Category Archives: camp

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?

Game Camp 2016 Finale: Frostgrave Friday



A conclave of all the Frostgrave Wizards I have right now.  Click to enlarge

The final Friday dawned for Game Camp 2016 this morning. My plan was to run Frostgrave in the early hours, and have an ice cream party. It did not work out that way. Even though I had a decent setup, it took far longer than I had in mind. This was even after I stayed up late building Frostgrave bands for my Wizard figures using the online tool, and saving the sheets out as PDFs.

The Terrain was a bit thin in places, but it looked good.

Thanks to my Cigar Box Battlemat and some nice pieces I’ve either built or picked up here and there on Ebay or Flea markets, I had enough to (loosely) fill out my table. I supplemented with some cheap Styrofoam grey hills.. nothing to look at but they do look the part and are suitably matching with the city.

The centerpiece was a Great Hall piece that I picked up at Historicon 2016 from Stonehouse Miniatures.  They were very nice about sending a display model (already painted) when my order was delayed.


You’re attacking ME? Oh yes, it’s ON!!

Sadly, it took so long to get people set up with magic spells, etc. that it really cut into playing time. The kids liked it, but the lesson I learned was set up the bands the night before, but ALSO give them a set of spells to work with along with that.. don’t waste time with any character creation stuff, even if I think personally that’s the funnest bit of Frostgrave as a game. The kids won’t be playing Frostgrave next week; I might, and I’ve played it it a lot. What I consider fun isn’t the same as how they see it– so I’ll just move the game directly into the looting and fighting next time I run it. Verdict: this will be my Tuesday game next year.

As is also customary we did our end of camp ice cream party, and the kids briskly destroyed 2.5 cartons of Neapolitan ice cream with sprinkles and chocolate sauce. As is also custom, I polled the gamers about what they liked and didn’t like. Results were:

  • Star Wars Armada: Like it, could be great, would play it again– learning it the rules slowed it down
  • Battletech: Didn’t like, found it too complicated and too slow. Fair points, we’ll work on it.
  • Big Danged Boats: Universally enjoyed and enthusiastically voted for a return enagement.
  • Frostgrave: Everyone liked, probably second favorite, wished we had more time to play.

I need to put a bigger effort into teaching painting correctly.  I wish I was good enough as a painter to feel smart enough to teach methods.  I’m not ham-fisted at it but I’m not anything more than workmanlike either.  I know my limitations.  It would be great to add to the program.  I ran out Tuesday evening and bought a few boxes of plastics for the kids to paint up but I kept the painting table more contained this year. Mostly this was to avoid wastage– in the past I’ve bought (or have had donations for) lots of miniatures that got assembled poorly and covered with gobs of paint and glue, then I end up tossing this gooey mess of glue, broken bits and paint-stained tarps out on Friday. I think this can be solved with a couple of days dedicated to teaching, with a shorter game in the afternoon.

I’m not sure what we’ll run next year, but BDB certainly still has legs, and I suspect Armada and Frostgrave will return too. The other days? Eh, we’ll work on something. I like presenting one new game (at least) every camp, so we’ll see what opportunities present themselves.

Thanks again to the FANTASTIC people at St. Stephens and St. Agnes School (lower campus) who bent over backwards to help me, thanks to the parents of the campers, and a big thank you to HMGS for sponsoring our camp!

and from me, too!

Gaming Camp Day 4: BDB and the Great Gnomish Civil War!!


So THURSDAY was an entire day full of Big Dang Boat goodness.  We knew going into it that BDB wasn’t exactly going to play lightning fast, but the game is so silly and rife for story telling the kids got into the journey, not necessarily “winning” anything.  I tried out a new initiative method that made a turn far more easy to wrap one’s head around than before, and we fine-tuned that.  The Campers really seem to have enjoyed themselves during this game.

Thursday also had two of our regular players out, so it played faster than the day before.  I played the Gnomes of Batenburg (running the Siege Machine) as Reid (our guest from the previous day who couldn’t come two days in a row).   I played The Bone Brigade defensively according to the player’s wishes.


Stefan plays the Ragnar Brothers here and he did a great job… landing on an island, assaulting the base there, wiping it out and looting the tower. It turns out the tower held the ORB OF COMMAND in the basement, but he didnt’ know what to do with it.. yet.


The Cult of F’Vah (driving the Foot of the Dead God) pulled up and (being allies with the Ragnars) volunteered one of their steersman-mages to research the Orb for the Ragnars. It took a while but he got the gist of what it was, how to use it and what it would do next.


The Garden Gnome “Hippies” took on the Industrial Gnomes of Batenburg. They were confused as to what to do, and being lead by a young man, decided to attack instead of negotiate. That works. Unfortunately it depleted both crews quite a bit. He did have Gnogres to fall back upon, however, and after consulting the Red Bag of Courage, boarded the Siege Machine with his blood-mad crew, ready to conquer or die trying


Visiting the Red Bag of Courage, to test whether one has the nerve to board an enemy ship during an action.. Will he draw “Blood Tested!” and get a +1? Or “Quaking in Fear” for a big minus? Or just get a “Flee” result? Who knows? It truly is in the hands of Dame Fortuna.


I tried to instill into Michael, the young man running the Little People Collective/Garden Gnome soldiers that his actions would start a civil War in the nations of Gnome-hood, but he wasn’t impressed.


Lastly, the Rat-men of Ingoldsby had a chance to be unlikely heroes yesterday! They moved the PRIMUS into ramming range and rigged a spar torpedo forward. Then they steamed full speed at the door with a charge attock a pole. Worked like a charm, blowing the left door off the hinges. Out jumped the Wizard’s Slithin bodyguard, ready to kill. Here’s the thing, when you purchase 30 slingers from the gnomes, you have the quality of quantity going for you. It was like firing buckshot. Eventually the enraged ratmen’s mercenaries fought their way into the base do the tower, climbing over a mountain of Slithin and Human dead. They moved into the hall of the tower expecting to find the Orb of Command, and found.. nothing. It had been in Piper’s Fort all along. Now one of the most fearsome battle weapons was in the hands of Ulf Ragnar of the Ragnar brothers, being backed up by the F’vaavian Cultists. What could possibly happen next?

So we ended it there and packed up BDB, and I gave out some shining moment coins for particularly great play. We handed the victory to the small coalition of Taylor, Stephen and Cedric, who didn’t mess around and acted like true allies. The Stahlheim and Sea Elves (run by Taylor) ran interference vs. the tower, The Ragnar Brothers raided the island that kept the Orb and slaughtered everyone (like one does) and the Cultists of F’Vaah deciphered the Orb’s Power and taught Ulf Ragnar how to use it. A great day of silly nautical fun!

Hail to the victors.. until the next time!

GC2016 Slideshow: HERE

 

Game Camp 2016 Day 3: Shiverrrr me Timmmmbers!


Wednesday and Thursday are pretty much “show piece” days. Big splashy games that have tons of prep and a really distinctive look. And they are silly.. very silly.

In that fine old tradition, I presented.. BIG DANGED BOATS, the cup and balls trick!

Normally I try to deliver something big and new for every camp, but this is a game that was specifically requested several times last year. I can take a hint.

So this is a variant of the old Orb of Power scenario, with a power mad Humans, Chinese Traders, Elves, Humans, Dwarves, and all kinds of Gnomes fighting it out with a mad wizard’s army.

The idea, of course, is that there’s a powerful wizard who has come into a significant MAGIC ARTIFACT (like they do) called The Orb of Command.    It’s hidden on one of the many outposts dotting the landscape, but the safe money is on the Wizard’s Castle at Red Bluff.

Of course, that’s the mission.  In reality, everyone just attacks each other.  It’s Chaos.

The Little People Flotilla just want to stay out of it.

The Ragnar Brothers and The Foot of the Dead God (foreground) raid Piper’s Fort, and have a small victory.

We’re not quite done.  This is a game that goes slow with so many people so we’re only half way through it all  It’s the journey not the destination.  The kids loved it.

Rules wise, we tried the initiative system and discovered using Initiative numbers 1-10 is overpowering.  1-6 works.  I’m altering the rules accordingly.   Seasoned players (and yes, I have them!) think it moves the game along faster and eliminates a lot of vague notions of what to do next. I’m keeping that rule in the manuscript and will have Artscow make me some cards.

A great first day of Big Danged Boats.

For the complete album, see this tag on Flickr: BDB-GC16

For everything for GC 16, try this album: Game Camp 2016

Summer Gaming Camp, 2016 Day Two


Our second day started with people wanting to play GOOD COP, BAD COP, which is kind of deduction/bluffing game not too far removed from WEREWOLF but very different mechanics. The players are playing either rogue cops that are working for a criminal mastermind or good cops trying to deduce the bad guy. Instead of Werewolf’s eye-closing routine they use tokens and cards to indicate states of presumed innocence. It’s an interesting take on a similar theme.

The big event of the day was Battletech, Gar’s favorite game, and he ran that while I started prepping for Big Danged Boats, running Wednesday and Thursday. Garrett like Battletech and I suggested we add it to the programme this year and see if it works. We purchased a Catalyst Introductory set and got the figures painted. Terrain was somewhat abstracted, one of my old hex maps and some Heroscape terrain hexes to make hills. I thought it looked great.

Summary: Battletech is a game that Garrett likes a lot, but it’s a little too “Charty” for the kids in game camp. They thought it was a little complicated, though they were game to give it a go. They liked Armada more (so far). We broke for lunch and to play some dodgeball and Room 25. There also was a big interest in painting figures, so I did my best to facilitate and make everyone aware of their options.

So a day of Painting, Battletech, Dodgeball, Room 25 and Good Cop, Bad cop. Fun Times!

Summer Gaming Camp, 2016 Day One


Well, it’s that time of year again, when a mild mannered middle aged functionary takes a week off from his daily scheming to run a camp for kids at the St. Stephens and St. Agnes School, Alexandria, VA. I’ve been doing this for about a decade now, and I have to say I look forward to it almost as much as the kids, if not more. For starters, we had a real challenge being down on the lower campus, as we were in the very lower back of the school, making it difficult to load and unload boxes and such for our day’s work. The space itself, however, rocks. It’s a small gymnasium built for lower school Physical Instruction, so it’s not us reusing a teacher’s classroom, something I’ve always been sensitive about– I’m married to a teacher and I’m sure she wouldn’t care for a pack of hooligans messing with her stuff. :=)

So aside from the A/C problems (e.g. muggy and sticky) and the parking (non-existent) and the distance to hump gear (long) we were running Star Wars Armada for our first day. Now, I really do enjoy their X-Wing Miniatures game, and I really liked the big-ship version too. In fact, I probably liked it better– this is how I picture big spaceship battles.

We played a Heavy Imperial Fleet Patrol (4 Destroyers, fighter escort) bumping into reinforced Rebel Squadron with One MC80 Star Cruiser (Home one), One Mc30C Scout Frigate, one Assault Frigate Mk IIA, and two large fighter squadron escorts, mixed A Wing, B Wing, Y Wing and X Wing. I’m not sure how you (officially) run a multiplayer game in Armada, so I used the Turn Order flight stand tokens from X-wing, which I have plenty of.


Startup positions.. Empire


Startup positions.. Rebellion


And we’re off, Playing STAR WARS ARMADA (Fantasy Flight Games)


my tiny rebel fighter squadrons take on 3 Imperial Star destroyers. Sure, we got converted into Space Plasma, but sometimes it’s the journey, not the destination.


The Rebs did surprisingly well, considering


Home One (Admiral Akbar’s ship) and the Daisy (the Assault Frigate) flanked left and I caused a distraction by flying my fighter squadron up the center, into 3 Destroyers in line. Yeah, live fast, die young, leave atomized goo for a corpse.

The game moved slow in the beginning as we all sort of figured it out. I’m new to Armada, I’m CERTAIN I did a lot of things wrong and compromised on more. In my defense, I think the rules are rather shoddily written. I had a decent idea of how ships move, and shoot, and defend themselves, and what all the dice kinda sorta mean in what situations, but really, there were niggling little situations that cropped up all day that aren’t SPECIFICALLY called out in the rules, or were easy to exrapolate, so I house-ruled it right and left, as one does.


Stretch break selfies.. we played a dodge ball variant.. best idea ever.

In general, we really enjoyed this one– a first for this camp, though we have ran X-Wing Miniatures in the past. I’m glad FFG continues to support it, but man, like all FFG games, it’s a bit token heavy, the rules need some ‘splaining and there is just a mega ton of setup for what is a simple game, after all.

Astonishingly, the Rebellion, who always seems undergunned, put in a great show for itself.  I tagged along to help out, and shot down the middle with my fighters to take on Star Destroyers.  They got all distracted and turning every which way, which allowed the Home 1 and the Daisy to flank to the left and really punish them.  They lost their TIE fighters pretty early (like the Empire does) but there’s more where that came from, eh?  Our fighters were very aggresive, but so was the Empire.  By end of battle, the Rebellion large ships hadn’t taken that much damage but the fighters were almost all killed off.  Whereas two Imperial Star Destroyer had lost all shields in a single zone and was taking hull damage.   I gave it to the Rebels, at game end.. who knows what would have happened a few turns later, the Empire still had hitting power.

Fortunately, my son Garrett is assisting as counselor this year, and regaled the kids in the down time with a game of ROOM 25, which I really like for camp.. it’s fast, with lots of backstabbing (if you play it right) and a nice SF patina.

So, a good first day. Tomorrow, it’s Garrett’s turn. He will run Battletech, while I do some clean up on Big Danged boats and get it ready for Wednesday.

B-Tech is already set up, we will hit the ground running. I will also be bringing stuff for people to paint tomorrow.

A great day!

Game Camp 2015 Day 5 (Friday): FUTURE TANK!


Revised Epub forthcoming!

Our final day! I was debating whether to run WAR ROCKET or FUTURE TANK for this day and opted for Future Tank. FT has a lot of physical activity and chaos involved in the design and that would definitely appeal to most of the campers this week!

If you follow these pages from time to time you’ll know that I’m interested in the designs of Mr. Jim Wallman of Great Britain. This kindly gent has put up the rules to many of the games he works on (as I do). One of them that caught my eye was a much older design called TANK DUEL. This was a little semi-roleplaying experience where the players play the roles inside a WW2 era tank. I think it’s charming and a great fit for kids. However, being the tinkerer I am, I had to play with it a bit, projecting the time scale and technology forward a little into the near future of conflict. FUTURE TANK is a spiritual successor and cousin to TANK DUEL, uses many of the same concepts and roles, and really differs only in the setting and the increased number of tasks that are available on a technological battlefield.

Ideally, you’re supposed to have IDENTICAL terrain on both sides of the curtain– that was impractical, so the double blind really represented a “haze of uncertainty” rather than a true double blind application. I would have liked the map to have been just a trifle larger in all dimensions.

We had two crews of future tank players– Loader, Gunner, Driver, Commander, and Sparky.

Loader had to run to the table and get a specifically colored M&M for specific shell types.
Gunner basically would AIM the turret of the tank and shout FIRED! to indicate a shell had gone out the main gun.
Commander would give a wide range of orders to Sparky, Gunner and Loader, as well as fly the recon drone.
Sparky scanned the battlefield, linked with other tanks on Battle net, and operated ECM.
Treads drove the tank on the battlefield, and moved the model around.

When a crew on a tank hears PING!!! they have 5 seconds to exit the room or they are all dead. Here we see a knocked out Future Tank. Most tank duels ended at close range.

Future Tank was an experiment that I think will be a great game. The players loved the sense of tension and uncertainty given by the double blind curtain. The fun element was guessing where your opponent would be the upcoming turn. Adding to the uncertainty was the fact that your scanning wasn’t 100% accurate. The scan roll would be slightly distorted if Sparky rolled reds over blacks on the scan dice, but not high ENOUGH reds over blacks..

Sparky’s plotting board he uses for a SCAN task, plus an orange BLIP TOKEN (placed by me) showing where he should correct to. The two magnets represent Sparky’s best guess where the two tanks are in relation to each other. great visual fun when you are double blind.  You can see many previous locations marked by Xs.

The guys loved it. I’m going to continue developing FT as it needs the text cleaned up a trifle. The ideas are all good, I think.

The Commander’s Remote Control Drone, which he can fly to increase his chances of finding enemy tanks.

We ended about 145 and then ran the classic end of the year ice cream party, and played Cosmic Encounter. A great time was had by most. I had a couple of “bad actors” who were clearly dumped there by parents who didn’t see that it wouldn’t be a good fit. What the heck, we tried to keep them occupied, including letting them go shoot baskets for an hour each day, which helped.

Otherwise another great year for gaming camp. if you think on it, most years I can manage 1 or 2 new games per camp– I try to make at least one of them be a big “Grand Slam” game on Wednesday. THIS year, I had FOUR new games, two of which were commercial. Dungeons and Dragons: Attack Wing, Ride that Fury Road, Future Tank (and possibly) War Rocket. There rarely is time to run 5 games in week, so I knew that was an ambitious schedule at the outset. The kids loved White Line Fever, but the feedback was that they enjoy Big Danged Boats more than WLF, so I will bring that back for next year.

More pictures of Day 5

Game Camp 2015 Day 4 (Thursday): “Ride that Fury Road Part 2”


Gaming Camp 2015, Thursday.

Because of the large pile up being generated right in front of the Trading Post on the end of Wednesday, the consensus was to run Ride that Fury Road for another day and take the X-Wing Miniatures Tournament off the agenda. The game continued at the break point Wednesday night, and we left it set up.

Skool Zout trying to smash through the pile up ahead; two CaptureGangers are directly ahead, and then a big snarl up of several different vehicles.

This happens a lot at Game Camp; in fact, I encourage the kids to set the schedule after a certain point.

White Line Fever was a system the kids picked up on easily and enjoyed quite a bit. Let’s face it; there’s not a lot of heavy calculations going on in a game like this. Decisions boil down to “do I go off road and risk spinning out into a toxic goo pit on terrible terrain or stay ON the road and deal with this terrible pile up in front of me?”

Quite a cha-cha-cha with cars going on. Capture Gangers in foreground, then Blinded with Science, then Git Some, Big Red the Capture Ganger, Hellcab (on fire), the Sensimilia Express, the Merc, and Herbie the Hate Bug farther out.

As kids do in all the games I run, there was the rush to “be cool” (ally with each other while it was expedient) to get to the perceived goal (the donut shop).

Bad luck for the Hell Cab.

As also happens a lot in my games, there was a drive to build a narrative within the game universe created. I’m happy to do that and I helped the process along by building factions in the vehicle set (capture gangers, sand-brothers, Scooter Jocks, Militia Men, Street Punks). This added to the fun but did cause incessant delay around the Trading post as every player felt obliged to see what he could trade there instead of smashing cars. When one kid set up a road block and started charging for passage, things got a little ridiculous. Of course, this was the same kid who traded Daphne for a Recoiless Rifle the day before, so go figure!

Once past the Trading Posts, the Scooter Jocks attacked the truck and supporting vehicles in wave after wave. They were surprisingly easy to kill– TINY doesn’t live long versus MEGA in a ramming attempt, so I just had the truck run over bikes like they were speed bumps. Bikers did manage to board with one Scooter Jock who fought it out on top of the Tanker with the soul remaining Truck Support crew.

Like Gnats annoying a grizzly…

The roadblock caught the attention of the Road Militia.. who consider themselves to be the protector of the highway and charged with keeping it clear. They charged up the road, smashing through annoying scooter jocks and waving nervously at the brothers of the Circle (the Donut Shop) who are creepy enough to creep them out.

Lots of stuff happened in succession– the Sushi Truck who had been collecting “meat” for sushi from the many bodies on the road got shot at, then raised a white flag to the militia. The Hate Bug lost its driver but continued as a semi-sentinent vehicle with the corpse of its driver behind the wheel. They Mystery Machine came under heavy fire and thus we encounter the death of Velma Dinkley.

Ruh ROH! Fallen to a “Driver deader than Fried Chicken” result

Some lucky? players got to the Brothers of the Circle Compound (the Donut shoppe), but managed to create quite a lot of ill will…

Uh oh, the Lone Wanderer best beat feet!

We didn’t get much past this point and it was time to call it. A great Game was had by all.

For more pictures click here

Game Camp 2015 Day 3 (Wednesday): “Ride that Fury Road”


Wednesday, I put on a repeat of the scenario I created for HISTORICON 2015, “Ride That Fury Road”, which is a post-apocalyptic romp down a highway in pursuit of a giant fuel truck that may or may not be the answer to everyone’s dreams. We added in the factions in this game– Scrappers, Capture Gang, Lawmen. plus a lot of independents. The game, which isn’t over yet (more later) featured MORE metal carnage than previously witnessed, zero team work and zero mercy. Almost every player has cycled through at least two cars by now and some have had as many as three. To discourage the kids from getting pouty when their car dies, I encouraged them to all run more then one car or keep a replacement car handy for when the first car dies.

The Truck breezes by the Trading Post

I didn’t get the cafeteria that I wanted but did get the Arts and Crafts room. We ran four tables down the length of the room. Not quite what I wanted, but it would have to do. It looked great!

The Chase Cars initially. This lineup changed fast as they did the Road Warrior classic and fought each other in brutal fashion.

The carnage piled up fast. This is not very forgiving game, and I told everyone that they would have to get over it quick if they lost their vehicle.. because everyone was going to lose one and many would lose many.

Game Camp 2015

Game Camp 2015

Game Camp 2015

Early on, the Mystery Machine jumped into its new role as the “Evil Scooby Gang”. Reid released Scooby XXII (raised as a bomb dog) to run back and take out the Turtle, coming up fast behind it. BOOMM! the ensuing explosion fragged Turtle and damage the cars around it seriously.

Poor Scooby!!

But that wasn’t the bottom of the Evil Scooby’s depravity. They hit a new low!

Evil Fred actually trading Daphne for a rocket launcher. Wow.

At least he hit on one of the things traders want in the post-apocalypse. I wonder if Velma could have got more ammo for the Recoilless?

“But Fred! What? I’m to do WHAT???”
“See ya Daphne! You’re a sweetheart!”
“Freeeeeeeeeed!”

Game Camp 2015

“Yessir, that Daphne’s a swell gal.. what a great deal!”

Game Camp 2015

It’s a hard life in the Apocalypse. We played right up to 2:50 when I had to call it for time. Many kids requested we play this again tomorrow so I have left it set up in situ.

For an interesting slideshow of all the pictures from today, click on the picture below:

Click the picture to see more pictures on FLICKR

Anarchy supreme by the end of the day… CLICK HERE to see more pictures!!

It was a great day, a great game and all the kids loved it.

Game Camp 2015 Day 2: Dungeons and Dragons Attack Wing, Land of the Dragons


Garrett and I ran DUNGEONS AND DRAGONS ATTACK WING today, which is a recent purchase (this past year) and very reminiscent of Fantasy Flight’s X-WING MINIATURES, which is reminiscent of Ares’ WINGS OF WAR system, which is reminiscent of GDW’s BLUE MAX, which is reminiscent of Nova’s old ACE OF ACES game. Which is a very long-winded way of saying Attack Wing’s design is simply a “you plot your movement in advance, and execute movement in the execution phase” kind of game. There have been many of them, the trick is to learn the nuances.

We set up on some donated terrain and it worked perfectly, although it needed to be leveled a bit. D&D Attack Wing has some very snazzy models, and is really a great little game in itself.. obviously very derivative of systems that have gone before, but unique enough using the Attack Wing variant that I will definitely be running this one again. It’s worth the investment. If I want to play a “flying through space” game, I’ll go to X-Wing (or maybe the Armada game too, different scale and different mechanics) and if I want a fantasy variant, D&D Attack Wing works for me. I love the miniatures.

A troop of Arakari (bird men) attack the White Dragon, who had refused to attack anyone until the last turn of the game.

Immediately this game went over well with everyone. Even the two sulky kids from yesterday got into the spirit of the thing and attacked with a will. They stayed engaged throughout and the game was quite a bloodbath with 10 players engaged at once.

Game Camp 2015

Game Camp 2015

Game Camp 2015

One thing I noticed… both the Dwarven ballistae and the Wraith figures can be one heck of a lot OP if you don’t add some limitations. When the ballistae knocked the brass dragon down to ONE Point with ONE SHOT, only saved by his armor, I realized that the more innocuous critters can be pretty danged powerful in this game.

We added a “Basketball Break” which actually worked well for both me and the squirrely kids, who loved the idea, and played until they got exhausted.. which made for a very different and much more pleasant day.

CLICK ME to see all the Attack Wing Photos

A much better day and a game that everyone seemed to like. Much less shoving and grab-assery today. Basketball break– a must!

See all Photos here

Game Camp 2015 Day 1: The Magi and the Opening festivities


Day one of Game Camp 2015

As I do this time of year, I run a gaming camp for kids at St. Stephen’s and St. Ambrose schools, Alexandria VA. This is primarily a miniatures-centric gaming camp with some boardgaming and miniatures painting tossed in to break it up a little. As has been my practice in the past I set up a painting table and set out my dwindling supply of plastic figures to paint, which is always a big hit.

I like to run a very simple game to start and I have run THE MAGI or FANTASY GLADIATORS for the last few years. I went for THE MAGI this year, as it is self-contained, runs in a single box and is easy to play and easy to teach. I’ve posted on the Magi before, and if you want to read up on it or download a copy yourselves, go to Digital rules for an EPUB version of the rules. MAGI is based on a very old British game called Waving Hands that was published back in the 1980s as (more or less) a parlor or party game. I have designed a card component and a miniatures element to the game, and run the game in lovely, easy to see 54mm scale.

Close to final Cover of The Magi

The game takes place in a big subterranean cavern represented by a hex grid and some Dungeon Dressing bits. I’ve added lots of stuff to break up line of sight and create a little old-fashioned havoc in the game, like the Crystalline Pyramids that each have a magic power (Paralysis, Amnesia, Disease, Healing), as well as emitting a light source. The Powerful old Lich, Gordon the Enchanter, resides over the Magi Games by standing on top of a structure I basically lifted as is from a Playmobil Coliseum set, just painted.

Action Mid game. A Fire Elemental has been summoned in the foreground, and an Ice Elemental in the rear. The two will cancel each other out if they get close enough (3 hexes). You can see the cavern floor hex grid and set dressing items (crystals, rock formations) here.

The game takes a while to play but is well received by most players. We had a couple of players get very pouty and antsy when something didn’t go their way and refuse to play any more. It happens sometimes, although I usually associate it with younger players, not teenagers. They cheered up and got into painting figures, and we soldiered on.
Game Camp 2015

Game Camp 2015

Game Camp 2015

v=https://flic.kr/p/vYdSog

Garrett also ran GET BIT during down times, lunch time and etc.

GET BIT!

For a slide show of all Game Camp Day 1 images, see this link here:

CLICK ME FOR MORE MAGI PICTURES

In summary, a pretty good day! I felt bad that I could have done more about the pouty players, not sure how though.

Something New: FUTURE TANK a (sort of) sequel to TANK LEADER


Click for larger view

So, remember when I waxed enthusiastic about TANK DUEL by Mr. Jim Wallman, of the UK?   How I was charmed enough by his roleplaying approach to the trials and tribulations of tank teams on the Western Front of World War II?   How I was looking at running Tank Duel (or some iteration of it) at the Game Camp I run for kids in August?  Okay, so you don’t, but I do.  Tank Duel is pretty goofy and enjoyable and I’m going ahead with creating a game based on it.  Follow the link above to digital rules to get the EPUB I made of it.  However, even though I don’t think anyone would kick about it being historical, I do make a valid effort at keeping the content either Fantasy or Science Fiction oriented– to draw the kids into doing historical games (e.g., my evil plan).    As a result I’ve put some effort into converting Tank Duel into a more science fiction-y version that I call FUTURE TANK.  Future Tank makes a few assumptions that generally match certain observations I’ve made about the evolution of the modern battlefield as part of my day job– without being too sunk into the details.  Simply put, the tank battles of the future will be fought by Tanks that can A) see better B) communicate better C) are linked into a network and D) have access to drones for attack and defense.   I’ve tried to reflect that in the Future Tank rules without being too technical about it.  In a thumbnail, Future Tank is like Tank Duel, only the roles have more to do and there’s a lot of extras in it– it’s more customizable.   But still easy… I hope!

Challenges

It’s Double Blind.  I’ve never even PLAYED in a double blind team game before, and now I’m going to run one.  This is going to require some finesse!  My plan on building the screen between the two terrain areas is to build a curtain from a frame of PVC pipe that extends up about four feet.   As for umpiring one?  Well, it seems easy enough, we’re just going to see what chaos ensues.

I’m using 25mm Scale.  I really don’t want to go smaller than this. 15mm is fine, I suppose but you don’t get the same visual appeal and “chunkiness” of a 25mm game, and I don’t want to spend a huge amount of time driving around and trying to find each other– these are kids, they will get bored.   Still, 25mm scale?  Who makes tanks that big and how much of an arm and a leg will they command?  Games Workshop does, of course.. but yeah,  you can keep that.  I don’t need to spend 80 dollars on a single tank.   Solution: the Tehnolog Bronekorpus series.  The wha of the wha?   As it turns out, there’s a Russian figure company that I have done business with in the past (they made the figures for Orcs for The Magi) called Tehnolog.  No idea what the word means, but they make big, cartoony fantasy and historical figures, and somewhat less cartoony science fiction structures and vehicles.  Their stuff is decent looking, though I don’t always approve of the plastic they use.  Still, it paints up well.    They have a line of sort of snap together tanks in roughly 28mm scale– each tank a bewildering variety of Weapons and Sensors.  Being satisfied they will fit with 28mm figures, I picked up a box of four of them.  Again, not the best plastic, but wow, I am really happy with the result:

Click to enlarge (the next four)

Tanks 2, 11, 4 and 15 more or less done. I have some tidy up painting to do– I want the ordinance to all have thematic colors– missiles and guns different from each other. I suppose I should have painted the camo different for each tank but really, that’s not the point of this game, and it’s science fiction… I’m not trying to be “historically authentic” here.

I may have six kids.  I may have 20.   I scaled the game that each tank can probably work with three roles or less. If I get less than that I’ll just run something else, with deep regrets.  Sigh.

The new rules have more stuff than Tank Duel.   YES.  They certainly do.  That’s not complexity for complexity’s sake.  I think there’s a general assumption that if you are simulating something on a near-future battlefield (and I’m projecting forward about 40 years here, so it’s not a stretch), you should include nifty stuff like sensors, and IR, and networks, and drones, and railguns, etc.  It comes with the sobriquet “Science Fiction”.  That doesn’t mean they have to be too complicated for twelve year olds!  These kids are growing up with these concepts.  I have faith in their intelligence, shouldn’t you?

This is all largely untested.  Yep, well, there it is then.  It may suck.  It might not.  I don’t think it will.  Want to take a peek at Future Tank?  Contact me through the standard channels in a week or so from this posting.  I can get you a draft.  You’ll have to have a way of reading EPUB files.

So there we have it… a sort of roleplaying game simulating the complexities of the near future battlefield environment, all done in more or less 25mm scale with miniatures, kids, double-blind, and a very patient and overworked umpire with a stopwatch and a sense of gamesmanship.  What have I got myself into?

Related:

Six Dollar SF Tanks from Russia (contains a listing of parts, comparison to GW vehicles)

Board Games for Kids’ events, 11-18 years old


What’s this all about?

Playing Cosmic Encounter at the 2014 Game Camp. Still a massive hit.

I’ve been running game camps for kids for a little under a decade now, and a big portion of what success I’ve had with them is due to adding board games to a mostly miniatures-based program. Board games, especially designer board games (or Family Board Games, or Hobby Board games, take your pick..) fill up the gaps in a program where I’m setting up some big miniatures game and need to keep kids occupied for an hour or more on one side of the room.

I’m going to start recording the board games we use at Camp to keep kids engaged and having fun, and the reasons why I choose them.  I envision this piece to be an ongoing narrative that I update on a semi-regular (quarterly) basis.  There’s just too many to try to create an all encompassing list; once I’ve compiled a few, I’ll move this up to a page tab.

Let’s get started with my FALL of 2014 Recommendations if you are looking to find games that will play well with a group of kids from about 11 to 18 years in age, with a few hours to kill here and there.  I’ll try to do another one in January 2015.

COSMIC ENCOUNTER 

It’s no small secret that Cosmic Encounter is my favorite board game of all time.   I’ve mentioned it a few times here and there.   What was a surprise was just how readily younger kids take to this game.  There’s something about the Nomic quality of the changing Alien powers, the component mix from FFG, and the generally silly atmosphere.  I would recommend the FFG version over all others, for the artwork alone, but also the range of choices that add to the customization.  I think CE’s easy to perceive goal, plus ever-changing nature, makes it far more accessible to younger children than I gave it credit for before.

GET BIT

 

Get Bit was a charming little surprise I discovered through Wil Wheaton’s Tabletop web show.  It’s a simple positional race game not unlike GMT’s earlier Formula Motor Racing (which is another great candidate for a kid’s camp, but I’d play it with Matchbox cards).    Players put their cute plastic robots in a line in the water, followed by a shark with a taste for robots.   Single number cards (from a finite hand of cards) are played that move the robots around in order.   The last robot in line gets “chomped” and loses a limb.  When he loses all limbs, he’s out.  It’s no suprise WHY kids like this– it’s all about cartoon violence, of course, but there’s also some great decision making and strategy implied in the card play.  Immensely popular.

TSURO

Tsuro is another one of those great discoveries that came into my radar through the Tabletop show.  I knew it existed, and I knew that it had been out since 2006, but I had never played it.  I already had Metro by Queen Games, which reminds me of it quite a bit.  Essentially this is a path-finding puzzle style game where the players try to keep their dragons on the maze-like path built by placing tiles.   It’s simple and easy to pick up, and very visual.  The theme is a little more exciting than Metro (which is about streetcars), so I would recommend Tsuro over Metro.

THE RESISTANCE

 

It’s a little too easy to call  The Resistance “a Werewolf/Mafia variant” but people often do.   Certain elements are very similar to Werewolf, to be sure– such as the day/night turn and turn-based mechanics. However, the addition of the cards and the “going on a mission” theme really gives this humble little game a great framework that (I think) forces the players into using deductive logic much more than Werewolf ever will.  Werewolf games can devolve into silliness rather quickly– which is why I don’t recommend them that highly for younger kids, they might take accusations too seriously and have their feelings hurt.   The Resistance takes a similar riff and adds the cards and mission element on top of it, which tends to distance the younger players from the J’accuse! flavor of Werewolf.  Notes to adults: don’t even attempt to run this if you don’t have at least six committed players, and do NOT take the sixth spot yourself.  You’ll need to be in charge for the first game, anyway.

CODE 777

Code 777 is a modern reworking of Mastermind (in some respects).  It is a good design for 2-5 players, and I suspect 4 is optimal.  Each player has a Scrabble style rack with three tiles on it– tiles are a certain color and number, or have a certain symbol behind them.  The players have a grasp of certain facts– there are only so many of this tile, or so many of that tile, or so many blue tiles, etc. etc.  Cards are played with questions on them that help the players deduce their own sequences.  That’s right, their own– the tiles face outward; so the other players know only what every player except themselves are displaying.  The players can glean a lot of knowledge to make deductions with from what they see in every tile rack except their own.  Code 777 is a much older design (from 1985 at least, and maybe older) but has recently been reprinted by Stronghold Games.  This is a great game for problem solving and deductive logic; it never fails to keep kids engaged.

ROOM 25

 

Room 25 is a great maze style game where the maze starts built and flipped over and gradually is revealed by the player’s tokens exploring the map through trial and (often) deadly error;  the players assume a set series of roles (six, maximum) which are quite colorful but functionally identical (sadly; I think this could be improved upon in an expansion).  The game can be played cooperatively (boo!) or semi-treacherously (yay!) where some of the players have hidden traitor roles.  The theme of the game is very similar to a series of Canadian Horror/SF films called Cube/Hypercube etc.   Players have a limited series of actions, two per turn, which either affect their own player token or the token of whomever is on the current tile with them.  Room 25’s goofy imagery and characters, the changeable map, added to a soupçon of treachery makes this game a perennial favorite with younger teenagers.

ROLL THROUGH THE AGES

 

Roll through the Ages is the game that got me started on the notion of adding board games to the miniature-heavy events I was running for camp.  For some reason, over the years, I have  had my share of children who suffer from Asperger syndrome and even high functioning Austism.  These are special cases– they want to be engaged but they sometimes can’t engage at the same level as other children.  Sometimes they quickly grow bored of the main activity.  I was in such a bind several years ago and on a whim, I pulled a copy of Roll Through The Ages, which I had bought that week on an enthusiastic recommendation from Tom Vasel.  RTTA is a great game– you are really playing yourself more than an opponent, so there isn’t a lot of social interaction to stress a kid out, and lots of challenges and decisions to make as you try to score high by rolling for civilization advantages and building great works.  It’s an elegant little dice game with great chunky components.  Anyway, to get back to my story, I had an Asperegers’ kid.  He was bored and being disruptive.  I handed him Roll Through The Ages and explained very quickly how to play it.  It took him all of 5 minutes to figure it out (all of my kids are smart!).  He was entranced.  He played RTTA non-stop, for the rest of the week.  I had half a pad of score pads after he was done.  I didn’t care, he was happy as a clam and said it was his best camp that Summer.  Go figure!  It was the success of this desperate experiment in board gaming (totally unplanned, I just happened to have it with me that day) that led me to include board games as a regular part of the curriculum.

ZOMBIE DICE/MARTIAN DICE/NINJA DICE/LUCHADOR DICE/CTHULHU DICE…

This is a catchall for games that are all somewhat thematically similar, play fast and easy, and feature a series of specialized, thematic highly colorful dice that interact with each other in a specific way.

The granddaddy is Zombie Dice, where the players are playing the roles of the Zombies in a Zombie movie, looking for brains; there is also a very similar game where the players are playing the role of the Aliens in a UFO invasion called Martian dice.   You can play a Ninja on a special mission in Ninja Dice, Re-theme Zombie Dice with Hunting Dinosaurs and you have Dino Hunt Dice, and finally play a game of re-themed Put and Take with Cthulhu Dice.   The mechanics differ from game to game, but they all are rich in theme, very colorful, very simple and resolve and play very quickly.  This kind of game handles 3-4 kids comfortably.  The up side is they are all very affordable and you can probably buy all of them if you have a large crowd of kids.  Maybe even throw a dice game tournament, who knows?

Conclusion:

I could go on and on with this post but I think I’m going to limit these to about 8-10 at a time so I don’t feel rushed.  The games in this posting have all been played at kid’s camps and although some games have failed to garner support, these have all done pretty well since I started.  I hope you find these suggestions useful

Game Camp 2014, Last Day: X-Wing, The Resistance, Cosmic, & Zombies


Today was our last day of Gaming Camp at St. Stephens & St. Agnes school, Alexandria, VA.

They call it “Fantasy Battle Camp” Well, okay, I can live with that. I guess “Wargame” doesn’t read well for a family activity.

So our last day was literally jam-packed as we attempted to cram anything we haven’t done yet in the remaining hours. I set up a Super Gigantic X-Wing Smack-down on two tables:

Far table: X-Wing (Skywalker) and Y-Wing versus TIE Bomber and TIE Fighter. Near table: TIE advanced (Vader) and TIE Defender versus A-Wing, B-Wing, Y -WIng and X-WIng.

X-Wing Miniatures was pretty popular with everyone who played it. The Basic game can be taught in a few minutes and the rules are dirt simple.

Once the kids got the nuances of planning where they wanted to be the next turn (and really, the turn after), the game was very speedy and I didn’t have to monitor it beyond a rule dispute or two.

Gleeful Rebel Pilots gloa.t after victory

We ended up getting in a demo game of THE RESISTANCE during lunch, which is an old favorite of mine.  This is a game that has a similar vibe to WEREWOLF but doesn’t require that “Open your eyes, close your eyes” thing so much.  We played with two spies and 3 resistance fighters.  The Resistance won.

After lunch we played a game that has become traditional as the Friday afternoon closer. We had to 86 the notion of an ice-cream party as originally planned, since I was less one helper (Garrett was sick). So we played the game associated with Friday at camp, Zombietown USA.  This simple zombie apocalypse game was designed by our 2008 camp, and revised by the 2012.   You can pick up a copy here.  You need a handful of SWAT miniatures, a lot of Zombies, and a handful of dice and some sticks.

More Zombies generated (Orange Tokens)

and… THE END!!! Zombies 18, SWAT 0!

The end of Zombietown had most of the SWAT forces overwhelmed and overrun by Zombies. The SWAT team couldn’t make any headway.. they insisted on running from one point to another, and that kept generating zombies faster than they could kill them.

And that was Game Camp! A great week, great kids– all of them very intelligent and quick to pick things up. Everyone liked BIG DANGED BOATS very much, and some were excited about the idea of the game possibly being published.

We played: Big Danged Boats, The Magi, Cosmic Encounter, Room 25, The Resistance, X-Wing Miniatures, and Zombietown.

I really enjoy running this camp every year, and have been doing it steadily since 2006. I will be back next year.

Game Camp 2014, Day Two: BDB Quest for the ORB Pt. 1


Tuesday was a day taken up with running the MAD QUEST FOR THE ORB OF POWER scenario again. This was the scenario I ran at HISTORICON two weeks ago, with minor changes– we introduced the Little People Flotilla in this game, as well as Aquatic Mines.

The objective of the game was the same– Gordon the Enchanter has holed up in his Wizard Tower, with a lot of hired swords and big guns surrounding his little island. He has spent a lot of gold and a lot of time hijacking the Orb of Power, a magical artifact of such great power that it will upset the balance of power in the Middle Sea for generations.

Gordon’s Tower

THIS IS PART ONE OF TWO Basically the kids navigated around the tower, encountered outposts of mercenaries on the outer ring fo Gordon’s defenses– just mercenaries and gun batteries. This proved to be tough work for the Brothers of Saint Brendan, who dropped off a landing party of four coracles full eagerly rowing Brothers, trying to perform a conversion or two.

Woops! Don’t row in front of a battery of quick firing guns!

The Bone Brigade attacked straight out at full speed and made the base of the tower quickly, but got shot to pieces by missile fire. They did get a major landing party ashore under fire, which is commendable. They were immediately engaged by Tower Guards, and the issue is still in doubt.

The Wood Elves and the Little People’s Flotilla were slow to come into conflict, just fighting with one battery which was quickly subdued.

Sylan Terror (Wood Elves) and Things 1 and 2 (LP Flotilla)

The Seng covered a lot of distance and when it became the back of the tower was mined with aquatic mines, effectively used a Spell of Gaseous Form to go over the mines with no harm coming the their ship, the Grey Empress Tzu.

As the game is a bit of a bear to set up, with lots of figures and pieces, we didn’t get started until late, and could only play for 2 and a half hours. I budgeted some extra time to play BDB, and it paid off, we will be running this scenario tomorrow first thing. It’s really heating up to be a fun battle.

Here’s a SLIDESHOW of the BDB Game, enjoy!