Writing the Trekking Through History Game Cards

Writing the Trekking Through History Game Cards

Amber Bruggman Amber Bruggman

Everyone loves history.

Okay, everyone might not love learning about history–memorizing dates, battle sites, the same facts about the same people...not always fun and not everyone's cup of tea. But I would maybe more solidly argue everyone loves a good story.

When writing the cards for Trekking Through History, I (an admitted history nerd) wanted to tell fascinating stories about events and people we don't always learn about in school. I wanted people reading the cards to sound smart (and not at all annoying) at parties when they shared the bits of info on the cards. I envisioned some of the cards sparking Google searches, looking for more information. I at least hoped game players would say, "I never knew that!", because I said that A LOT while I was writing the cards.

I'll share some of my favorite cards to write. Some contained brand-new information to me, and some were just about people and events I found fun.

Learning a new board game with the ancient Egyptians

I did a lot of reading about the game of Senet. Not only do I enjoy history, I also get pretty feisty playing board games with my family. So I really enjoyed trying to dig into this game and learn how to play. I loved learning that pharaohs had the game sealed in their tomb, ready to pick it back up in the afterlife. The cards only had space for so much information, so I had to really edit down how much I wanted to include about the game. It was definitely one of my more challenging cards to write!

Smelling nice with Cleopatra

Okay, so most people already know about Cleopatra. She made it really hard to forget her. And that was why it was so much fun to write a little bit about her. Again, it was a struggle to edit her down to one card. But I loved the mental image of Cleopatra waging battle on all Marc Antony's senses with her perfumes. Whatever that indefinable "it factor" is, Cleopatra had it. And she used it. And I was pretty glad to get to write about it.

Losing my horses to Khutulun

Before writing the cards, I knew about Cleopatra. I did not know about Khutulun. I literally laughed out loud researching her story. She was a Mongolian princess who forced suitors to wrestle her for her hand. My romantic-comedy-watching self kept expecting her to conventionally fall in love or get married, but instead she just took all their horses. Now that is a movie I would love to see. (And it was a card I loved to write.)

Losing my heart to the dodo

I also thought I knew a little something about the extinction of dodo birds before I began writing the cards. But it was so upsetting to read about the birds' extinction at the hands of explorers! It felt like a real betrayal to the poor bird to question its intelligence after learning more about its sad and preventable end. The captive birds who became pets even skewed our perception of what dodos looked like when functioning normally in the wild.

Getting hungry learning about the Earl of Sandwich

I love to eat. And I love a good sandwich. So I literally had to take a lunch break while writing the card about the Earl of Sandwich and his namesake food. (I did not, however, eat a sandwich. I think it was cheese and crackers?) This was another card I knew a teensy bit about, so maybe I just enjoyed learning more about what I thought I knew. I loved discovering that the Earl did not actually create the first sandwich; he merely popularized it. The more you think you know, right?

Feeling ready to form my own pirate colony with Cheng I Sao

Cheng I Sao took over her husband's pirate army when he died. Then she made it better. Not only was she an awesome pirate, she also created a moral code. Among other new pirate laws, she created a tax system. A pirate tax system. For more ways to be a pirate with values, follow Cheng I Sao.

Sobbing uncontrollably over Hachiko

A dog who, unaware his owner has died, waited patiently at the train station for TEN YEARS?!! It took me a minute to recover from this card. It was such a beautiful story I had never heard before, but I freely admit to tearing up. I don't even watch a movie if I know an animal dies in it, so this card was a real labor of love. I was, however, pretty happy to continue sharing Hachiko's story and the legacy of loyalty he left behind.

Everyone loves history.

Maybe we have to find the history we love. Maybe it's not always the history taught in school. But the good stuff is out there. So here's to more games that find and spread the good stuff.

To learn more about Trekking Through History and get updates, go here. 

To learn how a history teacher helped create Trekking Through History, click here.

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