Thursday, 29 November 2012

The Joy and Art of Participation Games

A couple of weeks ago I told you I was excited about two projects which I couldn’t tell about yet. And now I can reveal the first one: we’re going to make an e-book on participation games.

Mummy participation game, 2003. Photo Rob Koppendraier

So who are 'we' and how did this come about? We are wargaming club Murphy’s Heroes from Delft, the Netherlands. In 2014 our club will be 25 years old, no mean feat for any organisation and especially so for one that’s only based on the spare time of its members. So naturally this is something we want to celebrate.

As committee of the club, but more so because most of us have been a member of this club from the start, or a very long time at least, we wanted to do something special. Something that:
  • we could give to he members to celebrate this milestone
  • we could give to non-members to show what an awesome bunch of people we are
  • would show our creativity and the things our club is best known for
  • would engage lots of people in creating it

A-Team participation game, 2010

We came up with participation games. The club has a long tradition of games designed to attract strangers to our tables and engage. This made us a well known presence in the Dutch and international gaming scene and a welcome guest at shows of other clubs. It is also a source of great pride.

Participation games are different from just demonstration games because they don’t focus on the beautiful terrain and miniatures (although that can also be an important part) but on getting people to join in and experience the fun of playing. This requires an extra effort to design rules and make them work towards speed, action and fun.

But while staging a participation game is fun and rewarding, we feel it would be even better if we collect our experience and give it away, This will not only remind people of what we’ve done, it will also encourage them to join in. Because that is what we want to do the most: persuade people to do participation games themselves.

FRAG participation game, 2005. Photo Rob Koppendraier

So in 2013 we want to create Murphy´s Heroes Cookbook for Participation Games. We want to do this with our club members, but also with those from outside. Many clubs have designed successful participation games and we would like to include that experience and those examples into the cookbook. For example, I´m thinking of the legendary Breakfast at the Bastion game that was based on a scene from the Three Musketeers and which the Pike & Shot Society used to run,.

I hope that those of you that follow this blog and have experience with participation games are willing to come forward with examples, ideas, experience or even gaming materials and pictures of games they’ve designed and run. Or the games that you will design this year out of inspiration.

It is our intention to collect these throughout 2013 and publish the full version of MHC around May 2014.

Maybe you can understand now why I was so excited.


  1. J, that's a great idea for any cookbook. How's the best way to get in touch? I'm very happy to share our, and my, experiences of running participation games.

    1. That's great, Sidney! There's a lot we can learn.

      I think I can connect through google+, so I'll try that first.

      And I'll try to meet up in person some time next year when I come over to the UK.

    2. Absolutely Jur! Very happy to meet up when you're next in London - would that be at Salute, perhaps?

    3. Hi Sidney,

      I plan my trips to London around megagames. The first one is due on March 2nd, about the Tunisian campaign in 1943. If normally arrange a few days around the game, so I can visit friends and sights. If you are in the neighbourhood, I'll be happy to meet up.

      Some of the other people involved with the Cookbook (eg Hans Goosen and Peter Schulein) are likely to attend Salute, so I could bring you into contact with them as well.

    4. ps, watch the site today for news on the megagames in 2013

    5. Jur - that sounds great. I should be around in London in early March - it would be good to meet up. And yes, as for Hans and Peter at Salute, yes I'd certainly be interested in meeting them. Cheers!

    6. Good! I'll plan my trip early January. I'll be in touch then.


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