Tag Archives: Game Camp

Game Camp 2017 Day 4: Big Danged Boats


From: Wednesday

And Thursday brought us a return of a camp favorite, BIG DANGED BOATS.  This is a 15mm Fantasy Naval game of my own devising, and it has some weird elements, such as a foot of a dead God, and Steam Powered Cheese, and The Followers of Joe.  We had some delay setting up (remember, the kids wanted Frostgrave to go long so we had to postpone BDB for a day?  Well, it takes a while to set up, being kind of a labor intensive game to run.  Not to worry, though– they played Room 25 (by themselves! Twice!) while Garrett and I speedily set up BDB for a shorter scenario.   We got in a good amount of play but were no where NEAR resolution by 3PM.  All the campers but one were asking for an extension of BDB.  Okay, I get it.  One thing ten years of running this camp has taught me, is to be flexible.  So we are continuing over into Friday, cancelling the Playtest of BOOM! Zap! and running Viking Looters a few times in the afternoon.  Oh yes, and ice cream, and door prizes!  Osprey and HMGS both helped out in their own ways.  So we have some very good boodle to hand out tomorrow.

So, BDB.  I set up a pretty small scale scenario.  The Ratlings in the Steam Powered Armor Plated cheese, the Primus, versus human elitists from Stahlheim who are seeking the secret of Boom Powder, versus the Bone Brigade in two ships (black Galley and Deadnought) and the Gnomes of Batenburg, in the gigantic Gnomish Siege Machine.  Add to that the Seng passing through willing to see Boom Powder to anyone with gold to buy it.  I ran the Seng and the shore batteries.


The Bone Brigade (Black Galley front, Deadnought read. Undead Crew, Galley propulsion)

One thing I notice about modern youth is a general hesitancy to create a plan of attack in a game, be it Frostgrave, War Rocket or BDB. It’s as if they dont’ want to get stuck in it with someone they can’t beat or something. Fortunately, I had a youngster who set his Gnomish cap on taking out Stahlheim and charged in trying to ram his ship into submission with the Siege Machine’s Big Bopper Ramming extension. Stahlheim was in the middle of a complex negotiation for the outpost’s mortar (which the Stahlheim captain sneered at, citing poor workmanship. They looked up and suddenly saw the looming bulk of the Siege Machine bearing down on them. Fortunately, the ram sheared off and the Gauntlet retaliated by blasting them with two forward facing Medium cannon.


Gnomish marines attack later in the game.

Right when I thought there would be some proper bloodlust they desisted and made a deal.  Meanwhile, the Bone Brigade traded with the Seng, who were more than happy to take their gold from them.  The Bonies turned on the Gnomes in the long distance, shelling them with the Plague Package.


Firing a plague package at the Gnomes.

During the game the Rats of Ingoldsby Island didn’t do much. The Primus promptly broke down and they spent many turns wrenching on it. Then they sailed over to a bored guard captain and got him to shell Batenburg for a gold Piece. I do insist the players try to roleplay their parts.. that’s part of the fun. Garrett did a great job playing the lisping, amoral Rat King.

Stahlheim sailed around the guard rock and brought the Batenburgers back into view, letting a fusillade of cannon shot strike the Siege Tower. So much for peace!


The Gauntlet– probably the best defended ship on the Middle Sea

Right about then we broke for the day as we had lost some time setting up. As promised, we will run BDB in the morning tomorrow, axe BOOM Zap! and do Viking Looters and ice cream in the evening.

A good session!  The kids liked BDB.. a lot.  It is something of a spectacle.  We tried some innovations.  There are new ships: The Followers of Joe (not on the table),the Cat’s Claw (brought but not selected, much to Garrett’s displeasure), the Whaling Syndicate (A group going out to hunt the Tentacle Kraken beasts).   Nobody wanted the new guys– and of course the old standbys did get selected.  I designed a trading system so that players could do something else besides kill each other, but that’s really only going to work if we have about 8 players, so didn’t want to confuse the kids and worse, slow down the game.  I did renovate a few key mechanics.  First, steam power– instead of running that complicated throttle mechanism– which seemed great but just confused people, I now make steam powered ships roll for breakdown each turn at differing threshold numbers.  Then they roll on the Wrenching Table to build back distance and speed.  It’s simple but it works.  I redid the ship sheets to something smaller and less complex.  The damage track is streamlined to H, H/C, H/G and H/R (Hull, Hull plus Crew, Hull plus Gun, and Hull roll for it–which has some critical results).  It definitely plays faster.   The players also suggested a plague load for the undead ship’s catapult.. so they can fire plague on the target boats.  Great idea!  So we added it on the spot.

A very productive session!

More BDB pictures for Thursday HERE

On to Friday!

Game Camp 17 Day Two: Frostgrave!


I chose FROSTGRAVE as my second game of the week for gaming camp. Frostgrave (by Osprey Publishing) is a game of Wizardly Looting of an ancient sorcerous city just beginning to emerge from a century of being frozen. Players play Wizards and their apprentices leading a small team of hired thugs and treasure takers into the city in search of gold, magic items and items of lore. The rules are pretty simple and easy to teach, the game is fast and ultra tactical. Naturally Frostgrave appeals to both youngsters and oldsters.

There was also a hue and a clamor to play Room 25 again, it’s a big hit.

We had a new camper join us today and he fit right in.  Frostgrave is a big hit as well, so much so that the kids requested we hold Frostgrave over for a second day.  I’m always flexible, that’s not a problem with me.

So tomorrow will probably be MORE Frostgrave, Cosmic Encounters and maybe half a day of Big Danged Boats!

For a slide show of today’s activities, click here.

Onward to Day Three: More Frostgrave and Cosmic Encounters!

Game Camp 17 Day One War Rocket and Room 25


So Monday dawned and it was our first day of Battle Camp. I have a smaller camp than usual; that’s just fine. Easier to manage. We were set up for WAR ROCKET by Hydra Miniatures when they came in. War Rocket is a very retro look at simple space combat. The trick to War Rocket is being in the right place at the end of a turn, since War Rocket has a turn sequence of Move, then shoot. The combat system is kind of anemic but the basic mechanics are easy to pick up, which is why I tried War Rocket for the first time at camp. Verdict was quite enthusiastic, War Rocket is fun and a keeper!

We also played Room 25, a board game based on those weird Canadian “Cube” movies.

This was supposed to be just a light lunch time game (I played, too!) and we ended up playing it until 1:30 and finishing up War Rocket. The game ended in a tie when the giant Zenethian mother ship (the big green saucer) was taken out with a lucky shot! Talk about pulling ahead at the last second.

My impressions– this is a great crowd, very smart kids who like games and were VERY quick to pick up on everything. In other words, my favorite kind of campers. Not bad for a group who had zero miniatures background!

More War rocket pictures

Where to find WAR ROCKET
A great first day.

Tomorrow: Frostgrave

On to Day Two!

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 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 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 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.

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, Day Three: BDB Quest for the ORB Pt. 2


On Wednesday, we played out the rest of the Orb of Power scenario for Big Danged Boats. It was a very frenetic game, with lots of odd stuff happening that tested BDB’s boundries. Big Danged Boats is a design that’s hard not to tinker with, and I’ve been working on ways to speed it up a little. I like the combination of shooting, boarding, fighting and magic that I’ve developed so far. It’s a good mix, but I designed to build a narrative, a story, and it’s not the most speedy game ever. On the other hand, it’s a lot of laughs. What other universe has Squid Gods, Dead god’s feet, and Armored Cheeses?

HIGHLIGHTS FROM TODAY

The Iron Dwarf player (Spence) came to grief early today. The Plunger took many hits from the tower and eventually was uncrewed. The Damage track also went to critical, and a severe engine failure was the result, requiring two turns of Wrenching to fix.

The guys wanted to run it through to the finish. The idea of allying together against a third party seemed to be an anathema to some and other players took to it. One side of the board was Chaos with ships shooting at each other and backstabbing galore. The other side was like an exercise in barter economy– Reed (playing Battenburg, who had bought a ton of reinforcements) traded off Slingers for Gold, Gnomes for Gold, and generally acted like a capitalist. The Wood Elves, the Karstark Gnomes, and the Little People Brigade all acted in close concert with each other, made deals, made room for each other to pass and navigate around each other. So it all looked like they were on board with the “Fighting Gordon the Enchanter” thing.

The Red Menacer charged to the assistance of the Plunger, and managed to get two Dwarf Marines on board to Wrench on the broken crank propeller. Unfortunately, the Seng were sailing through in an incorporeal state and a traffic jam might have ensued if he were “solid”.

The Seng sailed THROUGH the Dwarf ships in incorporeal state. On the other side, the Augmentation price for the spell ran out and Patrick wasn’t willing to pay any more gold to keep it alive. So the Wizard was going to go up in a nimbus of blue flame, but Patrick booted him out of the ship at the last second. “Nice job, Wiz, SEE YA!” BOOM!

The O.R.C. immolates themselves in revolutionary martyr fashion!

The Orcish Revolutionary Council (O.R.C.) performed in revolutionary martyr spirit. They sailed right at the front door of the Tower, as if to ram. One of the Martyrs tried to ram the front door but got caught up in melee, and pulled the “Stupid” result from the Red Badge of Courage, and so ran around the tower base instead of self-immolating.. The next martyr managed to impale the aquatic mine with his pump charge, and a disastrous explosion took place.

About mid game the tone of the game changed and the knives started to come out. The Little People Brigade boarded the Von Ripper of the Iron Dwarves. Amazingly they didnt’ choose to eat the Holy Mushrooms and transform into Gnogres. And they won! Those are some tough Gnomes!!

The Alliances that were in place at the start of the game started to fall apart. The Karstark Gnomes turned on the Iron Dwarves. The Bone Brigade, which had been shot to pieces in its ill conceived attack of the previous day, scrapped with the Foot of the Dead God and the Primus, starting the day off with a nasty event card on the Cult and exploding their one and only artillery piece, which angered them to no end. Primus fought with the Bone Brigade at a distance, and he retaliated with every missile weapon he has at his disposal, wiping out most of the BB. The Bone Brigade player (Cameron) didn’t understand the impact of talking smack one turn during an ambush, and then begging for an alliance the next. The Seng managed to board and capture the Plunger, and operate it (clumsily) to spar torpedo the Blue Magoo from the Little People Brigade, doing severe damage.

The Seng could only operate the Plunger slowly and clumsily, being man-sized and trying to operate a Dwarf-sized submarine.

The other successful boarding of the day, The Von Ripper, under new Gnome management.

The cult of F’Vah pulled out their big trump card, Summoning the Squid God, and it was hideously effective.

Goodbye, Black Galley! And suddenly, it was no more!

The Bone Brigade was a shambles– shot to pieces by the Rats and Cultists, and missing one ship to the Squid God, but they bounced back playing the Faction card: Surprise, They’re already dead! which brought back 5 skeletons to life, so at least the Deadnought fought its way clear of the mess.

And the Rat Men managed to at land a small lodgment at the bottom of the tower..

And then the allies on the far end, the Rat Men and the Cultists, fell out when the Cultists turned on them like a prison punk in the showers.

The Cultists hit the Rats with the Squid God, and destroyed the Primus…

By the end of the day, the game was left still not resolved, so the fellows requested at least another session in the morning.

Here’s the Slide Show of today’s FUN!

Game Camp for Kids, Day 1: The Magi!


Hey, hey the gang’s all here!

It’s that time of year again, when I run a Gaming Camp for kids at St. Stevens and St. Agnes’ School in Alexandria, VA. This camp will be a week long and it will focus on tabletop gaming. Mostly miniatures based with either a fantasy or science fiction theme. I like to keep the rules pretty simple and easy to teach. The trick between success and failure with these things is to keep the children constantly occupied. About 3 years ago I started mixing boardgames with the miniatures games so there isn’t any waiting around and thumb twiddling. Last year, I introduced THE MAGI, a game of Wizardly combat using hand gestures for spells. The game is an old postal game from the 80s that I dusted off and turned into a miniatures game (which, by the by, the creator was wholeheartedly in favor of and gave permission to do).

The game started at 10ish and proceeded to almost 3PM, with one break for lunch.

Wizards fighting it out in the Arena. In the foreground, a Summoned Ice Elemental plods towards a target. In the background, a Summoned Battle Ogre attacks the purple wizard, or the rock lava wizard, I can’t recall which . The giant crystals provide illumination, and could be destroyed, plunging the cavern in darkness.

The whole intention of the Magi is to defeat as many opposing wizards as possible. There’s no way anyone has enough time to kill every other wizard, but that’s okay in a free-for-all situation. The Magi has a unique magic system that is played totally with hand gestures. I have simulated the wizards ruminating over what to cast next by creating a largish deck of cards with 6 hand gestures on them– Clap, Flick, Wave, Digit pointing, Palm Proffered, and Snap. With these 6 gestures, you can build dozens of spells– Summoning Creatures, Tossing Missiles, etc. The trick is to play them in an order to have them go off in time to do something useful for you.  For example, if you want to cast a DISPEL MAGIC (a very useful spell), you perform the somatic (hand) gestures for C-D-S-P (Clap, Digit Pointing, Snap, Palm).    The rules stipulate you have to stand up and perform the gestures, in sequence, then show the cards.  If another wiz has an interrupt spell, he can stop the spell as soon as he recognizes it.

 

 

I toned down Elementals from last year’s camp Now they cause less damage, and I wrote a codicil in the rules that when two elementals that are opposite of each other (Fire and Water, etc), they are attracted to each other and will make an effort to move toward each other to cancel each other out. It balanced the big damage the Elementals were doing in previous games.

The game was not quite the bloodbath that it usually is. We had two Wizards who preferred to hang around the edges of the conflict, avoiding conflict and trying to get that PERFECT spell card set.  That’s a mistake in the Magi.  It’s much better to fire off a series of tactical spells (like Missile, or Elementals) than that Finger of Death spell that requires 9 cards.

It was a great game, and we had a lot of laughs.  Here’s a slideshow!

https://www.flickr.com/photos/54189591@N00/tags/magigc14/

Friday: the End, and Zombietown USA


Friday dawned and with it the last day of Game Camp. Friday’s traditional game is ZOMBIE TOWN USA, which is a game designed by the kids at the camp in 2008, and embellished a little by me. For the audience, time and scale, it’s a great little game– no muss and no fuss, and I like to run it. Here’s a free copy, if you are interested at all. The not so subtle benefit of Zombie Town on Friday is that it is a game that fits in a smallish box plus a few terrain pieces and a ground cloth. The sum total of extra bits are a box of tokens, Heroscape dice and some sticks for measuring, plus some playing cards for initiative. Since ZT plays fairly quickly, I ran DO YOU WORSHIP CTHULHU? Which is basically a Werewolf knockoff by the Toy Vault with nice cards. That went over well.

While I was setting up ZT USA, the kids seized GET BIT and played yet another game of it. GET BIT was played many times during the course of the week. I showed them the Wil Wheaton Tabletop episode on GET BIT and some of them want to order copies for themselves now.

ZT USA started around 10 AM and played until 2 PM, with a break for lunch. This was a fun game. Players assume the role of SWAT team survivors from various police precincts, about two years into a Zombie holocaust. Most of humanity is gone and what little authority that still exists rests in small enclaves and armed camps. The players played a small group of police led by the cowardly LT Brannigan. The group had orders to investigate rumored large scale Zed migrations that had recently been detected in the desert. Accordingly the group has set up a CP in a crumbling deserted tourist town. On a patrol they were ambushed by a huge mob of zeds that have chased them two days and killed two of them. The game begins as they arrive at the edge of the town, on the run from an advancing horde. The object of the game is to cross to the Helicopter Pad at the edge of town without attracting too many rogue zombies.

The trick is to SNEAK, and not attract too many zeds. Of course, there’s always THAT GUY who freaks out and runs, and then the trouble starts.

Just to add a little contention, I played LT Brannigan, who was unnerved to the point where he had to run for it. He made the helicopter pad in 2 turns, but had to avoid zombies while he frantically called for the extraction chopper. Of course, he summoned all kinds of zombies during his noisy run to the pad.

As happens in this game, the more noise you make, the more zombies that show up. The more zombies that show up, the more noise you make killing them. Which summons more zombies. You can’t win!

I added a few random bits like Mutant Zombies, Butcher Zombies, Ventriloquist Zombies, and various things like random encounters. The horde showed up and that hastened the game to the gory end.

The Perimeter at the Helipad shrinking as the Zombies pile on.

For more Zombie fun, check out this slideshow:

misternizz's Story

We ended up at 1400, and packed it up to have an ice cream party. I asked the campers what their favorites were this week. Unquestionably, BIG DANGED BOATS led the approval rating from everyone, followed by THE MAGI, OLYMPICA, Fantasy Gladiators and Zombietown. They suggested I trim down from 5 games to 4, so they can finish one they started. Good point!

Another Camp done! Back again next year!

Game Camp Day 3: Cosmic Encounter, Get Bit and Big Danged Boats


Wednesday was a big success. Garrett and I ran two elements of gaming: Gar ran Cosmic Encounter the best danged boardgame in the universe, in the morning, while I set up Big Danged Boats.

It’s gratifying to see how quickly the younger crowd picks up on a classic like CE and they were roaring with laughter, arguing over the finer points of the rules, etc. in next to no time flat.

We had lunch (and Gar ran GET BIT while doing so)

BIG DANGED BOATS being ready, we commenced to hand out ships. BDB has had some major redesign in gunnery, damage control, and ramming since our last outing. I’ve also handled the notion of reinforcements by instituting a Mercenary Market phase at the start of the game, and added reinforcements on a card on a side table. Worked like a charm.

I won’t dwell on the substantive changes but suffice to say that combat is leaner, with fewer choices and exceptions and just a straight roll for size of gun versus armor protection and other modifiers. Reducing the kegs of boom powder helps. I had factions run out of shots. By turn 3 the most armored ship on the table was smashed to pieces, sinking, when a prodigy of Wrenching rolls saved their butts.

Here’s a little slide show of the day’s events:

Ships engaged were THE FOOT OF THE DEAD GOD, the Dwarven IRON COUNCIL STEALTH FLEET, the SIEGE MACHINE (gnomes), the DEADNOUGHT and BLACK GALLEY (Bone Brigade), The PRIMUS (rat men), the SYLVAN TERROR (wood elves), and the HOPLITE (Spartan CosPlay society).

This was an agressive game and it definitely had the children showing the adults up from the last time I range a game. They were ferocious. As you can see here, young Kennon got into her role of summoning the Squid God.

Perhaps too well:

They thought this was so twisted they are now asking to play it tomorrow morning, so another, third day of running games day and afternoon.