Mike Bialecki
United States
Costa Mesa
California
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The first official meeting of the Hawes Elementary Family Board Game Club is Friday and my wife and I are the organizers and leaders. Our daughter is a kindergartener at the school. We already had a test meeting with the principal, a PTA parent, and their kids, which went pretty well and thus a club was born.

The club is for families. Parents must attend and participate with their children. The idea is to try and keep each game as close to a 1 adult : 1 child ratio as possible.

My wife and I are supplying the games. I made a GeekList of them here. I think the star of the show will be Ticket to Ride: First Journey, so I purchased two copies of it during the recent Target sales.

I have some concerns:

The event is right when school ends (2:30 pm) to 4:30, so that only families who pick their kids up this early can attend. Will this limit attendance too much?

Will the fact that it’s on a Friday be a problem? The principal seems to think so, but it’s the only day my wife and I can do it.

Will my daughter behave? Ok, this one you probably can’t help me with, but she is used to playing games with just my wife and I. When confronted with a bunch of other kids and when she’s not the center of our attention, will she stay focused on the game?

Taking everything into consideration, I’ll be surprised if we get more than a couple families. But if it does have very low attendance, I told the principal that I’d be willing to keep it going to see if we can’t slowly develop a bigger following.

Does anybody have any pro-tips or suggestions?

EDIT:
I learned far too late that the school was having a major event on the same day as the first board game club meeting. They didn't overlap, but kids were going to be exhausted afterwards. We got one third-grader and her mother. We all played Ticket to Ride: First Journey together (the third-grader won), and then we did a nice relaxed round of Big Picture Apples to Apples,since my daughter can't read well enough for Apples to Apples Junior. Everybody enjoyed this one and my daughter managed to pull off a legitimate victory (we made sure everyone kept their cards secret, despite what the rules suggest). I don't know what conclusions I can draw from this. I was quite sure we wouldn't get anybody, so it was nice that at least one family showed up. Everybody did well and said they plan to attend the next meeting, so I'd say it was an overall success.

My daughter's behavior wasn't ideal, but she did about as well as you would expect from a 5 year old. There were two things she kept doing. She kept wanting to show them the other games, while we were playing one and she was the master of non-sequiturs. "Do you want to see the prizes I got today? Let me go get them," "My cat's name is Mr. P" This is fine and it's actually pretty cute, but it was drawing away from her focus on the game and I was getting self-conscious about it. The others didn't seem to mind, so I should just relax, I guess.
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Zedward Teach
Canada
Ontario
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Re: Wish me luck. The first meeting of an elementary school family board game club is Friday.

A small turn out could be a good thing in the long run.
Be really well prepared with the games you go with, and the people who do show will have a great time and spread the word.
A small snack would win some votes (the kids will be getting hungry by then). I know you don't want it near the games, but it could be a case of; 'Have a snack while we explain the rules', then pack it away when the games start.

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Mike Bialecki
United States
Costa Mesa
California
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Re: Wish me luck. The first meeting of an elementary school family board game club is Friday.
Salt n Pepper Beard wrote:

A small snack would win some votes (the kids will be getting hungry by then). I know you don't want it near the games, but it could be a case of; 'Have a snack while we explain the rules', then pack it away when the games start.


Fantastic idea. It didn't even cross my mind.

I thought the same thing about a small turn out. Since it will only be my wife and I explaining rules, we can only accommodate two tables simultaneously.
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Oliver Dienz
United States
Shelburne
Vermont
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Re: Wish me luck. The first meeting of an elementary school family board game club is Friday.
Great idea and best of luck. I just started at family game club (for all ages) at our local library so a few pointers from my first impressions.

Weather has so far had a huge impact on turnout. The worse it is the more people are coming. However, that may not apply in CA as much.

I suggest not going in with the attitude that you will be playing a lot of games. I am usually busy in helping to pick out games and teaching them. Only at the end I may have time to play a small filler game but I consider that a bonus.

I second the suggestion with the snacks: Have been a huge hit for us.

Your meeting time may be problematic: When my kids (11 and 8) come home from school they are exhausted and want to have some time to mentally relax. If your kids could spend just 15 min on a playground between end of school and starting the game club that may work wonders in keeping their attention during the games.

I looked at your list; a great set of small children's games but not so much for the 8 to 10 crowd. Do you not expect any 3rd to 5th graders to attend?

Your club sounds like a great addition to an afterschool program which would also guarantee you a large attendance. Anything like that offered by your school?

With your daughter: I assume she knows some or most of the games. Let her help explain one or two easy ones. You could help her prepare already tonight.

Not sure how much it is needed for your games but I found cheat-sheets to be invaluable in helping me to teach the games.

And finally: Go in it with an open mind. Even if it is just one other family, as long as they are having fun you achieved something. Also, tailor your games to the audience. Let them play whatever they would like to. Once you have regulars you can still expose them to "better" games. (I have games like Scrabble, Monopoly, and Apples to Apples around just for those first-timers that need something familiar.)
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Nick Oz
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Litchfield
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Re: Wish me luck. The first meeting of an elementary school family board game club is Friday.
I also run a kids game night at my local library advertised for 7+ but as long as they respect the games, can take turns and can handle losing (and sometimes winning) then age doesn't really matter. I bring a few of the same games in your list. The most favorite game by far has been PitchCar, everyone always wants to play this game. Fastrack, Maze Racers and Indigo also all get a lot of plays as does a few on your list.

odie73 wrote:
Weather has so far had a huge impact on turnout. The worse it is the more people are coming.

I've found the opposite when the weather is bad we seem to have worse turn out.
odie73 wrote:
I suggest not going in with the attitude that you will be playing a lot of games.

If any. I will play sometimes but usually end up helping, depends on turn out and if its all people who come regularly or new people.
odie73 wrote:
Go in it with an open mind. Even if it is just one other family, as long as they are having fun you achieved something.

This. There are nights when it is just me, my daughter and one other kid but then another night I'll have 15 kids.

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Mike Bialecki
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Costa Mesa
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Re: Wish me luck. The first meeting of an elementary school family board game club is Friday.
odie73 wrote:
Weather has so far had a huge impact on turnout. The worse it is the more people are coming. However, that may not apply in CA as much.


Yeah. Weather is not an issue over here. I grew up in Michigan where the school cafeteria and gymnasium were the central features of every school. It freaked me out when I realized my daughter's school here in costal southern California simply doesn't have a gymnasium or cafeteria. Kids eat and have P.E. outside - year around.

odie73 wrote:
I suggest not going in with the attitude that you will be playing a lot of games. I am usually busy in helping to pick out games and teaching them. Only at the end I may have time to play a small filler game but I consider that a bonus.


I found this out with the "test-run" we had. It doesn't really bother me, but I think experienced adult board gamers can add a lot to the experience of a board game. We know how to get into the theme of a game. We know how to keep a game going. We know just the right kind of "trash-talk" that can make fun and competitive environment. I know it helps my daughter keep her interest in the hobby.

odie73 wrote:
I looked at your list; a great set of small children's games but not so much for the 8 to 10 crowd. Do you not expect any 3rd to 5th graders to attend?


I prefer the older students and hope we get a bunch. In my limited experience with 8-10 year olds from non-gamer families, games like Ticket to Ride: First Journey and Catan Junior are sufficiently challenging. I know *adults* who prefer Catan Junior.

One of my secret agendas is to teach kids how to play the Pokemon TCG. The number of kids who collect the cards without having a clue as to how to play the game is a tragedy to me. When I was 8 years old, collecting Star Wars cards, I would have given anything to also be able to play an official game with them. I've been working on my daughter since she was 4.5, so I have about a six training decks to work with.


odie73 wrote:
Your club sounds like a great addition to an afterschool program which would also guarantee you a large attendance. Anything like that offered by your school?


My daughter is in the YMCA after-school program on campus. I've talked to the director about it. Her enthusiasm wasn't quite as great as the principal's. If the school club takes off, I'll revisit the YMCA.

odie73 wrote:
Let them play whatever they would like to.


I agree with this only to a point. In our test-run, a family came in while I was explaining another game. I was hoping they'd just wait for me to help them select a game. But they didn't and went straight to Dino Race. Dino Race is not a bad game, but the scoring can get a little "rulesy" and the game can drag on. I would never recommend it for absolute beginners. Sure enough, the adults were complaining about the rules and the game dragged on as I predicted. I think, as the "expert", it's up to me to help people figure out what they should start with and then let them go from there.
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shumyum
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Re: Wish me luck. The first meeting of an elementary school family board game club is Friday.
I ran a chess/games club when my twins were going through elementary. It was truly great except for one aspect: some of the other parents. Your plan is a little different from my set up but your plan may exacerbate the problem.

I had two other parent regulars but other parents were welcome. The problem was that some parents took it way too seriously...they looked on chess and other games as an EDUCATIONAL EXPERIENCES....not as FUN. It caused all sorts of problems: making winning a big deal, very strict adherence to the rules, expecting good strategy, etc.

I don't really have any advice except to be on the look out for it. I wonder if you really need/want mandatory parent involvement. Might be better to get a cadre of like-minded parents to be regulars.

Lastly, I was surprised to find young kids take to abstract games more than the typical adult. And two player games keeps some the the inherent chaos in check.

Anyway, good luck! I had a great time doing it.
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Mike Bialecki
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Costa Mesa
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Re: Wish me luck. The first meeting of an elementary school family board game club is Friday.
shumyum wrote:

I had two other parent regulars but other parents were welcome. The problem was that some parents took it way too seriously...they looked on chess and other games as an EDUCATIONAL EXPERIENCES....not as FUN. It caused all sorts of problems: making winning a big deal, very strict adherence to the rules, expecting good strategy, etc.


Could that be the chess part of it? I haven't ever been in a chess community before, but I have the impression that chess brings out that sort of attitude more than casual board games. Fortunately, there is already a fee-based Chess "club" at the school.

shumyum wrote:

Lastly, I was surprised to find young kids take to abstract games more than the typical adult. And two player games keeps some the the inherent chaos in check.


That's good to know. I have Qwirkle. Maybe I should pick up a copy of Hive or something. I also have all the GIPF stuff, but that might be too much?
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shumyum
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Re: Wish me luck. The first meeting of an elementary school family board game club is Friday.
mbialeck wrote:

shumyum wrote:

Lastly, I was surprised to find young kids take to abstract games more than the typical adult. And two player games keeps some the the inherent chaos in check.


That's good to know. I have Qwirkle. Maybe I should pick up a copy of Hive or something. I also have all the GIPF stuff, but that might be too much?


If anything, Hive might be the game that is too complex. But the 4th-6th graders will definitely like Gipf games which after all have fewer rules than Hive. Also, don't discount backgammon, chess, checkers and go. The older kids will love Hearts. I know they might seem boring to you, but they are new and fun to the younger kids.

Edit: Also, Mancala and Awale. Young (and old) kids LOVE those games.
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Oliver Dienz
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So how did it go? I am always looking for other experiences with non-gamers to see what I can eventually improve in my club. Would be great if you can post some impressions.
 
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Mike Bialecki
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odie73 wrote:

So how did it go? I am always looking for other experiences with non-gamers to see what I can eventually improve in my club. Would be great if you can post some impressions.


I added a note on how it went as an "EDIT" to the original post. I'll update this post again after the next meeting in January.
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Thank you for the heads up. I am interested in making something similar so your insights are precious. I would say from my experience that kids that can concentrate enough to play in a family setting can be more distracted with other kids and strangers. I think keeping the games simple with laid back mechanics is your best bet.
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Mike Bialecki
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Moshimon wrote:
I would say from my experience that kids that can concentrate enough to play in a family setting can be more distracted with other kids and strangers. I think keeping the games simple with laid back mechanics is your best bet.


Yeah. That's definitely my experience as well. My daughter can play some relatively complex games with my wife and I. However, anytime we try to arrange a board game play date, it fails miserably.
 
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Oliver Dienz
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Shelburne
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mbialeck wrote:
odie73 wrote:

So how did it go? I am always looking for other experiences with non-gamers to see what I can eventually improve in my club. Would be great if you can post some impressions.


I added a note on how it went as an "EDIT" to the original post. I'll update this post again after the next meeting in January.

Thanks for the update and sorry I missed the edit. You may have more interest in January. Our gameclub's attendance just took a nosedive yesterday. I presume Christmas season is just way too busy and the schedule already full for most people. Good luck with your next meeting.
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