Gaming Camp 2010

A long long loooong time ago, I was a kid. I went to the library a lot. One day I went into a library and there was this guy there.. i’ve totally blanked on his name. He was handing out old Airfix plastic soldier kits, some paints, and showing kids how to paint plastic soldiers. Then, he was showing them how to make a game out of the painted figures. I sat in. I remember they were using the old Revolutionary War “George Washington’s Army” and “British Redcoat” boxes.

Old Airfix Plastic Soldiers

I had tons of the HO sized plastic soldiers, but I had never actually painted them.  My painting skills were pretty awful back then (and some might point out they’ve not improved much), but I loved what the guy was doing.. extending our world beyond little plastic soldiers into the idea of three dimensional fun. I never forgot that guy– sure, I forgot his name, but I never forgot what he was doing. I wanted to be like that guy.    Decades later, I’ve been given a chance to do pretty much the same thing by running a gaming camp for St. Stevens and St. Agnes schools in Alexandria. The camp is focused on Tabletop gaming and specifically (my emphasis) the art of creating new games. This is my fifth year running the camp, which lasts a week. My audience is primarily young males in 5th, 6th, 7th and 8th grades– I’ve had girls in the camp but they are not a big customer of this kind of gaming, which reflects gender stereotyping in society at large, alas.

It's an adventure
Fantasy Gaming Camp!
My Cheerful Assistants, Ms. Anne O'Hara and Mr. Devon Williams

Many kids come in to the camp exposed to commercial fantasy wargaming, like Games Workshop’s Warhammer series or Privateer Press’s War Machine. I think this is great, but one of the first things I tell the kids is.. I don’t do Warhammer.  Sorry. I don’t own any armies. I’m not a Warhammer go-to guy. I don’t’ think I’ve played a game of Warhammer Fantasy or Warhammer 40K to completion in my entire life. This isn’t a hostile comment on GW.. there games just don’t interest me on a few levels, primarily economic. Lovely figures, though.

So if a kid wants to bring a couple of Warhammer armies and go at it during the game camp, that’s fine with me. I’ll run what I run and they can do what they do.. they get a chance to get some games in and I can run what I run. Last year I borrowed a chaos army and an empire army off of John Drye so they could have something to play in camp. This year, I didn’t. They didn’t seem to miss it.

The initial schedule was thus:

MONDAY: Intros, Talk about painting, Painting, and BA Gladiator fights
TUESDAY: Uncharted Seas Battle of Brenner’s Reach
WEDNESDAY: Amish Versus Zombies (home rules– designed by 2008 Game Camp kids)
THURSDAY: Six Guns and Steam Punk (Hell Comes To Frog Town IV– using either GASLIGHT or TRWNN)
FRIDAY: Land of the Giants (home rules), Painting Contest Concludes, Ice Cream party

I have a long standing policy– if a kid shows up with a game he wants to run, we run it and I’ll gladly bump something of mine off the schedule. Robert, who was here last year, showed up with a game he ran last year, LEFT FOR DEAD (based on the popular video game). I was more than happy to bump Amish versus Zombies for HIS zombie game. We had to juggle the schedule a bit more when Uncharted Seas started late– they wanted to finish the battle, so we ran Uncharted Seas for another day (Wednesday) and I took the Six Guns and Steam Punk off the schedule, as Land of the Giants would execute faster on Friday.

Painting was a lot of fun.  I am and always have been an “indifferent” painter, but I can at least make a figure or vehicle look kinda sorta the way it is supposed to.  So I tried to help the guys do something more constructive that glop it on this year.  We had a painting contest, with actual prizes, handed out on Friday. Ms. Heather Blush, HMGS‘s VP for Outreach, donated a crate of paints for us to use so that was one less expense. She also donated a ton of other stuff- games and Axis and Allies stuff, for us to use as prizes. I’m happy to state we gave away everything she gave us.

Davis Painting Contest
Mr. Davis, an outstanding physics teacher and the counselor for the Physics Camp, judges the painting contest

Of course, nothing, not even quiet painting time in the morning, ever goes quite like one imagines it to be.

Whooops! So long, Burnt Orange!

BA (big ass) Gladiators on Monday was a mixed bag. Every kid wanted to play but few had the staying power to hang with it until the game was done. This was a departure for game camp as most kids hang for at least one or two deaths and get resurrected either as new gladiators or animals. Oh well, maybe it was because I had a younger crowd.

54mm "BigAss" Gladiators.

I use Munera Sine Missione, by Mr. Alan Saunders. Sure, I could make my own Gladiator rules (and have, based on the old Melee game by Metagaming), but really, this is a great simple system that i can teach to kids, with very few complicated concepts. Facing is simple, that’s why I use a giant hex map and put a little dot on the base to keep it simple.

We mixed it up with some structures for this game, so the gladiators could hide a bit."

The kids picked up on it quickly and even got competitive about it!

Phillip wonders..
"Why didn't the dice go my way?"

Tuesday’s UNCHARTED SEAS game did not launch at 1030, as planned. I was up late the night before, filling out fleet rosters, and realized.. the heck with that noise, I’ll print it out at the school. Mistake! the printers were down, so we didn’t get everything sorted until noon time. So Uncharted Seas, which is longish with so many players, extended into the next day by vote of all the players concerned. So, once again, I had to make some scheduling changes. My Steampunk game came off the schedule and I moved the Land of the Giants game to Friday. You know what? I didn’t mind. I think Uncharted Seas was the hit of the week (of games that I put on).  We had the Dragon Lords fleet (basic fleet plus dragon carrier), Orc Raiders fleet (plus the two large extra Raider ships),  the Elf Fleet (basic fleet), the Shroud Mages (basic fleet),  a really large human fleet (1 basic human fleet, 4 extra martyr frigates, 5 cargo ships), two basic bone gryffons fleets.  It was supposed to be a group of fleets opposing Human attempts at colonization of a new continent.  It ended being a massive donnybrook– Undead versus Dragon Lords, Elfs versus Orcs, Shroud Mages versus Humans, Dragon Lords versus humans, and a Dwarf fleet that didnt’ do much besides making sarcastic comments.  FAR too much “alliance brokering” went on.. I have tried to keep the kids from going this route, as it’s a huge time waster, but it’s part of their experience, so let them have their fun.

Here’s a little slideshow of this epic two day naval battle.   I’m sorry about the moronic SuperPoke Pets overlay, but that is the price one pays for a “free slideshow service”.  Maybe things will improve when Google takes this service over.

Facebook Users: here is the direct link to the slideshow.

Thursday Robert (“Paco”) ran his Left for Dead game.  This was a classic humans running from zombie horde game.  I have a big pack of horrorclix style zombies in a box somewhere, but I think they are currently out on loan– so I had to quickly go into zombie production mode Wednesday night and create a horde using two Wargames Factory zombie horde packs and a Zombie Regiment from Warhammer.  The paint jobs were.. ehmm.. crude… but they looked like zombies from 3 feet away, that was all that mattered. I managed to get a horde of about 70 zombies together.. a little light, but it worked

Zombie hordes
Zombies on the Run!

I didn’t catch a LOT of this game.. blissfully sitting and painting miniatures was a nice break for me. It was popular with all concerned. We will always have zombie infestation games on the agenda.

Some kids just liked to sit and paint and build figures. I had one guy who spent most of the week building a little Roman army out of donated figures from WARLORD GAMES, courtesy of Brett Abbott. Thanks, Brett.

Building Roman Legions
Roman Legion Building
All kinds of Legions got painted up
Donated figures of Roman Legionaires from WARLORD GAMES

Our last day at camp was THE LAND OF THE GIANTS, which was a racing/combat game that I designed from scratch using elements that I am comfortable with.. the playing card draw deck from Soldiers of the Queen, the across and down combat charts from The Rules with No Name, measuring sticks from last year’s zombie game, and the color objectives/nomic element from my own NOMICA design.

(remember the post “Quite A Haul?” This is what I used all that stuff for)

Here’s a slideshow.  Again, I’m truly sorry about the moronic SuperPoke Pets ad overlay, but it goes away when you click it.

(facebook users, here is the direct link to this slideshow)

This was a fun, fun game.. It needs a lot of tweaking– some sequence errors and the combat is a bit confusing when giants attack humans or humans ram each other. However, a great first “playtest” and the boys were enthusiastic with suggestions.

One element I loved I came up with fairly early– break out my old colored NOMICA pyramids and use them as a Sequence victory for the chariots– the first team to win his sequence (red/green/blue/yellow, for example) would win the game. The game changing/nomic element of it entered in with the game changer cards. When a team scores in combat, it is handed a game changer. This changes a color in the owner’s Victory sequence.. it could be good, it could be bad. Here’s the thing; the cards can be handed to another player and his objectives are now changed to reflect the card. I love the effect of this.. we’ll be revisiting the rules soon and I may put it out on the Internetz for a playtest.

After we finished Land of the Giants, I held a nice little ice cream social where the boys stuffed themselves with ice cream, and it was time to go.. Another successful game camp ended for the year!!

I’d like to thank Heather Blush from HMGS, Inc., for providing excellent outreach and support for my efforts. All our prizes were donatives from her, and they were greatly appreciated. I’d like to thank Brett Abbott of Warlord games for providing so many plastic figures for the kids to paint– we had a history geek kid there who just built Roman legions all day long.. i’d say that was a success.


  1. What a great thing to be able to do; the legacy of your introduction to gaming lives on. Now that’s worth getting out of bed in the morning.

  2. That’s a really nice thing for you to do, Walt! Maybe this is something that could be replicated by others with your talent/imagination (if there are any!)…?

  3. I’m terribly sorry that I couldn’t show up this year (performances and what-not) but it’s great that they all enjoyed it. Maybe I’ll find time to help out in years to come? I’ve almost finished my game by the way, just need to finish up the weapon characteristics and I should have a playable beta-type thing.

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