Board game club for high school: First meeting

Halloween 2013 saw the first meeting of the “nerd out” club at the local high school, which I have volunteered to help with. While the kids are talking about watching movies and sharing other nerdy fun at future meetings, the first meeting was all about board games.

And since it was Halloween, costumes were welcome! I went as a minion from Despicable Me.

When I arrived, the “meeting” was already in full swing. There were about 20 kids on hand, plus the teacher who is supervising the club. I spotted a game of Settlers of Catan getting underway along with a war game that I didn’t recognize. I had brought a stack of games like Carcassonne and Ra, along with a box containing my own designs.

The teacher introduced me to the class as a local game designer, and I had about six kids come over to the table where I was sitting, interested in trying out a game with the designer. I taught a bunch of them to play Chaos & Alchemy.

A couple of kids had to leave after a few minutes, while some others drifted in, so we had a bit of a fluid composition of players at the table. It turns out that Chaos & Alchemy was an excellent choice in that environment, since it’s easy for a player to leave and have someone else take their place (or just continue with fewer players if need be).

We played once with the base game, and then a couple of times with the Apprentices expansion I’ve been working on. It went great!

After that, I was down to just myself and one guy who wanted to play more of my games, so I broke out my super-early prototype of a game I’m calling Otters. It’s a quick and very simple card game, and I had only tried it solo before this, but it played pretty much the way I wanted it to. I’ll be writing more about this one soon, I promise; I think I might make it my National Game Design Month (NaGaDeMon) project.

The club meeting only ran from 3:00 to 4:30, but that was enough time to meet a bunch of the kids, share some love of gaming, and get some play testing done.

Next time, I’m probably not going to bother bringing games aside from my own designs; that’s what the kids seem most interested in. I’ll also go with a more structured plan in mind next time. I was expecting that I would be going around to different tables and teaching people to play different games, but the kids were already doing their own thing in many cases. I’ll go with the plan to teach / play test one particular game and let the kids who are interested in that game come to me.

Michael Iachini – Clay Crucible Games
@ClayCrucible on Twitter

Board game club for high school: Prep for first meeting

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!

Getting involved

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.

Chaos & Alchemy play area

Chaos & Alchemy play area

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:

Club games 1

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