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1775: Rebellion Review by Debra Brinkman

Academy Games
1 (419) 307-6531
2201 Commerce Drive
Fremont, OH 43420

With four teen boys in my household, one thing that is always a hit around here is a good strategy game, especially ones that involve battles. I don’t usually want to join in, but I do appreciate some of the skills my children are working on, such as thinking ahead and considering what the ‘other guy’ could be planning to do.

Usually it is a bit of a stretch to think of these game sessions as truly educational, although my children would argue that they’ve learned a lot about the people and places of a specific science fiction universe really well through game play. At least with one long popular world domination game, they can argue for some real geographical knowledge.

All that to say, I was thrilled to have the chance to try out 1775: Rebellion, from Academy Games, and I particularly loved that it included the 1775 Teachers Book – Teaching the American Revolution Through Play, by Christopher Harris and Patricia Harris, Ph.D. with Brian Mayer. The instructions say this is for 2-4 players ages 10 and up. More on that later.

The game all by itself is a great learning tool. The gameboard is a map of the thirteen colonies in 1775, plus Maine (which they note was a territory of Massachusetts, Nova Scotia, and Quebec.) For purposes of the game, all sixteen of these areas are referred to as colonies.

War is breaking out, and the game has you controlling seven different armies: the British Regulars, the Loyalist Militia, the Continental Army, the Patriot Militia, the Hessians, the French Regulars, and Native Americans. The goal is to have your side control the most colonies at the point that a truce is declared.

As a very basic rundown of how the game is played, each of the four main factions (army and militia on both sides) take turns each round in a random order, where they have to move based on a movement card in their hand. If there are any battles to be fought, those results are determined by dice rolls. Each army has their own set of dice. The professional militaries don’t flee the battle, for instance, where the militia will.

The current player can also play event cards that do various things during that turn. Each event card is based on something that did really happen during the war. I make my kids read the entire card out loud when it is played. For instance, instead of just announcing that they get to add two Native American units, plus all previously fled Native American units to the board during the reinforcement phase, the Continental Army player has to read that, “Colonel Louis Cook was an influential Iroquois leader and the highest ranking Native American in the Continental Army. He was the lifelong enemy of Joseph Brant.”

Now, I don’t know about you, but I had never heard of Colonel Louis Cook before this game. Naturally, we had to go read more about him.

The Rule & Scenario Book includes three pages of historical information about the American Revolution, a lot of which is not included in your normal K-12 history courses. That, and the game cards, plus the actual game play, bring about a new understanding of this war.

The book adds a whole new level. This Teaching Through Games publication includes five lessons that really add educational content to the game play. The lessons could be completed in a single week, or spread out over about a month by doing one lesson a week. We chose the latter.

The five lessons include:

  1. Rebellion in the Colonies
  2. Taxation Without Representation
  3. Rising Hostilities
  4. The War Before the Declaration
  5. Independence Declared and Gained

Each lesson includes a few pages of text, vocabulary, some suggested activities including writing assignments, and most include source documents as well. The first lesson also teaches how to play the game, and makes some suggestions for playing with larger groups. We took these suggestions, and adapted the game play for our family. My 10-year-old always plays the French Army, which means she doesn’t have cards or a turn as such, but she does get to participate in a lot of the battles. When Dad plays, one of teens will play the Hessian Army, where he does the same thing. He doesn’t have a turn of his own, but he does get to participate in battles. Both sides include the extra person in their strategy sessions. Another player (or two) could roll dice for the Native American units in a battle also.

Adding extra players as the French, Hessians, and Native Americans is a fantastic way to include younger children in the game. It’s also a great way to let older students do some of the writing assignment suggestions. For instance, one suggestion was to write brief diary entries of a soldier in one of the units in the game. We marked a unit, and made sure to keep that unit in play as much as possible. The student doing the writing assignment wasn’t making play decisions, just participating in battles. That made it easy for him to write diary entries as we played.

My bottom line? The game is high quality, with beautiful and well-thought-out artwork. The game is fun and challenging, different every time you play it. There is significant educational content, and it is interesting. The Teachers Book adds even more educational content.

I have already ordered Freedom: The Underground Railroad from Academy Games, as this is their only other game with the extra teaching material. Even if they don’t come out with books for their other games, we will be purchasing many more. The current selection includes the Ancient World, the Medieval World, the War of 1812, and multiple games from 1919 on.

-Product review by Debra Brinkman, Crew Administrator, The Schoolhouse Review Crew, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, August, 2016