A few months ago, I noticed several online posts in the board game community where people were talking about their involvement with board game clubs at local high schools. Most of the time it was a teacher, but there were some cases where students were talking about these clubs, too.
My own high school years ended just before the era of modern board games began, but I would have loved this sort of thing when I was in school. I decided to see if any club like this existed at the high school near my home so that I could volunteer to help out. Helping to build the next generation of board gamers seems like a great idea!
The tricky part of this plan is that I’m not a teacher, nor am I even a parent. I discovered that you have to be sensitive when volunteering to help out at a school when you’re just a resident of the community (especially when you’re a man, I think).
Ultimately, I had some good luck. I called the local high school and was given the email address of their volunteer coordinator. After I emailed her, she wrote back to let me know that she had heard that one of the teachers had agreed to coordinate a new “nerd out” club at the school, which would include board gaming. She gave me the teacher’s email address and let me know that I would need to fill out a volunteer application (which included a background check and references; pretty intense, but okay with me).
I met with the teacher in his classroom one afternoon, along with a couple of the kids who were behind the idea for the club. Basically, the teacher didn’t really know anything about gaming, but the kids were so enthusiastic that he agreed to help out. I had brought a copy of my first game design, Chaos & Alchemy, and the kids wanted to play it on the spot. Fortunately, the game is quick, so they were able to try it and had a good time.
The date was set for the first real club meeting: Halloween 2013. That’s today!
Preparing for the first meeting
My main job at this point is to decide what games to bring. The kids are interested in my own designs, so I knew I would be bringing some of those. Beyond that, I want to bring games with certain features:
- Quick to teach
- Not too complicated rules-wise
- Quick to play (90 minutes at the absolute maximum; preferably shorter)
- Variety of styles (co-op, competitive, thematic, euro, etc.)
- Portable (I have to carry all of these at one go)
I went through my collection and thought about games that I’ve taught to new gamers. I ultimately decided on this line-up:
- Chaos & Alchemy
- Everest (quick co-op I designed)
- Alchemy Bazaar (upper limit of complexity and time, but another of my designs)
- Ticket to Ride: Europe (we’ll play with simplified rules)
- Dungeon Roll
I may trim this down by a game or two before I head to the school this afternoon, but this is my current planned line-up.
What do you think? Are any of these bad choices for new gamers? Any obvious choices I’ve left out?
Wish me luck!
I’m hoping that this ends up being a fun experience for the kids and a fulfilling experience for me. I’d love to teach young people about how much fun board games are, and if any of them are interested in learning to design their own games I’ll be happy to help teach them that, too.
Has anyone else out there been involved with kids and gaming, especially in schools? Any advice for me?
Michael Iachini – Clay Crucible Games
@ClayCrucible on Twitter