I finished my “day” job early before Christmas this year to help a friend with his educational role play event – The Game of Roses. The Game of Roses (GoR) is designed to be an educational workshop to help people understand the decisions and motivations of the different historical factions in 1483. Having previously been the Richard III Outreach Officer and a LARPer, I was involved in the first run and also in this one. The team helping facilitate was made up of educationalists, actors, re-enactors, LARPers and historians. The two forces behind the idea and making it happen being a passionate history teacher and a game designer.
So we hosted 48 year 12 & 13 students (and a small group of year 11s) to give them a chance to change history. Over two days they had a series of educational workshops interspersed with GoR. We began with a set piece – Edward IV holding court at Christmas 1482, looking old and bloated (sorry Harry). Key figures in the game get introduced, then the French Ambassador arrives to deliver bad news about pensions being stopped and calling off the betrothal of the Dauphin to Elizabeth of York. Over lunch the students are asked by the key players to make a decision about what the King should do next. This is their gentle introduction to role playing through the scenario and us showing them that they have agency and can influence the decision.
The game itself gives each player/student a character within a faction in the Wars of the Roses such as Woodville, Tudor, Buckingham etc. Each faction has a Baldric, a staff member who will guide them and help them with the game. They have individual goals and lever they can achieve during the game – children to marry off, titles to gain – and there is also an overall faction goal. The players have to negotiate with each other, make deals and alliances to meet as many of their goals as possible. The factional goals have levels as meeting the ideal goal is often difficult to achieve when you ave other factions working against you. Some players are members of parliament with a vote, bishops who can vote in convocation, or members of the privy council. Resources are imbalanced to reflect the influences of the time but include armies that can also be used to gain favours.
Then they are thrown into 1483, King Edward IV is dead and his will states his son will succeed him with his brother, Richard, Duke of Gloucester as Lord Protector. The game is on. Who will be king at the end of the game? We played through this scenario three times over the two days. The first is always the students getting to grips with what they can or can’t do within the game and the second and third are always fascinating as they push those boundaries. The game ends if they manage to organise a coronation, or if there appears to be an impasse. At this point the factions count up how many armies they have and what alliances they have made. A “Battle of Bosworth” is played out by two duelling re-enactors with everyone cheering on their side.
The first event we ran we changed history and had the coronation of Richard III (Richard of York, younger prince), Richard III (Richard of Gloucester) and Edward V. This time we had a deadlock between parliament and convocation as to whether the princes were legitimate leading to a victory for the Tudors on the battlefield, Edward V crowned with Hastings as Lord Protector. The final run was brilliant, Richard of Gloucester took control and was ratified early on giving the player a lot of powers they could use in the game. Parliament banded together to impeach the Gloucester faction and throw them into the Tower of London, Convocation excommunicated them, so the student playing Richard of Gloucester disbanded parliament and instigated a split with the church. At the same time the other factions had got the resources together for a coronation for Edward V, which was dutifully cancelled by the dictator Richard of Gloucester. It went to war. The Tudors won due to tactful negotiation and gaining of almost every army of the other factions against Gloucester.
The game shows how difficult it might have been for Richard III to have made the decision to declare his brother’s children illegitimate and take the throne. It throws the other influential people into the mix, with their own goals. It also builds negotiating skills, teamwork and leadership, decision making skills and communication.
The local press did a piece on it: https://www.edp24.co.uk/news/education/wymondham-high-game-of-thrones-style-war-of-roses-activity-1-5823835?fbclid=IwAR3AmKThXrQDJJ0o57LtIzpcDmf9b4WdfyzoHICMpem-P0wP7IncUDgVh2g
So now my holiday starts properly. Time to get into that article I have in my head!