May 23, 2014: The day the world discovered the Megagame.
That day, the crew at Shut Up & Sit Down posted a slightly NSFW video of them participating in a daylong game that was a blend between a LARP and a boardgame. The game in question was Watch the Skies, designed and developed by Jim Wallman. Think Model United Nations and throw in an alien invasion: teams of players are various national powers, an alien force, or the global media. What do the aliens want? What will the various nations do to achieve their goals? Since Shut Up & Sit Down’s video recap of their time as Japan went live nearly a year ago, the video has been watched over seventy thousand times, inspiring Megagame events all around the world.
The games themselves originally were run by Megagame Makers, a small group of friends who began creating and running these games for large groups in the 1980s. Eighteen designers have developed over 110 different scenarios since. Yet it was Watch the Skies that seems to have led the invasion into the United States. Derek Porter launched Maine MegaGames to host a Watch the Skies game. He says that while many of the participants hadn’t heard of the SU&SD review, what really generated interest was the XCOM premise. For his inagural event, thirty-two people attended mostly from the greater Bangor area, which has a population of nearly 154,000. “The main reason that these events are able to bring in decent crowds is largely due to the established gaming communities in Maine,” he says. “There are several large groups that are all somewhat interconnected, in large part to the SnowCon convention and, oddly enough, the Magic: the Gathering communities.” He has received messages from interested players across New England and expects between forty and fifty players for this summer’s game.
Watch the Skies has been played across North America: Boston, Chicago, Minneapolis, New York City, Orono (Maine), Portland (Oregon), and Regina (Saskatchewan); and upcoming games — with scenario changes to allow for repeat players — in several of those same locations. Sengoku, a political game featuring several clans vying to ensure their survival and possibly dominance in 16th century Japan, has been played in Sacramento, CA, and will be played in Saratosa, FL, on July 26th.
Sengoku is available as a free download from the Megagame Makers website. Watch the Skies, Lost Youth (a game based on the Vietnam War), and Crisis in Brittania (the Roman invasion of Britain in 43 AD) are available for purchase at PastPapers.co.uk.
The popularity of these large-scale LARP-like board games have inspired others to create their own. The Cleveland Megagame Council created a Cold War scenario called “A Good Understanding” which had 52 players (6 Control) attending. Maine MegaGames is planning on creating original megagames, “including one based loosely on Game of Thrones.” New York-based MegaGame Society is developing an even bigger Watch the Skies titled Watch the Stars, an even based on Shakespeare’s Macbeth, and games based on H. P. Lovecraft’s and Jane Austen’s writings (two separate games here, but a mashup would be fantastic). After playing a version of Watch the Skies in a high school game design class, the students at Hargrave High School in Huffman, Texas, designed their own game, ALLIANCE: World Wide Crisis.
Megagames in North America, roughly east to west:
Maine Megagames is gearing up for their second Watch the Skies event this summer (June 13, Orono) and are developing a Game of Thrones-like event.
Boston event this weekend! MegaGames United will be running Watch the Skies at Knight Moves Cafe, Boston’s first boardgame cafe, on May 24th. Another Watch the Skies event will be held in late October. (Reddit discussion.)
Sarasota, Florida‘s The Dark Side (a comic book and game store) will be running Sengoku on July 26. (Facebook event page.)
The MegaGame Society is running two Watch the Skies events this summer new players. One on June 27th in Brooklyn, NY, and one on July 26th in Long Island, NY. They also have an instructional video about organizing and running a megagame in your own community. The organization will also run Watch the Skies in Chicago on June 6th. (Reddit discussion of Chicago event.)
Cleveland Megagame Council ran A Good Understanding last year and are planning “the next exciting Cleveland game event”. A “friend of the council” in the Cleveland area is developing a Prohibition-era game, currently looking for playtesters. (Details in CMC’s newsletter.)
In March, SaskGames ran Watch the Skies in Regina and was featured on Global News Regina (Video: Mentioned in the opening with coverage beginning at the 4:56 mark.)
West Coast MegaGames, formerly Sacramento Megagames, has run Sengoku in January, and are planning on re-running the scenario and Watch the Skies this year. They are currently looking at additional cities in California, Oregon, and Washington to host their next games.
(Images in this article are from West Coast MegaGames, Global News Regina, DigitalTrends.com, and MegaGame Society.)
Great piece. I’m the guy working on the Prohibition-era-rise-of-organized-crime game here in Cleveland, and I’ll be at Chicago this weekend playing the defense minister of India. If anyone is interested in working on the game with me I could really use the help.
Hey, cool, you found my Megagame. Sarasota on July 26th.
We have plans of running Watch the Skies in January In Tampa.
Sengoku 2 at Dice Tower Con in Orlando in July 2016
You can see all updates of future games here.