Friday Funday: Board Games in the Classroom

I teach special education, exceptional children, kids who have differences, differently abled kids–whatever you want to call it, that’s what I do. The kiddos I teach are amazing human beings. They struggle every day with things that others find easy, but, in so many important ways, they bring so much more to the table than so many others. I’ve worked with people with disabilities for almost 30 years, and one thing I have learned is that the more differences there are, the more things stay the same. 

Kids like games. That’s always true. Kids learn better by playing games. They don’t want to be tricked into learning, but they also don’t want to have to slog through a bunch of boring material to get to the result, where they have shoved a handful of facts into their brains long enough to put the answers down on the test and forget it all moments later. 

Although we still do a lot of traditional learning, the kids have really loved what we refer to as “Friday Funday”. I’m speaking about this here because I think it is important that parents, teachers, everyone knows just how important gaming can be to kids when they learn. 

A lot of games that are marketed to teachers are not really games at all. They are learning with a slightly “gamified” slant. My kids have always seen right through that and feel that they are being tricked. Like most of us, they want to learn things in a fun and exciting way, and in a way that is memorable. 

A student’s D&D character

One way that we do this on Friday Funday is picking specific games that teach a variety of skills but are still enjoyable. A lot of my kids are working on writing and putting together coherent sentences. Rory’s Story Cubes helps with this a lot. They roll out their stories and compose the little words in between. We also have a Dungeons and Dragons set of mini sessions that teach the same story telling without them really noticing. I even have one student who helps me work on a campaign I’m running for some teenagers. This student is a fantastically smart boy and wonderful, but often doesn’t want to engage in classroom work. But when it’s about building stats and writing back stories? We are ALL IN. The great thing about those games is that they also have a lot of collaboration. The kids work together and discuss. I feel that students learn better when they are bouncing ideas off one another and I step back to watch the learning happen but provide guidance where necessary. What kid loves listening to an adult talk for hours? They like my involvement, of course, but the point is that they are the ones learning and engaging with the material. If they are writing, telling stories, getting along–all of these are good things. 

Instant math skills!

Math can also be taught through games. D&D is, of course, a very math heavy game. Many of my students are learning basic math facts. They’ve been learning them for a long time and will continue to be learning them for a long time. Repetition is everything for my students. So, adding their ability modifiers to various rolls, subtracting health points (hopefully not that frequently!) and watching more than/less than for rolls are all very useful for my students. We play Dragonwood, which involves watching which numbers are the same and some basic addition and probability. 

We play Sleeping Queens, Codenames Pictures, Forbidden Island and Cube Quest. Some of these games have great applications to basic academics, but I also like to look for games that enhance social and emotional skills. My students often have services that require them to work on skills like taking turns, being kind, etc. However, all children benefit from this type of learning. Social-emotional learning is one of the most important things that kids are being taught in school, whether it’s taught explicitly or not. Game play is very important to kids for this reason. It helps them to become better adults. 

I’m wondering who else has used games in their classrooms or with their own children to teach skills, and what games are helpful for you. 

Top 4 Marketing Lessons From Successful Board Game Kickstarters

As host of the Board Game Marketing Podcast, I’m fortunate to get to speak with many different creators on how they successfully marketed for and ran their campaigns. 

Through our conversations, I’ve learned a tremendous amount of what actually worked to market a game, and what ended up being unsuccessful strategies for a launch.

Here are the 4 marketing lessons from the podcast that we’ll highlight today.

  • Be Incredibly Open To Feedback 
  • Understand The Inner Workings Of Your Fans
  • Openly Share The Creative Process 
  • Create An Immersive Campaign Experience

Be Incredibly Open To Feedback 

This lesson from Ammon Anderson, creator of T.A.C.O. THE GAME, is a biggie. 

One of the key things we talked about on the podcast was about being open to feedback. 

Here’s his story:

Ammon attended PROTOCON with the prototype of his game. He was getting a lot of great feedback but things still weren’t clicking with how to track points for the game. Someone showed up to playtest, loved the game, but recommended him entirely removing the scoresheet system replacing it with physical taco miniatures. This way, people would see who had tacos (poinots) throughout the entire gameplay and things would naturally ramp up as the pile of taco miniatures continued to dwindle from the central pile.

This was an AHA! Moment for the game and proceeded to have HUGE ramifications for the marketing. 

Now, Ammon had physical pieces he could use to photograph and market with. He was able to get input from his audience about the taco miniatures. There was even more content to use for marketing and the audience loved the physical taco pieces.

The takeaway?

Be open to feedback. Everyone who plays your game and takes time to leave feedback wants you to succeed and is trying to help you create the best game possible. 

The process and iteration that you go through to create the final game also makes for great content for your followers.

Understand The Inner Workings Of Your Fans

The most successful games are able to really find an audience to market to, and really dig deep there.  

That’s what Joe Slack focused on for his game Relics of Rajavihara

In the podcast, we discuss the importance of honing in on the right audience through niche specific Facebook groups.

For his process, Joe went through several different groups to determine who would resonate most with his idea. Since the idea originated as a solo game, he found a very tight-knit community in a solo-gamers group who he frequently communicated with throughout the entire development process of the game.

When the pedal hits the metal, this same group was the one that fueled the growth of his email list and the initial funding of his game.

At the end of the day, it’s incredibly beneficial to know who your audience is before you start marketing. 

Knowing your audience will enable you to talk to the right people, get the response you’re looking for, and be able to meet the goals that you’ve assigned for yourself with the game. 

Since this topic is quite large and arguably one of the most important things to focus on for a game launch, we talk more about it in depth within the Kickstarter Board Game Marketing Group on Facebook too.

Openly Share The Creative Process 

Kickstarter backers are early adopters who love looking behind the curtain to see how projects are made and how ideas come to life.

Within the tabletop category, the visual aspects of the game allow for the entire process to be attractive content for potential backers. 

For the launch of Emerald Flame, Rita Orlov started amassing an audience for her project by openly sharing the creative process.

It started with creating online puzzles that people could do while in quarantine. Through those online puzzles that she posted via her social media sites, Rita was able to continue forming organic relationships with other creators and with her audience through messaging, commenting and general interaction. 

From there, she made sure to harness that energy into the most actionable parts of getting a campaign funded: growing her email list. 

When the opportunity arose, she would promote the upcoming Emerald Flame campaign and provide a link for people to subscribe to her newsletter for notification of the launch.

Create An Immersive Campaign Experience

People often speak of launching with a big bang on the first day of a Kickstarter campaign. However, not many people talk about the experience of backers in the middle section of the crowdfunding campaign. 

For his launch, Jay Cormier knew that he wanted to do something special with his game, MIND MGMT. 

Jay set off to create an immersive experience for his backers to keep them engaged throughout the entire duration of the campaign. By placing hidden clues throughout the various review videos and parts of the campaign, he continued to keep his backers entertained and immersed in the world and theme of the game through actually living it. 

This gave the campaign the additional benefit of an active comments section, where backers interested in interacting with the content of the campaign would work together to seek out clues and unlock different secrets throughout the project. It not only kept people entertained, but it also ensured that backers deeply understood the world that he was building.

Final Thoughts

As you can probably imagine, launching a game on Kickstarter is no easy feat. If you have dreams of launching a game, there’s no need to reinvent the wheel – reach out and be sure to learn from those who were successful before you. Read as many blogs as you can to learn the Kickstarter launch process, join groups that discuss the development of games, listen to podcasts that outline the marketing of them, and don’t be afraid to reach out to others for help.

Short Bio: Nalin Founded Meeple Marketing and Crush Crowdfunding to help people bring ideas to market through Kickstarter and Indiegogo. 

How (Not) to Talk About Your Non-Gaming Partner

By Li0ness 

I want to start out by acknowledging my incredible privilege – I’m a cishet woman married to a cishet man, and I’m lucky enough to share a very important hobby with him: board gaming. In fact, when we met on a dating site, my first very romantic, knock-his-socks-off charming message to him, was, no joke, “Thank god, someone else on here knows what Splendor is.” I love being married to another gamer, our collection is a large and important part of our lives, we plan trips to conventions as vacations, and I always have someone around who’s ready to play when I want to get a game to the table (even if he likes area control games far more than I do.)

Read More »