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Subject: Being a Geek Ambassador rss

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Bob McMurray
United States
La Grange
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One characteristic, nay responsibility, of all boardgame geeks world-wide is to ambassador this fun hobby. Here in the US it can be very difficult as, after being immersed within the roll-and-move pandemic of Monopoly and Life, virtually every adult's eyes glaze over at the mere mention of board games. Perhaps if their TV sets had told them it was cool to play modern boardgames they would - too bad Ross and Rachel never played Settlers of Catan in any episode. It's a shame really, and yet, I plug ahead.

One strategy that I have employed is getting to them early. I started with my own three children whose ages now range from 10 to 15. They are all certified geeks, I would say, and yet they all have their own distinct tastes which I am now starting to identify. I also get their friends involved and it has been a fairly successful strategy up to this point.

And so, it is with great pride that I discover, 30 minutes before it is to start, that my 12 yo daughter, along with her troop-leader mom, have organized a "game night" party for their entire girl scout troop! My daughter asks me if we have "typed" rules (winging it verbally is NOT satisfactory for my very organized daughter) for Werewolf. My daughter loves to play Werewolf but refuses to acknowledge the theme - kind of like when she was little and on our trip to Hawaii discovered she really liked 'calamari' but refused to call it squid! She learned Werewolf this past Christmas when we slapped a Grinch/Who theme on to Werewolf and thrust it upon our unsuspecting clan at our (large) family Christmas gathering. It was a big hit. Hey - like I said, I'm trying to find ways to get these cool games into people's lives. So tonight no Werewolf/villager instead it will be Boy Scout/Cadet Girl Scout and I'm busily making global replaces in my downloaded rules file.

When I get downstairs the first guest has arrived, who is a terrific young lady, and my daughter says, "guess what Dad, Haley likes games but wants to learn games that are 'beyond Monopoly and Life'". She hates those. Wow, I'm skeptical but pleased we're off to such a good start. A few more show up and, since they're all kind of milling about and the remainder of the throng hasn't shown up, I figured it might be a good time for a filler game. My daughter owns and loves Guillotine and since it's quick and fun I suggest a quick game with my daughter, myself, and 4 cadet Girl Scouts. I figure it's best to have a fun game going while others show up so that the new arrivals can readily get excited about what's going on, it's quick and easy, and besides - I'm leaving for an awesome jazz show at the 'Green Mill' in 30 minutes anyway.

I say "have you ladies studied the French Revolution yet in school"? A few manage to regurgitate the names of "Louis XVI" and "Marie Antoinette". Pretty good - I tell them that this is a funny game about the French people who revolted against their nobility and we get to play the side of the revolutionaries. It's at this point that the wheels start to come off of the cart a bit and I need to exercise some patience. I thought 7th graders would be able to grasp the concept of "on your turn you play one action card and then behead one noble". The cards are dealt out and the 12 nobles are on the table for Day One. Time to get started!

Wait, hold on...

Girl scouts: "I don't get it"..."Wait, I have a question"...

Dad/daughter: Read your cards and decide which one to play. You want to get the nobles with the highest point values.

Girl scouts: "Wait, I have a question!"..."I don't get it"...

Dad/daughter: Go ahead what's your question?

Girl scout: "I don't get it."

Dad/daughter: What don't you get?

Girl scout: What does this card do?

Dad/daughter: Read what's on the card and do what it says. You have 5 cards in your hand and you'll have to figure out which one to play when it gets to your turn.

Girl scouts: "Huh?"

Dad: {A bit non-plussed at this point) Don't they teach you guys anything at that school?

Girl scouts: "NOOOOOOO!!! Nothing!"

Dad/daughter: Well, let's just get started. Grace you go first.

Grace: Um, I'll just play this one...[Move a noble exactly 4 spaces forward]

Dad: But that means you have to take the Sherriff (1 point) instead of the Heretic (2 points). Why did you play that card...because it was the top one in your hand?!?"

Grace: Yeah.

Dad/daughter: Well - take it back and do over. You see now what it's about a little?

Grace: Yeah. - [Rearrange the first 4 nobles in line]

She now gets the Cardinal (5 points); very good Grace. Around the table it goes and some of the Girl Scouts try to be funny by continuing to say things like "Oh I don't care...Whatever...I don't get it". As the table basically let's it be known that this isn't what we're here for one Girl Scout drops out and goes to listen to bad, loud, bubble gum music with late-arrivers and a new arriver steps in who now needs to learn the rules. This happens again at that seat all before the end of the first day. Finally a proto-gamer who arrives late sits in that seat and we have a decent game of 6 player Guillotine.

That music keeps getting louder and louder and distracts the less-committed players at the table and I try to keep them engaged by reminding them what their scores are and what they need to continue to do. My daughter and I also try to explain what cards can keep them from taking the negative point cards. It works ok...thankfully the days are speeding by. The cadet Girl Scouts do want to join in the group activity sooner than later. By the 3rd day most of the girls are not even bothering with their action cards and are just taking whoever is in the front of the line. This serves to move the game along, which they like, and also serves to remove the chaotic nature of the game's tactics - which is really the heart and soul of Guillotine. That's ok - they can experience that part of the game some other time when they're less distracted.

With little action card fanfare the 3rd day ends and amazingly my score of 16 wins the game. I've never won this game before and I doubt I ever will again - and I've also never seen a winning score of less than 20. How funny! I gather the game up so it doesn't get lost or destroyed later as they all pounce over to the group and I then, happily, head out to the jazz club.

With my tiny social experiment/ambassadorship over it is time to document the results:

What we've got going FOR us

- exposed 6 young ladies to Guillotine
- showed an entire Girl Scout troop what a fantastic party game (Despite calls of "Let's play Charades") actually is (Werewolf)
- one openly, and unprompted, disclosed that she's ready for games which in her words 'are beyond Monopoly and Life'; she's hoping there are some!

(More) Things I learned about ambassadoring

- When a large group of kids gets together they're, generally, more interested in being silly and social then they will be in learning a game; - even one as "easy" as Guillotine. Despite the published agenda for their meeting - that's ok.

- Sadly, some people's minds may simply not be wired to be 'geeks; they'd rather dance to loud bubble gum music then play Werewolf or Apples to Apples or Guillotine (go figure). I still wonder if this is a uniquely American phenomenon

- It's a better tactic to pick them off one at a time...queue sinister laugh...

Next Steps

I think I'll have my daughter ask that one friend over who's "ready for games beyond Monopoly and Life" to learn Carcassone, Settlers, or Ticket to Ride!

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