Where have I been all week??
I’ve been running a gaming summer camp for Saint Stephens and Saint Agnes school in Alexandria Va. I got the “gig” on former HMGS president Del Stover’s recommendation. He ran the program last year, and it was billed as primarily a Lord of the Rings battle gaming camp. I told the folks at SSSA that I didn’t really do the “Games Workshop thing” but they seemed eager to have me there anyway.
So my program was a wee bit different. I tried to create a game design course for 12 year olds with the stated ‘graduation’ of running a game that we designed, with figures we painted, with terrain that we built. I had mixed results.
It was clear that the vast majority of students just wanted to play Warhammer in some format during the week.. nothing wrong with that, I suppose. I brought in a whole bunch of unpainted Warhammer stuff from my basement and they went crazy for it.
They were less enthralled with 54mms, but I loved the ones I bought… they were great and just right for painting novices, who need a lot of room to make mistakes. MY mistake was not accomodating (off the bat) the need for more advanced painters in the crowd.
Painting was the morning class every day, and it lasted until 11. On one day we had a terrain building workshop… on another, we built buildings.
I ran a game EVERY DAY which was exhausting to me. On Monday, it was Gladiator fighting using my friend Steve Gibson’s rules and figures. On Tuesday, we did Lord of the Rings. On Wednesday, we did Lord of the Rings again and The Rules with No Name, VSF style. We continued that game on Thursday, as it was immensely popular. I designed a combat chariot game for the class and ran it on Friday, and it, too proved to be wildly popular. Our graduation exercise (designing our own game) did not come off as I thought it would, but we had great fun with the combat chariots game instead. Not to mention the ice cream party afterward.
I loved running this camp. It was the most demanding GMing I’ve ever had to do, and the most creative I’ve had to be as a designer. I liked “my guys”, who were uniformly clever gaming geeks. I hope to have the opportunity to do it again.
Perhaps the greatest compliment I’ve had as a GM came from Thomas, one of the sharper knives in the drawer, as he saw me limping out of the administration building at the end of the week. “Mr. O’Hara.. .just wanted to tell you.. that Wild West game, with the Prussians and Giant Steam Robot, and the United States Sharpshooters, and the evil cultists.. that was the best wargame experience I’ve ever had! Could you come back and throw a whole week of games like THAT next year??? for the older kids??”
Clearly I need to work on the format, but I have an idea of where I want to go next year now, and what pushes the buttons of these guys. Some of them came to just paint miniatures. Some of them came to just play Warhammer brand X. Some of them liked everything. Some of them just liked watching a movie at lunch time. It’s hard to motivate everyone all the time. But I think I have an inkling of where to go with it if they ask me back.