Last March, when I transitioned to a new call as the solo pastor of a small mountain church in Colorado, I wasn’t expecting to have to use video conferencing for most of my relational connections with my new congregation. Within a week of starting the job, I needed to shift our communal lives online, where we eventually offered all of our gatherings virtually. While worshipping and studying the Bible worked well to keep the most essential rhythms of our faith community functioning, there was always something missing.
Being an avid board gamer (see my blog post from last month here), I determined what we needed was an opportunity for playful interactions and experiences that are fun. Consequently, I started an online game night each week that utilized a unique type of board game called a “roll-and-write” game.
You’re probably more familiar with this type of game than you realize, as most of us have played Yahtzee at some point in our lives. This type of game functions exactly like it sounds—dice are rolled and players have to write the results somewhere on their player sheet. They are similar to Yahtzee, but this classic only scratches the surface of what’s available. Today there are dozens of roll-and-write games on the market, and believe it or not, they are a near-perfect medium for hosting online game nights.
There are games where you’re writing numbers in ascending order in houses in a neighborhood, games where you’re planning the destination cities for your band’s national tour, games that have you planting gardens with certain types of veggies, games that have you rounding up animals, and games that involve designing blueprints for a house. The list goes on and on. The themes and way you record the roll results are widely different, giving you ample opportunity to find a game or two that resonates with the people in your ministries.
What’s effective about these games is that, for many of them, you can play with an infinite number of people and no one has to be in the same room. Each time we gather, I set up my phone on a tripod so that it will show the results of the rolled dice through Zoom. Players print their own player sheets and log on from their homes. To play, they simply take the results of my rolls and strategically place them on their individual player sheet.
Even more, the most amazing aspect of this type of online play, is that it cultivates intergenerational engagement. When we play these games, we’ve got children, teenagers, young adults, middle-aged folks, and pensioners all intersecting with authentic mutuality and reciprocity—a way of interacting that is often absent in other forms of our Christian life. And it’s online!
All of that said, it’s likely somewhat intimidating to figure out which games you should buy, so below is my top-five list of roll-and-write games to introduce to your faith community. Also, if you’re looking for rules, player sheets and how-to-play videos, feel free to take this material from my church’s website (http://www.lakecitypresbyterian.org/games-up-here/) or even join us on Monday nights at 7:00pm MST for a game. All are welcome to play. You’ll just need to download the player sheets and log on to Zoom (links on the site). Happy gaming.
- Bloom (a little flower shop game where you’re meeting flower orders)
- Harvest Dice (plant a garden, while attempting to plant your veggies in groups)
- Rolling Ranch (round up your escaped animals and place them in separate pens)
- Railroad Ink (lay tracks and roads on a grid to make the largest network)
- Welcome to . . . Your New Home (order your neighborhood streets with ascending numbers)