I am not a board game geek like some SVG PCV or one co-worker (I was gonna link to his very impressive 100+ board game collection but it appears that is no longer a possibility). I did play Monopoly when I was a kid. Still, I contend that board games are a great tool in the classroom. It started when I discovered a game called Pax Brittanica (through Daud, my co-worker) which allows players to become Colonial administrators and tax a colony. Tedious stuff - which was EXACTLY what I wanted to show my South Asia History students. So, I laid out the game in the middle of the room, and we went over the rules and did a few turns. The response from the students was amazing. Several came up to me afterwards and said that British rule in India came alive as the behemoth bureaucracy I had been describing all semester (SO MANY TAXES!, she said). Buoyed by this success, I took Tigris & Euphrates to my Late Antiquity class. This time my motivation was largely to have them see the map (again!) and see trading routes etc. and the response was again very enthusiastic. Students tried to place concepts from our readings onto game play and were (a bit too much) into it.
The third game I tried was The Indian Mutiny [big surprise there, I know] in my South Asian Civ class. Again, largely for the map and the game play which had strategies devised to capture Delhi quickly. Again, HUGE success. The students were all into killing as many "rebels" as possible until I put a stop to that bloodlust.
So, after all that success, I wanted to look for games that touched on various aspects of Islamic history. The obvious was there - Arabian Nights. But I wanted something that also dealt with the political history or Empire formation. Here comes my surprise. While there are 20+ games on the Roman Empire, several on British Chinese, Japanese, Aztec, Spanish, etc. there are NONE on the Islamic Empire. The Umayyads, Abbasids, Fatimids, Saffavids, Mughals = ZERO Games. The Ottomans did get one. But that's about all. Which is a shame, because the rise of the Islamic empire will make one kick-ass board game (large board too). Someone needs to get on that.
I will be using the Ottoman game and the Byzantium for the class.
OK, for the record, it should be stated that the last time SAID SVG PCV visited Chicago, it was Mr. Sepoy himself that was desperately craving a good round of back-stabbing board game action. He is as much a geek as his friends that he attempts to lord over. LET THE TRUTH BE HEARD