If you’ve read previous posts in this section of Game Level Learn you know that some games require a little massaging in order to effectively use them in a classroom (even for their intended purpose). This is not the case for 1812: The Invasion of Canada. Like nearly everything published by Academy Games, 1812 is both a fantastic game on its own, but completely accessible in an education context for very bright middle school students or high school students.
The War of 1812 is a bit difficult for most Americans to get their heads around. Fundamentally misunderstood in the midsection of North America as a war all about Americans (it was really a side show in the broader struggle by England against Napoleon), and seen by Americans (to the degree they think about the war) as sort of a way-station on the development of American hegemony, it isn’t given nearly the credit it deserves for the way it transformed North America. This was was basically ignored in the United States, but it was one of the key formative experiences for Canadians and essential to the development of a Canadian national identity distinct from the United States. While the game doesn’t capture that national identity formation, it does make British regular troops and Canadian militia distinct for purposes of playing the game.
The straightforward rules set of the game is the first thing to the credit of the designers. The elegant, tense and fun gameplay are a real hallmark, even for players who have a limited interest in wargames. There are special cards in the decks that simulate developments in different parts of the world that have an impact in this war. What makes this a game worth your consideration is the sophisticated way in which it combines play elements to generate an understanding of the period. This gameplay would generate substantive reflective work on the part of upper division students.