Game Ready

By Lori Mai

Stan Smith, of Viola, holds Never III: Many Voices, One Message, a board game he created in hopes of educating students about major historical events of the past 500 years and highlighting the need for world peace. Photo by Lori Mai

Retired high school social studies teacher, Stan Smith, of Viola, has spent the better part of the last 50 years creating a board game to educate students about the major historical events of the past 500 years and highlight the need for world peace.

Stan is a fourth-generation Idahoan with bachelor’s and master’s degrees in applied anthropology from the University of Idaho, along with work toward a doctorate in peace studies at Syracuse University in New York and American University in Washington, D.C. He was the “new guy” on the faculty at Moscow High School in 1969 when he was assigned to teach local history.

“They thought it was punishment, but it was like throwing Br’er Rabbit in the briar patch,” he says of his local history class. “My philosophy of education is to get students out of their seat and onto their feet, so we took many field trips that year.”

One day, on his way back from a field trip to nearby Uniontown, Stan wished he had a 3D tool to teach his students history.

That night, he had a dream in which he saw a beautiful game. But, as dreams do, it evaporated in the morning. The following summer, Stan thought about it again, and on a piece of drywall, he sketched a crayon drawing of his game board vision, based on the concept of a mandala.

Using these pieces, each player attempts to capture their opponent’s state or all of their opponent’s citizens. Photo courtesy of Kevin Grote

Simply put, a mandala is a circular design symbolizing the universe. Stan chose the circular pattern to represent our human place in the cosmos.

He hoped to create an educational, strategic game of discovery similar to chess, where 2 players move different pieces across and around the board in various combinations, performing separate functions. At first, Stan experimented with pebbles, nuts and bolts as the pieces.

In addition to having fun and creating strategies, students would also learn about major events of the past 500 years—the emergence of the state; political, scientific and industrial revolutions; communications, and the dangers of the atomic bomb.

“And that began the whole process beyond the dream,” Stan says. “So, I moved forward with this.”

He hired Creative Workshop, a Moscow business, and Board Game Designs & Manufacturing of Pahrump, Nevada, to bring his dream to life.

Graphically, the board layout alternates spaces of black (soil) and blue (sky and water). These spaces form seven rings, with 24 “rays” emanating from the inner circle that depicts planet Earth. “In philosophy and religion, the number seven is a very powerful number,” Stan says. “And the number 24 signifies time. So, this game is about space and time.”

The game pieces for Never III are uniquely shaped gold and silver tokens that symbolize power and represent the state, military, industry, science, communications and the atomic bomb.

Uniquely shaped gold and silver pieces symbolize power and represent the state, military, industry, science and communications components, along with the atomic bomb. Using these pieces, each player attempts to capture their opponent’s state or all of their opponent’s citizens.

After considering several title and slogan options, Stan named the game, “Never III: Many Voices, One Message,” with the implied directive that the world does not want World War III. To illustrate that point, the word “Never” is repeated in 25 languages along the sides of the box.

For as much progress as Stan made, he never imagined it would take five decades to complete development of the game.

“The whole process has been like taking three steps forward and two steps backward,” Stan says. “Certainly, time and money have been the primary challenges.”

During those 50 years, Stan raised his family, pursued higher education and taught full time in Moscow at MHS and Renaissance Public Charter School. He substituted in eight Idaho school districts, and he also spent a semester teaching at the American Baccalaureate School in Kuwait.

A 2-year leave of absence allowed him to work for the Martin Peace Institute at UI, where he traveled to 40 Idaho communities and gave more than 400 presentations about peace and conflict resolution to schools, churches and service clubs.

For his work, he received the annual prestigious Applegate-Dorros Peace and Understanding Award from the National Education Association in 1991—one recipient out of 2.5 million NEA members.

The Never III game board has alternating spaces of black and blue that form rings around the Earth, depicted in the center. Photo by Lori Mai

Commitment to peace plays an important role in Never III. As players learn about history and the danger of nuclear weapons to life on Earth, Stan hopes they will seek global peace as a solution. On the back of the rules booklet, he lists contact information for the most prominent peace organizations in the world.

Aside from lessons he wants to teach through the game, it is important to Stan that children have fun playing it. He tested Never III with area students as well as with a chess club at Pullman High School, who advised him to make a critical change with the movement of one of the pieces.

Through game tests, he found children, particularly middle schoolers, love it.

Stan secured a copyright years ago through a local patent attorney to protect his work. Recently, he enlisted Kevin Grote, videographer and media specialist at Lewis- Clark State College in Lewiston, to produce a helpful video to explain the game.

Now that Never III is nearing completion, Stan may finally bring his 50-year project to fruition. Through his company, Creative Solutions and Educational Services, he hopes to manufacture a small quantity with an initial goal of providing 2 free games to every Idaho middle and high school between Grangeville and Bonners Ferry to use as the 3D teaching tool he originally dreamed about.

Stan Smith moves pieces on the Never III game board. Photo by Lori Mai

Should he ever profit from game sales, he would allocate a portion of the proceeds to charity. Whether Never III succeeds or not during his lifetime, Stan says he has no control over the outcome.

“This game has merit, and I am proud of my efforts,” he says. “My satisfaction is that in life I have created a beautiful statement about our current reality with the hope that in some small way, it may usher in a better world for posterity.”

To learn more about Never III: Many Voices, One Message, visit the Never the Game website or email Stan Smith. You can also write to Stan at PO Box 8715, Moscow, ID, 83843.