Caesar Cipher Wide Game

Activity Idea: Code Breaking Wide Game Preparation Time: an hour Duration: As long as needed! At least half an hour [mapsmarker marker=”46″] Our experience is that to motivate teenagers there are few things more effective

Activity Idea: Code Breaking Wide Game
Preparation Time: an hour
Duration: As long as needed! At least half an hour

[mapsmarker marker=”46″]

Our experience is that to motivate teenagers there are few things more effective than making something a competition! Now that Spring is here we have planned to be outdoors for much of the term. We wanted to put on an activity that was part challenge and part physical.

This post is to illustrate how we set up a game and give you example codes which will save you some time in creating them!

The Venue

Our venue was Alice Holt, a fantastic Forrestry Commission maintaned area of stunning woodland near to Farnham, Surrey. We knew that we would have between 20 and 30 Explorers turn up and we needed to amuse them for nearly two hours. At least it was dry!

The Activity

The activity we put on was Poker. Each group of 6 Explorers was issued with a playing card at the start and had to collect one new card from 4 leaders, each located around the forrest. We chose their locations wisely, keeping them just off main paths to reduce risk of losing the youngsters! The positions were also strategically placed to stop the youngsters from going down paths that would lead them away from the forrest. At each leader and after receiving a card, the group could choose to burn one or more cards or do no nothing.

The target was for each group to return to the base (the newly refurbished cafe that thankfully remains lit at night) with the best Poker hand.

Not much of a challenge in that. They would have a near 3-mile walk with some traversing of obstacles – it is a forrest afterall. So we made it harder.

The Challenge

One leader knew of the Caesar Ciphor, a code that, it is written, allowed the Roman war time Dictator to send encrypted messages to the front line. The way that we used it was to take the latitude and longitude grid reference and convert it using a Casar code. The groups would then need to unscramble this code and make their way to the leader’s base.

The Locations

To generate a latitude / longitude code is easy. Go to Google Maps and place a marker by clicking on your chosen point. Google reveals a box with the name of the location and a reference; this is the latidtude and the longitude reference. Google Maps Shows Lat-Long references

We used Google Maps to search for convenient places for leaders to be stationed and took a note of their references.

The Code

The Caesar Ciphor is quite simple. The premise is that you take the alphabet and rotate it by a few letters. The quantity of letters rotated is used in the identifier. If rotated by 3 letters, the identifier is ‘Rot3’, as the start of the alphabet is moved on 3 letters.

This means that the letter A  bcomes letter D.
The letter B becomes E.
C becomes F. And so on.

The table we used to create the codes is below. Feel free to use this or use this website, www.rot-n.com.

Standard Alphabet A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z
Rot6 G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z A B C D E F
Rot11 L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z A B C D E F G H I J K
Rot15 P Q R S T U V W X Y Z A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O
Rot18 S T U V W X Y Z A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R
Rot22 W X Y Z A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V

The Encoded Codes

One Two Three Four Five Six Seven Eight Nine Zero
Rot6 utk zcu znxkk luax lobk yod ykpkt komnz totk fkxu
Rot11 zyp ehz escpp qzfc qtgp dti dpgpy ptrse ytyp kpcz
Rot15 dct ild iwgtt udjg uxke hxm htktc txvwi cxct otgd
Rot18 gfe log lzjww xgmj xanw kap kwnwf wayzl fafw rwjg
Rot22 kja psk pdnaa bkqn bera oet oaraj aecdp jeja vank

Because we were in a confined space, the first digit on each code was the same for each reference, so we gave the groups that digit. The remainder were all encoded.

Example Location

The latitude / longitude reference for one location was:

51.173671, -0.844433

Therefore, the code given to a group was:

51. kja oaraj pdnaa oet oaraj kja, -0. aecdp bkqn bkqn bkqn pdnaa pdnaa.

Their task was to unscramble each combination of letters to work out the number. They might look at ‘kja’, above, and asssume that it is either one, two or six. If six, a=x. However, the first combination in the second part of the code begins with a and, as no number begins with x, kja cannot be six. Or they might notice that ‘pdnaa’ has a double digit at its end. Therefore this has to be three. And so on.

The Game

Once these numbers were decoded, the groups put the numbers in to Google Maps on their phones and used these to navigate to the leaders.

Yes, we would prefer them to use maps and compasses. We do that kind of activity too. We wanted to give them a better undertsanding of how they could use the features on their phones to compliment the navigation skills.

The Outcome

We had a great time. The Explorers actrually enjoyed the decoding. They even enjoyed stomping around a forrest.

I have to say that I felt awkward, stood on a junction wearing dark combats, a dark coat and Scout scarf as a team of runners ran up to me and passed. I guess we looked strange! Credit to one leader that took a camp chair, a stove, can of beans, and kit to make a drink.

For safety, all Explorers were instructed to stay in groups and had phones with leaders’ numbers on; there was a ‘senior’ Explorer in each group (over 16 yrs). Each leader took a note of the groups that arrived and at what times, we had two leaders walking around the site and all leaders were communicating with each other. We felt that this allowed us to provide a safe environment.

We can recommend the Caesar Ciphor as the basis of a game… whether in a forest or around a town. In fact it might even make for an indoor event on PCs.

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