games

AireCon 2017 - Come and Join Us!

AireCon 2017

On Saturday 11th and Sunday 12th March 2017, we'll be at AireCon - a friendly and inclusive gaming festival! We'll be running a mini Family Zone with a great selection of family games including some old classics that we all love to some new and exclusive games to us, from all over the world!

Last year's event welcomed a variety of gamers of different ages and abilities. There was such a friendly atmosphere and lots of games to join in with. With a huge games library and our Family Zone available, the youngsters (and adults!) will have plenty to do during the weekend.

Let us know of any games you wish to see at this year's AireCon and we'll do our best to bring these along with us. There are also plenty of other games that we will be bringing along to teach you too!

We'll be situated in the Crown Suite in Hall D of the Harrogate International Centre along with IQ Games Centre. 

Tickets for this event are FREE for the youngsters and there is a discount for young adults. With only a week to go, time is running out fast!

There's still time to get your tickets - click here to get yours!

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Did I Mention Star Fluxx?!

Star as in wars, Fluxx as in capacitor... maybe! Star Fluxx as in one of the versions of great Fluxx games from Looney Labs

 

Todays short story has been written by a recent convertee to the world of table-top gaming. Recently introduced to the team at Imagination Gaming and invited to join in some local games sessions, this is her account of her experience. Whether she was a willing participant to start with or coerced into it, everything seems to have worked out in the end. Maybe games aren't that frightening after-all?...

 

As a 40 something woman of the world, I thought I’d tried most things at least once and yet I seemed to find myself in the unenviable position of ‘newcomer’ to games despite spending my formative years desperately trying to beat my brother, (4 years my senior), at Monopoly and Scrabble.

How dare they label me a newcomer? I’m an old hand at this feeling stupid and being ridiculed malarkey!

Sure enough, when I sat down to my very first game, (DC Deckbuilding Game), with 3 'gamers', (technical term for people who seem to have a clue what they're doing), all the old negative feelings flooded back. I was completely bewildered by it all, didn’t understand the rules and even questioned my grasp of the English language as my fellow gamers seemed to be using words I’d heard before but they simply weren’t making sense in my head. I wasn’t exactly in a state of blind panic, but I wasn’t far off. Why on earth had I agreed to this? What was I thinking?

So, there I was, out of my comfort zone, out of my depth and wondering if I could feasibly get out of the door without attracting attention to myself. At this point, Nigel took over; maybe as a seasoned professional he was able to pick up on the panic pheromones I was giving off like a distress call only audible to Imagination Gaming staff. He suggested I try a different game and reassured me that I wasn’t going to take to them all straight away. I simply needed to try a few until I found something that suited me.

Sure enough, the next game, (Machi Koro), was right up my street and I even went on to win! Yes people, you heard me, I won a game! I sat amongst accomplished gamers and I won! To be honest, even if I hadn’t won, the fact that I understood the rules and enjoyed playing the game were enough to turn my head.

And once a girl's head is turned, there's no stopping her. The next game I was introduced to, (Quiddler), appealed to my love of words and quickly became a favourite. Then came Dead Man's Draw which I think may have phased me at one time but not now, oh no, I have no fear now, (well, very little). Perhaps the biggest test was Ankh Morpork which is by far the most involved game I've tried but my love of all things Discworld served me well and the fact that I knew all the characters spurred me on. I'm amazed at my own progress and feel I should mention that on the three occasions I have played Star Fluxx with Nigel, I've won every game! He's not very happy about it but I think he may be secretly proud of being such an effective tutor.

So now I speak to you as a regular player. I wouldn’t describe myself as a ‘gamer’ as I’m still not overly confident with some of the more complicated games but at least I’m giving them a go now. My confidence is growing in spades and I’m slowly adding more and more games to my repertoire. I’m no longer gripped by fear when someone suggests we play and I’ve even been known to make the suggestion myself. Oh, and did I mention Star Fluxx?

I guess thanks are owed to Nigel and the team at Imagination Gaming for adding a new aspect to my life which challenges me, builds my confidence and gives me a great sense of achievement, (even when I don’t win!).

 

It may surprise you to hear that Alison is still playing games. Clearly the long-term risks of this kind of fun, face-to-face interaction with other people may yet to be conclusively proven, but the future looks bright. This has not affected her standing in the community and she continues to be healthy... although she has got a 'bug' and if you come into contact with her playing games, she may well be infectious...

Try it!

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The Imagination Gaming Family & Education Awards 2015 Are Here!

 

The IG Awards are back… and we’ve stepped it up… a lot!

Yep, this years Imagination Gaming Family & Education Game Awards are back and the process of finding this years great games begins.

For 2015 we have a brand new part of the Imagination Gaming website dedicated to the awards here, but which you can also find at the end of this article, so hang on a minute! There’s lots to add, especially the games which we will release throughout the process, but we’re really proud of it and hope you’ll love it too.

As always we started talking about this year’s awards months ago, very quietly, but for very good reason. Each year in October we go to Essen Spiel - the worlds largest hobby gaming convention, and even though the awards process is 6 months away, it’s the perfect opportunity to get started. Probably because it’s the ‘eye of the storm’ so to speak - the calm bit before we start the new awards season and also when we’ve just recovered from the previous one!

In fact we started getting new games handed to us at the culmination of last years awards, in May, at UK Games Expo. These were substantially added to not only at Essen, but throughout the year as we are sent new games to not only test but to use in our workshops and events nationwide.

Some of the games are yet to be published and from small companies or individuals, some are heading to market, and some already have the weight of major games industry players behind them.

Where the games come from doesn’t matter to us, all that we are concerned with is finding great games to share with those who love what we do and the wider gaming community. This in turn helps to give these games the exposure they need either to get off the ground, or find their way into even more homes and schools than before…

If you’ve never come across the Imagination Gaming Family & Education Game Awards before, below is a brief catch up to get you up to speed… and then you’ll be ready for this year!

 

Back in 2013…

...we decided to launch a new set of awards to recognise great games that families and educators consider invaluable in developing a range of social and curriculum skills… as well as just good, solid fun!

Of course, we did this as part of Imagination Gaming's ongoing ambition to raise awareness in the UK of the joy and value that great table-top games bring to everyday life, as well as the influence and effect they can have as resources to improve thinking and communication skills for everyone.

The whole process enables UK game enthusiasts to see games they would never normally have access to, games makers from all over the world and of any size to get their games noticed, and for us to find games that we can continue to show to the thousands children, teachers and parents in our daily schools, libraries, events and community groups nationwide. Hopefully everyone's a winner!

During the awards process we consider a wide range of board and card games currently available as well as the new ones looking to get our and your attentiona and find a market in the UK, with a view to finding the ones that really do what it says on the box! The awards recognise the games that our panel of judges and ourselves have not only played and enjoyed, but also, (and most crucially,) the games we have found to have a significant impact in engaging, exciting and educating whoever we have been playing them with.

We were over the moon with the response first time round from the industry and fans alike and from early on it was clear that this would become an annual event...

 

Year 2, 2014!

The 2nd year of the game awards saw us introduce another category - the Family Classic award - and this along with the Excelled in Schools awards became more of a 'hall of fame' ('hall of game' if you prefer!), with all winners being recognised equally. We look forward to adding to this illustrious list each year and recognising the games that have made a consistent difference with schools and families year after year.

 

And now?!...

So here we are for the 2015 IG Game Awards... with a brand new website and lots more to see!

We will be compiling nomination lists for each award from new games submitted by companies world-wide for review and consideration, and where applicable, games from our collection used in Imagination Gaming workshops based on our experience and the feedback they have received.

All nominated games will be available to play in the Imagination Gaming Family Zone at the UK Games Expo in Birmingham at the end of May, with all visitors having the chance to vote on an extra special award as part of their gaming experience. All awards will be announced the following week.

We are welcoming and encouraging submissions for each category right now, so...

 

What's In It for the Nominees and the Winners?

Everlasting fame and glory?! Quite possibly, but also…

Each winner will be given a badge of honour to use to promote their award winning games to the world! We will supply companies with electronic versions of logos to use at will throughout promotion and packaging as they see fit. These will demonstrate the game has been recognised as having outstanding merit by the very type of people that are looking for games to add to their collection, or a great starting place for those new to games like this.

Games will regularly be used as appropriate throughout our Games Days and Events nationwide as examples of great games that families and educators will love to play and teach with for years to come. This means that school children, teachers and families will be able to sit down and experience the games for themselves and get a chance to learn all about the game from one of our demonstrators and see just how good it is.

Games that we receive that are shortlisted for any award and are not currently available in the UK will be immediately brought to the attention of the distributors we work with. We don't just want our customers and schools to be able to play the game with us… if they like it; we want to make sure we can get one for them to keep too!

You can be sure that any game that we like for any reason throughout this process will, wherever possible be made available via the Imagination Gaming online store, and promoted as such!

If you would like to submit one of your games for this years awards we'd love to hear from you. Visit the Awards main page here to find more details on individual awards, eligibility and how you can enter. The closing date for submissions this year is Friday April 24th 2015

 

As always we would love to hear your thoughts on this years awards and the games as they appear. Find all the latest games and information on our dedicated IG Game Awards page, and all the links you need to tell us what you think via Facebook, Twitter and more.

We look forward to hearing from you and hope you will spread the word too…

...Are You Game?!

 

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10 Games To Keep Everyone Happy At Christmas

Charades anyone?!!!

So, you’ve gone through the greetings, checked to see if Santa's been, sat through an epic lunch and now just want to sit back and relax.

Then it starts! The sounds of cupboardS rarely opened, being rummaged through. Suddenly the box gets placed on the table and you look down to see a copy of one of the perennial favourites waiting to be played…. Again.

Now we are not saying these can’t be fun but I think its fair to say that some of the usual games played around this time take a fair old while to play and don’t always end in the spirit in which they were begun. If they ever end at all!.

How about some alternatives that don’t take anywhere near as long? Here are a few suggestions that are both fun and light.

Note. All these games are available in our relaunced online store and in return for such a shameless plug, you'll find a discount you can use for a limited time at the end of this article! - Just click on a game to find more info in the store. Merry Xmas!

So, in no particular order, here goes!....

 

Trix

A new game that challenges players to guess what each other is thinking. Choose either one or two words to describe three of the cards on the table. Every other player has to select in secret the words they think you are trying to describe. Its easy to play but more difficult to get good at. Plays three to six players too.

For example, i might use the word trash to describe these three cards in front of me ‘X-Factor’, ‘Bins’ and ‘Politicians’, but thats a personal choice!

At UK Games Expo this year I played in a game where a round of Trix looked like this…

… and the clue given was… ‘Luther’

Can you spot which 3 words we had to guess they were thinking of? - Great clue. (Feel free to answer in the comments below!). I got the three words and the clue-giver got double points for making it happen with only one word.

See Trix in our online store here...

 

Coyote

Ideal for xmas, this involves the players wearing a headband in which they put a feather, without looking at it (otherwise known as ‘looking a bit daft’) but don’t worry, it gets a bit more strategic from here on in!

Each feather has a number on it and once everyone is ready you starting bidding. Each bid must increase and be less than all of the numbers on the feathers added together. But if the next person thinks you have gone to high they can shout Coyote and challenge your bid… with the loser receiving a tomahawk to the head. (Yes they simply slot in the headband and it’s not an attack with a lethal weapon and yes they are made of card but still - papercuts!).

Bluffing is a key part of this fun game which will have people laughing out loud. A great example of a game that, in schools, teachers will often explain carefully, expecting the children to struggle. Only to find they keep losing!

See Coyote in our online store here...

 

Last Letter

This is a game of fast and furious descriptions, again very simple rules and crucially accessible and challenging to all ages.

Each player is dealt a hand of cards, on which are some very unusual pictures. A word is chosen to start with and from then on each following card must be played by shouting a word to describe something on that card, that begins with the last letter of the previous description. With no turn taking this fast paced game is both fun and tricky.

The imagination some people exhibit while playing this is quite an eye-opener, as you will see.

See Last Letter in our online store here...

 

Timeline - Science & Discoveries

This is a perfect party game, dividing the players into two teams. Each team is dealt a series of cards, showing famous scientific discoveries. Definitely aimed at a teenager+ age range, though a great way to introduce ideas to younger children who often love trying to figure out what came first too.

All each team has to do is work out where each of their cards come in the timeline. Choose your card, place it in then flip it over to see if you’re right. A game that makes for lots of interesting debate, we guarantee this will make you go ‘Really???’

I remember having a the King Kong movie card (original version!) in my hand and not being quite sure where it went until someone played the Empire State Building card into the timeline… for some reason it became quite obvious which one followed the other and similar logics can be applied in all sorts of ways!

You can get Timeline games to cover 5 different themes now, and they can all be put together into one big game too. As well as Science and Discoveries there is Music & Cinema, Historical Events, Inventions and General Interest.

You can see even more Timeline details here too....and see ALL the Timeline editions mentioned in our online store here...

 

Skull

This game of bluffing and ‘poker-face’ pulling has just had a face-lift with fabulous new artwork. This one definitely wasn’t designed with young children in mind but I’ve had 9-11 yr olds playing it and loving it as much as the teenagers and adults!

Up to 6 players take it in turns to play one of their 3 rose cards, or their skull card, face down in front of them or start a bid. Whoever bids the highest has to turn over that number of cards from those played face down on the table by everyone during the round, with the aim being not to find a skull.

Of course there is a twist. If you are revealing cards, you MUST turn over your cards first as part of your bid. This means if you played a skull card and then raised the bid in the hope of enticing someone into finding your skull, but you ended up having to reveal, you can look very silly!

The rules are very easy but winning can be tricky. Who's lying and who can you trust? One of those games that will make you look at people a little differently afterwards.

See Skull in our online store here...

 

Saboteur

This is when underhandedness and a bit of arguing can actually be great fun! Whilst this might cause a few disagreements over xmas this game is a fantastic diversion if you have several people available to play as it works best with between 5 and 10 players.

Playing gnomes hunting hidden gold the aim is to make a series of pathways to the hidden gold location. However whilst at least half of you are good gnomes there could be one or more saboteurs amongst you. Their job, stop everyone else getting to the gold.

Nobody knows which role anyone was given at the beginning of the game apart from their own, so you good or bad, you’re still never quite sure who is on your team and who to work with. The discursive (read shouty / accusatory!) element of the game is where the fun is and will definitely result in the lines ‘Thats just what a saboteur would do’, and, ‘Hold on - I’M not a saboteur!’ being uttered many, many times!

See Saboteur in our online store here...

 

Wordaround

 

An incredibly simple word game this card flipping game challenges players to be first to shout out the hidden word.

Each card has 3 different colour rings, each of which has a word written in a circle around it. The colour on the back of the previous card is revealed as it is flipped, and this tells evertone which coloured ring to look at on the next one as they race to find the word.

The fact that every letter in the word is there and in the right order too, you’d be forgiven for thinking it was easy, but spotting where it starts and which way to go can be harder than you think. Get it right - get the card, most cards wins.

Great game - very quick - and beware of people shouting strange noises in the aim of guessing correctly!

See Word A Round in our online store here...

 

Dobble

This versatile game can be played many ways, each of which is easy but devious. A simple exercise in spotting matching objects, the game is played without turns, resulting in fast and furious gameplay. Suitable for a wide range of ages some of the variants get really mean and will surprise you at just how tricky they can get. One that kids will often beat the adults at!

Dobble has become very popular, very quickly the world over and the fact that it can be easily transported and played just about anywhere has helped it become a best-seller and a firm family favourite.

See Dobble in our online store here...

 

Dodekka

Written by a good friend of Imagination Gaming and the designer of the classic Mijnlieff, Dodekka is a risk taking game this numbers based game is all about collecting cards of the same colour whilst avoiding the others.

Themed around the five elements of ancient Greece, the objective is to achieve a hand of cards in which the amount by which your strongest element dominates the others you have collected is superior to everyone elses.

Getting hold of those cards however can be tricky and it’s a combination of skill and luck that will get you there in the end. Some very simple and clever dilemmas when choosing what to do make this a very smart little game indeed - and one I am still yet to prove myself at too!

See Dodekka in our online store here...

 

Snake Oil

This terrific party game is about making up wonderful new objects and selling them to another player. With your hand of six cards, each of which has a word on it, you are tasked with combining at least two of these to make a new object, then selling this object to the player whose turn it is.

The fun bit is that this player will be under another persona while choosing, for example they might be a caveman, a vampire or a fireman. What could you think-up to sell to them??

Obviously the more relevant you can make the object you are selling to the character buying, the better chance you have of selling your wares. All sales are done openly and your ability to describe your new invention and it’s qualities quickly and charismatically will be key to winning the buyers favour, and the points.

Whoever manages to sell their object becomes the buyer for the next round and most ‘sales’ wins.

This can obviously result in some very devious attempts at one-up-man-ship while bringing out the imagination in all ages!

See Snake Oil in our online store here...

 

That's your 10 games for this year - but what else...?!

This small selection will keep the family going for a while, with all of them pretty quick to play if required, but with tons of replay value to keep you coming back, and different every time. Crucially all of them having laugh out loud moments.

This is just a small glimpse into a world of family games that we use on a daily basis for fun, challenge, competition and education. We are lucky enough to have hundreds of games like this available to play at our events and of course in our venue at the iQ Games Centre in Huddersfield.

As mentioned earlier, we have purposely picked games that are already available in our new online store so that you can click through and take a closer look for more information on any that might appeal to you. Obviously you don’t have to...  but as an extra christmas bonus you can use the code 'xmas14' to get 10% off these and any games in the Family & Education collection until 31st December 2014. We’d just hate to tease you with a game that sounded great but then you couldn’t get hold of! We have only recently relaunched online store, so there is a lot more to come, we have a massive range to get back online but these got there first because we think they’re great and use them ourselves regularly

Whatever you are playing this Christmas we'd love to hear about it and most of all we hope you have a great time and wish you all a very Merry Christmas 2014!

Do you have some favourites not listed here or have you played some of these already? Let us know your thoughts and tell us what you think. We look forward to hearing from you

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Too Ghoul For School - 5 Halloween Games That Work For Good!

Halloween is a fantastic time for gamers the world over, with a coffin full of games with a theme to suit and gameplay to get you in the mood for a spooky evenings festivities.

I can think of lots of games that will be dragged screaming out of dark places and played across a dimly lit alter, (ok - games tables with poor overhead lighting), in games stores and dining rooms across the country this evening.

Granted some will be darker than others, some will try and walk a difficult line between good and evil, but there are plenty out there that are good wholesome fun for the entire family, keeping the adults as entertained as the kids.

The games we have chosen to highlight here are not only even better when played by the light of an evil looking pumpkin or two, but are also all games that we use on a regular basis in our family events and learning programs nationwide. So, in no particular order...

 

1. It’s Alive!

Described as ‘the monster building game by Yehuda Berliner’, this fantastic game is sadly, currently out of print, but was one of our core games in the Imagination gaming arsenal when the company started.

Each player has their own castle and hidden from view inside they have a slab on which to construct their Frankenstein-esque monster. On their turn, each player draws a body part card which has a cost to it. This can then be bought to add to their monster, sold to the bank for half its value in gold, or auctioned off to the other mad scientists.

Does it always thunder and lightning when you play this?!

Some body parts are more valuable than others and the same parts can be cheaper or more expensive. With a meager pot of money to start with, knowing when to buy, sell or auction really could mean life or death!

Oh yes - watch out for the villagers too. If they find out you’ve been digging up their ancestors they’ll come knocking on your door and won’t be best pleased!

My favourite memory of this game is playing it at a primary school and as soon as we started, a real storm began to brew outside. Halfway through one young man took his go, and then looked at me and said… “Does it always thunder and lightning when you play this?!”. Never forget that one!

About a 20 - 30 minute game for 2 - 5 players it says on the side of the box it’s for 12+. We can understand why but it has been fantastic for primary and secondary school kids to play, demonstrate and apply money-handling skills and negotiation techniques, all in the name of being able to scream… “It’s Alive!”

 

2. Werewolves Of Millers Hollow

A worldwide hit, ‘Werewolves’ as it is commonly referred to is a game that caters for lots of players up to 15 with one set (though have used more and played with 30+!) and is ideal at parties and get-togethers.

In essence, its a good versus evil battle, with each player given a card with a secret identity at the start of each game to determine which side you are on and what powers, if any, you have. It also requires a ‘narrator’ to guide the game which is simple enough and also fun to do.

The story-teller announces when a day in Millers hollow has ended and the moon has risen. At this point all the villagers close their eyes while the werewolves open theirs and silently point at one villager they would like to feast on!

When morning breaks everybody, villagers and werewolves, opens their eyes and the narrator announces who was eaten. At this point that villager is removed from the game and chaos ensues as the villagers try to work out who might secretly be a werewolf and decide who to kick out of the village. Whoever is chosen reveals their identity and steps out of the game… before night time falls and the werewolves return….

The addition of different characters within the village creates some fantastic dynamics on top of this. For example - the little girl who can peek in the night, the fortune teller who can know the identity of one player each night, and the lovers - when one dies the other can’t continue!

The Werewolves need to eat all the villagers before the villagers kill all the werewolves, whichever faction is eradicated first loses, but there will be casualties on both sides that’s for sure!.

There is also a New Moon expansion for this game that introduces more characters and associated rules, and a limited edition set that incorporates both sets in a new design too.

This is one game we have used to inspire storytelling and roleplay, but is also a simple and fun way to get groups talking and interacting together, and is always a massive hit for with children and adults.

 

3. The Magic Labyrinth

This one is one of those games that you just look at and think… cool! Definitely made for younger kids, it keeps the older ones intrigued too and I see plenty of grown-ups’ playing this together all the time

The magic labyrinth has a multi-layered board but you can only see the top and this is where your ‘wizard’ moves to find things within the maze. The thing is the walls are invisible… but you can’t walk through them!

Each space on the board has something to find and the first one is chosen randomly from a bag of tokens. Players then roll a 4 sided die to see how many spaces they can move on the board - but the direction they take is completely up to them.

Your wizard is magnetic, and as you move him from square to square across the board, the metal ball attached to him on the underside of the board follows. Beneath the playing surface there is a maze of wooden walls that will knock the ball of each time the wizard tries to pass through an ‘invisible’ wall.

Honestly - you’d think it would be easy to begin to remember where the walls are, but as you move around the board you quickly lose track.

A fantastic game of memory and the best bit is that all the walls can be moved to different positions and the playing surface rotated so that every single game really is different.

A-Maz-ing game !

 

4. Zombies

This one we changed a bit. Definitely a more ‘adult’ rated game, this is one too cool to avoid, so while it goes down a storm with older groups, we adapted it to make it more suitable for Imagination Gaming - but the game and the miniatures involved are still very ‘ghoul’!

All players start on a single tile in the middle of the table. This is part of the city you are trapped in. on each turn the player adds a new tile to the board, expanding the cityscape, but in a different way every time.

Every new ‘block’ contains zombies which appear, and each player must roll to move their character to safety and also roll to move the zombie swarm which is growing every go.

Whenever a player is faced with a zombie they must fight it, but they have a myriad of powers / tools / resources that can help them to do this. The objective - to find the helipad and survive long enough to get to it and fly away.

The cards in the original game are definitely a bit gruesome for a younger audience but knowing they’d love the game we did something very special with it. By creating our own deck of suitable cards we can play this game with any age.

The best bit - we use this to fuel imagination for story writing, character development, comic and poster design and other literacy based skills in our Zombie Diaries classes. Mu-ha-ha!

 

5. City Of Zombies

Devised and designed by Matt Tidbury, City Of Zombies is one of our favourite games of the year. Originally conceived to help his young daughter with her Maths, this has become one of the most popular games we use, partly because it looks so cool and everyone loves zombies. Especially zombie dogs, clowns and taxi drivers!

This is a cooperative game played around a board that has zombie cards advancing towards your barricade, where your team must defend the survivors. During each turn, every player gets a chance to fight and destroy zombies as they come out of the city, across the motorway, fields and eventually your backyard with only one thing on their brains.... your brains.

Players work together to fight zombies by rolling dice and then using the numbers to make sums to hit the numbers on the cards. Combinations are allowed, as is the use of squaring (special power!), to destroy one or more zombies at a time.

Meanwhile the rescue plane is on its way. Depending on where you start you have to survive up to 15 turns before the plane lands to whisk you to safety. But the closer the plane gets, the closer the zombies appear.

With plenty of variety of powers, characters, play options and and cards, once you know how it works this game can easily be matched to the age and ability of the group playing and has helped massively in all the maths classes I have used it in so far.

There’s also more to come with re-issues, expansions and more games to follow. Having won 3 of our independently adjudicated Imagination Gaming awards (Best Family, Best Numeracy and Expo Players Choice) in 2014, this is definitely one to watch.

 

Like the sound of these games and others like them?

Come to one of our events, ask us about getting the games for yourselves or tell your school about what we do - it’s fiendishly simple!

This was the first ‘list’ of games we have published on the new blog. Do you recognise any of them, have you played them or would you like to? - Let us know below or catch us on social media, we’d love to hear from you.
Have you any other topics or subjects you would like to find games that link to. Suggest away and it might be the subject of another list soon!

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Then & Now: The State Of The Hobby Games Industry - Part 2

Where are we now and what’s next?

Helped by the internet, traditional style games, including board, card, dice and tile based games have become increasingly popular. Driven by huge and growing popularity in Europe, especially in Germany, and in America, the hobby is in a very different place to where it was.

The exposure the internet has given traditional gaming has made an enormous difference and allowed smaller companies to reach a much wider audience. The ability for these small niche hobbyists to connect and discuss their passion for gaming has helped this once pilloried pastime to cross over to a much more mainstream audience and has allowed previously isolated groups to meet up both online and in person

It is commonplace now for people to play a board game over the internet with people from across the work and discuss them with like-minded individuals thousands of miles away.

 

 

The public's perception of games today is also very different from how it was. Nowadays more families are beginning to understand the value of games and the benefits they can bring. It is not uncommon to see students playing board games in large numbers during free time or on an evening, and the number of gamers continues to grow rapidly.

Games have been seen in popular culture on some of its more popular shows, such as The Big Bang Theory playing Settlers of Catan, and several celebrities have come forward as game addicts, such as Vin Deisel and his love of Dungeons & Dragons.

 

 

Strangely to some, games stores have also done very well. There are more game stores now in the UK than there has ever been and, considering the economic climate, that could be seen as a surprise but the range available and number of releases combined with this new positive image and accessibility help to make the market very buoyant.

Stores will always find things tricky, with competition from online retailers, but if they continue to provide a great gaming experience for their players then their future should be in no doubt.

 

 

The number of companies manufacturing and designing games has also increased dramatically and although several dominate there are thousands of companies across the world producing a bewildering number of games. Many games, such as Ticket to Ride & Settlers of Catan have crossed over to a mainstream audience, selling millions of copies in a huge number of different languages.

The number of games being translated in to computer games and applications would suggest that they are gaining popularity and companies big and small are being approached to convert their games over to the digital world. The games themselves have evolved far beyond what manufactures could have dreamed of several years ago.

The production quality and components found within modern games can include an incredible array of beautifully designed board, token and figures and have even begun linking with online applications to provide an even deeper and immersive experience.

 

 

More players mean its easier for game conventions to both exist and grow and todays conventions are learning the lessons from the old, more niche meet-ups from the past. In fact I am writing this blog from my hotel in Essen, Germany, home of probably the largest game convention in the world.

This huge event, Essen Spiel, attracts tens of thousands of gamers from across the world and is extremely family friendly and can keep you entertained for days. Its four day run will push you to see everything possible within the time allotted and leave you longing for more time.

America has its own goliath event in GenCon, a showcase for hobby game manufacturers, attracting similar numbers but being more gamer orientated.

In the UK, the UK Games Expo is modelling itself on the Essen model and has seen a huge upsurge in numbers over the last few years, helped a little by Imagination Gaming’s family zone activities and the focus on attracting younger gamers and families along for the weekend.

The range of games coming out of late is something to behold though. There are so many wonderful games coming out at the moment that no matter what your preference there’ll be something out there you’ll love. The production standards of today’s games are wonderful and the range of mechanics and styles are simply breath taking.

Here's 5  of our top games at present:

1. Incan Gold

2. Jungle Speed

3. Gobblet

4. Take It Easy

5. Zeus on the Loose

Theses are just some of the popular games we use in schools and public events across the country on a dailly basis. They combine all the essential ingredients to create very cool and interesting games that help to engage and excite in line with our 'learn to play, play to learn' philosophy. Of course these are just a snippet of a huge array of games that we use and will be adding to this very weekend whilst here in Germany. We look forward to telling you all about them and maybe even playing some of them with you soon!

Hopefully this has given newer gamers out there a quick overview of how the industry started out and has changed. We will be looking a bit more in depth in certain areas soon, chatting with distributors, game store owners and designers about how they make their living and how they see the industry. We’ve another few days to go at the convention in Essen and can’t wait. We’ve already seen several new games we can’t wait to bring back to the UK and try out with unsuspecting students and families! 

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Why Use Games In Education? - Part 2

Skills For Life

It is commonly remarked upon that the skills we take for granted are taught by the parents, seem woefully lacking in many children these days, and we would be the first to agree. Beyond basic topic based learning, skills such as patience, turn taking, listening and concentration are often skills we find many, if not most, children struggle with, through both primary and secondary levels. These are areas that schools are well aware they have to deal with but must do so alongside delivering the curriculum. Games are the perfect tool with which to tackle and develop these fundamental skills.

Waiting for others to take their turn, letting them take their time to work out their next move or trying to read whether or not they are bluffing are all moments that should be valued and, through continued game play, they become factors in the games that players learn to appreciate and respect.

...the content of a game, and the way in which it works are key for matching a game to a skill, but there's more to it than that...

Okay - Which Games?!

Obviously different games suit different situations, and there are a lot of factors we will consider when choosing what is appropriate at any given time. Clearly the content of a game, and the way in which it works are key for matching a game to a skill, but there's more to it than that. Experience of lots of factors such as age, ability, numbers of players, group dynamics, time and even location are just some of the things we consider when planning what to play. And then there is also the 'on the day' and 'what if' factors that can mean you must be able and ready to adapt what you are doing seconds before and even during play!

All that said, here are a few examples of games that broadly suit certain situations. They are not the only types of games we would use, not by a long way, but will give you a small insight to the different approaches and games that can be useful.

People that struggle with patience are often introduced to games such as Katamino. This puzzle is ideal for those that believe they struggle to focus or exhibit patience. With easy starting solutions to complex mid-term problems it is one of those games that is very moreish and is difficult to stop playing, as the sense of achievement of finishing one level demands you start the next… which, of course, will be even harder!

If we need to improve general listening skills then often cooperative games provide an ideal platform to begin improving these. These games require, for the most, that the players work together to beat the game itself, and that failure to join forces will mean failure as a group, and then no-one wins. Not listening in these games can create frustration in the other players, something which they generally want to avoid, and so without pressure from us a focus and concentration generally descends upon the game. Again, the game must fit the group, but recent games such as Forbidden Desert work well in these situations.

The ability to deal with others is a skill even more vital as we progress through life, but is apparently becoming something that more and more struggle with. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve seen kids argue within a class over something trivial which in turn disrupts the whole class. When playing a game you are often forced to consider someone else’s opinion, accept another player’s decision or ally with someone then watch as they stab you in the back. Although these can be frustrating occasionally, if run in the right way they can highlight what is required to cope with these decisions.

Games such as Saboteur can be great for evoking conversation and letting us give opinions on what is happening within the game. The fact that from game to game people that were once your allies become saboteurs means that they can no longer make simple assumptions about their friends intentions. We will often pause a game just to solicit opinions from all of the players, creating a banter and atmosphere.

Should we be surprised that children don’t seem to talk to each other in the same way anymore? Shouting at each other, no matter where they are, seems to be the norm. To play a game you often need to hear what’s going on, listen to the thoughts of others or make alliances. This can’t be done if everyone’s shouting. It's remarkable how quiet people can become when concentration is required. Gaining the trust and leading to a game that’s still intriguing but a little slower can once again change behaviour and surprise the players as to how much they enjoyed changing how they interact.

Games such as Dixit are both extremely popular and successful in quieting down a group and creating an atmosphere of concentration and creativity. This game has also worked really well with groups with little or no self-confidence. Speaking out is often daunting to these groups but, after a couple of games, you can find them making great strides and smiles appearing on their faces.

We often find ourselves working with children who have been diagnosed wiith a variety of disorders, as well as children who are very vulnerable and have often been excluded from school due to disruptive or violent behaviour. However, after working with them for short amounts of time we find that they are capable of exhibiting patience and concentration far in excess of what is expected. This is primarily because they quickly choose to play the game. They want to take part. Ultimately it’s about finding activities they are initially comfortable with, that they want to do, that will in turn help them develop and see why these skills are important so that long term we can get them back in to education, work or simply to become a little happier in life.

A game with extremely simple rules but with great scope and potential for increased learning is Take It Easy. We often modify this game to make it easier but after a couple of games find it is not necessary anymore. With each game being different to the player we can play it as a group activity, but with little pressure on the individual as each game is unique. Setting the player the target of beating their previous score results in a group of players waiting eagerly for the next game and all the time concentrating, focusing and using basic maths skills throughout.

Curriculum based skills such as numeracy and literacy appear to be the least cool of all things in the eyes of many children, however if approached correctly the competitive urge, the opportunity to be creatively inspired and the desire to be challenged, which lies within most children, soon comes to the fore. We rarely meet any child that doesn’t enjoy the company of others and a challenge, if it’s done and run in the right way of course.

Think Of The Situation

Understanding how kids think, and being able to relate to them, is a key ingredient for any tuition nowadays. Teachers have a hard enough task teaching, never mind being social workers. Children are expected to go to school and by the first lesson learn. I know I certainly don’t feel like learning when I get up on a morning but that’s what we expect of them. Many children are not sent to school in a mind set of wanting to learn, more along the lines of I don’t want to be here. How can we help change that? Running a games club on a morning get help get those brains warmed up prior to the first lesson. This in turn helps with attitude and attention.

For these sorts of activities the focus should purely be on fun and on games that get the children mixing and laughing. Relaxing and putting a smile on their faces. Learning is easier if you’re happy. Jungle Speed (Insert link & picture) is perfect for this and is guaranteed to get even the most hard faced child involved and laughing. Great concentration required and good reflexes helps!

Splashing games in to a class based environment can not only add a bit of excitement and fun to a class but also a challenge and a chance to apply some of what they are learning. It does not matter what the subject is, there’s usually a game out there that will give you the opportunity to do this.

So What Are We Saying?!

Well -  we are not saying that all kids should do at school is play games. That’s not what this is about. What we are saying though, is that playing games as a group can help create friends where there are none, help give confidence to young people in their own abilities, allow them to try to get better at what they do and what they know and put a smile on their faces when sometimes this doesn’t happen enough.

One slight word of caution on playing games with children or anyone else for that matter… Don’t let them win!...

....There’s more to this of course, it’s a balance, nothings ever black and white. The game you play is important and how you play it with them - just don’t think that letting them win will do much good, short term or long term. We’ll discuss why in more detail in a future blog.

In the meantime, I’ll leave you with one of my favourite quotes from none other than Albert Einstein himself

Imagination is more important than knowledge

He got this so very right!

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We realise that the title 'Why Use Games In Education' could, should and probably will be the title of a book, rather than a blog this short. There are lots of areas to cover, questions to answer and answers to question! We will get to that. For now you should have a sense of where we are coming from and what we can achieve. As Imagination Gaming we will continue to use on our experience to highlight and share the wide ranging impact of using games in education, something that has been extraordinarily beneficial for countless schools and organisations and got us to where we are today. As always we look forward to your thoughts too....

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Why Use Games In Education?

Start Here!

When I started the company several years ago I did so for personal reasons, as well as ‘hoping’ as a business it could be a success. I had an inkling it could work, from personal experience, but had big doubts as to whether or not I could find anyone to listen to me or that felt the same way as I did.

At school I was quiet. I was well behaved, polite but very quiet. I never got in trouble. I struggled in lessons and was ignored by both the teachers and most of the pupils alike. The only teacher with whom I had any affinity was my English teacher, the one teacher who sparked my imagination and let me be a little more creative.

 

 

During the first couple of years at secondary school a cousin of mine introduced me to a couple of games that he himself had started to play. The first was a skirmish game set in the second, world war, with miniature tanks and lots of numbers. It was fun but quite technical. The other was called Dungeons & Dragons, a game of pure imagination and social interaction. This is the one that really switched on a light in my head. This made me look at everything differently. I have very fond memories of this game, and lots of them, and still play to this day.

They (games)... ignited my desire to learn both in and out of school.

Around the same time, the Fighting Fantasy game books appeared, where the reader was able to choose their own path through the book, and these, combined with the above two games, changed and turned my life around.

Each of them gave me somewhere to channel my previously unrealised creativity. Whether writing and running adventures for Dungeons & Dragons or well as drawing maps out for the game books, showing all of the various routes that were possible within, they meant that my free time suddenly became a busy time of new thoughts and new possibilities. They ignited my desire to learn both in and out of school. They gave me a kind of independent thought and determination. To create something that was of my own, to want to find meaning of new words or to solve riddles that I could challenge others with later.

 

 

This new hunger stayed with me and continues to this day. Whether we’re hosting a games club or setting up Imagination Gaming, I’ve seen the effect that games can have on both individuals or as a family. They bring focus to those that struggle or reveal inner confidence in those that feel they have little. By running our activities we are looking to open the eyes of others who’ve yet to experience these new games and interactions and to show them a world with a little less electronics and a little more human interplay.

 

Getting Educators and Parents ‘On Board’

Let’s be honest. Whether it’s a school or a library, a youth club or a prison, these institutions have lots on their plates at the moment and probably not enough funding or time to do it. It seems that no matter who you contact they are all, often understandably, busy. From our perspective, it’s vital when working with any of these bodies that the staff there get fully involved, and that’s no mean feat.

Educating the staff as to what they can achieve through the games is just as important as showing the children how to play them. Showing the staff how to manipulate the rules and game play to fit their needs brings an added value to them and unlocks the real potential of them as a resource. If used right, games both in a class or during breaks can make the jobs of staff a little easier and help show a different side of all of the players, both staff and pupils alike. This in turn helps create a different perspective and generates mutual respect, especially in secondary schools and with older children.

When approaching organisations our first hurdle is to persuade the adults of the benefits of these sorts of activities. You would be surprised just how many teachers and parents tell us ‘We’re not in to games’ and then refuse to join in.

When we are so insistent of children to try things out, it’s remarkable how stubborn we become as adults.

We seem to have, in general, developed a cultural aversion to playing board games nowadays. Whether people are worried about looking daft, not understanding the rules or concerned about losing, none of which are important, there are a great number of people that will say or do some very strange things but put a game down in front of them and they will become paralyzed with fear?!

Many see the benefits immediately, while others simply don’t. What do you say to someone whose first response to this is to say that “kids aren’t interested in these games anymore” or that “they just want to play on their Xbox”. Our first reply is usually along the lines of “How often do they play these sorts of games then?” or “Don’t they play on their Xbox every day of their lives?”

I often wonder what else kids do nowadays that doesn’t involve something electronic and for some I really don’t think there is a great deal. Whether it’s at home or at school we spend more and more time in front of a screen. During lessons many of the activities are performed on iPads and at home many hours are spent on DS, phones and other devices.

 

 

One of the great appeals of traditional games is that they are now a novelty. How often do kids get to play a game with wooden pieces and colourful artwork that they get to move and manipulate themselves? Not often! In my childhood it was home pc’s that were the new fad but as these are as commonplace, more traditional games are starting to come to the fore and stimulate real excitement.

We have never had, in over seven years, a single child who after trying the games didn’t enjoy them and then ask to try something else. It’s about finding the right game for that player but with a good range that’s only a small problem to overcome. The look on the faces on the teachers or parents when their children become completely involved in the game is worth running the session for alone. Then it becomes about persuading the adult to join in...

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So, at this point you know a bit more about me, about why I like games and why I thought, and now know, that certain games have a crucial place in education. And why 'education' is beginning to agree.

On friday you will be able to read the rest of this article that will touch on a few of the many different human skills games can showcase and develop and some of the games that do just that.

Next week we will start to talk about the games industry from several perspectives through a series of blogs and posts designed to inform and pose questions about what's happenoing with the games we love and use. We will be touching on the different areas of design, manufacture and publishing of games and of course how we consume these products... so please get in touch and let us know what you think too.

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