Social Board Games, Part 9: Ticket to Ride / Zombie Dice Essays, Playing Dominion

DominionThis week, students got to play my favorite game of all time, Dominion. (Big thanks to Rio Grande Games for sending the games, with literally no questions asked. Jay [Tummelson] is awesome.) I warned them in advance that this would probably be the most complex game they’d play in the class, and I was rather apprehensive after some rules hiccups with more complicated games like Forbidden Island. I was going to write the rules out on the board, but I don’t think students have been willing to wade through a giant pile of instructions scrawled all over the dry-erase board… So instead, at the last minute I got the bright idea to use Goko’s Dominion site.

I wrote some reminders on the board, explained the rules as carefully as I could, and then gave a live demonstration of me playing against a bot and showing how your deck changes as you play. I played pretty badly, because for some reason Goko won’t let you pick the cards you play against bots with, so I was only buying cards in their preset pile of ten that I had made. I made sure to be patient and insist on a few questions being asked while I was still playing (there were about five), and then we got started. I made sure not to participate for the first game so I could answer questions (and there were many, though they were small ones), and brought an extra set from home to ensure that each game was three players (so the games would go quickly enough).

The groups who finished earlier, I gave more complicated sets for the second game, while the last group to finish I had use the same set again, and managed to have everyone finish their second game around the same time (right as class was ending). In one of the second games, a student asked what the point of Chapel was, and I said “Do you know what ‘discovery learning’ is?” A student had actually asked me why I wasn’t playing, but once everyone had things down from their first game, I joined one of the second games and showed them the power of Chapel. Two three-player games took each group about the full 100 minutes they had, so I am very glad I did not do four-player games. (I was going to also teach For Sale, but now I’m going to try to squeeze it in with Bohnanza.) Afterwards, several students raved about the game, and were looking through the other cards and talking about buying the game. Mission accomplished!

For their writing prompt, I made an analogy to how decisions in life work: early on, a decision has a big impact, but as life goes on (i.e. your deck gets bigger), each individual decision isn’t such a big impact in the grand scheme of things, and even further on in life, consequences aren’t so permanent (i.e. when you start buying Victory cards because the game is almost over). It’s a bit of a stretch, but I admitted my real reason for using this game was that it’s my favorite game, although I think it does bring this mental health concept across well enough.

As for the Ticket to Ride and Zombie Dice essays, a lot of the students seemed to really enjoy Ticket to Ride, and one student said Zombie Dice was his favorite of the semester, but overall they seemed a little less impressed with Zombie Dice, although they did understand the intended purpose (to study gambler’s logic). One psychology student who missed class borrowed Zombie Dice from the library (where I had placed a copy) and wrote an entire essay just on it and gambler’s logic – impressive! The essays were pretty middle-of-the-road for the semester so far, but I’m eager to read what they have to say about Dominion next week. In the meantime, here’s a pic of them playing:

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