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Youth Boardgaming League leader Craig Girard tells students how to playCraig Girard, a board game-loving father, decided to share that love with Fluvanna’s middle school students by creating the Youth Boardgaming League.

Every Thursday after school, about 10 students gather with Girard and Vinnie Carrion, a fellow game-loving dad, to play board games and try their hand at creating new ones.

And we’re not talking Life, Monopoly or checkers.

When seventh graders Noah Young and Aidan Girard started playing games as toddlers and preschoolers, their favorites weren’t Chutes and Ladders or Memory. Noah’s favorite game was chess. Aidan said he never played “those classic games.” His favorite was Bakugan

It’s a board game inspired by Bakugan Battle Brawlers, a Japanese-Canadian television series.
You get the picture.

On a recent Thursday, four of the club members got ready to play Champions of Midgard. The website www.boardgamegeek.com describes the game as “a middleweight, Viking-themed, worker placement game with dice rolling in which players are leaders of Viking clans who have traveled to an embattled Viking harbor town to help defend it against the threat of trolls, draugr, and other mythological Norse beasts.”

Girard described it as a game that helps with logic and critical thinking skills.

“While all games deal with strategy and math, this gives practical life lessons,” Girard said. “Choices matter.  What you choose will affect you now and down the road.”

Michelle Baty homeschools her daughter McKenzie and brings her to game club meetings.

Sixth grader Blake Hilliard said he likes the “grandeur” of board games. “Sometimes you just have to take a break from video games,” he said.

Noah likes the club because it gives him time to hang out with friends. He agreed with Blake about needing to change things up a bit.

“Sometimes I need a break from the fast pace of online games,” Noah said. “Online moves fast and one wrong decision or move can screw you up completely. With board games there is more room for error and more time to make decisions.”

Girard said he doesn’t put down video games. He especially likes a genre known as MOBA that uses strategy.

“But for the most part, they are based on first-person shooter skills using reflex and timing,” he said. “In strategic games you have to think not just about the next move but a few moves ahead… Ever since I had my son I was interested in the use of board games to further the intelligence and educational levels in students.”

Part of the strategy is trying to figure out what other players may do, Noah said. “Thinking about your opponent is crucial. If you can’t think of multiple outcomes, one wrong move and you’re in trouble.”

Both Noah and Aidan play a musical instrument; Noah plays trombone and Aidan clarinet. Aidan also runs track.

Aidan enjoys the club because it gives him a chance to introduce more of his friends to board “gaming.”

The middle school’s Youth Boardgaming League is the first official club of the national league of the same name in this area, Girard said.
 The league was started in California by Greg Thatcher and has more than 30 clubs in California alone, Girard said.

According to the group’s Facebook page: “The Youth Boardgaming League is a nonprofit organization helping to develop critical thinking and communication skills in participants through engagement in safe and fun activities.”

Typically at the end of each school year clubs play in a tournament, but because Fluvanna is the first in the area, there won’t be one this year, Girard said. ”This year the focus is on games and allowing them to play and bring their own to share with others.”