What is this camp like? What happens in it?
To understand what this camp is like, some basic principles are important. First, our games are face-to-face – we do no videogames, and in fact we ask that electronics used for such gaming is left at home or in the backpack. Second, everyone at the camp is a gamer – a person who loves gaming, whether it’s face to face, video, outside or any other variety. Gamers tend to be intelligent people who love to challenge their brains, and who are welcoming to new players. Our campers are smart, strategic thinkers who love to be challenged and to grow into greater and greater levels of challenge. These two basics together mean that we offer high level competition for those who are ready, and excellent help and coaching for those who are newer. We enjoy competition in a cooperative environment. We have campers who have been with us multiple weeks every summer for many years, and so are expert in a broad variety of games. They win most of our tournaments, but they are very helpful for beginners, offering excellent advice and even materials for those getting started. It’s not unusual to see a high school student who is a multi-year veteran Stratagemics camper, offering beginners good advice on getting started, and even cards or game pieces above and beyond what comes with the camp. For a younger child, it means a lot to hear “I was just like you a few years ago, and here’s what will help you get better.”
The General Plan
Twelve years ago, when we started, we came up with a general plan for the week, and we’ve used it ever since. We run three “feature game” tournaments one the first day of every week, each of them being the best game of its type. The first is a trading card game (we currently play Magic: The Gathering). The second is a board game called Settlers of Catan, and the third is a miniatures game (we use Star Wars miniatures). We run an experienced and a beginner level tournament in each game, although even the beginners join in the larger Settlers tournament after the first round. The tournaments start in the morning, and are usually finished by early afternoon, after a lunch and outside break. For those who finish early, we encourage open gaming, trading and planning. Thursday is left open, as is most of Friday, and at the end of the day on Friday, we award prizes to the All-Around tournament winner, the winner of each of the individual tournaments, the best all-around beginner, and to the winner of the Good Human prize, the highest award of the camp, which is voted on by the campers.
Most of the new people who come to our camps are new to one or more of the games we play, and have no game gear of their own. We knew this would happen when we started the camps, so we give away gear as part of the camp. Beginners get starter decks and starter sets, and all campers receive either booster packs or “prize points” on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. Friday is prize day, and that gives yet another opportunity to add to the collection, so that anyone who is new to camp on Monday, goes home on Friday having picked up everything needed to get started in at least one of our main games. That way, if they have friends or family who play, or if they come to another Stratagemics camp or event, they have a solid base from which to grow. At the same time, it’s important to note that we always put the focus on best possible play of the game itself, not on the accumulation of stuff. In fact, we’d advise those who only collect, but don’t play, to consider a different camp. Collecting is part of most hobbies, but our focus is on improvement as a player, and learning the best possible play.
A Typical Day at the Camp
We follow a general plan for each day, but we adjust according to the needs of the group. Doors open at 9, and the first tournament usually starts between 9:45 and 10. Summer is casual time, so some of our campers come in a little later than others, but that works, because it gives us time to teach new games, or to refine skills. Beginners learn how to play that day’s game in those first couple of hours, while the experienced players play their tournament rounds. We enjoy quite a bit of freedom of movement, so players can move around as they need to, and they can have snacks or drinks when they want. The morning tournament rounds finish around 12 or 12:30, and that’s when we typically go outside (as most have eaten lunch by then), for about 30 – 45 minutes. We have a large campus, so we can play large scale games like Capture the Flag, or field games like Ultimate Frisbee. Once we’ve had our fill of outside time, we come back in and cool off, after which we start our afternoon tournament rounds, or, if the morning tournaments are done, we start any number of other games. Once those tournament rounds are done, it’s essentially free play. During that time, we do coaching, deck-building, board games, trading, planning for the next day’s tournaments, and lots of any number of card game variants. We often finish the day with a full group session of “Are You a Werewolf?”, a large group/party game.
The End of the Day
When campers first arrive on their first day, they are given a table on the perimeter of the room, where they can keep anything they brought or acquire during the course of the week, for the whole week. Therefore, campers who have a lot of their own game gear will not have to haul it back and forth every day. When they leave at 5, they can just bring their lunchbox and maybe a deckbox, and they’re good to go. We have found that our campers are typically having such a great time, that the time flies by, and they want to stay longer every day! Don’t be dismayed if you’re greeted with a groan. It’s not you, it’s the camp!
Stratagemics is led by Curt Frueh, a National Board and North Carolina Certified Teacher (grades 1-6) with over thirty years experience working with children and youth, 24 of those being in Montessori upper elementary classrooms, in both private and public schools. He is a Yale graduate with advanced certification in Math instruction from UNCC, and a Master’s Degree, with Red Cross training in First Aid and CPR.
Mr. Frueh was an instructor with the very popular Charlotte Chess Academy for eighteen years, and for three years worked with the UNCC/Providence Day School summer Math CAMMP program, primarily as a technology instructor. His chess club at Amay James/Park Road Montessori won many tournaments including three state titles.
Mr. Frueh is married with two grown children.