How to Build a Successful Games Club: High School and Youth Edition, Part 1
This year marks the 15th anniversary of the “Games and Chess Club” at my school. I started with 3 grade nine boys doing chess problems on an old board once a week and now have an average of 15 kids a session, two lunch hours a week with over 30 games: just about everything that’s appropriate for school consumption, from Avalon to Zombie Dice. The majority remain boys but every game day we get students from grades 9 through 12 with a nice cadre of girls as well. From the back 40 in a freeze-and-bake portable classroom on rickety tables to a classroom flooded with natural light, with round tables, and a bunch of solid rectangular desks you can form into any shape, we’ve come a long way.
In this first of a series we’ll look at how to get a youth oriented games club started, funded, and furnished. Next up we’ll talk about how to grow your club numbers to include all grades and be inclusive for girls, what games work best in the games club format, some dos and don’ts, and where to spend your money once you move beyond the basic games.
Imperial Assault: Class Decks that Keep Campaigns Fun
In the board game Imperial Assault, Rebel heroes campaign together against the might of the Imperium. As a veteran of 7 full Imperial Assault Campaigns as both Imperial baddie and Rebel hero – 3 Core, 2 Hoth, 2 Twin Shadows, a couple of Bespin missions – I know the class deck chosen by the Imperial games master (GM) shapes half or more of how the game is played, and this influence is magnified as Agenda cards make the class deck more potent.
Like it or not the Imperial player is the most influential at the table and like many GMs I chose the class deck blindly my first couple of times through. As I progressed I began choosing much more carefully. I think a GMs progression in awareness and focus is remarkably similar to that of a Team Leader or Classroom Teacher. It looks something like this:
- Rookie: Self and Survival Oriented Please, please let me get through this session without anybody getting hurt, angry, or storming out of the room. If someone did storm out you may not know why because you’re so busy trying to remember how things are supposed to work. You read the manual multiple times but contact time is different, really different. Oh, look at that, time’s up, gotta go. Er, can we finish this later…?
- Intermediate: Procedure Oriented OK, I got this. Not much downtime consulting the manual and basic decisions are automatic. Can provide a stream of challenges and, damn it, I know how to win! People may not always leave happy but no mid-session “How much longer will this run do you think?” and people come back for the next session. There might be a lot of clockwatching but sessions are predictable in length and offer a uniform experience.
- Veteran: People and Outcome Oriented The choices I make two days in advance can drastically improve the future experience for everyone once things get started so that I can enjoy the moment along with my people. I’m focussed on getting and then keeping everyone engaged, interested, and excited. This, in turn, makes my job meaningful and enjoyable. Sessions fly by and always seem to end early even if it’s late. People hang around to talk after. The Holy Grail of coop gaming.
The veteran GM knows players, win or lose, need enough positive reinforcement to make success feel attainable next time around. Defeats should feel like learning experiences, not the precursor to the next failure. It is a hobby about games after all.
DAK Profile Guide by AK Interactive: Would we buy it again?
AK Interactive is widely available in many parts of the world. My part isn’t one of them so I’ve been curious when, once in a while, an AK item makes its way to the shelves at a shop near me. Usually this takes the form of paint sets, washes, or other ‘technical’ unguents and potions designed to take your modelling to the next level. If that level be up or down depends on how adept you are at figuring out just what to do with said potions.
The DAK Profile Guide, however, had me from the moment I opened the cover.
For a modeller interested as much in creating hard-wearing, durable surfaces as fine detailing and near photo realistic finishes, the AK potions are really cool but often impractical, especially at the price they go for in Canada. Topcoats like Future, Testor’s Dull Cote, and Vallejo Matte Varnish will often obscure the subtle effects that AK products produce so, except when I put them to use doing the very rare ‘display case only’ model, I often take a pass on them.
Game On a New Continent!
Do you think maybe we should wallow in the sweet mud of self-satisfaction, rest on our laurels, and pause a moment to smell the Woodlands Scenics roses, or at least the drying top coat?
I mean we’re talking a 60+ model, late-war, 28mm German model army here: armour, transport, units, objective markers, roads, buildings both whole and destroyed, forests, crates, boxes, roads, a river, bridges, sheets of decals from across the globe, and that’s just my stuff. The work of a year and a half, minimum.
Gaming buddy Seth – the British Paras to my Panzer Lehr in this pursuit – has invested just as much time and energy into recce jeeps and units upon units of tough as nails paras itching to get in the fight.
OK, topcoat’s dry. Must be time for a new WWII army and theater!