Thursday, July 13, 2006

Games Cafe

Wow. I was doing bloggish house-cleaning this morning & found this post - originally written the first week of January. Whoops - sorry I didn't remember to post this earlier.

It was Jimbo's idea. (Yes, his name is Jimbo - actually, Jim Christiansen. But we all call him "Jimbo" - in fact, so much that one of Braeden's buddies, Canaan, corrected someone and made sure they knew that he was "Mr. Bo.") Cordon off an area at the Tsunami Youth Conference where teenagers & youth leaders could hang out and learn some new board games.

And I went for it... not only do I enjoy board gaming (surprise, surprise) but I love being able to make a difference at an event aimed at helping youth see Jesus in a fresh way.

So, last Wednesday & Thursday, we took over 12 round tables in Exhibit Hall A of the San Jose Convention Center and taught "designer" games for roughly 6 hours each day. And when I see "we", I refer to my incredible crew of game "leaders": Crystal Enochs, Josh Bussell & Aaron Croteau. All love to play games and do so on a regular basis in our Wednesday night small group - but it's going "above & beyond" to teach teenagers, many of whom had never seen this kind of stuff before. They deserve more than the small stipend we were able to pay them.

My best guess is that we had roughly 400 different folks through our area in two days (the event has roughly 4000 attendees). It's hard to put an exact figure on this: we had a number of folks (kids & adults) who returned each time the Cafe was open to play a game they liked or to teach it to someone new. At "high points" in the crowd, we had 9-10 tables busy, with 40-60 people in the area.

Almost none of the folks who visited the Cafe had ever heard of these games... and yet, given a person who could explain the rules and get them started, they took to most of the games like ducks to water. What follows is a list of games that we brought/taught, along with some notes on the response to them.

Standing Ovation
  • Carabande was insanely popular... I set up a track with 2 basic sets & 1 action set. (Aaron then spent a half hour "tuning" it... using slips of paper as shims to smooth out the surface.) There was never more than a 5 minute lull at the Carabande table... it was played the entire two days.
  • Diamant was also a hit... invariably, we would teach/play a game with a group of kids, who would promptly ask if they could play it again. We left Diamant out on the table both days and it saw regular play. (I also participated in my first game of Diamant in which we RAN OUT of diamonds... talk about your big money games!) [Note: Diamant, which has been overpriced in the original German edition, will be released here in America as Inca Gold later this year. The $15.00 MSRP is much more reasonable!]
  • The third game that saw nearly constant play was Blokus... a bit of a surprise, considering that it's best with 4 players and a bit slower in speed. Of course, the primary Blokus players were adults.
  • Jungle Speed also went over well. It wasn't played constantly, but it was easy to get a game started. (I also witnessed the most physical game of Arriba/Jungle Speed I've ever seen... they played that the stick was "live" even when it went off the table. So when it bounced under the table, there went three football player-looking guys after it. Yikes!)
  • Pickomino was the favorite of another group... even when they played with a full complement of 7 players! (For the record, I think the game is best with 4-5 players.)

Sustained Applause

  • We had good success with Igloo Pop, though the level of noise in the convention area made hearing the rattle a bit difficult.
  • Circus Flohcati was another game that I enjoyed teaching to several groups - and one junior high kid fell in love with it and taught all of his friends.
  • There was one youth leader that somehow sat through the rules explanation to Saboteur - then gathered his youth group & taught it to them. Success... though a surprise to me. (It's a very "gamer-y" filler game.)
  • I tried to avoid OOP games (OK, I did bring Carabande), but I knew from long experience that Tohu Wabohu works like a charm with students. It didn't fail me this time - the group I taught it to played 3 times in a row.
  • I also brought two of my Christmas gift games from my wife, Ice Cream & Fjords. Both went over well with the groups we taught them to. (Fjords was actually taught to a pair of guys during a very slow period on the 2nd evening.)

Thunderous Silence

  • Take 6 (well, Category 5) didn't work well at all - which surprised me to no end. I've always found this game easy to grasp & teach. But I think the combination of inexperienced non-gamers & convention hall background distractions kept this one from clicking.
  • Villa Paletti was also a bust - I just didn't take into account how long it takes to grok the rules to this one. Yes, it looks cool, but it's too easy to treat it like Jenga, when it's actually a very different kind of game. (The cool look did come in handy when I was setting up my session room.)

As well, I used Halli Galli, Tohu Wabohu & Bongo during my "hot topic" sessions - I got to speak about using board games to further youth ministry 3 different times. Thanks to Knucklebones for the giveaway magazines... and to GameSurplus for arranging a special discount for folks who came to my classes.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...


It was more than a pleasure having you at Tsunami. Thank you so much for all your hard work.

Mr. Bo