Table-top Games Stimulate Savannah-area Students’ Interest in Learning

In conjunction with GnomeCon’s focus on education, the three-day science fiction/fantasy convention slated for March 6-8 will be hosting a series of Flames of War games run by Effingham County Middle School teacher Alan Sheridan. The 6th grade social studies instructor has used his passion for miniature gaming to capture his students’ imagination.

Sheridan hosts an after-school group of approximately 18 students who participate in the game “Flames of War,” a table-top game published by Battlefront Miniatures. The company offers full support to school groups looking to host the group as an extra-curricular activity. The group meets every Friday, alternating between painting the miniatures one week and friendly competition among players the other week.

Sheridan will be running two sanctioned Flames of War tournaments at GnomeCon. A tournament for 5-12 graders will take place on Saturday, March 7, with registration beginning at 9 a.m.

The game depicts World War II battles, utilizing different scenarios from three different periods of the war: Early War (1939-1941), Mid War (1942-1943) and Late War (1943-1945). This is due to varying resources and technological developments among the various nations, affecting the actual course of the war. Players use dice rolls to determine the overall effectiveness of their assaults and defenses.

While the game may not accurately recreate historical battles, its mechanics effectively convey the drama of armed conflict. In addition, it also fosters friendly competition among the students, as well as a greater understanding of the strategic course of World War II.

According to Sheridan, once involved in the group, many students begin to pay greater attention in class as the game has captured their imagination. “There has been a significant improvement in many student’s grades, and some have shown improved behavior,” he said. “The game also encourages critical thinking and strategic understanding, as players learn the intricacies of the game.”

The group started about ten years ago with the help of Rob Villnave of Battlefront Miniatures. The company recognizes the positive role the game has on students and offers full support to educational groups from public and private schools, as well as home-schooled students.

According to Villnave, the company does not have an official written support program for schools clubs interested in participating. Instead, they tailor their support to meet the needs and goals of each individual club. “We have several school groups, mostly scattered between Virginia and Georgia, and each one varies,” he said. “Some are only active as a summertime program, others meet every week.”

Only two things are required for a group of students to join in. The first is a concise syllabus, written by a teacher or faculty member, outlining the goals of the program and how the game will be applied to a given school curriculum. The other is a designated group advisor whose employment with the school can be verified by a letter from the principal or other administrator.

Once these requirements are met, Battlefront Miniatures supports the group by providing a wholesale discount to the school. “We see it as no different than if a school were buying gym equipment,” said Villnave.

GnomeCon is a non-profit organization formed for educational, literary, artistic and charitable purposes. It will host a three-day science fiction/fantasy convention created by area board gamers, is slated for March 6-8, 2015 at the Coastal Georgia Center in downtown Savannah. In addition, the convention will also host a library of more than 300 table-top games, as well as collectible card games and miniatures, such as Warhammer40K and HeroClix, role-playing games (RPGs) and many more.

This article originally was posted on GnomeCon.org in February, 2012