Stratagem Instructor's Guide


Instructor's Guide

Stratagem is an abstract simulation of international conflict. It is designed for large, introductory history courses at the college level, and is suitable for students who have no experience in this type of activity.

Simulations are used widely today as a means of analyzing certain problems. They are based on some type of model that represents the key elements of a situation. Game techniques allow players to manipulate this model in order to explore decision-making alternatives and gather information.

Historical simulations illustrate the role of hindsight in studying the past. Students assume the role of historical figures and attempt to solve the kinds of problems that their counterparts faced. Simulations also offer another means of presenting historical information and reinforcing course material.

Using Stratagem

To utilize Stratagem in your class, the following steps should be taken:

  1. After choosing a scenario, distribute the rules and other supporting materials, such as maps, well in advance. Tell the students that they should read the rules, look over the scenario's chronology to understand the scenario's setting, and become familiar with the terminology employed. Reassure them that it is not necessary to understand how the game is played just yet. Remember that most people learn games by playing them, not by reading the rules.

  2. Introduce them to simulations by explaining what they are and how they are used in military, business, and other settings.

  3. Review the rules and walk them through the scenario.

  4. Conduct a dry run by having volunteers play two or three turns in front of the class. Record their moves on a blackboard and point out historical similarities.

  5. Divide the class into groups. Appoint a moderator for each.

  6. Tell each group to play one or two turns for practice to be sure that they understand game mechanics.

  7. Have them play for real. This may take more than one period.

  8. Close the exercise with a discussion. Summarize each group's activities and relate them to historical events. Compare their performances to their historical counterparts.

  9. Grade the exercise. This encourages the students to take it somewhat seriously. Attendance, participation, and discussion are all appropriate methods. for evaluation.

More information on using Stratagem and other classroom simulations can be found in Peter L. de Rosa. "Wargames in Introductory History Courses." Games & Education 4 (Winter 1997):4-6. It is also available at RPGnet.

Scenario Notes

Age of Discovery

The Spanish and French players must decide whether to emphasize Europe or overseas when deploying their forces. Portugal should expand without annoying anyone else. Holland and England can work well together, but be careful. England should emulate the real life British and aim for overseas supremacy. A British win recreates this.

Wars of Religion

Spain and Austria are natural allies and must work closely together. France and the Ottomans need to recreate their historical alliance. The Lutherans and English have to play carefully and be ready to change allies if one of the other four gets too strong. A low Lutheran score means that the Reformation failed.

Balance of Power

France cannot win the game alone and needs to talk someone else into helping out. The other players have to stop this. If the other four countries unite against France, then the final winner could be anyone. A high French score means Napoleon did not meet his Waterloo.

First World War

Generally, the Dual (Germany, Austria- Hungary) and Triple (Britain, France, Russia) Alliances will be recreated. If so, one of the Allies will win. Russia can win with low-key play and some judicious double-crossing. A high score for either France or Russia probably means that World War I broke out. In this case, Western Civilization loses.

Second World War (Both scenarios)

Germany wins unless the other powers unite against Hitler. Since they usually do not, the game is almost always a German walkover, although the Soviets sometimes sneak by.

I would be interested in hearing from other instructors and designers about their experiences with Stratagem. I can be contacted at:

Peter L. de Rosa
Department of History
Bridgewater State College
Bridgewater, MA 02325

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