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 April 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 adults will take place on Saturday and one for middle and high school students will be featured on Sunday. Both tournaments begin 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 five 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.

In addition to Flames of War, GnomeCon will also feature Wings of Glory (formerly known as Wings of War), a table-top game which uses miniature airplanes to simulate dogfights in both World War l and World War ll. Ian El Habre, a freshman at Benedictine Military Academy and an aviation enthusiast, will be running a game set in the World War l arena. El Habre’s participation in the event has been approved by the school to count toward his required community service hours.

“This game combines my love of miniatures and flying,” El-Habre said. “It’s interesting to see just how different the planes from each war maneuver in dogfights. I would like more people to be involved so they can see how much fun it can be.”

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 April 20-22, 2012 at the Savannah Convention Hotel off Interstate 95, Exit 102, in Pooler. In addition to Flames of War and Wings of Glory, the convention will also host a library of more than 300 table-top games, as well as collectible card games and miniatures, such as Magic–The Gathering and HeroClix, role-playing games (RPGs) and many more.

As part of its mission to promote education and literacy, GnomeCon has earmarked a significant portion of its proceeds to be donated to the Pooler branch of Live Oak Public Libraries. The organizers have also hosted numerous charity events that have benefited several regional charitable programs such as Union Mission, Bethesda Home for Boys and Greenbriar Children’s Center.