Primary Sources and Games - Historical Society of Pennsylvania

For History Education
Matt Shoemaker
Historical Society of Pennsylvania –
August 2012
[email protected]
History is created through humans reacting to
the many systems around them
◦ Games provide a simulation of historical systems
and add context of these systems to the lesson
Games are interpretations that encourage
Simulations are successful learning tools in
other disciplines; why not the humanities?
Board Games
◦ Have a lower barrier to access
◦ Easier to modify and expand
◦ Typically contain social components more suited to
classroom use and for simulating direct human
Video Games
◦ Students may be more familiar with
◦ Can handle more complex mechanics
“Core gameplay must offer defensible
explanatory models of historic systems*”
Students must be able to evaluate it on a
historical level
It should well model factors that influenced
historical actors of the day
*Gaming the Past, Jeremiah McCall
Add context to the historical theme
Increase insight on the view of a historical actor or
group that players may utilize
Provide focus for scenarios and game mechanics to
enhance the simulation
May provide more considerations for players’
interpretations and questions formed from gameplay
Different levels of focus between games with abstract
or direct historical connection
1. Identify the theme(s) on which you wish to focus
for the lesson
2. Research available primary sources that meet the
◦ Local archives and archivists are there to help!
3. Knowing what sources are available can assist in
identifying an appropriate game
◦ Games with an abstract historical connection are more
flexible with the sources you can utilize and scenarios you
can develop
◦ Games with a direct historical connection may require fewer
sources and less modification as they essentially are
scenarios, but these games also have less flexibility in the
sources you can utilize with them
NARA – National Archives Records Administration
State Archives
◦ Indiana State Archives -
University Archives
◦ Ball State Archives and Special Collections -
Historical Societies
◦ Indiana Historical Society -
◦ Local Historical Societies –
Common core standards for history/social
studies and English language arts
Sample objectives:
◦ Student will be able to (SWBAT):
 Analyze the implications and effects of the Long
 Describe the government's role in
 Analyze the cause/effects of Westward Expansion
 Evaluate the significance of Labor Unions
Need time to learn the game
◦ Schedule class time if needed but can be done as
◦ Make the game available out of class hours if
Educator can run students through a single
game as a group or let students run it
Software, such as Vassal, exists that may
work well with smartboards
Have students create a scenario
How would they represent events in primary
sources through a simulation?
How do historical events make them think
about games?
Can students improve the explanatory model
of the game?
Abstract historical connection
◦ The game’s thematic focus is on expansion of rail in America, but
has no direct ties to specific dates, events, actors or groups
Gameplay features trade, economics, network building, resource
collecting and resource depletion
Designed for 4 players, but works with teams
Average 2 hour play time for vanilla game
As a Catan game, it has mechanics similar to other games within the
Catan family
◦ This helps provide proven mechanics to customizations by other
players to similar games
 For example: The Settlers of Catan Complete Scenario and
Variant Guide compiled by Kelvin Chung is a free 281 page
guide of Catan scenarios and rules variants you can use for
Rules additions should work independently of
Determine if the selected game adequately
simulates the themes you wish to emphasize and
those represented within the sources.
◦ If not, can you implement a new mechanic or condition
to simulate those themes?
Try to add to the game rather than take away
◦ Do not change vanilla mechanics and conditions, other
than victory conditions, if possible
◦ Removing established, vanilla mechanics and conditions
risks unbalancing or breaking the game in unintended or
undesirable ways
Utilize primary source content to build context of scenario and
tie to lesson
Do not be afraid to vary player starting status, victory conditions,
or in game effects if called for in the theme or lesson. Historical
actors and groups were rarely equal across the board.*
Scenarios allow you greater control of the gameplay
◦ Extend play
◦ Shorten play
◦ Alter players’ mission
*See Scenario: Corporate Abuse
Background – The year is 1870 and the railroad business has been
booming since the end of the American Civil War. More people are
employed in America by railroads than all other industries except
Agriculture. The long depression, however, is brewing. The FrancoPrussian war begins this year, concluding in 1871. Following its victory,
Germany decides to cease minting coins in silver. This ripples across
the world affecting the price of silver and eventually is a major factor in
the passage of the Coin Act of 1873, placing the United States effectively
on a gold standard, further depressing the price of silver in the USA and
causing instability to the United States monetary policy. Issues are
compounded when that same year Jay Cooke & Company, a major
banking institution, overextended itself in railroad securities and
declared bankruptcy. This triggered the collapse of several other banks,
the closing of factories, and the failure of dozens of railroads in what
would be known as the panic of 1873.
Scenario description: Players represent 4 of the more prosperous
railroads of the day and are out to survive the long depression and come
out of the event more profitable than the other players. The first three
turns, representing 1870-1872, play out as a typical game of Settlers of
◦ Fixed game length, 11 turns
◦ Possibility for players to be removed from game
◦ Set of 7 disaster events
 Deployed through either cards or dice
◦ Modified victory conditions
 Point total rather than all goods delivered
Background: In the years 1871-1872, Franklin Gowen, the president of the
Philadelphia and Reading Railroad, set up the Coal and Iron Company to
begin a price fixing scheme of anthracite coal in the Pennsylvania and New
York regions. First, he undercut the price of independent coal dealers to
attract their clients to the Coal and Iron Company. Gowen then offered these
dealers a consolidation, which they refused and he sought to drive them out
of business. Following this step, and with controversy rising, Gowen created
the first industry-wide price fixing in America by getting several other large
coal executives to set prices and transportation load sizes. In 1875, Gowen
found himself before an investigative committee to challenge the company’s
practices and charter.
Scenario Description: One player represents the Reading Railroad and
begins the game at an advanced stage. The Reading Railroad has 3
turns to convince the investigative committee that their business
practices are legal and not in violation of their charter. If they succeed,
the game continues with the initial rules in place until victory conditions
are met. If they do not succeed, detrimental effects for Reading Railroad
take effect and the game continues until victory conditions are met.
◦ Asymmetrical players
◦ Player influence on luck mechanics to determine
other player’s fate
◦ Variable rules
Background – It is early in America’s history with the
railroad and already there is a call for a transcontinental
corridor to boost trade, communications and accessibility
of the United States. Numerous individuals have described
their vision of how to achieve this task for the nation using
public and private funds and ownership. How will the
route of the railroad influence development of the country
and the role of the United States on the world stage?
Scenario description: Players represent 4 railroad
companies looking to be a part of the transcontinental
railroad. This scenario plays primarily as a regular game of
Settlers of America except for the below changes to victory
conditions and the role of goods delivery.
◦ Victory points instead of goods delivery victory
◦ Rules nearly identical to standard game
Background – The industrial revolution brought about new ways to
conduct business and provide products and services. This was no
different for the railroad industry that required large amounts of workers
to build its trains and rails, run and maintain its engines, service its
customers and mine its coal. Labor disputes were inevitable as
Americans and American businesses sought to try to balance working
conditions, hours and pay with profits. As a result, the railroad industry
saw several labor disputes, two of which involved the Philadelphia and
Reading Railroad during 1877 while the Long Depression was in full
Scenario description: As executives of 19th century railroad companies
players must try and strike a balance between their profits and labor
satisfaction to win the game. Each player has their own labor
satisfaction scale, from 1 to 10, which can trigger events and affect their
profits and ability to win the game. It is also possible for a random
economy event to take place at the beginning of a turn which may make
a player more likely to change their previous stance with labor.
◦ Economy event at start of turn
◦ Addition of labor phase
◦ Labor satisfaction scale influenced by a player’s
business decisions
 Each player has their own scale that they are in control
◦ Slightly modified victory conditions
Railroad, Canal, Iron and Coal Map of Pennsylvania, 1869
Report of the President and Directors of the Northern Pacific Railroad Co.
to the Stockholders, at the Annual Meeting, Sept. 25th, 1878
This map shows coal and iron deposits and the transportation networks within
Pennsylvania. It gives a good sense of how natural resources and transportation networks
are linked, and gives an idea of why certain cities were built where they were and why some
of them may be in decline today.
In general, this document discusses the various branches of the railroad and how well they
are doing. It also covers expenses and profits of the railroad. Pages 13-17 provide senate
and house comments on the merits of the railroad as a public good and on granting, or not
granting, public land and financial resources to private companies in order to build rail.
Special report of a reconnoissance of the route for the Northern Pacific
railroad between Lake Superior and Puget Sound, via the Columbia River:
made in 1869
This source describes the journey taken by engineer W. Milnor Roberts to survey the route
for the Northern Pacific Railroad. It describes what makes a good area for settlement and
transportation, the attitudes of locals towards rail, and the costs of building a railroad
among other things.
A lecture on the railroad to the Pacific: delivered, August 12, 1850, at
the Smithsonian Institute, Washington, at the request of numerous
members of both houses of Congress
Speech of Wm. Moseley Hall of Buffalo, N.Y. in support of his resolutions,
which passed unanimously, in favor of a national r. road to the Pacific,
on the plan of Geo. Wilkes : delivered at the Great River and Harbor
Convention, at Chicago, Ill., in committee of the whole, July 7, 1847
Lecture detailing railroad as a means of cultural communication and takeover, particularly
for Christian missionaries and a tool for evangelization.
Argues that railroad is the western passage and death of the age of sail. Describes rail as a
path to peace, a tool in nation building, sovereignty issues with native Americans and the
benefits between public and private ownership of the rail road.
Hazard's Rail Road and Military Map of the Southern States 1862
Map shows rail in the south and could provide good exercise for seeing if rail affected the
growth of the cities it did, or did not visit in these areas. Also provides real world sample of
routes that were constructed. Provides insight into possible rail use during the United
States Civil War as well.
Verbatim report of the general meeting of the share and bondholders of
the Philadelphia and Reading Railroad Company held at the City of the
Perkiomen Railroad Company held at the City Terminus Hotel, Cannon
Street, London, June 6th, 1877: Thomas Wilde Powell, Esq.., in the chair.
To the public [in respect to the conflict with the Brotherhood of
Locomotive Engineers]: Philadelphia, April 24th, 1877
Themes of greed and anti-labor sentiment. Earnings reports, justification for bituminous
coal land purchases, blame of poor performance on the long depression, troubles with
labor. Also lists profits for some months.
Lists the events and actions of the earlier labor strike in 1877 from the perspective of the
Reading Railroad.
Report of the Joint committee of the Legislature of Pennsylvania,
appointed to inquire into the affairs of the Philadelphia and Reading coal
and iron company and the Philadelphia and Reading railroad company,
Comments on attempts to fix coal prices, the attempted formation of a coal oligopoly and
the violation of charters granted to rail road companies.
Western Pennsylvania Railroad lockout 1913
◦ Photograph of workers on strike.
Rail Road Memorial 1825
◦ This document speaks to the changes that rail road has brought
to civilization. The advantages of rail over canals, and the trade
power struggle between Philadelphia and New York and how it is
based on their ability to transport goods.
The Battle of Seattle – A free game on the demonstrations against the 1999
World Trade Organization talks in Seattle, Brian Train, 2000.
1989: Dawn of Freedom – Jason Matthews and Ted Torgerson, GMT Games,
Divided Republic: 1860 Presidential Campaign Game – Alex Bagosy,
Numbskull Games, 2012.
Founding Fathers – Players compete to be the planner remembered for
creating the US Constitution. Christian Leonhard and Jason Matthews, Jolly
Roger Games, 2012 (2nd edition).
Hero of Weehawken: The Aaron Burr Conspiracy: 1805-1807 – Robert
Leonhard, Victory Point Games, 2011.
Ici, c’est la France!: The Algerian War of Independence 1954-62 – Kim
Kanger, Legion Wargames, 2009.
1960: The Making of the President – Christian Leonhard and Jason Matthews,
Z Man Games, 2007.
Twilight Struggle: The Cold War, 1945-1989 – Ananda Gupta and Jason
Matthews, GMT Games, 2005.
Carcassonne – Tile game where players build the area around the
medieval French city of Carcassonne, Klaus-Jürgen Wrede, Rio
Grande Games, 2000.
Catan Histories Series: “Settlers of America: Trails to Rails” (2010),
“Struggle for Rome” (2006), “Settlers of the Stone Age” (2002) –
Klaus Teuber, Mayfair Games.
Diplomacy – Negotiation game where players are leaders of pre-WWI
nations, Allan B. Calhamer, Avalon Hill, 1959 (Hasbro reprint 1999).
Glory– First game by Fate of Civilizations, (in production)
Puerto Rico – Players manage a plantation and develop San Juan,
Andreas Seyfarth, Rio Grande Games, 2002.
The Settlers of Catan – Klaus Teuber, Mayfair Games, 1995.
Ticket to Ride – Players claim railway routes to earn points and
dominate rail roads. Original game takes place in North America,
later versions cover rail in other countries, Alan R. Moon, Days of
Wonder, 2004.
Fate of Civilizations – New resource/publisher by two history educators
for using games in history education.
Gaming the Past: Using Video Games to Teach Secondary History,
Jeremiah McCall, Routledge Taylor and Francis Group, 2011.
Gaming the Historical Simulation Games in the Classroom,
Jeremiah McCall,
Journal of Digital Humanities, Special Section on Historical Gaming, Vol.
1, No. 2, Spring 2012. pp. 40-74.
PAXsims – (a blog devoted to the development and effective use of
simulation-based learning), ed. Rex Brynen and Gary Milante.
Peasant Muse (a blog that regularly covers games and education,
augmented reality and digital humanities), Jeremy Antley.
Play the Past (a collaborative blog on cultural heritage, games and
Augmented Reality Gaming and Game Design as a New Literacy Practice,
James M. Mathews and Kurt D. Squire, Media Literacy: New Agendas in
Communication, Routledge, 2009. pp. 209-232.
Harnessing the Power of Games in Education, Kurt D. Squire and Henry
Jenkins, Insight (3)1, pp. 5-33.
Productive Gaming: The Case for Historiographic Play, Kurt D. Squire and
Shree Durga. To appear in R. Ferdig (Ed.) The handbook of educational
gaming. Hershey, PA: Information Science Reference.
Replaying History: Learning World History Through Playing Civilization
III, Kurt D. Squire, Dissertation Indiana University, 2004.
Revolutionizing History Education: Using Augmented Reality Games to
Teach Histories, Karen L. Schrier, thesis at Massachusetts Institute of
Technology, 2005.
ARIS – Open source mobile platform for augmented reality. Used in projects
such as DOW day by UW-Madison for a tour game using primary sources.
Kickstarter– Crowd funding website for creative projects. There are regularly
projects with direct and abstract historic ties looking for funding. Divided
Republic, for example, was a kickstarter project. Worth keeping an eye on
for potential games.
Vassal - Vassal is a game engine for building and playing online adaptations
of board games and card games. Play live on the Internet or by email. Vassal
runs on all platforms, and is free, open-source software.
Historical Society of Pennsylvania
Matt Shoemaker
Director of Digital Collections and Systems
[email protected]
Thank you, Mayfair Games for providing copies of Settlers of
America: Trails to Rails
These slides and files are available at:

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