Category Archives: Teaching Games

Game Club Overday Report

The Overday went off without a hitch yesterday and was by far the fastest feeling one I’ve ever experienced.  I do not regret, in any form, switching it from night to day.

We played Star Wars Rebellion for 9 straight hours at the start.  I did not intend to do that.  I did not expect to do that.  It just happened.  I don’t think there was a single dull moment during that time.  Emily and I had a group of about six kids who either played or just wanted to watch and help with components and they were totally sucked in.

The four player team game is awesome.  Jim and Jack and I played a majority correctly, but I should have been playing the Rebels as if I were two people when we played.  We’re only supposed to do Admiral/General missions on the relevant players turn.  I mention this not as a criticism, but because it opens up this whole other dimension of turn order when you play this way.  If only an Admiral or General is assigned to a mission, they have to go on that person’s turn.  BUT, if you assign both an Admiral AND a General to a mission, you get to choose when to reveal it, during either player’s turn.  You gain flexibility by committing more leaders.

Two different kids and I were the Imps and Emily and Tyler were Rebels for both games.  The first game took four hours and the second five.  I know that seems like a long time to play two games, but we broke for lunch and dinner in the middle of those and there were some serious decision making that happened in both games.  I believe that people who really concentrate and make quick decisions could finish the game in three.  To the photos!

These are all pics of the second game because I was focused on teaching the first game.  Imperials won the first game pretty handly, but when you first learn the game it can be tough to know the timing of Rapid mobilization to move the Rebel Base.  I learned that in future games I need to explain to the Rebel player exactly how the timing on it works.

Starting setup for second game:.

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We played the “advanced” version for both games where the Imperial systems are selected from about eight possible choices and the Rebels from about five possible choices.  Its clear that the designers limited it like this because without restrictions on where the Imps could start it can put the Rebels in an unfair position.  There is variability in which Imperial systems are subjugated and loyal at the start and this can make a huge difference  For example, Imps not starting with Corellia as a system makes a huge difference for the Rebels

Starting non-base setup for the Rebs:.

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We destroyed a system in the first game, but not in the second.  Destroying at least one system is critical for the Imps during a game because it sets the Rebs back one reputation.

Here it it after a few turns.

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Danny and I started by eliminating the lower left region as a possible Base location with a combination of probe cards and conquering Mygeeto and Ord Mantell.  What you see took a lot of setup and missions to do.  Basically:  Move > Subjugate> Rule by Fear.  If you look closely in the upper right, the Rebs were using that time to build a significant presence in the Nal Hutta region.  Spoiler alert: This was a very effective feint.

Right side of board:

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Emily and Tyler dropped a Mon Cal cruiser on Turn 1 or 2 and kicked one of our fleets butts almost immediately.  Danny and I found ourselves needing to take worlds to get our production up.  We were really short on transport capacity in the early and middle game and setting us up for more kept us in the game.

We totally captured Leia and turned her to the dark side.  We did this because, awesome.20160507_151844

We also attempted to capture Obi Wan but the Rebs used Noble Sacrifice to eliminate him from the game instead and gain one Reputation.We had a huge leader advantage at the end of the game 9 to 6.

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After a heavy reconnoiter into the top middle of the galaxy, we eventually got enough probe cards from missions, general turn gains, and logic (by turn 8) to narrow the base location down. They had successfully moved the base earlier in the game (We tightened our grip and they slipped through our fingers.  We were two spaces away when they moved it then, so they weren’t in that big of a danger.  They did it as a feint, and it worked.)

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We swept down into Endor and found the Rebel base.  Our force was only really ground forces, and we conquered the ground but not space.  The Rebel ground structures (Ion Cannons and Shield Generators) are really good when used well.  You need to conquer both Ground and Space to win against the Rebel Base.  They had parked two Mon Cal cruisers in orbit and if you look upper left our fleet was still two spaces away.  So, we conquered ground, but they had a sizeable fleet in orbit.Two turns later we got there with the fleet.  They were really close on a reputation victory and decided that moving it again wasn’t prudent.

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A single Ion Cannon is nasty.  It forces you to role two fewer red dice in space.  The above photo was before their attack back (which was significant).  Danny just happened to get a really good roll for us in our first attack and we had the space cards from Admiral Piett to push it in our favor.We really screwed up this combat at the start and, in retrospect, when I discovered this, I should have just let it go.  Playing it wrong gave the Rebels a huge advantage.  So, I requested we play the whole thing over again, merely because I noticed that the way we played it incorrectly gave the Imperials practically no chance of victory.Of critical importance is the order of combat:  Space>Ground>Space>Ground.  If all space rounds happened before all ground rounds, the single Ion Cannon would have made it impossible for us to achieve victory. The turn order basically rewards you for attacking or defending heavily in both theatres.   With that single Ion Cannon, our Star Destroyer was invalidated the whole combat, not just one or two phases.

The problem with re-playing it is that the Rebels felt like they were cruising for an easy victory and I kinda (unintentionally) snatched that feeling from them.  That was not my goal.When we re-did the battle, Danny rolled really well on space.  Doing a round of ground battle next made a huge difference. We were able to snag the Ion Cannon in ground combat and with the good shake of 11 dice we effectively won the space battle.If we hadn’t won there, the Rebels would have won the game, because they were one Reputation away from victory and were able to play 3 at the end of this round.

I regret replaying the battle because even though we ended up playing correctly, it had an unfair emotional impact on our opponents.  Every single strategic or tactical “error” that the Rebel players made was due to unfamiliarity with the rules.  So, the game ended with me feeling like my knowledge of the rules was an unfair advantage for the Imperial side.  It obviously should not have been and so, in my eyes, Rebels should have won that game no matter what the outcome of that battle. It is a game teacher’s responsibility to create an equitable balance between fun and rules and I failed in that regard. The Rebels in that game played a really strong game and they deserve credit for all the great decisions they made.

I have yet to play a game that wasn’t really close when everyone really understood the rules and gameplay.  There was all sorts of crazy chicanery that occurred on both sides pulling the rug out from opponents.

With another successful Overday under our belts, I’m excited to take a break and return to Game Club next year!


Games for adults with developmental disabilities

My work as Teacher Outreach Coordinator for Spielbound often challenges me to think of games in different contexts.  A gentleman recently asked me for thoughts on games for adults with developmental disabilities.  I am no expert in special education, but I don’t think it hurts to share those thoughts here in case someone is looking for ideas on resources.

I’ve done some research for you and come up with some suggestions for games that might help engage your program participants. 
I did some research online, thought about your needs, and have come up with a variety of suggestions based upon your thoughts in prior emails.
I think your personal collection isn’t as modest as you think.  As you read through my suggestions below, you might think of games in your possession that could serve similar roles!  
I know that you personally may not be impressed by “Ameritrash” games, but in my eyes the right game is any game that helps someone to engage their mind and have fulfilling interactions with other people.  In this vein, two games that come to mind that are easily available and that would likely meet the preferences of your group members are UNO and Yahtzee.  They consistently come up online in group chats about helping adults with developmental disabilities as games that have the right blend of a variety of benefits.  They have straightforward rules and “deeper than the base rules” tactics and strategy prospects for differentiation.  They offer motor skills practice, whether a shake of the dice or participation in the draw/discard pile and shuffling.  They offer social interaction.  They offer simple numerical or visual matching and could unlock deeper thinking.  Seriously consider them.
This isn’t to say that I’m not prepared to suggest other more “sophisticated” games.  The first genre that comes to mind, perhaps because of the natural therapeutic nature of pattern thinking, are tile-laying games.  Online support groups seem to confirm that Carcasonne (minus the farms) have been shown to offer great experiences for people with differing abilities.  I’d also consider Blokus, Blokus Trigon, and Blokus 3D.  The Tsuro games (Tsuro, Tsuro of the Sea) and Ingenious, in particular, offer pattern composition possibilities whether or not you use the game mechanics.  I’m thinking of the “deconstructive” nature of Jenga, which your group loves, and simply flipping it around.  Perhaps even a modified Cataan or Ticket to Ride could be useful.  All of these games are in the Library.  You may also consider Ta Yü, which is not in the Library, but is also recommended by many who work with adults with developmental disabilities.
For social interaction and development, Apples to Apples, Love Letter, and The Resistance: Avalon are also potential choices that are available for checkout.
I’d also like to suggest some possibilities for the future.  Are there ways that you could get your group to construct unique versions of classic games?  Could you construct “giant” size versions of dice for Yahtzee or even Jenga (without compromising safety)?  That might seem “pie in the sky”.  I’m just wondering if those unique experiences might be an enriching grant that could be written for your members?  Involving players in game construction and/or development is in of itself a worthwhile goal.  That might be a stretch financially or logistically, but I believe in throwing out ideas at all levels of feasibility.

Traits of a Good Gamemaster

I’ve posted examples related to this topic before.  Necessity is the mother of invention.  In coaching students to become good GMs, I crafted this list to help give specific “to dos” that can help GMs improve their skills.

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