Mr. Smith Goes To The Dungeon

It’s always interesting to see what is going on behind the scenes. And nothing more more interesting to students than to see what makes their teachers tick, right?

Case in point: This week Scott Smith is debuting a Kickstarter for his latest off-hours project – a tabletop game called “Dungeon Drop.”

Yep, one of the teachers who offers the Winterim, “Beyond Monopoly: Board Game Design,” is producing an actual game of his own invention – neat how that works!

Scott Smith and “Dungeon Drop”

Growing Up Gaming

“I grew up with gaming as a thing, you know?” explained Scott when he visited the Communications Office to show us the new game. “I’m a father now, but I’m kind of part of this first generation of people that aren’t innately averse to gaming.

“But at this phase of my life, just sitting down at the computer and doing that type of gaming is not so appealing anymore,” continued Scott. “Board games are a wonderful way to make gaming a part of your adult life; where you can sit down at a table with your friends… [and] I can game with my kids and it feels good.

“We’re talking together and we’re sharing actual time at a real table together,” said Scott, with a smile. “As opposed to the kind of guilt that goes along with just staring at a screen.”

Dungeon Drop: Game-Play

With a quick paced game like “Dungeon Drop,” there’s very little staring at any one thing. Check out the game-play video from Tantrum House, who reviewed “Dungeon Drop,” below:

The impetus for Smith’s game was a contest on “Game Crafter“; a game design competition, which employed restrictions that had Mr. Smith’s mind churning (about a game that needed to be constructed only from “bits and pieces”).

“I kept thinking about it and just was on ride home from the grocery store one day and came up with this idea,” said Scott. “I was going to design a game that didn’t have any [board or traditional printed components] and I wanted a way to visualize something cool that made sense to me.”

Voila! Thus was born the unique design for “Dragon Drop.”

Creating Abstraction

“So basically the whole idea for the game was kind of circumventing the restriction of having this really abstract game. I wanted to actually be able to see a ‘picture’,” explained Smith. “So I came up with this idea that you drop all these random pieces, but once you understood what you were looking at… you actually started to visualize an actual dungeon on the table.”

And as far his team, Scott was thrilled to see both the game, and the team take shape.

“Everybody wants this; this feeling that a whole small team of people are working really hard together for the same goal… So that’s another great thing.

Scott Smith

“And in the Winterim, that’s a part of it, too,” added Smith, who saw shades of his own process in the work of his students. “For their final project, the students are in a small group and trying to work to each other’s strengths.”

English, Art… Game Design?

Looking at Mr. Smith, and watching him explain the ins-and-outs of the rules, and the game’s design, it was fun to think that the once English teacher, turned Art teacher, may now carry the title “Game Designer.”

“Oh, right now I still say I’m an arts teacher, which is absolutely true,” said Smith. “That is what I do for a living.

“But yeah, the more you do some of this stuff, the more you do start to incorporate it into your language of who you are.”

Supersonic Spartans: Varsity Volleyball Sets Tournament Trajectory

Groton, MA — Now 9-1 and halfway through their schedule, it’s full speed ahead for Lawrence Academy’s varsity volleyball team, as the prospect of a NEPSAC playoff berth begins to emerge over the not-so-distant horizon.

“We were all excited to build upon last year’s success and hit the ground running at preseason,” head coach Steve Engstrom reflected after tallying another victory, this time over Governor’s Academy on Saturday.

“I think we’re all surprised by where we are right now, but we are staying focused,” he said. “We started strong during our first big contests, but we’re now halfway through our very long season and have some very tough opponents coming up.”

Not that they haven’t played some talented teams already…

The Spartans only loss so far this season came against an impressive St. Paul’s squad, a game Coach Engstrom describes as a “five-set marathon” against “a very strong Class A team with a number of talented athletes” [Lawrence is Class B].

“Even though we came out with a loss, I was very proud of the team’s resolve to stay in it to the end, only to lose 13-15 in the last set,” he said.

However, it’s the 3-2 win over Middlesex at the end of September that Mr. Engstrom points out as the first major 2017 highlight.

“They are one of the strongest programs around,” he stated.  “Beating them was huge.”

Looking back at LA’s schedule from last season, it’s clear why the victory was so crucial to the Spartans.

During the fall of 2016, LA suffered two critical losses to Middlesex in their regular season matchups, then an additional setback in the first round of playoffs. After eliminating the Spartans, Middlesex eventually went on to win the NEPSAC tournament.

“This year they were undefeated when they came to LA,” Mr. Engstrom noted. “So it was a big match leading up to that day.”

Today, when it comes to leaders and players stepping up to the challenge, Engstrom explained, “It’s clear that the addition of Gabi (Bailey ’19) has created some new opportunities and raised the level of our play.

“Perhaps most important is how her skills and intensity have improved the team’s play as a whole.”

Combined with Gabi’s talent and experience, returning starters like Dasha Zhuravleva ’19 and Nicole Winthrop ’19 have stepped up as well in an offense that highlights their respective setting skills and versatility in moving positions.

It’s a line that’s sure to keep opponents on their toes.

“This season is different in that we are motivated in preparing for each opponent thinking that we have all the pieces to win and we can win if we play our best,” explained Coach Engstrom. “The volleyball program has not always been in that position, so this season is special.”

With the NEPSAC tournament in sight, the team shows no signs of easing up anytime soon as they aim for a playoff berth — and, given their momentum, maybe more.

Of course, in such a competitive league, “there is nothing guaranteed”; with games remaining against St. Paul’s, Nobles, and Middlesex, “there are a number of must-wins ahead which will test our focus and longevity.”

Yet these challenges have only served to boost the team’s desire and determination going forward.

“It’s quite a feat just to make playoffs in Class B, with only 8 of 27 teams qualifying,” acknowledged Coach Engstrom. “We had a taste of it last year, and the team wants to be back.”

With only two home games remaining, make sure to catch the Spartans on Parents’ Weekend when they take on Nobles on Saturday, Oct. 28, at 3:00 PM on the Stone Courts in the athletic center.