Home > Uncategorized > Interactive History Class 2019 – Teacher’s Log #2 (Week of 8/26)

Interactive History Class 2019 – Teacher’s Log #2 (Week of 8/26)

Disclaimer: often shockingly little/ sometimes no proofreading; just trying to get the ideas out fast and frequently for those interested

In the first log, I ended by talking about the board game Court[iers] of Versailles, an outstandingly-designed game of cut-throat politics at Louis XIV’s Palace of Versailles. The initial procedure I’m working to establish as a regular class rhythm is:

  1. Front-load just a little bit, some  reading/watching/listening and note-taking homework, and discussing just a bit class about the topic,
  2. Learn to play and play the game for 2 or 3 classes
  3. Pause for a class while playing to analyze and diagram the game’s historical problem space 
  4. Play a little more, and
  5. End with a critical discussion of the game using the historical evidence and prepare for an assessment. In my case that is likely some form of formal or informal essay since effective analytical and persuasive writing is a very important teaching objective for us at CCD. It could conceivably be any number of different kinds of assessments.

It’s a bit of a headache learning the game. CoV is not difficult to understand, but the rules, unfortunately, were not effectively translated into English, have many typos and errors, and are difficult to learn without the motivation of someone who wants to learn a game for fun, or an experienced guide. If you can get your hands on a copy, though, it is really a great foil for looking at ideas of nobility and court life at Versailles. Plus, since there are a lot of social “take-that” mechanics, the game tends to capture students’ interest.

For initial sources in the few days prior to playing the game, they started by reading and summarizing a simple overview of the French Revolution. Then they took guided notes on episode 3.1 of the Revolutions podcast, which includes a helpful description of the nobility and Versailles life.

Courtisans [sic — part of the poor English transaltion] of Versailles is a card game for 6 players (though a few more could easily be added) where players take on the role of courtiers at Versailles competing with one another for office, honors, and the approval of King and Queen (Here’s the BGG overview; unfortunately it is out of print, so you’ll likely need to purchase it second-hand). The courtier to first earn £50,000 wins. Students spent one play period (+/- 45 minutes) (two groups with two copies of the game) learning the game. They learned to play by following in their own games as I led them through the rules. They spent a second class playing from the start again. It’s probably worth noting that I make sure I have played, understand, and can explain virtually every board game my students use. While there is a lot of excellent intellectual and social skill building to be figuring a game out by themselves, that’s just not practical in the time-constraints of most classes, even with the benefit of longer class blocks.


After playing for two classes, we devoted a third class to discussing the game’s problem space. Here’s one possible diagram (I did this one after we discussed it in class):

No photo description available.

When doing the problem space analysis it’s really important not to get bogged down in the weeds of squabbling when students have some different elements listed than the teacher or their peers, so long as their elements are, in fact, actual in-game elements. One certainly could draw a different diagram than this, for example, where each kind of negative attack (poison, exile, etc.) is listed as a separate element. One could group positive elements together. One could have royal presence as integral to other elements, not an element itself.  The important thing is that the diagram should help the person using it reasonably conceptualize and analyze the game’s historical problem space: agent, role, and goals in a virtual space; affording elements; constraining elements; and choices/strategies.


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