Civitas: A Classroom Game for Learning How Civilizations Grow

by Austin Shenk

What does it take to sustain a city? How can your students appreciate the work and resources required to make their daily lives comfortable? Austin wanted to send his students into the wilderness to experience for themselves the challenge of starting afresh. Instead, he and his team developed Civitas. Watch as Austin shares his motivation for designing the game and demonstrates its components.

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I’m a dreamer and I love to dream big. When I was told that I was teaching world history last year, I thought, “Man, it would be excellent if we could show them how to start a civilization. Go away in the woods for a week or so and just give them nothing, they have to figure out how to start a fire and get water and all that.” My wife said, “Well, that’s not quite realistic, but what about if we just make a game?” I said, “Wow, that’s a great idea.”

We started dreaming and took some index cards and dreamed on them and wrote down some rules and created different pieces and did some graphic design and had a lot of fun, and I came up with the game Civitas. With this game, it’s a lot like Settlers, but it’s designed for classroom use. Students earn money to use for the game based on their test scores, and then after they have that money, they are required to buy the essentials, which is water and fire and tools. Then they start making food. If they run out of food, all their people die except for their initial three people that they started with, or they can sell their people to a different civilization.

Last year, since we were talking about world history, we gave them each a continent. We had three teams in this room and three continents, and they got to choose which one they wanted, and they all started growing and it was really fun to watch.

This year I’m teaching American history, so I changed it up a little bit. We started with just one continent here and the little island there to represent Europe, and then there was nothing out here in this wide, blue sea. On their own, they had to decide whether they wanted to venture out. Once they ventured out, we started giving them one little piece of the continent at a time as they discovered it. This is Civitas New World and we’re having a lot of fun with it this year.

A little bit about the parts: This 4X8 sheet of metal was donated by a local metal shop. The continents are pieces of magnet, and then the little playing pieces are all magnets as well. It’s a lot of fun to play around with that. We created a binder that got a little bit out of hand, a little too big, with the money, with all the different types of resources and all the playing pieces for the board. It was a lot of fun, and it is not yet mass produced, but if you’re interested, let me know.

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CONTRIBUTOR: Austin Shenk

Series

Civitas
Publication Date: January 27, 2020
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