Empire and Dreadball Coming – but not before the creation of a gaming club to fit them!

How long has it been since I last blogged?  How long?  Ok, so aside from holidays I have been a little busy, and ironically enough – with gaming and organising!  So busy that free time from gaming and organising really is not writing about it or reporting on it!  I have been on overload for about two months now – just ask my beautifuly and so very, very patient wife about it – and have truly been putting Trojan work into the establishment of a Games club in the school where I work.  It has taken off like you wouldn’t believe.

I began it as a single day video-gaming lunchtime activity for some interested kids during the winter months, but suggested that we build a community with it – broadened it to giving them a webpage and blog each, and a means of keeping track of scores and recording Tournament/League winners.  From here, we tried running it twice a week (losing one more lunch time, but what the feck, right?), which quickly spiraled out of control regarding both attendance and participation.  At this juncture, I proposed at the weekly team meeting (the students run it, I’m just facilitating and supervising for the school) – that we go unplugged for a fortnight and see what other games we could break into.  We had the following and interest, now was the time to focus our efforts on broadening the community. Lo and behold – doubt and dubious looks askance gave way to unbelievable delight as board, miniature and card games not only took hold, but sustainable hold over many of the lads involved.  Now the xbox is set to digital Thursday and every other day of the week is unplugged!

What is yet more interesting is that part of the appeal lies in the fact that many students don’t have the option of sitting down to game with family and friends anymore.  Not even ‘anymore’- it was never truly part of the current youth culture to begin with!  They play video-games, not boards or cards – and multiplayer to them usually means they’re alone and playing online, so the novelty of sitting opposite an opponent was relatively unique!  It piqued their interest enough to bring them in, and the inherent enjoyment led them to returning and establishing leagues and exhibition plays!  I got the school to give us something from the budget and cajoled a local art and hobby shop into spotting us a few bits and pieces towards the cause – including an old Realm of Battle gameboard, Big Red Rulebook and a few starter sets from GW.  I gave some of my own bits and pieces to flesh out options and painted models to go by, along with some multiples of paints I’ve had here from the older GW sets and terrain.  Gamer’s World in Dublin gave us some amazing deals on minis and Magic: The Gathering Cards too.   The biggest success story of the entire lot was West Wind’s Empire of the Dead, though.


I invested in this series as soon as it hit Dublin in Gamer’s World.  I picked up the book for a review, and fell in love with the simple rules and fast skirmish play.  As a fan of Malifaux, but not finding opponents easy to come by or ready to play too often, I felt that this new offering from West Wind was worth a look, and my it certainly is!  I like the atmosphere of Victorian cyber-punkesque Zombie-London.  I enjoy the weaving in of the popular fictional characters based from this celebrated period of British history and most of all, I like fast skirmish gameplay that concludes for lunchtime league play for the lads.  I picked up a box of each faction for the school and set about copying and laminating markers and statlines.  (I’ll leave the formal review of the game for another post, as it really does deserve a thorough guide  before I endorse it for everyone!  Suffice to say that it is really appealing for a lot of reasons, but the game really does stand up to gamer scrutiny in the broader sense too)

That was before Christmas, now in January, I have ten students who’ve bought at least one faction each, and another two dozen looking to play with the school sets to break into the game.  In the middle of all this, I’m still awaiting Dreadball which was lost in transit before Christmas.  I have some very psyched  students already naming their various teams in anticipation of the league to come!

As a club, it is moving from strength to strength – we have the numbers growing by the week here, and the amazing Gamer’s World has generously given members a great discount towards purchases and we’re constantly exploring different systems.  The big challenge of how to moderate the growing number of interests is something I’ll need to focus on and soon, but for the moment everything is working out well for the lads, and I’m delighted for the corner of the school they’re making their own – run by them, for them.

So…it has been how long since I last posted?  Now you see!  Getting this thing under control and expanding it towards others is a pretty big task for me at the moment.  Games by and large have passed me by while I’ve been the platform for others to game these past weeks.  After four gaming days a week, lunchtimes lost and preparation of new systems for the following set of days, blogging about games doesn’t come as natural as I’d like!  I can’t sound like I’m belly-achingtoo loudly though, as I am a happy victim of success here, and hope to complain about a lot more in the term to come!


6 responses to “Empire and Dreadball Coming – but not before the creation of a gaming club to fit them!

  1. Great news on the gaming group. Sounds like it’s quite a success and only getting better. Hopefully parents and other staff are being as supportive as necessary. Also, I have yet to take a close look at Empire of the Dead, although when first announced I thought I was going to pick it up for sure. If your review is good enough, maybe I will 😉

    • The real force here is the student body of gamers – staff are involved in other activities, and parents haven’t been asked to support financially or otherwise as yet – am hoping to keep it that way as much as pos! So far everything is fine – and if you are considering Empire, I’ll have that review up in the next post…sometime! It is worth it overall, though – but more reward packed into league than pick-up games provide in my opinion. West Wind as a company are top notch for support and assistance in getting the whole scene up and running too. Not every company goes the distance that they have to help the school club out, and for that alone they get a lot of respect from a teacher with a low budget and high aspirations!

    • Thanks! and yes – I teach highschool, or the Irish equivalent of it! The lads are great, and very motivated. They’re the dynamo that sustains the whole club, really. I’m just glad that the school can support them. I have to hand it to Gamer’s World in Dublin and West Wind especially for their help in getting the systems set up with bitz and prizes too!

  2. I love that you’ve had the motivation and support to run a gaming group like this in school. My first forray into wargaming began when I was about 14 and there was one other kid in the school who was into it too, with no other avenues open to meeting others (this was in ’94, so well before the web took hold). I would have loved to have an opportunity such as this.

    What really impresses me though is that you’ve had that much buy-in from the students. Tabletop gaming has never been, nor will is ever likely to be, seen as cool. Peer pressure in school and the need to fit in can be crippling for groups like this, and beyond giving kids a chance to actually roll some dice, it also helps to reinforce the idea that “cool” is totally subjective and that there are more options open beyond following the pack. It encourages kids to indulge in what they are interested in.

    Anyway, beneficial social side effects aside, great stuff! As I was reading, I was considering mentioning Blood Bowl as another option, but then I see that you have Dreadball on the way and I’ve heard good things about that game.

    So, good luck with the club and I hope it continues for a long time to come.

    • Thanks a million for the positive comment! The lads are really into developing the club – and tying in with videogames and cards presents the tabletop concept in a different light-not an isolated activity-but a central hub in the greater community of gamers.
      Bloodbowl is a great idea-thanks! Actuallyran Dreadball yesterday and today with just-based figures – roaring success! Will post on this later with a few pics, but this system has legs too-looking forward to leagues once we get the numbers in!
      What you said about your own intro in 1994 – mine was way late in life, but I’ve heard your story so often these past years, and I just wanted to offer something to these kids who don’t have that opportunity elsewhere – we’re in the middle of rural Ireland, and the nearest games shop is Dublin or online! I don’t know how long the community will last, but we’re doing our best here to promote the community and adapt the systems to suit!
      Thanks so much for the well-wishes – we need that kind of support too!

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