Saturday, May 06, 2006

School Game Evening

The school game evening was on Friday night. We thought it went very well. We didn't take a roll call, but we think we had about 40 people, roughly half children and half parents. We had one grown-up helper (thanks Stefanie) and also Daughter the Elder as a helper too.

Melissa made a GeekList of games we were thinking about taking before the event, you can find it here. Melissa will be updating it in the near future.

The games we brought that were played on the night were Formula Dé, Ticket to Ride, TransAmerica, Make 'n' Break , Apples to Apples Junior!, Carcassonne - Hunters and Gatherers, Dicke Luft in der Gruft (Dawn Under), Fish Eat Fish, Flix Mix, Hexentanz, Guillotine, Lost Cities, Piggy-back, Zendo, Catch The Match , Pick Picknic, Right Turn, Left Turn , Igloo Pop, and Carcassonne.

Games that families brought that were played were Connect Four, Blokus and Cluedo. Games that familes brought that were not played were Mouse Trap and Monopoly.

The most popular games for the evening were Formula Dé, Make 'n' Break and Flix Mix. All three were played pretty much all night from when they were set up. Formula Dé had one of us with it all night, but the other two games had the advantage that they could be taught to an initial group of people who could then teach new people to play when they joined for the next game, thus didn't need constant supervision.

This difference exemplifies the difference between a games night for predominantly non-gamers and a games night of gamers. Generally at a gamers night there will be at least one person who is well acquainted with every game that is present. It is very rare that you would pull out a game and find that nobody present had played it, with the possible exception of brand-new-hot-off-the-plane-from-Essen type games.

A school games night is pretty much the opposite, I believe of all the games that we had brought that Carcassonne was the only one that any of the people had played before and of course they were there to play new games, thus were not available to teach others. This meant an extra workload for us, especially Melissa who spent the whole night flitting from table to table.

A lesson we have learnt from this is to make sure we have some of the games that non-gamers can teach other non-gamers after a single game ready to go at the outset, so that they can be played all night without the requirement of constant supervision. Apples to Apples Junior, Make 'n' Break and Flix Mix all fall into this category.

Others lessons:
  • Melissa should wear more comfortable shoes.
  • Cap the numbers. We could not have coped with many more people at all, both due to the number of helpers we had and the number of tables available to play on.
  • Try to ensure that there is a 1:1 parent child ratio. The children stay a bit more focused if they are playing with a parent. I had to give up trying to teach one game to five seven year olds, because three of them were more interested in playing with the tiles and had no parent to steer them back to playing the game. When those three left, the two remaining seven year olds and a parent were taught and played.
  • Extra helpers.
  • Nothing was damaged by food or drink spillages, but we would enforce a no food or drink at the table policy in future.
  • Concentrate on simpler games unless there are extra helpers who can be spared to babysit a game.
  • Give Daughter the Elder a list of games that she is allowed to teach people.

When I was teaching Carcassonne - Hunters & Gatherers I had three different families mention that they had or had played Carcassonne but hadn't seen the Hunters & Gatherers edition, interestingly nobody mentioned Settlers of Catan. Has Carcassonne usurped Settlers of Catan as the new gateway game to the general public?

From our point of view Formula Dé was labour intensive with a helper all night, but it was very popular with four to six players the whole time. I think it is worth taking again if we have a spare helper, I am less sure about something like Carcassonne for a future night though, as it is complicated enough that it probably needs someone who has played before to supervise it and it is less likely to be played all night. Ticket to Ride is simple enough that it does not need a helper to play the game with the new players. It can be explained to them in a few minutes, supervised for a few turns and then they can be left to themselves to play. They may need to occasionally query a rule or ask for a clarification, but generally it should just run itself.

This leads me to the realisation that there are two different groups of Gateway Games. One group where there is a dedicated teacher available which would include Carcassonne and Settlers of Catan and the second where there is no dedicated teacher available, just someone who can explain the rules and come back to answer queries if required. Ticket to Ride falls into this second category as it really only has about three rules.

Based on the queries we had along the lines of "Where can I buy this game?" the most popular games of the night were Formula Dé, Ticket to Ride, TransAmerica, Dawn Under and Make 'n' Break.

All in all it was a tiring night, but popular with all the attendees and I am sure we will be doing it again next term.

Mmm meeple taste like...


Anonymous said...

Nice job. Seems like you learned quite a bit through the process.

Gerald McD said...

You folks are fantastic! Just think of the increased fun with families and friends those people will have, because you introduced them to some great games. Keep up the good work!

Dani In NC said...

Thank you for sharing this account of your school game night. I'm always interested in session reports from school and church game nights to find out what games went over well. I don't belong to a local game group so my friends and I are learning about boardgames together as we play.