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"Help with Thermopylae game for schoolkids needed" Topic

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1,412 hits since 18 Jan 2011
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Oberst Radl Inactive Member18 Jan 2011 11:25 p.m. PST

My wife's a middle school teacher. I'm a certified teacher, but am not employed as a teacher. From time to time I help out with ideas and plans. When the 7th-graders study ancient Greece, we thought it would be fun to reward them with a wargame of Thermopylae.

They're 7th graders, and my wife only has them for 50 minutes a day. There's no time to learn complicated rules like DBA, FoG, C&C Ancients, etc. So I was thinking of Junior General's rules, here:

The problem is that JG rules are for 1/72 scale figures. For a lot of reasons (cost, size, trouble finding plastic figures for all the units, expense of 28mm in this number for a period I don't regularly game, etc.) I'd rather go with 15mm. I don't have a lot of experience with wargames, let alone mixing wargames with young teenagers, so I'm hoping for some advice or help with these issues:

1. Will 15mm "scale" to 1/72 so that I don't have to adjust the dimensions of the Junior General's board or another aspect of playing the Junior Generals' game?

2. If 15mm means I have to adjust the dimensions of the Junior Generals' game, or some aspect of game play, how might I cope with that?

Any comments or suggestions are welcome.

Keraunos Inactive Member19 Jan 2011 12:27 a.m. PST


Bleeped text the rules. they will eb tied up wit movement and turning and unnecessary stuff like that

just have the persian kids 'commit' units – then move them straighht into contact with the hoplite line, and let them throw dice for fighting or shooting.

something simple, like 6's to hit with shooting bows

5 or 6 to hit a hoplite, 4,5,6 if its partially armoured greek or any persian

and let the spartiates and immortals re roll 1's to show they are elite.

kill's by figure (or element if you have based that way)

and just when the greeks think they have won.

bring on more persians from the rear with a +2 fighting against the rear side.

Martin Rapier19 Jan 2011 2:48 a.m. PST

"1. Will 15mm "scale" to 1/72 so that I don't have to adjust the dimensions of the Junior General's board or another aspect of playing the Junior Generals' game?"

Well, the rules suggest base sizes, 1.5" x .75" for two figures and all combat is resolved by base rather than by figure. Personally I think that is going to look a bit sparse with only two 15mm figs on a 1.5" base so I'd go with 3 or 4 but otherwise the rules and measurements will work as is. As they are element based rules the number of figures per base is irrelevant.

Or you could follow the other suggestion and just print out the paper armies for them to use.

Lowtardog Inactive Member19 Jan 2011 3:19 a.m. PST

I would use the paper armies personally but for speed, cost etc if you wanted go smaller such as 10mm or even 6mm

arthur181519 Jan 2011 5:05 a.m. PST

I hope you – and your wife! – won't be offended if I suggest Thermopylae might not be the best subject for s fun game for her pupils: a frontal assault against elite troops with secure flanks fails until a means is found to outflank them, then game over.
Why not stage a battle on the plain outside Troy, with each pupil being a 'hero' commanding a small contingent of Greeks or Trojans. Victory for each side is to drive the other off the field in disorder to their ships/city walls; players – even if on the 'losing' side can 'win' by gaining prestige for victories in personal combat against enemy soldiers/other heroes. Personal combat could be resolved by playing 'Paper, Scissors, Stone.'

Personal logo Pictors Studio Sponsoring Member of TMP19 Jan 2011 7:06 a.m. PST

Do a skirmish game based on the Spartans recovering the body of their newly dead king.

Leonidas has just been killed by the Persians and the remaining Spartans have to drag his body back to their lines and stop the Persians from taking him. You need about 20 Spartans, a casualty figure and maybe 30 Persians or Persian allies.

This was the game I played with the kids. Any skirmish rules will work. They had a blast. The spartans win if they can get the king behind their works, the Persians win if the Spartan king is moved off their side of the table.

PatrickWR19 Jan 2011 7:15 a.m. PST

Look again at 1/72 soft plastics. You can get a box of 48 hoplites for $8-$12. That's pretty darn cheap, and you can just chuck them into a shoebox when you're done.

79thPA Supporting Member of TMP19 Jan 2011 7:36 a.m. PST

If you can, I'd go with the plastics since they are bigger (and easier to see) and the kids will probably be several ranks deep.

Will all of the kids be able to play? I'm guessing not.

My friend and I set up a 25mm display of the First Bull Run battle for her history class. We showed initial troop positions, discussed how the battle flowed and talked a little bit about the tactics and technology of the time.

Bill Rosser19 Jan 2011 8:23 a.m. PST


Sent you a PM thru TMP.

Bill R.

Sysiphus Inactive Member19 Jan 2011 1:58 p.m. PST

I always ran my games on the black board using magnetized counter; vivid colors. I used the Matrix game idea. What ever you do they like to roll dice and they like to own dice so keep a sharp eye out wink

sector51 Inactive Member20 Jan 2011 3:24 a.m. PST

OK I assume that Thermopylae is being chosen for a reason,

Both ancient and modern writers have used the Battle of Thermopylae as an example of the power of a patriotic army of freemen defending native soil. The performance of the defenders at the battle of Thermopylae is also used as an example of the advantages of training, equipment, and good use of terrain as force multipliers and has become a symbol of courage against overwhelming odds.

As for the game I would like to see it as a problem solving exercise (and it is worth running it thorough yourselves to make sure it works);

Will the Greeks negotiate, will archery win the day (I suggest a limited number of turns in a day and ammunition supply), hand to hand combat.

Then of course there is the secret path. Apparently Ephialtes betrayed the path after 2 days of fighting, so rather than just give up the secret of the path, I suggest that the Persians have to achieve a goal (killing enough Greeks?) to prove themselves worthy of gaining the secret.

And not to forget, the Persians had a King who gave the orders (although of course he would have had advisor's). So it it is worth setting up a chain of command for the Persian side.

I am glad that the Thespians are remembered.

RudyNelson20 Jan 2011 12:00 p.m. PST

Not a good balanced battle for school kids. One of Alexander the Great battles against the Persians may be better.
Nick Z in Florida uses wargames a lot with his middle school kids.

It needs to be done as a multi-application project. Visual Maps, Timelines, written papers, hands on painting or making of terrain.
An end of activity pare on what I did right or wrong as a General.

Some people use DBA. Simple 12 stand armies. Cheaper to do vs rules with large armies.

Keep your goal in mind when developing the POI.
I have done four student study guides for eduation (WW2,WW1, ACW, Early American Wars) and all had a section devoted to student projects.

Rudy Nelson

Oberst Radl Inactive Member20 Jan 2011 4:42 p.m. PST

Thanks, all. Particular thanks to Bill Rosser and Pictors Studio. I think that's a good point about not all the kids being able to run the Thermopylae battle, so will add Pictors skirmish idea as well.

Rudy, those are good suggestions. The reason I like Thermopylae is, to some extent, the reasons that make it an unbalanced, and "not very good" wargame.

It's a thrilling story, and a story that's hard to believe. So it makes for some curiosity. I hope the kids will see the huge mass of Persian troops, the much-smaller Greek force, and think it's a walk for the Persians only to find out that it's not despite their best efforts.

The Greeks' performance demonstrates a few healthy life lessons. One is the value of training and education; the Greeks could pick a spot that would allow them to make the most of their abilities and limit Persian effectiveness. The Greeks' training and experience created/exposed possibilities than the untrained would not have seen. In war, as in everything else, brainpower is more important than firepower.

Another lesson is the value of cooperation and historical accuracy. 300 Spartan Hoplites couldn't have held that pass for an hour. But from history we know they had other Spartans and cooperated with other cities to produce a force capable of holding off a numerically-superior enemy. Without an accurate understanding of events, the story of Thermopylae becomes a myth we can't really understand, and we'd have lost the opportunity to learn things of value for our lives.

A longer-range lesson is the importance of the environment. What little I've read (wikipedia) suggests that the gulf of Malia was larger, making the pass more defensible, in 480 BC than today. I'll have to study that a bit for an information sheet.

Mikhail Lerementov Inactive Member20 Jan 2011 8:25 p.m. PST

to include all the kids, run multiple games at the same time then do an after action report on who won each game and how and why. Use paper maps and cardboard counters. Perhaps an art teacher to help with maps and counters?

Oberst Radl Inactive Member20 Jan 2011 8:33 p.m. PST

Good news -- I did the math and I can do Thermopylae for $120 USD cheaper in 1/72 plastics than 15mm metal! That's not counting the extra optometry expenses incurred in painting 15mm metal, either.

Does anyone know of a good set of maps, preferably topo maps, of the area as it existed in 480 BC?

Personal logo McLaddie Supporting Member of TMP20 Jan 2011 9:40 p.m. PST

Oberst Radl:

Speaking as an educator who had used wargames and simulations in the classroom as well as designed them for teachers, as well as training tools, the first questions you have to answer aren't whether to use 1/72 plastics or 15mm metal or if there are topo maps available. And doing it 'just having fun' or to 'expose' the kids to wargaming, history etc. isn't going to cut it educationally.

These questions determine the answers to all the questions you have asked so far:

1. Why? What specifically do you/your wife want the students to learn from the experience, either directly or ancillary to the actual activity. [For instance, ancillary; learning the continents while playing Risk.] Is it specific Greek/Persian history, the battle itself, What ancient warfare was like? Are their political or social issues that are part of the learning experience?

2. Is Thermopylae the best choice for achieving your lesson goals?

3. How will you know that your efforts have been successful? That is how will you know you have achieved your 'lesson' goals?

You might find you are able to achieve all your goals with less effort and time without actually playing a game at all, or it may be that you want to do something at a strategic level instead of one battle.

I can suggest some ideas of how wargames can be used effectively if you can answer question #1. That will help answer your other questions.


Oberst Radl Inactive Member20 Jan 2011 10:19 p.m. PST

Thanks, Bill. I'll give your post some thought.

Personal logo McLaddie Supporting Member of TMP21 Jan 2011 12:59 p.m. PST

Be glad to help.

I don't want to go all serious on you here. It is just that simulations can not only provide some fun but also powerful and unique learning experience. For instance, in a ten-minute simulation of pre-ACW slavery, I can get students to understand the master-slave dynamics in a far deeper manner than any other kind of instruction. But it has to be done right.

I want to see you get the most bang for your time and effort, AND I want others to see your efforts as more than just 'play time', which is usually the first response school staff and parents, and often the last when it comes to supporting such activities again.

Bill H.

Bill H.

Quadratus18 Feb 2011 5:56 p.m. PST

I've also run some battles. The first year I printed junior general and ran the battle of Marathon.

Next year I got some plastic figures

The third year I ran a recreation of the Thermopylae using Old Glory 25mm figures

It was an after school program where the students (7th and 8th graders) did some research on the battle and then we gamed recovering the body of the dead king (as Pictor's suggested). We did eventually game the whole battle but we never got enough of the figures painted (I was way too optimistic about what I could get painted in 2 months) but the kids had fun.

I think I still have some simple rules to cover the main battle.

I think Thermopylae is a great battle to game. The kids don't need it to be an even match. They like rolling dice and talking smack (strangely like adults)

Oberst, I'd suggest using Junior general's rules (with some of your own tweaking) and then try them out with your 15mm figures. As long as there is some semblance of balance the kids will have fun and understand the main points of the battle

Quadratus18 Feb 2011 6:02 p.m. PST

To go a little further. I always show them clips of the movie 300 (carefully selected clips!)

kids can pick out a lot of factual info

(Spartan treatment of women vs. other cultures views of them)


Agriculture and Geography (before we watch it we learn about Sparta's location and economy)

Sparta's military code.

We also discuss the portrayal of the Persians as "evil" and the Spartans as "good" (our class studies the Helots and the Persian empire and students draw their own conclusions about the movie)

We even critique the fight scenes.

Kids really enjoy this lesson

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