How to Build a Successful Games Club: High School Edition, Part 4
From humble beginnings our Chess and Games Club is firmly established and we’re now into maintain and improve mode. One major improvement is finding a way to include all those great games that can take hours to play. Lucky for us you don’t need a Tardis to fit a 3 hour game into the 40 minute lunch break format.
Board games like Axis and Allies, Risk, Descent, Imperial Assault, Memoir ’44, Carcassonne, and Ticket to Ride will all work with a little careful planning. We tried all sorts of clever tricks like taking photos of the board but found we were still spending ages tearing down and setting up the board again. What we’re looking for is a quick, easy, and efficient way to keep the board and pieces intact between play sessions. Here’s the plan.
Ziploc bags clearly marked with a sharpie keep player money, tokens, and play pieces organized and ready to go. A brightly coloured Next Turn Belongs to This Player token that fits into a baggie ensures we know who gets the next turn when we resume. Miniature games that can play on small boards like Frostgrave, Chicago Way, and Chain of Command can also be left set up (terrain and all) on a similar tuck-away board system. Any skirmish game with a limited figure count works well in this format. I generally put a two-week limited on saving boards. If people lose interest and games are left unfinished I ask the players to make a decision and, if they choose not to continue, they put the game away clearing the way for the next crew.
Card based games like Dominion and other deck builders can get the same treatment by using card storage sheets that have been marked to organize the cards. Here’s an example using Dan Verssen’s classic Naval Battles. Each player gets a simple Ultra Pro card organizer to keep their cards in. We remember seating, play order, and the next player by the way the sheets are stacked in the box. Simple!
With a little bit of forethought it’s easy to spread long games across several lunch hours with minimal tear down and set up time.
The second way to play longer games is to run after school games club. I find that two and half hours is enough to get one big game or several small ones in. The sky’s the limit with this and if you do get an epic game of Risk or Axis and Allies that’s going to go over time you can save the game as detailed above.
I find that the older kids in grade 11 and 12 like the after school format better than playing at lunch and, as I teach at a rural school, they can organize transportation or a carpool home. Grades 9 and 10 are reliant on parental pick up. Over the years we’ve done full Memoir ’44, Descent, 40K, Wings of War, and Smash Up! campaigns and tournaments. The only limitation is how long and often you’re prepared to stay after school. To keep the troops fed, if you collect a set amount (i.e. Twonies here in Canada cover it) payable at least two days in advance you can easily organize pizza delivery. End of year potlucks go over well also!
If you’re having a good day come and be happy. If you’re having a bad day come and be sad. Talk if you want to, shut up and play if you don’t, or don’t play at all. It’s all good. The only thing you need to be is civil. Games club will take care of the rest.
As this is the last installment in the High School Games Club series I’ll end with a final thought. Games make it possible to engage with others through the filter of a common and shared set of rules. They simplify and can jump-start then moderate social interaction and allow people to interact successfully with vastly different age and social groups. On more than one occasion kids have returned to school and Games Club after an absence for the loss of a family member. I’ve been amazed at how a socially awkward grade 9 can walk up to a grieving grade 11 and ask, “Wanna play?” and get down to a game in companionable silence.
Not an awkward question or silence to be found.
Feel free to leave any comments or questions below.
The first three installments of the How to Build a Successful High School Games Club can be found here: