Tag Archives: Gaming

International TableTop Day, 2015

Logo of International TableTop Day featuring cards, dice, spinners, and game piecesInternational TableTop Day lands on April 11th this year, and it’s not too soon to get your library signed up as an event host! It’s free and will be a blast for you and your patrons.

TableTop Day is a celebration of the fans of tabletop gaming. It’s a single day where the world is brought together by the common purpose of spending time together and having fun.

If you have board, card, or other tabletop games at your library, you have everything you need to participate. Whether you already have games or not, it never hurts to acquire more. Visit a local game or hobby shop, or if you don’t have one, a box store and see what new games they have. Complex/European games have been the flavor of choice for some years now–don’t be afraid to dive in and try something new! By adding a few of these to the mix, you can help ensure you’ll have engaging offerings for adults, teens, and children.

If you’re curious, you can learn more about TableTop Day by visiting the official site. If you’re ready to commit, go ahead and create  an official TableTop Day Event and place your library on the map. This will make it easy for gamers to find you!

Celebrate TableTop Day at Your Library


This year, International TableTop Day will be observed on April 5th–and it’s not too soon to get your library signed up as an event host! It’s free and you’ll have a blast.

What is TableTop Day? It’s a celebration of the fans of tabletop gaming. A single day where the whole world is brought together in a common purpose of spending time together and having fun.

If you already have board, card, and other tabletop games at your library, you have everything that you need to participate. TableTopDay.com even has free trophies you can print out and fold to give to game winners, as well as marketing and promotional tools you can use to bring attention to the event and to your library. Continue reading

Upcoming Scholastic Chess Tournaments in North Dakota

1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.e5 c5Encouraging kids to play chess is a time-honored and exquisitely fun means of developing their analytical thinking and STEM skills. In that spirit, there are a number of scholastic chess tournaments coming up in North Dakota (or just across the border in Moorhead), that I wanted to bring to the attention of librarians, teachers, parents, and chess enthusiasts.

On January 25 the FM Chess Tournament will be held at the Moorhead Center Mall.

On February 8 there will be a Scholastic Tournament in Flasher for grades K-12. It will be held in the school cafeteria.

Finally, on April 12, the North Dakota Scholastic Chess Championship will be held in Bismarck at the Shiloh Christian School. The top player from this tournament will qualify for a national tournament!

Typical scholastic tournaments have separate sections for grades K-3, 4-5, 6-8, and 9-12 to balance play.

You can find out more information on the North Dakota Chess Association’s Tournaments pageContinue reading

Tabletop Gaming Nights – Quick Play

In the previous posts in this series on great tabletop games for teen events, we looked at cooperative games, where everyone came together as a team, and  competitive games, where everyone was looking out for their own best interests. Today we’ll look at quick play games (maximum playing time of 30 minutes with minimal setup or cleanup), for when you have some time to fill, but not enough for a full bout of one of your new favorite games. These can be great at the end of the day or as sidelines while folks are waiting for a seat to open in of your “main event” titles.

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Tabletop Gaming Nights – Competitive Play

In the previous post in this series looking at great tabletop games for teen gaming events, we looked at cooperative games, where everyone came together as a team, and their chances of success were dependent up on their ability to work with one another. In this post, the focus will be firmly on competitive, winner-take-all, I’m-the-ruler-of-Mars, kneel before Zod games. Most games you grew up playing fall under this category, but I want to highlight some truly exciting games that are more complex and engaging than those you played with grams.

In addition to presenting some true classics of the complex game genre, I chose a few of these because of their relation to agriculture, the wild west, trains, and rural postal routes. This is North Dakota, after all.

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Tabletop Gaming Nights – Cooperative Play

Library gaming nights (or weekend afternoons) are great ways to get teens into the library. Gaming events generally can focus either on video games or tabletop games. Tabletop games have a lower entry cost than video games (they have no peripheral, hardware, or electrical requirements), can allow more simultaneous players than video games, and they tend to be more social (face-to-face as opposed to face-to-screen).

One way to ensure that a tabletop gaming event is exciting is by offering the opportunity to play games that are more recent, complex, and/or exotic than players are used to. Games for these events should present a blend of strategy and luck, allowing players familiar with the mechanics to remain deeply invested and engaged while ensuring newcomers aren’t steamrolled as they learn. This helps ensure that players of different skill levels can play together without killing the fun. Continue reading

Library Chess Clubs

Lucas van Leyden's The Game of Chess

Why Chess? Chess is a social game of logic, strategy, creativity, pattern recognition, psychology, and analysis. It has been shown to improve cognitive abilities, emotional intelligence, and academic performance. Besides being good for you, it’s fun, affordable, and incredibly easy to host at a library.

Who Can You Expect to Attend? Chess appeals to people of all ages and backgrounds. I’ve attended the chess club at the Bismarck Veterans Memorial Public Library on several occasions, and everyone from young children to retirees stop by to play; study problems, openings, and endgames; and just to kibitz. Chess crosses cultural boundaries and language barriers and its rich global history spans more than 1,500 years. All people have something to contribute to chess, everyone becomes both teacher and student.

Chess is big

What You’ll Need: the basic requirements to play are a board and a full complement of pieces. For storage purposes, having a bag for each set is also a good idea. The United States Chess Federation (USCF) makes it very affordable to get all three components for a budget-friendly $18.95. You will probably want multiple sets for your chess club–starting out with three to five is reasonable. If things really take off, you can always get more (invariably some folks will bring their home sets in, too). Players also appreciate having pencils and paper available, so they can record their games.

I also recommend having a set of the official rules on hand. You can either buy a copy of the rulebook, or print off this Wikipedia entry. It doesn’t take long to learn the basics (how to set up a board, how the pieces move) and I’d definitely recommend investing a few minutes to get that down before your inaugural club meeting.

The final requirement is space. Chess is most comfortably played at tables and with some degree of separation from noise and bustle. That’s not to say players won’t talk, but the opportunity to quietly contemplate is essential. Consider allowing lidded beverages into the area, as well.

Budapest Bath Chess

Help Getting Started: If there’s a chess club at your local high school, contact the coach to let him know you’re planning to start a casual club at your library. You may even score some free resources or a floating tutor out of it! Barring the existence of a school club, you may want to simply contact local science and math teachers and see if any of them would be interested in helping out. Chess has a natural affinity with STEM curricula, so you can often find allies there.

That being said, you really don’t need an expert to start a club. If you provide space and chessboards on a regular published schedule, you will bring people into your library and enrich their lives through the wonder of chess.

Bonus Fun: If things take off and your club is well attended, you should definitely think about getting some chess books and DVDs for your library, possibly subscribing to Chess Life, and maybe even getting a chess clock or two so your clubbers can play timed games and indulge in blitz and bullet matches. You may also want to consider hosting a casual (re: non-sanctioned, non-rated) tournament with prizes.

Free Chess Resources

Bringing OUYA to Libraries

On June 4th OUYA, the first fully Open Source video game console, will be released, and I for one am very excited about the prospect.


I think the OUYA has great potential to be a lively little system for library-hosted gaming events. What’s more, it’s priced within easy reach for most libraries. An OUYA with a controller lists at $99.99. Additional controllers are available for $49.99 each. If you’re thinking of gaming events, investing in more controllers is a must (it supports up to four players at a time). This is a nice price, especially when you compare it to other current gen offerings:

  • A PS3 Slim with one controller lists at $299.99 and each additional controller lists for $54.99
  • An Xbox 360 with one controller lists at $199.99 with additional controllers list for $49.99 each
  • A Wii U will cost $299.99 and additional pro controllers run $49.99.

With such a low price point, you might rightly be wondering if the hardware is cripplingly underpowered, and oddly enough, it’s not. While it’s no behemoth, it sports a 1.7 GHz quad-core Tegra 3 processor, 1 GB of RAM, 1080p HD output, and Nvidia ULP GeForce graphics, and that ain’t bad.

The fact that OUYA is Open Source also means that it’s readily possible for people in your community to develop games and other software for it. I would love to see libraries encouraging and hosting this kind of creative endeavor through programs, hackathons, and the like.

Affordability, performance, and openness are great reasons to be interested in an OUYA, but they’re not the only ones. OUYA games are purchased online and downloaded (you can extend its native 8 GB storage capacity via USB). This means that you own them forever (even if you bust your cube) and that there are neither optical media to besmirch or crack, nor cartridges to break or spill soda on. Additionally, all games are being released on a try-before-you-buy basis. This presents a great opportunity to let teen faithfuls test out new games and make recommendations to you, so you can develop your collection in a meaningful way, more influenced by actual gameplay than by packaging.

As with all emerging technologies, there is reason to be cautious. This is a new system without an established following like the PlayStation, Xbox, and Wii franchises have. That being said, OUYA does have major grassroots fan support (it was funded through a record-breaking Kickstarter campaign) and numerous enthusiastic developers. Interestingly, it’s Android-based, so despite being a new platform, there is already a well-established world of software developers. You can see the list of programs already completed or currently in development for it here. Ultimately, the proof of its market viability will be in the gameplay. That’s something I can’t speak to yet, though I can’t wait to find out…