I have used Silent Hunter III in the past (see link) with great success in delivering an insight and some content knowledge on one of the perhaps lesser-known arms of the German forces, but my main reason for using such a game is as a stimulus for imaginative writing: pupils write from the perspective of a young member of the Kriegsmarine who undertakes Patrols 4 and 7 of the actual U-boat U-96, which is featured in ‘Das Boot’.
So we had been waiting on this one for some time – and it was finally brought to the table last Friday.
It is a 4-player game, and with each player taking control of 4 characters within a specific section of U-boat management. This lends itself quite well to assigning each pupils in a class of 16+ to one of the particular Kriegsmariners; there is a system of First/Second watches which theoretically doubles the rota to 32.
It was a rough start. One of the drawbacks is the ‘lag’ as inactive players – pupils! – await being pressed into service; those roles with less to do may become distracted, but one should build in co-operative tasks between the team of four to support their overarching function. (And we’ve only just looked into
Immediately apparent was the real application of the class’ recent learning in Geography: the Navigator and his team interpreted Enigma-encrypted alpha-numeric grid co-ordinates (e.g. AE23 – AN35) and plotted their position and destination – using an actual protractor, pencil and paper – working out their angle of travel, and the time that it would take.
Next the Captain gave the orders for Speed and Depth, during this time we briefly discussed diesel and electric engines, and difference in speed whilst travelling on the surface or submerged.
So far so good.
We used the time-skipping option, and six hours after leaving St Nazaire at 8am we had arrived at our grid area; it was now 2pm.
The game uses an app that runs on any android device, and which provides the real-time interaction between the players and their submarine, the enemy, as well as simulating the environment – the view from the bridge, the periscope view, dials and instrumentation, radio transmission transcriptions, environment.
The observers mobilised to their respective positions and began – in the rain – to search the horizon, quickly experiencing the boredom and frustration that beset submariners hunting their prey.
They decided to submerge, wishing to try out the periscope. Meanwhile one pupil took control of the hydrophone. He almost jumped out of his skin when a contact was made at 4 nm (nautical miles). A bearing and course was given, and we had to work out an intercept angle using a series of dials imprinted with angles and arrows.
And that is as far as we got.
One downside, and this applies to many of the boardgames we have tried, is ‘saving state’. We plan to ‘resume’ playing this Friday, giving the pupils more responsibilities now that they have had a first play. There are very many components to the game, but these can be easily packaged together into poly-pockets pertaining to the roles.
- Multi-disciplinary – Geography, Maths, English, History
- Collaborative – pupils engage in intra and inter-group decision making and planning
- Set-up time, number of components
- Learning curve
- Player activity/engagement