Help me find political and economic simulation games for 12-16 y.o.
August 27, 2014 8:40 AM   Subscribe

As part of our schools enrichment program, I'd like to do an intro to global politics and economics for 12-16 year old students. As a culminating activity, I'd like to run a few different simulations to give the students a chance to put their new knowledge to work. More snowflake specifics inside.

The requirements:
  • Multiplayer - able to support 10-50 kids. We'll probably have 50 kids total so games that support 10-20 would end up with multiple games running concurrent. Not ideal, but doable.
  • Strong economic/political element, preferably with a very broad scope/feeling.
  • Challenging beyond what you'd give an "average" 12-16 year old student. We are at a very academically rigorous college prep school so the students abilities comparable to what most people would consider HS/freshman college level.
  • Graphical representation of what's going on - a lot of these kids play games like Agricola, Puerto Rico, etc. so they are familiar with maps, counters, etc. Games that are too abstract may not engage them as well as something more tangible.
  • Free/cheap - we're in the hundreds, not thousands of dollars range for budget.
  • Start-to-end time of no longer than 6 hours - we'll have the students for two hours a day for a few weeks, so time is available but finite.
Some of the games we've considered are Watch the Skies!, Diplomacy (teams of 1-2, 3x games), and some variant of M.U.L.E. In my google searching, I've mostly found very specific simulations, defunct websites, or systems that don't quite meet the criteria outlined above. Any help would be greatly appreciated.
posted by _DB_ to Education (8 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Fate of the World is a PC strategy game that simulates the real social and environmental impact of global climate change over the next 200 years. The science, the politics, the destruction — it’s all real, and it’s scary.
Your mission: Solve the crisis. But, like life, it won’t be easy. You’ll have to work through natural disasters, foreign diplomacy, clandestine operations, technological breakthroughs, and somehow satisfy the food and energy needs of a growing world population. Will you help the planet or become an agent of destruction?

Fate of the World is not designed as a children's game, but its content should be suitable for most anyone over the age of 12.

It's not multiplayer, but they sell a site license for up to 60 seats for $134. It's a very challenging game, and I think there'd be some strong educational value in having everyone try it out for a while, followed by a discussion of the challenges that arise in the simulation and what approaches worked or didn't.
posted by NMcCoy at 8:58 AM on August 27, 2014

The answer to this question is RISK.

You'd have to adapt material alongside to make group discussions focused on curriculum particulars you are trying to highlight, but this is a game that can be played in groups and can go on for days, if not a week or more.

Also available as an app and online.

posted by jbenben at 9:45 AM on August 27, 2014

If you're looking more for ideas on how to design your own simulation than a pre-fab "boxed" game, two things that came to mind for possible inspiration are the Yale Grand Strategy crisis simulation (for a slightly older group) and the World Peace Game (for elementary-school age).
posted by teditrix at 9:57 AM on August 27, 2014

Saw the subject line, thought of M.U.L.E. I see you've covered that idea already.

If you find something that captures the spirit of M.U.L.E., please post back here.
posted by mattu at 10:27 AM on August 27, 2014

It's nearly 20 years old, and it's decidedly low-tech, but I may have what you're looking for. Georgetown University's Institute for the Study of Diplomacy publishes a series of case-studies and simulations for use at the level of sophistication you're targeting. In particular, Nations: A Simulation Game in International Politics, by Herzig and Skidmore, strikes me as just about perfect for the purpose you have in mind.

-It easily accommodates 20-50 students.
-It has a strong economic, political, and social focus, designed to be broad enough to be generalizable.
-It is targeted for the introductory college student (and I've used it successfully during my t.a. days at Large State University X).
-It is not particularly strong in the graphics department -- the one map is decidedly simple -- but it is neither abstract nor difficult to engage.
-It's easily in your budget. (At $3.50 per student for 50 students, you're talking $175, plus printing costs, if you want to absorb that yourself)
-It can be run in fewer than 6 hours. I found three 75 minute sessions to be quite sufficient.

Moreover, it's designed for use in the classroom, so you don't have the problems of fitting some other games, like Risk (which can be fun, but at the end of the day, are intended for different purposes) to your pedagogical goals. And one of the advantages of the low-tech approach is that it's endlessly customizable. You can emend and alter rules as you see fit.

You can gain access to previews of the simulations and case studies by joining the faculty club here. And you're welcome to me-mail me if you want to talk more about my experience running this game.

Most importantly, have fun with whatever you choose.
posted by .kobayashi. at 10:33 AM on August 27, 2014

Unless you have experience running Diplomacy, you shouldn't expect to finish a single game in 6 hours. Other than that it's an amazing game that can help explain why countries react the way they do during wartime.
posted by Poppa Bear at 12:20 PM on August 27, 2014

And I wouldn't recommend RISK (sorry JBB). It just doesn't have much to say about how countries act towards one another. Nations sounds like it's very very worth looking into.
posted by Poppa Bear at 12:22 PM on August 27, 2014

Diplomacy was described on here as 'just about the most ruthless and harrowing board game of all,' so maybe not quite suitable for a classroom environment.
posted by glasseyes at 9:38 AM on August 28, 2014

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