Friday, January 30, 2009

The Longest Day Begins...

The D-Day Landings have begun and the Allies are charging the beaches all along the Normandy coast. My ten-year-old generals are experiencing some of the challenges that faced the invading forces as they encounter bunkers, barbed wire, and the fact that there's no place to hide when you're on the beach. History is coming alive in a new way.

On Tusday, January 27th, the students quickly set up Gold Beach and all of the teams managed to play the battle twice, switching sides. As we were cleaning up, I asked one of my students how the battle went. His answer confirmed that Memoir '44 is teaching them history in a way that books never could. He said, "I thought it would be easy to win. I had so many more soldiers, but the Germans had much better protection. They could shoot me as I came up the beach and I didn’t have anywhere to go. I can’t believe the Americans ever won like they did!

On Thursday, the 29th, we didn't have time to switch sides so the battle of Juno Beach will have to be concluded next week. Part of the reason we ran out of time was because students looked through our club library of World War II books and chose one to read at home. Some students chose books about specific battles while others wanted to simply learn more about World War II in general. When they finish the book they are currently reading, they will have a chance to exchange it for a new one.

I fianlly got around to posting our tournament results, so check the rankings on the right bar. These results are after teams finished Yellow Beach and Gold Beach. The results for Juno Beach will be provided next week after they finish that battle.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

With Thanks for Service and Support

When my brother-in-law introduced me to Memoir '44 in June 2007, I was amazed by the game play and intrigued by the theme of World War II. I poured over every historical background in the base game and wondered how historical the battles really were. That weekend started a journey that my wife may never forgive her brother for.

I bought Memoir '44 and began reading everything I could find on World War II. I soon discovered that the game was designed around real events, which only served to increase my interest. In the fall of 2007 I taught my 3rd grade students how to play Memoir '44 and during the year we played three tournaments at lunch recess. This year I once again taught my 3rd graders how to play Memoir '44 but also received a grant from Teach American History in the fall of 2008 to buy the materials to start my History Club (only a year after introducing the game to my '07-'08 class for the first time). Thirteen of my students from last year joined the club and another just signed up last week. Their excitement and dedication is the reason I created the History Club.

Although the Memoir '44 History Club was my idea, there are many people who have helped me make this project a reality. The Teach American History committee provided the funding for the club and Grace Nielsen is responsible for the research material. Malcolm Green of Vancouver, BC, is helping get the word out about the History Club in the Memoir '44 community and Steven E. from Irvine, California has made a generous donation of material and time. Charles Cabell of Fort Mill, South Carolina is our first financial contributor and continues to search for other people interested in being part of our support base through his Facebook group and other contacts. Edward J. Kemp from San Diego, California, has offered to support the History Club through his skills and time. Ed is also responsible for helping me create the Jewell Expeditionary Force (J.E.F.), a support team with details coming soon. Finally, I would like to thank Eric Hautemont and the Days of Wonder team for their support and help. I salute all of you for the service and support you've given the Memoir '44 History Club here in Bend, Oregon.

The interest and excitement from Memoir '44 fans from across the world is also overwhelming. Thank you for your support!

Jesse Rasmussen
3rd Grade Teacher and Memoir '44 History Club Director
Bend, Oregon

Friday, January 23, 2009

D-Day Landings Commence

This week was dedicated to our first battle of the D-Day Landings Tournament. Our first battle was actually Yellow Beach, one of the failed Dieppe landings, a whole two years before what we usually think of as D-Day. We played this battle as an introduction to the Allied invasion efforts on the French coast and next week will jump forward to June 6, 1944.

At the beginning of our session on Tuesday, January 20th, we read through the historical background of Yellow Beach and discussed some of the reasons for the failed invasion. The students were a little disappointed, but we skipped snack and hurried out to the library to set up the battle and get started. I had hoped that we would have time for the teams to play both sides.

I hadn't anticipated how long the set-up would take or how difficult the process would be for the students. It was only their second time setting up a board and they still haven't learned any of the tricks to setting up quickly. Some students watched as their friends worked while some goofed around, further slowing down the process. They searched for each Terrain Tile as they went instead of collecting them at the beginning and they waited until the very end before setting soldiers on the board. Needless to say, they only had time to play one side of the battle before 5:00 when parents came to pick them up.

Thursday's session was much more efficient. Students set up the battle much more quickly and we even had time for a brief snack. I encouraged them to also play faster and think about their moves while their opponent was taking their turn. The second Yellow Beach battles were finished in time for students to get on the computers and experiment with the scenario editor.

Next week begins the June 6th landings with Gold Beach. I'm hoping that because the set-up is less complicated and students have more experience, we'll have time to play both sides of the battle in one session. More important than anything else, though, is that the club members are having fun and learning about World War II history!

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Help Support the Jewell History Club!

The Memoir '44 History Club was financed through a history grant that I applied for in November. I learned about the mini-grant opportunity through some history lectures I went to called Teach American History. I came up with the Memoir '44 club idea as a fun way to teach 4th and 5th grade students about United States involvement in World War II and develope a love of history and boardgames. The rules of the mini-grant require the funds be used to teach American history so I used the $600 they gave me to buy Memoir '44 components that involved United States forces. I got six Memoir '44 base games but I was only able to get five Terrain Packs and Pacific Theater expansions.

Several Memoir '44 fans have contacted me and expressed an interest in supporting the History Club in some way. One fan suggested that I establish a way for Memoir '44 players from around the world to donate funds that I can use to expand the club. Because of his suggestion, I added a safe and secure way for people to donate money to the Memoir '44 History Club through PayPal. Look for the Donate button on the right side of this web page that looks like this, choose the amount you want to donate, and safely send us your donation.

Money that is donated to the History Club will only be used to buy items for the club or students in the club. I would like to get the Terrain Pack and Pacific Theater expansions we are missing, although one supporter from San Diego has already said that he might help with those. Ultimately I would like to get six copies of the Winter/Desert board and matching Eastern Front expansions, but that may have to wait for a while. Another idea is to get each student who is in the club some kind of Memoir '44 item, expansion, or prize! What student wouldn't love that?

Thank you for your interest in the History Club and for any donations you decide to make. Every little bit counts and it is always appriciated!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Let the History Begin!

The first week of the Memoir '44 History Club has come and gone! I hope the students had as much fun as I did, and are excited about our plans for this year. We have 13 members in our club right now (one member is behind someone in our picture) and all of them were in my class last year so they know the basic rules and the concept behind Memoir '44. This picture was taken in the school computer lab on Thursday, just at the end of our session.

Our first session began on Tuesday, January 13th, with a quick review of the basic rules, a short overview of our plans for the club, and a snack. We headed into the library and got back into the game with the scenario "Carentan Causeway", a quick battle that mostly uses infantry. For many of the club members, this was their first time playing Memoir '44 since June 2008 when they were in my class.

Students will need to have a steep learning curve during the start of this club because I'm expecting a lot from them. They are now expected to set up their own battles, remember most of the rules, learn Tactic Cards that they didn't use last year, and learn new terrain and rules that come with expansions that they've never used. To help with all of the information they are getting, I provided each club member with copies of my Memoir Player Aid, Roll Calls and various other cheat sheets. From what I've seen, their excitement and interest is going to make the necessary learning easy.

Our second session dealt more with housekeeping and less with playing, which was hopefully still fun. We reviewed all of the basic rules, covered the Tactic Cards that are new to the club members, looked at new terrain from the Terrain Pack and Pacific Theater, and learned about how to read the scenario maps. The rest of our time was spent on computers in our computer lab learning how to create scenarios and navigate around the Memoir '44 web site and User Pages.

Next week we will start our first tournament; The D-Day Landings.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Researching World War II Battles

Students in my Memoir '44 History Club will have to research a battle from the Western Front or the Pacific Theater and design a scenario based on their research. We will have chances in our club to try student-designed scenarios, but the research will be more important than balanced and fun scenarios so the first round may need a lot of fine tuning before they work for the game; education and research is, after all, a large part of this club.

Grace Nielsen, the Jewell Elementary librarian, spent over $300 on books that the students can use for their research. Some of the books will give great general information about World War II and United States involvement. Other books will allow students to learn about a specific battle in-depth. Some of the books will help the students grasp the tactics used in a battle or the importance of battles for each side. It's important for students to know all of that information and I believe the wealth of books we now have in the Jewell Library will foster deeper research.

There is one book that stood out as a perfect resource for researching and designing Memoir '44 scenarios. The book is full of 3D artistic drawings of battlefields and overviews of many of the major battles of the war. It's called Great Battles of World War II and was written by John MacDonald. Nearly 200 pages, this hardcover book will be widely used by our club.