A Brief History of the World presents an epic journey through mankind's history, broken up into six epochs that span from early civilization up until the mid 20th-Century. Over the course of the game, students will take the helm of a different major civilization during each epoch, trying to spread its influence and control over the globe. At the end of the game, the student whose civilization had the most influence over the course of mankind wins the game.
Game play is broken into six rounds, or epochs, each covering a range of time in history. At the beginning of each round, students draft two cards: a major civilization that had influence during the current era as well as an event card which they can use to affect the game. After all of the players have selected their cards, students will take turns bringing their civilizations into the game, expanding across the globe and scoring their influence for the regions that were active that round.
Each civilization comes into a specific starting area on the game board, which consists of a world map broken up into small regions that are grouped together into larger geographic areas. For example: Scandinavia, the Baltic Seaboard, Danubia, Rhineland, Gaul and the British Isles make up Northern Europe. Players place one of their troops in the starting area and then they expand out, moving into empty lands and conquering occupied territories. Civilizations may also be able to travel by boat to different regions if they historically had both access and the technology. After expanding, players score points for the regions in which they have troops. This includes both their current civilization as well as any troops left from past civilizations. This continues for the six epochs, with students bringing in and scoring new civilizations each round and the player with the most points at the end of the game is the winner.
The real curricular meat of the game is the flow of civilizations and the shifting importance of the various regions of the world. Because of the good historical overview, as the game progresses, students are able to witness the patterns of cultural interactions and the historical importance of various regions across the globe over time. So not only are they are able to see why the Middle East has historically been a volatile region, they are able to interact with and be a part of that history. That is why this game has such a good return on investment. Because, even though it is a longer game, it is able to present a very accessible view of world history, even provide students an opportunity to rewrite it.
While the game is certainly playable over the course of a few days, a good alternative would be to have students play out the game over a longer period of time. Once period a week could be given to play out an epoch or a smaller chunk of time could be given to let a civilization take their turn. This way allows for reflection and discussion on the game state by the students with support and scaffolding by the teachers to help them make connections with the history being discussed in the classroom.