The City: A City Management Game for 10-11 year olds in religion class

After interest by @2097 and @hamnacb when I talked about it in the “What did you play this week?” thread, I decided not to clutter and derail that thread anymore and take it here. I’m not sure if this is the right category or if it would be the ”Make Stuff!” category, but here we are (and I already accidentally refreshed the tab, losing all my text, so I’m not gonna lose more time over it than I already have.)

Anyways, the concept is that the game is a conclusion of the principles we have learned in Protestant Religion class. (The way religion classes work in Belgium is a topic entirely on it’s own, but suffice to say, with only about 2-3% of the population being protestant, we have small classes, so games are a valid option, time permitting) The entire year revolves around leadership as described in the bible. We start with Samuël, last of the judges (as a good leader) and in contrast we have the sons of Eli and Eli himself (as bad leaders).

From Samuël we quickly go to Saul (as an example of a bad leader) and David (as an example of a good,leader). Other contrasts to David are two of his sons, who try to take the throne by force and want to rule because they want the power (bad leaders).

During both Christmas and Easter we see stories about Jesus Christ (a good leader) and in contrast Herod (a bad leader who is willing to kill babies to keep in power) At Easter we reflect mostly on how Christ was a leader who was willing to lose it all for His subjects, and even those that rejected Him. A King who served.

After Easter we see parables about the Heavenly Kingdom and how we need to act as people belonging to it. There’s quite a bunch of parables we see. About two each week (at two hours of class each week). About the value of the kingdom, how it is coming, how it changes people, how we should expect it, who is important in it and how we should seek it.

Anyway, a lot of context without yet any mechanics. But basically, in the game, the players would be like a city council that gets a certain amount of requests or suggestions or complaints from the citizens each turn, and they should choose one to solve. Depending on how they solve it, the city would change. Now my idea was tha the learned principles would be made into Keys, which would give the players a reward/resource/advantage when used. To check these, we would talk about what we did after each round and check the Keys while doing it.

There would be no dice, since it’s about principles that should always work. The randomness would be in the different scenario’s that they could pull from a deck of scenario/event cards. An added complexity could be in a bit of resource management, like points they earn from the Keys, which they could then use to do certain actions. Something like that. Because it’s for use in class, and the two hours per week are often not following each other, but split over two days or two separate moments during the day, I should want it to be played in about 40-45 minutes.

I have written down some keys, half finished, but they are in Dutch, and it’s half past midnight already.
More on it tomorrow, as I plan in sinking some time into it, coming up with at least a workable version to test on thursday in class as we round off the schoolyear with my pupils in that school that day.

If I don’t manage to finish a workable version, I might just play the old one, or do another random RISUS game to close it off. I did it once, and it worked great, but you need to rush to finish it in an hour. (technically 50 minutes, minus getting to class, getting seated, starting with prayer, etc.)


  • Are you familiar with Executive Decision? Sounds to me like you could basically just reskin that and have something immediately playable.

    That aside, I like your basic systemic conceit with the non-random Keys that are accessed by learning about them in class, and then they become available to be used in the game. For maximum impact you'll want to give the players difficult choices early on, ones where all the options they have are relatively bad; then later when they get a Key that allows them a better option as the same situation comes around again, it'll be a memorable opportunity to solve the case better than last time.

    So gaining Keys probably should be a thing, and it'd also be nice if you could improve a Key by using it, which allows the player to struggle with their fidelity to a solution, which is a big theme of political history - many politicians have only one hammer, and thus all difficulties look like nails. Maybe you could have all the Keys in common at the middle of the table (say 1 + the number of players of them), and all the players could have personalized preferences for them, so one player gets a slight bonus for this over that, while it's the other way around for another player.

    I'm also thinking that while you might use a random deck for the situations, the impact would probably be better if GMed the game and provided narrative flesh for whatever situations occur in play. It'll make the game much more memorable and interactive if the players can ask deepening questions about the crisis they are solving from a neutral party.

    Sounds like a fun game, but game design's a lot of work. My experience with school gaming is that the development cycle can be gratifyingly quick, though - put something together well enough for it to hold together one playthrough, and continue iterating on it regularly, improving as you observe it in play. Many game designers would rather desire a captive audience like schoolkids are [grin].
  • But why are there leaders? That's the part I don't get
    After all the stories about washing the disciple's feet, mowing their lawns, finding their sheep, baking their bread, being meek & inheriting the earth.
    At Easter we reflect mostly on how Christ was a leader who was willing to lose it all for His subjects, and even those that rejected Him. A King who served.
    See, that's more in line with what I'm talking about
  • edited June 2018
    But why are there leaders? That's the part I don't get
    After all the stories about washing the disciple's feet, mowing their lawns, finding their sheep, baking their bread, being meek & inheriting the earth.
    At Easter we reflect mostly on how Christ was a leader who was willing to lose it all for His subjects, and even those that rejected Him. A King who served.
    See, that's more in line with what I'm talking about
    The cop out answer is that I don’t make the curriculum ;), but I actually agree with the curriculum for the most part, if not for all of it, so let me try to explain:

    The idea is to teach the kids that “with power comes responsability” (which now makes me want to incorporate Spiderman in the lessons, but 11 year old Belgian kids don’t get the pop culture references that are older than say, two to five years). Power is not equaly distributed, and it’s up to you how you use it. If you have more power/privilige/resources/talents than someone else, how will you use it? Do you use it to lift yourself up, like Saul did, or Herod, or Absalom, or ... or do you use it to help others? Like David, or Jesus, or Samuel. Besides that, learning to recognize abuse of power will help them to spot moments when injustice happens. Right now, some of the kids are calling Trump bad (and yes, we’re evangelicals ;) ) because that’s what their parents say when the news is on. The hope is that at one point they see abuse of power, and recognize it themselves.

    Later on in life, they might have a job where they have to lead a team, or have a family where they are responsible for kids. How they handle that will be important, and the hope is that the seeds of what we thought them now might have grown into something more substantial by then. Personally I think actual politics is still a bit early for 10-11 year olds, but making it a game with characters that are more of a charicature, making things more obvious, makes it doable I think. And the focus on the keys as a reward structure makes the focus to be on the values instead of the diplomacy. As city council, will they serve the city, or try to better themselves?

    Now, that last question was basically the focus the previous version of the game, where they played people who were part of the city, leaders and regular joe’s alike, who through their actions influence the game. Each leader was a card which had some kind of move it had to do, sometimes it was a choice, but other times it wasn’t. In that way it was more of a simulation, seeing how actions influenced the city. You had honest good leaders or citizens, but also corrupt police officers, televangelist scammers, discriminating politicians. Often there was no choice, and the kids just had to see how it impacted the city, after which we’d talk about it.

    Eero, thanks for the tips and comments! I hope to present something more tangible soon. I’ve almost finished my morning coffee, and will start working on the game after that. If I have time today, I will try to translate and post it, or make it some kind of google doc that everybody can see or something? That way, incorporating images might be easier than first hosting images and then linking them here and stuff.
  • This thead is great! Thank you @The_Bearded_Belgian for the details. I also work at a christian private school and I found your game inspiring. Could you share with us some examples of Keys? How would you imagined them?

    I'm also reminded of the method that a particular teacher is using in Osterskov Efterskole, a Danish boarding school specializing in 'edu-larp' education. They have a theme f.e. superheroes, a city, and the kids are gathering in fractions (Hydra, SHIELD, etc.) collecting points and influencing the story.
  • I just got home late. I will try to give some examples either tomorrow in a free hour during schooltime or on Saturday. Friday is the last day of school, which means teachers having a barbeque after school, so I’m socially engaged that time. I’m still working out on what I wanna do exactly, but I’ve brainstormed a bit (in Dutch).
  • Its totally ok to share things in Dutch. Google Translate can do miracles sometimes! Ive read academic articles in Italian that way :D
  • After having crashed for a few days as it just turned summer vacation, I haven't touched this since. But I just looked up Executive Decision on Board Game Geek as @Eero_Tuovinen recommended. Looks interesting. Looking into it. Not sure if it's still made or available over here. Sent a request to the hobby store. Still want to actually craft this game though, but I've got a few big assignments to finish before I can really touch it again, so ... yeah, gonna be slow, but if I manage to progress in it, I'll share it over here.
  • Okay, as requested by @hamnacb here are my keys, untranslated. Not sure how well google translate will handle my stream of thought jotting down of half formed ideas. As you will see, I haven't decided yet what the consequences and rewards should be, but have written down what should be rewarded and what should have more negative consequences.

    Phineas en Chofni
    • Wanneer je God probeerde te gebruiken voor eigen gewin, consequentie!
    • Wanneer je niet luisterde naar het hulpgeroep van de mensen voor je eigen comfort, consequentie! Waarom was je eigen comfort belangrijker voor je? Bespreek!

    Papa Eli
    • Wanneer je jouw mensen niet wees op de dingen die ze fout doen, consequentie! Waarom deed je dit niet? Bespreek?
    • Als je ze erop gewezen hebt, maar hen niet bestraft hebt wanneer ze volhielden, consequentie! Waarom heb je ze niet bestraft? Bespreek!

    Builenpest en Vallende Beelden
    • Wanneer je God probeerde aan te passen aan je eigen manier van denken: consequentie!
    • Wanneer je God om hulp vraagt na Zijn wil genegeerd te hebben: consequentie!

    Hannas Gebed
    • Wanneer je je hulp bij God zocht, beloning! Waarom zocht je hulp bij God? Bespreek!

    Samuël, Samuël!
    • Wanneer je Gods stem herkende, beloning!
    • Wanneer je doet wat God vraagt, ook al is het eng, beloning! Waarom was het eng? Waarom deed je het toch? Bespreek!

    Reizende Rechter
    • Wanneer je naar de mensen toe ging om hen te leiden, beloning!
    • Wanneer je luisterde naar mensen en hen probeerde te begrijpen, beloning!

    Welk Verbond?
    • Wanneer je je vertrouwen niet op God stelde, maar je eigen ding deed, consequentie! Waarom koos je ervoor om je eigen ding te doen? Bespreek?

    Een Koning die je kan zien
    • Wanneer je je niet hield aan een opdracht van God, consequentie! Waarom heb je je niet aan de opdracht gehouden? Bespreek.
  • For those interested, I’ve just picked this project up again and realized that rather than making something new out of whole cloth, I could just reskin Lasers and feelings to Servant and Sovereign or something like that. I did a first pass this noon and plan on having a hopefully working version somewhere in oktober to test out with the kids. Then, translating it for you guys would be a smallish thing I think.

    I’m not gonna be as satisfied with it as I would be with the moves-tied-to-teaching-goals approach, but it’ll be a more realistically finishable project in this period of my life.

    Anyway, look at me overestimating my abilities ;)
  • While I’m all about the Lasers & Feelings re-skins (it is delightfully hackable), I wonder if it’s the best option for your ends.

    Setting up a Servant vs Sovereign dichotomy is interesting, but one of the important things about L&F is that the design doesn’t privelige one stat over the other. Lasers is an equally valid way to solve a problem as Feelings. You need to set up a system where acting as a Sovereign punishes the player and acting as a Servant rewards them (so that students can see the benefits of good leadership and the drawbacks of bad leadership). Otherwise, you’re teaching kids that using power for selfish ends and using it to help others are equally valid.

    You could always impose some sort of penalty for rolling with Sovereign (though, it should be noted, the GM says what the roll is in L&F – players don’t get to decide). But then nobody will ever roll Sovereign, and nobody will ever make Sovereign characters. And you’ll just have a game where students see the benefits of good leadership without seeing the drawbacks of bad leadership.

    I honestly liked your original idea of a simulated city council with a scenario deck better (at least for what you’re trying to accomplish). But maybe there’s some kind of simple resource-management you could implement? Where players can get something in the short term but give up long-term gains (when making bad leadership decisions) and give up something in the short term but gain something later on (by making good leadership decisions)?
  • I actually already made a sort of resource, namely budget. But I’m not sure I’m actually gonna use it. Anyway. I particularly like that the L&F hack could teach that you could be a good leader if you use power responably. I named it Servant and King in Dutch and then if you roll your number, you are the Servant King. And I like how both have positive and negative drawbacks but only get ideal if used together. The king has power and authority, which he can use to make decisions, punish, encourage, order, finance, influence the high-ups ... while the servant can build, care for, endure, improve on, know the people, see the needs ...

    Each can be used good or bad. The powerful could take advantage off while the powerles can be taken advantage off. But the powerful could also protect and the powerles has more empathy with the other powerles since they are one of them. Stuff like that. Anyway, atm this is a more reachable project, while I do want to get on with the previous one soon as well.

    One way to see that we hit the goals with the Servant and King version is by using specific scenarios, probably pre-made somewhat?
  • I dont mind that you have left the city counsel thing because rolling Servant King is soo awesome! But how do you plan to run an adventure type story in a class?

    Ive made a pirate themed L&F hack for my students last year. Baker's Poison'd was a big influence on me but I made it way way way more lighter in tone. The only stat was Conscience, the higher it is, the more ethical you are. You need low stat for vile things and high stat for everything else. The value change during play. If you reach 6, you are a living saint able to do miracles. If you reach 1, the devil starts coming for you. To do piratey things
    succesfully you need a moderately low value, around 2-4. So the original L&F balance is gone but the game design makes a clear position on piracy. I liked it for it was a sort of 'sensitivity training' on historical pirates.
  • Well, they would still be a city counsel, and they would get some kind of request or proposition, and discuss how they’d want to deal with it. Then we decide if that’s Servant or King and roll. Also, instead of making the ship during character creation in L&F, they now make the city, choosing two things the city is known for (positive things) and one problem the city has. Something like that.
    Anyway, The main hack is done I think, but there’s some bits and bobs that need a bit of work before I want to use it. And I should test it once to see if I could play out a scenario in a 50 minute lesson time (which probably means 40 minutes of play maximum). I’d probably want some pre-generated counselers for kids getting stuck in character generation and stuff. Maybe have a standard city to run? But I’m pretty excited for how managable this one seems.
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