Saturday, April 08, 2006

Busy few weeks

We have a busy few weeks coming up, starting with another interstate trip over the Easter weekend (this one west to Adelaide, for a cousin's engagement party).
Two weeks after that is the first of our Big Gaming Events for the year; we're hosting a Family Game Night at Biggie's school.

I'd heard people on the 'Geek talking about their experiences running Family Game Nights, so I'd hedged around the topic with a couple of classroom teachers but got nowhere. Eventually, I bit the proverbial bullet late last year and wrote to the school principal, suggesting that the school consider offering a Family Game Night and offering Fraser's and my time to co-ordinate it. Her reaction was very positive, and we agreed to discuss it again early in the school year.

Last Friday, I met with the principal and vice-principal to finalise the details. They're both extremely keen – they commented that they saw this as a regular event in the school calendar. I started to say something about "yes, we could do one every year" before I realised they meant that we could hold them as often as every term. (This is the school that has made chess classes a part of the maths curriculum for all children in years 3-4; it shouldn't really surprise me)

So what arrangements have we made?

We've booked the hall for the first Friday in May, and set a limit on the number of people who can attend. School Council has agreed to supply tea and coffee (and something for the children to drink) at no charge; this is a community-building event, not a fundraiser.

I drafted a flyer, which went home with every child in the school last Friday (there are around 450 children enrolled). We've invited them to "bring your own games, or try something new" and asked that families NOT bring electronic games or gameboys. I'll put reminders in the school newsletter in a fortnight and then the week after that, encouraging families to come along and, hopefully, enthusing them about the evening. I know that all the parents I've spoken to about it have been keen to attend.

The other thing that I'm in the process of organising is to have some games available for sale on the night, and possibly also offer families the chance to order games for delivery directly to school. We're negotiating with a FLGS for a discount for parents as well as a cut to the school, ideally that could be used to buy some games for the school. I keep NEARLY offering to start a game club and then remembering all my other commitments and pulling back … I'm sure I will succumb at some stage though.

Other promotional activities will include speaking at the whole-school assembly in a couple of weeks, and possibly (if there is interest from the staff) taking a display of games in to school to show to (or play with) the teachers as well. We've put in quite a bit of thought as to which games we should take – we're looking at games for children aged from 5-12, and trying to make sure that we have a range of mechanics and ability levels covered. The big task before we take any to school will be to inventory the contents of each game and make sure that each game has a list of what should be in the box!

I'm confident that this will be a really fun evening, and optimistic that we will get close to our maximum 100-120 people from within the school community. What I need to work out is how we can juggle co-ordinating the evening and teaching games, as well as probably selling games on behalf of our FLGS.

If I had more time, I would be thinking about how to decorate the room with game-related artwork.

Our aims for the night are:
1. To enhance the community spirit within the school;
2. To encourage families to play games together; and
3. To (maybe) suck some new people into the hobby – or at least to show them that there are new and interesting types of games out there, that they might enjoy.

Look for a report next month on how the night went.

I'd encourage anyone who has children at school to consider offering to organise something like this. I was amazed by the enthusiasm that the principal & vice principal showed for the idea - especially as I was willing not just to suggest the event but to co-ordinate it as well.

Meanwhile, we've had some gaming fun this week.

Last Saturday, we went to Melbourne Eurogamesfest. We started with a 3p game of Caylus, and followed it with Elasund and Diabolo (the Michael Schacht cardgame). I liked Elasund a lot, and would probably have bought it on Sunday if it had been available. (Ditto Caylus – we're still waiting for general stock of Caylus to make it to Australia). Diabolo was a light filler – fun, I wouldn't complain if someone gave it to me, but we probably have enough games like that already.

Our FLGS had a double discount day last Sunday, and we got a little carried away. We've stocked the pressie cupboard with a range of games for Biggie's friends, and worked a good way through our respective wishlists. Of course, that meant we had to play some of our new games…

On Sunday, we played San Juan – a game which I find not nearly as good as its famous sibling, but which is quicker and very much easier to set up than PR. We played it again with Biggie (7) a few days later; her verdict was "I like it, but I think I would prefer Puerto Rico." Someone has been listening to what her dad says!!

We also sampled Ravensburger's Make'n'Break, a nice dexterity game where players place building blocks to match a design on a card – definitely one to take to school – and Boomtown, which we also enjoyed very much. Fairy Tale is now officially burning a hole in my bookshelf.

The other gaming I've been doing this week has involved learning some new games through PbW (play by web) sites. I'm playing mostly with a group of people who I know through the 'Geek, and who I know are happy to play friendly, chatty games and help newer players. Ron Stuckel is reminding me how to play Amun-Re, David Perrey is teaching Reef Encounter and Jon Wandke is teaching Tikal. In return, I'm teaching a couple of people to play Hansa.

With most of the rules available online, I find learning a new PbW is as much about learning the interface as it is about learning the game. As others have noted, some are definitely better than others.

May your vision targets all be wolves,



gamesgrandpa said...

Wow! Congratulations on the school game night work. You guys are doing a great service with that. It sounds like a lot of work, but the benefits should be worth it. You must be an excellent planner and organizer.

By the way, how is your museum display project going?

Coldfoot said...

Ditto what he said.

Melissa said...

Thanks, guys. Organising the school games night was really easy, once I actually got around to doing something about it. As it turns out, the principal and council were looking for an event to launch the new community building focus, so we were right on time.

I'd really encourage others to go ahead and give it a try - it was *much* more straightforward than I had expected.

Now I just need to choose what games to take...

Haven't heard from the museum for a while -- they were meant to get us some display case sizes. I will follow up with them!! (We are meant to be working on a 150-word description of our collection).

Anonymous said...

Helenoftroy said. . .

That's a great thing that you are doing with the school. It will really be a great thing for the community.

But I have to ask, is it a good thing to have chess combined with math? Sounds fun! Does it work?

Also, get Fairytale on the table!!! It's a nice quick, light, and fun game with pretty pictures. It's one of the few card games I enjoy.

Melissa said...

They've been very happy with the chess-as-part-of-maths program. Maths is as much about spatial perception and logical reasoning as it is about pure numbers, and using chess (or, presumably, any abstract game) is a fun way to promote it.

Of course, they work with numbers, operators and measurement as well - and some of the kids are significantly better than others at chess!