In our town, Family Literacy Day was done in partnership with a bunch of the local literacy groups, and of course the library was a part of it. Because Family Literacy Day itself is on January 27, which is a Sunday and many venues would be closed, events were spread out over the full week. There was in-school reading and a gym day, and this weekend there’ll be events at the museum and art gallery.
The library’s event was on Thursday. This was my first big-L Literacy event I’d planned and integrating into the plans of all these literacy advocates and educators with way more experience than me was a little intimidating. Part of the challenge was figuring out my target audience. Family Literacy Day is about promoting this 15 Minutes of Fun to share learning with everyone in the family. It goes beyond the staples of just reading to playing board games and cooking and math and all of that stuff that literacy helps with integrating into people’s lives.
Our theme was about discovering the community, and very early on I knew I wanted the event to be like a very basic “make your own comic” workshop. I am a huge fan of the connection between pictures and words that comics represent and getting that into an early literacy program might make comics a more palatable choice for parents who don’t like them in the future.
So I planned a comics for kids kind of event. But a few weeks ago I realized my error. The library’s event was going to be at 2:30pm, so I was not going to be getting the 6-10 year-olds and their parents that my program was aimed at, since they’d be at school. So I rejigged the whole thing to focus more on preschoolers, which meant we did some stories about communities and the comics-making got downgraded to drawing pictures about themselves. The idea was that “I couldn’t find any stories about our town, so can you draw some for me?”
To be honest, I probably should have dropped the “comics-making” part of the event and shifted to a more crafty kind of craft. The “three pictures makes a story” was still over the heads of the preschoolers who attended. There was one older girl who was there for a while, who would have been perfect for the original older-kids comickery focus, but the people who did show up were better off with our picturebooks and drawing.
The best books we ended up doing were:
I’m not sure it was the best Family Literacy Day event ever, but it was my first and no one went out to find pitchforks and torches to equip a mob and storm my castle, so I consider it a modest success.
The previous edition of this F1 racing game was called Formula Dé and we sold it at Campaign Outfitters many years ago. I’d had the coolness explained to me, how the gearshifting worked by using custom dice, but never had the chance to play it. Now that I have, (in its modern incarnation: Formula D) I have to say it was awesome. We had a group of 9 people and it was like playing a boardgame version of Mario Kart, meaning it was great fun indeed.
Everyone has a tiny car on a track with spaces. You roll a die and move your car that many spaces. The first one to the finish line wins. “Well, that sounds about as much fun as Candyland,” you might say, and if that were all, it would be a shitty shitty racing game. But that is not all.
You see, every car has a gear shift, so you have to upshift to go faster. In 1st gear you can only move 1-2 spaces, in 3rd you move 5-8, and if you hit 6th gear you move 21-30 spaces. Each gear has its own colour coded die, ranging from a d4 to a d30.
The next question you might ask is what is to prevent a racer from just jumping up into 6th gear and moving 21-30 spaces every turn? The curves in the track prevent this. Every corner requires you to end your turn in a certain zone a certain number of times, or damage your car. An easy turn has a large number of possible spaces and you only have to end your turn in it once. A nasty pile of hairpins might be a lot fewer spaces and require you to end your turn 3 times within it, forcing you to downshift so you stay inside.
We were playing with the basic rules which just give a certain number of damage points to the cars, but the advanced rules split the damage up between tires, brakes, gears and more, which means you have to work your car a bit differently. We treated it in a much more Mario Kart fashion and had a blast.
There is a lot of luck to the game, as a couple of bad rolls on a straightaway while competitors roll well can really hurt your chances (you have to take more risks in the turns while the leader can negotiate them safely), but in our race there was a lot of position-shifting and even though Kifty ran away with 1st place, the rest of the racers were contesting with each other right to the end.
Excellent game, and one that works with kids and large groups.
Friday was our last SLAIS potluck for a majority of the cohort of students I began library school with, and our friend Jonathan (who isn’t graduating just yet) brought boardgames. He always brings games. It’s good to have him around. One of the games he brought was Pandemic, a game of trying to save the world from ravaging epidemics through science and cooperation (you do not need to be a scientist to play Pandemic).
There are four strains of disease which are spreading around the world. To win you have to cure all four strains while keeping the diseases you haven’t cured from spreading around the globe. The board is a map of Earth, with major world cities as the sites of infection. One side effect of this play area is that there’s a bit of an American bias, since they get a pile of cities to cover North America, while Asia gets about the same number. So it’s not quite as realistic as it might be. It didn’t bother us too much, except when we noticed the casual disregard we had for certain areas (“Meh, Justin can handle Asia” was a common comment). Also, the assumption that we’re all American researchers from the CDC in Atlanta is a little ethnocentric.
In the game, every player has a different role and special rules. I was an operations manager, which meant I could build research stations more easily, and you need research stations to research cures to the diseases. Megan was a dispatcher, helping move our scientists around to hotspots, Kerry was a troubleshooter, and Jessie was a generalist so she just got a few more actions per turn.
The way the game works is a player does some stuff, draws some mostly helpful cards (which if they run out means you lose the game) and then flips cards that tell you what cities have been infected next. Every time a city is infected, it gets a cube of the disease’s colour. To cure a disease you need one player to have 5 cards of the disease’s colour in the same city as a research station. This makes the game a careful balancing of shifting people around and collecting cards. You never have quite enough resources to do everything you need to.
While some players are working on collecting cards to cure a disease, some people need to be temporarily getting rid of disease cubes in infected cities. You need to keep those numbers down because if a city has three disease cubes of the same colour and a fourth needs to be added, it instead spreads to all the cities connected to it. If that would push any of those cities over 3 cubes, disease explodes again. It’s fucking terrifying.
Adding to the stress is the way Epidemic cards make you reshuffle the cities that have already been infected and put them on top of the deck to draw more from. These epidemic cards come up randomly and can have a huge impact in making you see a city get infected a pile of times in what seems like a row (our early hot zone was Milan). It’s a great mechanic for upping the tension and Pandemic is definitely filled with tension. I completely loved it.
It’s difficult. We ended up winning, but discovered we’d been cheating by having a few too many expansion cards in our deck, which gave us a few extra cards worth of time to cure all the diseases.