces on the war of terror. Play instantly becomes illustrative as, despite what newsfeeds may have taught, terrorists want countries to become enmeshed in conflict. Part game, part simulation – Labyrinth is a phenomenal teaching tool that educates and provides a challenging game that promises mastery. And at a time where empathy, education, and engagement are at a loss – picking up a copy can broaden your mind and give you and a friend a brilliant night at the table.

 

Which is your favorite history teaching game? Share it in the comments below :)

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