Queen Games, Escape, & RECON!

A huge thank you to Queen Games!

Last summer at Origins I met Travis from Queen Games and we started discussing the class. I showed him a list of games we used. His response: “I see a big problem with the games you have…none of ours are listed.” I told him I wanted to add Escape: Curse of the the Temple for the class but didn’t have enough money in my grant I received to purchase it. Fast forward to today and the copies arrived in my office!

Queen Games: Escape: Curse of the Temple

Escape is a game I wanted for the class because I think it shows many key aspects of leadership. One I want to focus on right now is the urgency and quick decision making that are often required in leadership. Frequently in leadership snap decisions must be made. With those decisions come consequences. Escape simulates that with the real-time frantic dice rolling mechanic and the decisions that must be made. “Should I dive deeper to get more treasure? Should we all stick together or split up? What will be best for the team to succeed?” Tied to that is a risk taking element which is also critical to leadership.

They also donated a copy for RECON. RECON is the annual convention for the League of Geeks. The League is an umbrella student organization working with 16 other student organizations to bring together people of many different geeky interests. RECON celebrates all things that make being a geek awesome. There will be board game areas (including a Play-and-Win section, video games, anime, pro wrestling games and viewings and much, much more! The highlight of the weekend for many will be a performance by hit musician Jonathan Coulton. RECON will be held Friday, February 22 through Sunday, February 24th in the Armstrong Student Center on Miami’s campus and is free for all to attend!

290T: Avalon

First day of classes are always interesting, but you never really meet anyone. Being able to play a game was a very new feel for meeting strangers, but I enjoyed it.

This class we played Avalon, a hidden role game which I have never played. However, My friends and I have been really into Secret Hitler recently because its a quick and very social game. It was interesting to play a similar style game with people I did not know, I personally think it is more fun with those you know.

As a very observant person at first, I was quick to pick up on the leadership and gameplay styles of those around me, which varied immensely. The easiest personality to find was the emerging leader, who was fantastic at getting the ball rolling with strangers and often helped others strategize, but instantly had a target on their back for the game. I found it very interesting to see this target taken on so quickly when I had not seen the same in my group of friends who know each other. I guess the game truly depends on judgements of others actions and when there is no baseline, it makes the game that much more difficult.

Overall I enjoyed the game, although I did get lost quickly in the technicalities of who had seen who. Personally I really enjoy social games as a whole because it keeps everyones attention for the time and is the only topic people are discussing. It shows the investment people are willing to make for a well-designed game.

Wingspan and Leadership

As promised I’m going to occasionally review how games I’ve played tie in to learning and/or leadership development in one way or another. Some will have leadership demonstrated in game. Others will help improve skills that I feel are important to leadership. I suppose an example would be beneficial here. In Werewolf you will see people step up and use their leadership skills both to deceive others and/or to help them make decisions. You clearly see the First Follower concept showing up in Werewolf.  In Escape: The Curse of the Temple people will enhance their quick decision making skills. There are many more aspects I could use for those and other games but wanted to use that as a quick example.

So today’s game? Wingspan by Stonemaier Games, designed by Elizabeth Hargrave.

Wingspan by Stonemaier Games.

Wingspan by Stonemaier Games.

I won’t be providing a traditional review for the game nor a how to play. There are others that can do that much better than I can so linking to them will have to prove to be enough for me for that. Instead what I want to provide is how I see this game being used for educational purposes, and in particular for leadership. Before I get there I will say a few words about the game.

Wingspan is an engine-building game for 1-5 players. The game focuses on attracting birds to your wildlife preserve. I’ve played several two player games, one three player and one five player game. I’ve found it excellent at all player counts (though better in person than the one time I played on Tabletopia, but I think that can be said for most games).  Wingspan has proven to be extremely popular every time I’ve played it. The most recent time was the five player game I played this past Tuesday with members of Miami’s Strategy Gaming Club. Not only did the group playing the game enjoy the game, many other members of the group stopped over, watched and wanted to play. Wingspan is beautiful, has a unique theme, and they could tell we were loving every minute of playing it. Wingspan, in my experience, has also been a very balanced game. There are games I thought I was getting destroyed in that would come down 5 points or less either way.

So-how can Wingspan be used in an educational setting and how do I see leadership being developed through Wingspan?

For the first part I can go the easiest of potential ways first. When we were playing people were reading and occasionally sharing the facts about the birds. Each bird in the game is unique and they all have facts on them to learn about that bird. They all have different nest types, number of eggs, preferred or required food and habitats and more. People were discussing the behavior of the birds (My owl sure is eating a lot.) This can lead to great discussions about the birds. However, as I mentioned, that is the easy and most obvious aspect of learning that can be done. It is a very important part as Elizabeth Hargrave clearly put in a lot of time and effort to work on making this game and it shows in these details. She did the research and it comes through. I never thought of the varied number of birds in North America until I saw just how many cards there were in the game.

I think the more important educational or training benefit (and how it ties to leadership) is the strategic planning the engine building requires. There are a lot of decisions that need to be made in the game that require you to think sometimes 10 steps ahead with limited knowledge. That is what leadership is often. You have to make decisions and set a plan with only part of what you need to know and adapt as you go. Repeated plays of this game help you develop those skills.

When I was introducing the game Tuesday I said that it was “easy to learn but tough to master” and that is true. Tuesday was my second lowest scoring of the six games I’ve played of Wingspan and it leads largely to me not planning properly. Whereas Abbey, the player to my immediate right developed a plan from her initial hand of cards and plotted out a plan for how to play her birds she kept that took two rounds to fully develop but lead to her winning the game (by the biggest scoring margin I have seen in the game) I gave my plays less thought and it showed in the final scores.

A game of Wingspan near conclusion

The decisions and risks that must be taken are easily transferable to leadership. “Do I put this bird that gives me eggs in the grasslands which produce eggs to increase egg production even more or do I place it in my forest so I may never have to visit the grasslands?” “Playing this bird that requires an egg to trigger an effect and immediately after playing a bird in the same habitat that gives me eggs will help me tremendously.” “Should I focus on my goal, the public goals, eggs, points from large birds, or another strategy?” Working through these decisions (and the discussions I saw about the strategies throughout the game and after the game was completed are critical practice for real life leadership in any area.

Wingspan is an excellent addition to any game collection and I dare say schools and libraries should consider adding this to their collection. Not only is it a well made game that is fun to play, it is a great tool for skill development and helps people learn and be more interested in learning more about birds (which admittedly outside of knowing we had a bird watching club – Birders of Miami University– I had never given much thought to).

Tabletop Game Benefits

Clearly I’m a strong believer in the benefit of Tabletop Games for different aspects of personal growth including leadership. Here is a story I found that shows people discussing how a local gaming establishment has helped them in a number of ways.

This semester I’ll be starting my fourth semester of teaching this class and we will have a number of blogs and assignments on here from students. At the same point, I haven’t been contributing as much as I should and I intend to start doing more here again.

One thing I’m thinking about doing is doing some reviews about how I can see different leadership lessons in different games. So kind of a break down of what we do in the class but also other games. What leadership concepts do I see arise in Dinosaur Island? In Wingspan? Or other games I play. Not sure the frequency but hope that will be interesting content for people who stumble across this corner of the world to consider.


Week 13 – Final Project Previews

This week in class, after a relaxing Thanksgiving break, we all had the opportunity to play test each other’s final projects, a self-made game designed by either an individual student or team of students. Over the course of the class, I was able to test a couple of games, while at the same time run through the prototype of my own. However, for now I will be discussing the games I tested as a player, in order to provide my opinions on the designs my peers had made.

The first game I had the pleasure of playing was a deck building game that took place in Gotham City, where each player could play as a member of Batman’s rouges gallery. Right off the bat I was intrigued due to my love for comics, though I had not played many deck builder games, learning it took a bit of time. During the game, the goal was to take control of Gotham as a whole, so it also had elements of an area control game on top of a deck builder. After only being able to play it for 20 minutes, I can say it was very easy to understand conceptually after a short amount of time, though it definitely seemed a bit overwhelming at first. I wish I had more time to play it to see more elements, such as combat or traps, but unfortunately, there was no time.

The second game I played was actually a hidden role game titled, “The Masks we Hide Behind”. Mostly an introspection on depression and the social interactions that come from it (along with other mental illnesses), this game felt very powerful in its message. Although when tested, it lacked structure outside of its hidden roles. Players were assigned a role at random, and were expected to display traits of those with an illness that corresponded with the role. However, there was an added element of whether that person was “Stable”, “Moderate”, or “Critical”, so that provided more to the gameplay. The goal of the game was to be able to guess each person’s role correctly by the end based on their mannerisms from the roles they received. The foundation of this game was strong, and I hope it obtains more structure beyond its base to become even stronger.

I feel that leadership was everywhere during this class, with students leading these projects they had meticulously created, trying to find flaws for improvement. It takes strong leadership to analyze your work, to keep what is good and improve on what is incomplete. That kind of constructive self-criticism is a sign of great leadership, at least in my personal opinion.

I know a friend of mine here at Miami who is very passionate about comic books, so I know that deck building game would appeal to him greatly. Perhaps when that student finishes iterating, I might borrow his game to play it with that friend. Either way, I am extremely interested in seeing where all these projects go in design in the final week(s) of the semester.

Week 11 and 12- T.I.M.E Stories

Over the course of two weeks in class, we had the opportunity to play what was probably the most complicated game yet – T.I.M.E Stories. This game had many elements that we had already experienced (ex. different roles, resources, etc.), but added on were puzzles, encounters, and a complex stat system for each player. T.I.M.E Stories in essentially a mystery game, where your characters, a band of time warriors, are sent to a certain place to solve the cause of an anomaly. To solve this mystery, you need to talk to certain NPCs (Non-Playable Characters), unlock new locations, decode certain messages, etc. There are multiple ways to go about certain situations, but time runs out the longer encounters last. That time is the biggest factor, running out means having to start over, including losing most resources.

The group that I was in when we played this had to investigate an insane asylum, while taking over the bodies of certain inmates. We had to adopt these inmates issues as we went along, so that added an extra layer to the already complex gameplay. The hardest part of the game, in my opinion, was trying to determine which action was the best going forward. Since your group wants to finish as quickly as possible, you need to avoid unnecessary encounters. However, without ever playing the game before, the scenarios are completely new, so the swiftest action is never clear-cut. For example, my group had to restart the entire mission because we wasted time on a lead that ended up being a red herring. Finding the right path to follow was definitely the most challenging aspect of the game, but was by no means frustrating.

Leadership during T.I.M.E Stories was more or less individual based, with certain players taking responsibilities to go to certain locations on their own. The confidence to make your own decisions was a big factor during the course of the game. When puzzles came around, particularly one that played a huge factor towards the end of the game, certain leaders emerged by presenting ideas that ultimately led the group toward the goal. While disagreements as to what course of action should be next did take place, overall my group were willing to listen to one another and help each other in any way possible, which in my opinion are strong traits of leadership.

I know for a fact that my family back home would love this game, because they take a lot of enjoyment out of intellectually challenging themselves. I myself would never buy this game personally, for it is fairly expensive for what is practically one narrative, but if it is available to rent I highly recommend it.

Week 11 – T.I.M.E. Stories

In class this past week we began playing the board game T.I.M.E. stories. This game has far exceeded my expectations, and while it is at first difficult to grasp, it does become easier to understand as you play. The most difficult part of T.I.M.E. Stories so far (we are continuing the game next week, and the box is designed to allow players to save their game, which is an extremely cool feature) has been the limited amount of time you receive when starting your mission. This is not something you can really avoid or strategize around because the amount of time you lose each turn is determined by chance via a dice roll. However instead of losing the game once you run out of time, the game simply re-sets and forces your team to go back through previous steps with clues in your mind as to how to complete the mission more efficiently. Overall it has a really unique take, but is incredibly frustrating, since the group loses so much progress.

The leadership topics covered in this game are attention to detail, conveying information/collaboration, and ambiguity, amongst others. The attention to detail aspects come up in the game play. Players must pay close attention the clues they are provided and the details within each clue because once time runs out you lose a lot of the information you learned. Additionally only the players on the designated spaces are able to read the clues in their entirety, and as a result they must be able to convey that information to other players so that the team stays on the same page. Lastly, the game is extremely ambiguous because each destination/room you choose has its own set of unknown outcomes. Each player has to make choices on their own and ultimately each choice can have a major impact on the team. The qualities are important in leadership, because good leaders must pay attention to cues from their team members, and be extremely organized and detail oriented in order to ensure success for their teams. Additionally leaders have to be able to convey their ideas to others, so that people can join and understand the groups overall goals. Lastly, a good leader must be comfortable with ambiguity and change; leaders often prepare for one thing and end up dealing with something entirely different, so they must be able to adapt.

I would recommend this game to anyone who loves escape rooms or adventure/mystery stories. It has a really similar feel to an escape room in that you are trying to piece together clues, it can only be played once per story, and that there are a lot of unknown components that reveal themselves to players as they go. The game also does a great job of immersing players in the story and theme, similarly to an escape room. I would recommend this game to my friend Brooke, she is my escape room buddy and we have done over 30 rooms together. The game has a lot of elements that I explained above that she would definitely enjoy!

Week 1 – Avalon

In EDL290T, we recently played a game called The Resistance: Avalon. It wasn’t the first time I played this game; Avalon was a staple of academic team game nights last year, and I usually enjoyed playing a round or two with my friends.

As usual, I found the hardest part of the game to be the element of deception that accompanies it. It is very difficult to play this game without some form of deception, and this is all the more apparent when playing on the red, or evil, team. When we played in class for the first time, I was saddled with being on the side of the subversive enemies of Arthur and his knights. I couldn’t wait for the round to be over. I didn’t even mind when we lost the game after failing to sabotage even one mission; being on the bad team just causes me that much stress.

Fortunately, I was on the good side for the next two rounds. In the second round, I was Percival, and I didn’t do a very good job of identifying Merlin. Evan’s Morgana was just way too convincing, I guess, so we lost. I was Merlin in the next round, and the assassin failed to divine my identity after the third successful mission, so we won! Kudos to our Percival, who did a stellar job of protecting my identity.

In terms of the leadership components of the game, a pattern that I notice when playing this game is that, inevitably, a table “leader” emerges.This is someone who shapes the discourse occurring within the context of the game, someone who is able to sway people’s opinions towards their own hidden agenda. Sometimes this person is the Merlin, Morgana, or Percival, but oftentimes I find that it’s just the person who isn’t afraid to take charge, regardless of their role. You hope that this person is on your team, or maybe you’re confident enough that this king-making position can be yours.

I think my mom would enjoy this game. She’s a fan of hidden-role games, so this would probably be right up her alley.

Week 10 – Captain Sonar

In week #10 we played the game Captain Sonar. This has by far been one of my favorite games this semester, simply for the game play variety it offers. We were able to play this game three times, and in each game I played a different role. In game #1 I played as the Engineer, in game #2 the Captain/First Mate and game #3 the radio operator. Captain Sonar is interesting because each player has a different task which has major implications on the team. The game lends itself very well to the inner working of an organization or business because each team member has an important role to play.

Additionally the game has a unique approach to leadership, and incorporates a system of checks and balances. While the Captain is the ultimate leader (deciding which direction the submarine will travel), the engineer has the ability to tell the captain that they cannot go in a certain direction. This balance of power creates a really unique element in this game. At the same time, the engineer, first mate and captain have to communicate about which systems are operational, while the radio operator has to listen to the opposition to determine the location of the opposing team’s sub. As a result you have a real time game with lots of communication, checks and balances, chaos and fun!

The most difficult part of the game depends on which role you are playing; but ultimately boils down to not being entirely in control of your own role. As the engineer you are relying on the captain, who is likewise relying on the instruction of the first mate, engineer and radio operator. The game is dependent on clear communication, guidance and teamwork. Each of these topics is important in leadership, because a good leader has to communicate with their team members and work together, but also needs to guide their team in the right direction and rely on the help of others too. Captain Sonar is an amazing game to use if you want to teach people that leadership can be found within each member of a team, even if it is not overtly clear upon first look!

I would recommend this game to my uncle. He enjoys playing games that are fast paced and revolve around communication. Captain Sonar offers a lot of variety in its set up and is definitely a game you want to play with people who can handle pressure and stress well!

Week 9 – Ultimate Werewolf

In week #9 the class played Ultimate Werewolf. Ultimate Werewolf is a role playing card game similar to Mafia, in which players are randomly assigned a role on the team of the villagers or the werewolves. The goal of each team is to eliminate the opposing team via killing players during the night or voting to kill players during the day. In this game I was a member of the villager’s team and had the role of Witch, and had the special ability to save one player and kill one player at any time during the game. The most difficult part of playing the role of the witch was deciding when to use my extra power. I ultimately chose to save a player in the night following the killing of the wolf cub (during this night the werewolves can kill two players). However, overall the most difficult part of this game is determining who is on your side, who is telling the truth and who to nominate to kill. This is particularly tricky because people can choose to say whatever they want, and no one ever gives much of a reason to trust them.

The topics surrounding leadership that are present in this game are definitely teamwork and trust. In the game it is vital that you determine who is on your side and that you share appropriate information to figure out who the werewolves are. Due to the nature of the game, trust is also extremely important, because you often are taking peoples word to heart. A leader needs to have trust in others around them and believe in the team that surround them, as well as work together well with others to accomplish their goals.

I would recommend this game to my group of friends that partakes in alternative spring break trips. When we go on these trips we always play Mafia. However, werewolf offers more specific roles and is easier to explain and set up (comes with rules and cards). We all love playing mafia, so Ultimate Werewolf could be a nice change of pace while still allowing us to play the random role playing type game we love!