You may have noticed me using the term ‘megagame’ quite a bit recently, both here on the site and on Twitter. But a lot of you probably haven’t heard the term before. So what is a megagame?
What seems like quite a straightforward question really isn’t. In fact it usually causes a bit of controversy when someone tries to define the term! The reason is that it can cover a very broad range of experiences, and people don’t want it to be pinned down to it being (or not being) a particular thing. So I can offer you nothing more than a personal view (can anybody ever offer anything more?) based on generalisations that I’m aware of:
- They have an unusually large number of players (some say 10+ counts, some say 20+, the biggest have 300)
- They usually have at least one board plus a number of ‘board game mechanics’ (i.e. a party game like Two Rooms and a Boom doesn’t count)
- They last a long time; 3-5 hours is typical
- Players will have specified roles, with different roles having different rules and responsibilities, e.g. a command hierarchy or different members of a government
- A competent Game Control (GC) team of an appropriate size (based on number of players and nature of game) is required to keep things moving and fun
The combination of those, but particularly the varied roles and rules, is what makes the games so fun to me. They are often designed so accomplishing something on your own or as a small group is very difficult if not impossible. Therefore you need to be interacting with lots of other people, who may or may not have the same objectives as you, in order to be successful. A simple task very quickly spirals into a 10 year/turn plan through ridiculous politics, “I’ll share that technology with you if you can convince that other group to assassinate the leader of their allies by releasing this story about yet another team to the press.”
But don’t let that make you think it’s just an overblown game of Diplomacy. The topics covered are as diverse as board games, escape rooms or any other fun topic. Just glancing at my calendar of the events I know about I see games based on model UN during an alien invasion, zombie apocalypse survival, 19th century military, 13th century Italian politics, dungeon crawling, the Cold War and more.
The most famous megagame is undoubtedly Watch the Skies. After it was filmed by game reviewers Shut Up and Sit Down the world of megagaming erupted (indeed that’s where I first heard of it). You can watch those videos here, here and here. Coincidentally Watch the Skies 4: Global Apocalypse, the final chapter of the evolving saga, takes place in eight days time in London. Don’t rush to buy tickets, they sold out just a few days (hours?) after going on sale, and the waiting list filled up not long after.
However there are plenty games going on that you can get involved in. Until recently the majority of megagames took place in London, hosted by Megagame Makers. But now there are other groups/societies/companies running them across the UK including (in no particular order):
- Pennine Megagames (North of England)
- Cambridge Megagames
- Diversionary Games/Megagames – Southampton
- Dragon Megagames (South Wales)
- South West Megagames
- Firecat Masquerade (Brighton)
I also know that various collectives like board game clubs and universities have run one off events. And this isn’t just a UK thing; it’s spreading across the world.
I’ve included a lot of links in this article to give you as much information and spread the word as much as possible. But of course if you have any questions just ask and I’ll try and point you in the right direction. Hopefully you’ll be having some mega-fun soon.