Waterbury Board Games

For those of you in the Waterbury area looking for some European board game action, look no further than the aptly named Waterbury Board Games meetup group. They convene Wednesday evenings, so you can think of it as a pleasant mid-week destressor.

Kids Need to Game

Brian Pedersen posted on Geekcentricity about his Kids Need to Game project, soliciting donations of material for his school’s game club in Denmark. He also cites the many positive aspects of engaging developing minds and bodies in the game hobby: utilizing multiple methods of learning — auditory, visual and kinesthetic — aiding communication, math, social skills and more.

Shipping to Denmark’s not feasible for me, unfortunately, but a similar idea has bounced around in my head since I decided to weed out some of my own role-playing and board game library. I’d love to donate suitable material to a local game club, associated with a school or other youth-centric organization, biased as I am toward promoting tabletop games in Vermont. They’re not the sort of groups that make themselves easy to find, as I have yet to hear of or run across information about one.

Any ideas on where I might find such a group, oh Vermont-dwelling, blog-reading game players?

Fate and Solace

A couple months ago, I joined an ongoing role-playing campaign. We met once in August, then just had our first meeting since a Sunday or two ago. It’s set in a world the GM devised, running with a slightly modified version of the Savage Worlds rules, plus what seem like magic systems of his own devising.

I feel a little like I’m seeing how the other half lives — the half that actually plays role-playing games on a periodic basis, rather than just writing about them and thinking wistfully in between game days and conventions. Getting it all to work is even rougher than I remember. Remember I said I first played with the group in August? We didn’t get together again until mid-November.

In the intervening time, everything about the game fell out of my head. I spent that August session mostly getting my bearings. There were a lot of proper nouns flung around the table: player characters, non-player characters, places, things, deities and so on. All that fell out of my head after the session ended. So I took diligent notes in the second session. Writing things down helps me remember them without even having to check the paper. I think I’ve got it all straight now.

As one of those unfortunate souls who’s done far more talking and thinking about role-playing games than I have playing, it’s disconcerting to see how other people play or run a game. Because it never matches up with one’s imaginings. Right now I’m on the side of biting my tongue because I don’t know enough about the group dynamics to understand what’s open to commentary or discussion.

Tomorrow’s the next session. The characters found themselves in a hard spot, as often happens. The form of a decision point looms up ahead. I have a very good idea of who’s going to fall on either side of the decision, assuming I understand everyone’s backgrounds correctly. We’ll see how it plays out.

Nonchalant Gnome Society Seeks New Members

Playing Gloom at the United Way of the Adirondacks.

The Nonchalant Gnome Gaming Society, based around Plattsburgh, New York, is looking for expand their ranks — and they’re getting some ink about it, like an article in the Press Republican on October 20th:

The gamers are actively trying to recruit new members these days. They said they are “very happy to teach” any newcomers.

They said they welcome players of all abilities, too.

“Most of the games are new to us,” Henry said. “We are collectors who buy games periodically when we hear about them. You learn as you go.”

The article also mentions they intend to hold some play in public events, which I theorize comes from the blog Seize Your Turn‘s same-named Play in Public campaign. If you have any gaming friends in the Plattsburgh area, let them know about the Nonchalant Gnome Gaming Society.

[Reposted from Green Mountain Gamers.]

Nonchalant Gnome Gaming Society Site Redesign

I see the Nonchalant Gnome Gaming Society launched a new website last month. If you hadn’t before — and even if you had, because the links have obviously changed — subscribe to their news feed to keep up with the board game doings in Clinton County, New York.

The Nonchalant Gnome site was one of the first I ran across when I first began looking around the web for online presences of gaming groups that met in real life in the Vermont region. They meet across Lake Champlain in New York state, so I haven’t been able to make a trip over there to visit one of their meetings, but I took some lessons away from their website. In short: make it personal so browsers can tell there are real, interesting people behind the web page, make it easy to find out where and when events happen and make it easy to contact someone who knows what’s going on.

Before now, I don’t think I realized quite how strong example the Nonchalant Gnome website has been to my efforts in making social media a useful tool for Vermont area gamers. So I tip my hat to Chuck Henry. If not for that quirky DokuWiki that was the first incarnation of the society’s website, I don’t know where or in what, if any, form the Green Mountain Gamers site, or Burlington Board Gamers before it, might have taken.

[RPG Blog Carnival] How Far Will You Travel to Game?

This month's theme is travel and games and travel in games.

How far will you travel to play a game? The answer has varied for me over the years. I have, on occasion, found myself on the road alone or carpooling for two hours for a roleplaying session. That was back in the days of an exceptionally engaging Stargate: SG-4 campaign that wandered from St. Johnsbury to Johnson to Montpelier as needed. It was a phenomenally fun game, but ultimately the travel involved put me off staying enaged. Add an hour or two of travel to an evening game that may break up late, and then go to your early morning job a couple times and it’ll take the shine off any recreational activity.

That has since become my rule of thumb for gamers in general. People will travel an hour or two infrequently, but even the energetic ones willing to sign on the long haul often find themselves wanting or having to bow out. It may have something to do with the geography of Vermont and northern New England. Vermont’s a fairly small state, but it can take a bloody long time to get anywhere because we’ve only got two interstates, both running north-south, and a plethora of state and local roads in a wide range of states of decrepitude. Add to that the rough and winding ways so many people live on and it’s no surprise everybody’s so eager to host the weekly game.

Conventions, on the other hand, tend to act like gravity wells. The bigger they are, the greater the draw. TotalCon, based in central-eastish Massachusetts, can draw people all the way down from Burlington; I knew one fellow who, with his regular gaming group, used TotalCon as their annual road trip. The reverse, however, doesn’t hold. I would be greatly surprised to see a high volume from southern New England come as far north as Burlington, even if the Burlington convention scene somehow contrived to rival the scale of a TotalCon or Unity Games. Regardless of scale or quality of offerings, Burlington’s just out the way, tucked in the northwesternmost corner of New England, with a big old lake to the west preventing easy access from that direction and a single high speed corridor connecting the valley to the more populous regions of the southeast.

Similarly, I’ve heard tales on podcasts like Role Playing Public Radio and All Games Considered of eight and ten hour road trips from across the midwest to attend Gen Con in Indianapolis. One of the perks of being the mother of all conventions is all the Mohammeds very cheerfully come to you. Eight hours from Burlington would put one somewhere in Pennsylvania or New Jersey, which works for the World Boardgaming Championships in Lancaster. But then you find yourself up against that New Englander tendency to avoid travel again.

So Goes the Game Group

The Geek Social Fallacies, formulated by Michael Suileabhain-Wilson, outline “ideas about human interaction which spur their holders to do terrible and stupid things to themselves and to each other.” Geek Social Fallacy No. 5, for instance, says “Friends Do Everything Together.” This becomes problematic in a variety of circumstances, but today, I’m thinking specifically about how it applies to the context of playing games.

Primarily, I’m thinking about the notion that a game group requires constant unanimity, that everyone must like and participate in every game. In the context of board games, this can particularly problematic as the styles of play, and individual’s tastes for those styles of play, span a very wide spectrum. Some people go for regimented games of building economic engines, other people go for wacky, random “take that”-a-thons and still more fall at different points between the extremes. Variety of preference is good, but it can make finding mutually acceptable common ground in a group difficult. In my experience, insisting on picking a game everyone likes to play often leads to a very limited selection of choices. There are, generally speaking, two main ways of dealing with this.

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Dungeons & Divas

This article in the Portland Mercury, “Dungeons & Divas,” talks about a gaming group for women hosted in Portland, Oregon’s Guardian Games. The Dungeon Divas also have their own website.

Gaming really has been a male-dominated hobby for most of its existence. A female game-playing friend of mine has remarked more than once, although usually in an amused manner, how surprised she was by the relative dearth of women at Carnage 11, which was her first large scale gaming experience. And her reaction’s no surprise, as the local board game event she’s most familiar with has about a 40% share of females, depending on the night in question.

The question remains how to make roleplaying more inclusive and diminish the popular misconception it’s a boys-only activity. Does that mean pitching to the presumed tastes of young women, with games like Witch Girls Adventures? Or is it more about activism on roleplayers’ parts to remove existing barriers?

As an aside, one of the things I liked best about Northeast Wars IX was the growing presence of female players. Quite a few of them, I believe, came as friends of people who’d been to the convention in 2008, particularly those in the Middlebury Mob, the affectionately-nicknamed group of young gamers who have become a fixture of the local game convention, no matter its current incarnation. Hopefully, those young women will bring friends of their own next year in 2010 and keep growing the younger gaming set, both in size and gender diversity.

[Originally sighted on OgreCave.]