King Philip’s Board Game: Trivializing or Educating?
Linford D. Fisher
I really have no excuse for blogging about an upcoming board game titled “King Philip’s War,” since it has nothing to do with religion in America. Or does it? A board game that allows players to take sides and reenact one of the most horrific clashes between Natives and English colonists in the colonial period must certainly have something to do with religion.
John Poniske, a middle school social studies teacher from Maryland, claims he designed the game to educate the wider public about the war itself, since he was surprised to read about it in a military magazine (his surprise surprised me, to be frank; which textbook published in the last twenty years does not mention King Philip’s War?).
The company behind the game, MultiManPublishing, is known for its militaristic-historical games. One can purchase board games that reenact the major battles of the Civil War, for example, or a board game that might be my personal favorite, called “Warriors of God,” which allows players to participate in the wars between England and France between 1135-1453.
Am I being too cynical here? Maybe a generation of young people will be educated by this board game. But I would hope that, in the future, people might turn to less-trivializing and more nuanced and culturally sensitive ways to learn about King Philip’s War. For middle-schoolers, Dan Mandell has an age-appropriate text on the war and has recently completed a forthcoming book on the same topic for a more general adult audience. Really hardy non-specialists might even consider tackling classics like Jill Lepore’s The Name of War. Or, as a last resort, interested media- and entertainment-starved folks could even learn a lot from watching Episode One of PBS’s “We Shall Remain.” But a board game? My only consolation is that it has not (yet?) been turned into a game for the Wii.