By Anne Marie Amacher
The Catholic Messenger
DAVENPORT – When traditional board games like Monopoly or Life are mentioned to a group of Assumption High School gamers, the eyebrows raise and smirks show. Members of the St. Matthias Gamers Guild don’t play those games. They play games that involve more thinking, strategy and imagination.
The group typically meets Wednesday afternoons in the Assumption library to play. Father Thom Hennen, their advisor, teaches junior and senior religion at the school in addition to being diocesan director of vocations.
Fr. Hennen is joined by Father Paul Appel, pastor of St. Peter Parish in Buffalo and St. Alphonsus Parish in Davenport. He also serves as the diocese’s judicial vicar. The two said they have played board games along with Father Jason Crossen, pastor of Our Lady of Lourdes Parish in Bettendorf, for years. “We used to get together on our day off on Thursday to play. Now we get together usually on Fridays,” Fr. Hennen said.
The trio has dozens of strategic and thinking games. Frs. Hennen and Appel teach the students how to play the games. The priests bring several different games so students can divide into groups to play from among the selections.
Senior Caleb Wagner said he discovered it was illegal to play card games at Assumption. He asked the dean of students if a club could be formed so the students could play various games. He received an affirmative answer, provided the group had an advisor. So Caleb asked Fr. Hennen.
“It took us a while to get started with schedules, but this quarter we have been getting together most Wednesdays,” Caleb said. “Your brain is full after one and a half hours of playing.”
Fr. Hennen emphasized that the club is a student initiative and “I was more than glad to help out.”
On May 6, Fr. Appel taught Ricochet Robot to the students. “It’s sequential thinking to get a robot from one spot to another.”
After the lesson on the new game, the seven students in attendance divided into groups to play other games. Fr. Appel and three students played Pandemic. The group works as a team to try and cure diseases around the world.
Sophomore Jonathan Underwood played Pandemic. “It is ridiculously tough,” he said. The game requires a lot of thinking and strategy to find cures for illnesses of the world. “We have to work together. We just need to find a cure. We don’t have to eradicate it (illnesses).”
Fr. Hennen helped with Small World. This game has different “races,” such as trolls and elves vying for territory. Fr. Hennen said with thinking games players need to watch how many moves to take to get the best result. Some games are economy based and involve “collecting revenue.” Some are luck based to make the right decision. “It’s fun.”
Some of the other games the priests brought along were Seven Wonders, which involves building a civilization; Revolution, which is working to get control of the town by influence – which may include bribery, blackmail or force; and a Star Wars-based role playing game.