So, yeah, that camp thing..


As I have posted about on here about once a year for more than a decade, I run a gaming camp for kids through the good graces of Saint Stephens and Saint Agnes school, Alexandria, VA, in the first week of August, every year.   I don’t pretend I invented the concept– in fact, I can look back at my own childhood and remember a guy who did something similar with Airfix plastic soldiers and Testor Paints back in the 1970s, and I feel like I am merely emulating his example many years later.  It turns out this is a growing movement, and other people are jumping in to run camps as well.

Here’s another camp I found out about up in Cambridge.  This looks dope!

I was approached by Kevin Kelly (from HMGS) who is putting together an article for an as-yet-unmentioned wargaming publication describing the growing number of gaming camps in the US (East Coast, anyway), many of whom are being sponsored and supported in some fashion by HMGS.  Kevin asked me for a contribution.  Given that editors can be fickle, this article might not have the same priorities as others, so in case it gets trimmed or omitted, here’s my contri:


I run a miniatures wargaming camp through the kind patronage of St. Stephens and St. Agnes schools, Alexandria, Virginia.  The school has an extremely unique Summer Camp program—it’s quite extensive, with several “specialty camps” on an assortment of subjects (magic, chemistry, nature, theatrics, etc).  My camp is a specialty camp called (currently) “Science Fiction and Fantasy Tabletop Gaming”.  I chose the non historical format on purpose.  My mission is to get children exposed to a non-plugged in, creative form of gaming.  I don’t think I’m going to manage that feat by jumping into the historical deep end with both feet, so I get them hooked on miniatures with subjects that are already familiar to them, namely SF and Fantasy.

Learning about the virtues of a tight linear formation using Warhammer Fantasy

The format of my camp is pretty simple– one week long, coed, 12-16 years old, although I allow older kids with permission.  Many of the gamers in my camp have been coming for several years and are starting to “age out” as their little brothers and sisters are coming in.  We run one game open for everyone per day during the week, usually a mix of commercial and home-brew designs.   I try to make at least one new game for every camp I put on– or introduce a new commercial game.  In 2016 I managed a record of sorts– I introduced Frostgrave (the kids loved it), Armada (they liked it, but it might have had too many special rules), Battletech (they didn’t like it– too charty) and brought back a favorite game, Big Danged Boats, my own 15mm fantasy naval game set in a fictional “Middle Sea”.  I actually wanted to run something else but I had a lot of repeats from last year and that’s what they emailed me to put on.

Nobody is perfect; this is why I use acrylics.

While I am setting up the big game event of the day, my son usually gets everyone to either paint miniatures (I usually have a bundle of good plastic figures from Perry, Warhammer, etc., whatever can be donated) or play board games most kids have never heard of.  Recent camp favorites have been Cosmic Encounters, Get Bit, Room 25, Munchkin (various kinds), Werewolf and other simple, easy to teach games.  I try to teach a little painting as part of the camp, but I find they usually don’t have the patience to  paint figures for more than an hour, so I don’t push it. In the past we have had a design day, where I’ll bring in some common items.. like markers, cards, sticks and cheap figures, and bring a few people who are interested into a huddle while they design their own game using the implements I provided.  One of the more popular games ever played at camp, Zombietown USA, started life as a game camp kid-only design about running from a zombie horde and catching a rescue copter.
I love working on this camp and for me it’s a kind of creative vacation.  Throwing a week full of games is a very creative spur for me to get everything together in time.  I’ve completed more longstanding game design ideas in the last ten years because I HAD to, to fill in a gap in the schedule.  The response has been enthusiastic– not overwhelming but in compensation I tend to get some very creative, fun kids who are looking for something new and so many of them didn’t know this hobby existed, or perhaps had heard a rumor of Warhammer or something like that.  I’ve been very fortunate that the Historical Miniatures Gamine Society has been supporting me in recent years by allowing my campers to attend HISTORICON free of charge!  I think it’s a mistake not to pursue introducing this hobby to a younger set in an organized manner– the hobby is a fantastic outlet for creativity and imagination, and it doesn’t plug into a wall or go online even once!

I’ll take enthusiastic application over precision when it comes to painting, sure, why not?

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One response to “So, yeah, that camp thing..

  1. It may not be an “original” idea, but it is good work none the less!