2018 Hall of Game
The results are in. With a little careful bookkeeping over the past year I can declare some clear winners from both my High School Games Club (now in year 16!) and the Thursday Night Game Group. What games hit the table most often in 2018? Too Fat Lardies miniature game rules providers and board game giant Fantasy Flight Games had the lion’s share of games played while High School Games Club attendance remained strong.
Despite some concerted effort to try and get my high school Games Club kids to explore new games they stuck with their old faithfuls. In fact, they actually started bringing in more traditional games. To my chagrin, Magic the Gathering and Uno got played a lot this past semester. I had started the school year off by lending out some ‘new’ games from my personal collection to the senior kids: setting them the task of learning how to play at home and then teaching kids how to play at the club. Galaxy Trucker, Ticket to Ride, A Few Acres of Snow, Axis&Allies: D-Day, Descent, Machi Koro, Pandemic, and Niagara were all chosen as learner games that I had hoped would expand their gaming ‘vocabulary’ beyond the solid basics they have already.
This failed miserably! The games fit the criteria I’ve laid out in previous posts about starting and choosing games for a youth oriented games club. They were short, interesting, and sweet. In the end what I failed to take into account – and sixteen years in I should know this by now – is that the kids are there to hang out with each other first and foremost. The games themselves are just a fun afterthought. Incomprehensible to time-challenged adults – which adult gamer among us would spend time on an old fossil when newer, better games are available – but teenagers have a logic uniquely their own. I’ve learned to accept that; for example, the roving bunch of RPG players who turn up en masse at random times to explore the next section of their dungeon.
What continues to surprise me is the strong demand for a venue to play chess. With at least six kids pestering me on a regular basis I added Monday lunch hour to the traditional Wednesday and Friday lunch hour slots for gaming. Though, I made these new Mondays chess only for a few reasons. First, I know from experience that given the opportunity the room would quickly fill up with noisy social games. Not ideal for chess. Second, I needed a calm venue where I could do some coaching for both newbie and experienced chess players. Without a more experienced eye to point out tactical and strategic errors it’s hard to improve your chess game. Kids don’t have the experience to recognize that things actually went south three whole moves ago. I don’t harp on these things but a judicious five move rewind after their game is done works wonders for mistake and blunder correction.
Third, I love my games club kids but the introvert in me needs some downtime in my teaching day. Chess is quiet and doesn’t involve a lot of wrangling so I could handle an extra day of that kind of game. It needs saying that chess got played a lot this year, even on the other regular gaming days. As always, the relationships and activities in a classroom space are negotiated between teacher and students. Mondays are chess only with the concession that kids may also just hang around, eat lunch, and do schoolwork as long as they did it quietly enough so as not to distract the chess players. Fair dinkum as they say down under.
The Thursday Night Game Group (TNGG) and most Fridays are where I get to play games with adults. In one form or another we’ve been meeting for well over 15 years now. The graphic below shows the games I’ve played this past year and what company’s games got the most play. Sum total, I played 72 gaming sessions with members of the TNGG. Not too shabby!
There’s a strong miniatures game theme running throughout. Chain of Command (CoC) is a WWII platoon level game played with 28mm miniatures. What a Tanker also. Gaming buddy Seth and I have come a long way with Chain of Command. We played our first game January 3rd of this year and have just embarked on a Siege of Tobruk mini-campaign – a series of linked games that tie together an overall narrative of the events of April 10 to 14, 1941 in the North Africa WWII theatre of operations. Imperial Assault is a board game that uses miniatures as playing pieces. We do one IA campaign a year. More on our current Heart of the Empire campaign after we finish up next week!
Too Fat Lardies and Fantasy Flight Games provided most of our gaming fun this past year. There are many other excellent games and gaming companies out there but TFL and FFG just do it so much better than everyone else. TFL strictly publishes guidebooks that “play the period and not the rules.” For me games like CoC and I Ain’t Been Shot Mum have ‘fired’ Bolt Action and Flames of War as my go-to 28mm and 10mm WWII wargames. Since starting CoC I haven’t played a single game of Bolt Action. There is just so much more historical veracity baked into the CoC rules and supplements.
Where TFL games are rock solid rules sold without bells, whistles, or miniatures, games by Fantasy Flight are all about the visual and tactile candy. This is not to say they don’t have great rules for most of their games (although even FFG has clunkers) but rather the component and miniature quality packed into their beautifully illustrated and themed boxes gives you a great experience from start to finish. FFG is the kind of company that gamers are lucky to have in this current gaming golden age. Thoroughly play tested, balanced, and usually built around themes that function as core mechanics rather than just slapping a theme on a set of generic rules, they make great stuff. For good reason we played FFG games this past year, a lot.
My 2019 will include a lot of CoC and I’ll no doubt add to my extensive FFG collection and then play with it a lot too. But, I’ve got a few other gaming ideas on the go.
- Work hard to get long time homegrown Shogun into full playtest mode by the end of summer 2019.
- Add a Role Call section to this blog as, for the first time since I was 17, I’m trying my hand at being a Keeper (DM) for a Call of Cthulhu role playing campaign set in the Lovecraftian 1920s.
- Create a set of interviews with members of my high school games club to try and crystalize some of their thoughts and ideas about what gaming means to them and its pros and cons. Through either a video or one-off podcast I hope to produce something that will encourage other high school teachers to run games clubs at their schools.
- Reinstate retro game nights so that quality older games get their fair share of playtime. I’m trying to work on my wanting-what-you-have skills. Enjoying older games is for me a cure for impulse spending and fruitlessly chasing the new shiny toys.
- Knock a serious dent in the lead and plastic pile. I’ve got a new display cabinet up and running and boxes of models that need attention. I’m hoping that having dedicated display space will encourage me to finish the hobby projects I’ve started and get some kits out of storage and build them.
Well, that’s all from me for this gaming year. I wish you health, happiness, and a genuine sense of accomplishment and productivity as you start 2019 and your New Year!
Do you have any achievements from the past year that you’re proud of? What projects or hobby pursuits are you looking forward to in 2019?