Gamechanging in Uganda


The first time I went to Uganda was in September, 2001 with Donna. We had been married just over a year and were determined to see a bit of the world before starting a family. We traveled with my parents who had just started their non-profit, Computers for Africa. During our stay, we visited schools and helped set up computer labs in Masaka, Uganda and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.

Three generations of adventurers in our (then clean) tour van: Donna, Ruth, and Colleen Leacock

We returned to the country last year, this time with our two daughters, determined to show them a little more of the world. My parents and their good friend Herbert helped plan an itinerary that took us on a grand, counter-clockwise tour around the country. We visited schools, met with people in their homes, and visited the local sites: the source of the Nile, the equator, Sipi Falls, and the game park at Murchison Falls.

The countryside was beautiful, the animals abundant, and the people were very friendly and welcoming. But despite all the beauty and wonders all around us, we couldn't help but get in a few games:

  • We introduced the sisters at Kalungu Girls’ Training Centre in Masaka to Catan in 2001.
  • We played a few games of Carcassonne on a ferry ride to Zanzibar on that trip.
  • And last year, we tested Mole Rats in Space (in prototype form) with our guide Herbert and the girls while traveling in Gulu – appropriate, since Mole Rats are indigenous to East Africa.

Slim pickings: Twister and Cat & Mouse make up the total games available at this department store we visited.

Aside from the games we brought with us, however, modern boardgames are nowhere to be found in Uganda. 

That’s why I was so surprised to learn that there was a board game convention being held in Uganda last May – in Gulu – where we had just visited! And it wasn’t just chess, checkers, and mancala – these kids were playing games like Codenames Pictures, Cosmic Encounter, RoboRally, and Legends of Andor!

Codenames Pictures and Cosmic Encounter at the Ugandan Boardgame Convention

The convention was sponsored by Chrysalis, which has been training children to be change makers and social entrepreneurs for the last seven years. They’ve been using modern boardgames to train kids “in a whole range of skills, from social to persuasion, planning to resource management, adaptability to tactics, and much more.” They note that the games help the kids with self confidence, their ability to learn, and provide creative influence and inspiration.

Their first convention was a big success. Now they are working to expand their program into a new initiative called Gamechangers. Gamechangers will create more opportunities for children to play games between conventions and will focus on the following areas:

  • Competitive and cooperative boardgames
  • Drama, to teach the value of boardgames
  • Art arena cooperation games
  • Active and team-building games
  • Story-collecting for new games and adventures

They’re actively raising funds for this new program and could use your help. You can read all about how they’l be using the funds to train 16 young change makers to become social entrepreneurs on their Crowdfunder page:

If you do pledge, leave a comment below and let me know, because on Tuesday, August 15th at 12:00 noon PDT, I’ll randomly select one of the commenters who has made a donation to the program (however large) and send them a personalized care package. It might include…

  • a new, never-before seen prototype role card for Pandemic with your name on it
  • or a game
  • or a lenticular Forbidden Island postcard
  • or a special, hand-made “Box 9” for Pandemic Legacy Season 2 that only YOU will ever know the contents of
  • or all of the above … who knows?

Whatever it is, it’ll be a surprise and I’ll ship it anywhere in the world if you win.

Special thanks to Tony Boydell for this raffle idea that I’m brazenly stealing.

Update: We have a winner

Congratulations to Kurt Wils! You're the winner of the care package above. Please contact me at to work out all the details.

Thanks to everyone who contributed! We blew away their initial goal and their stretch goal. As of this writing, they've raised £2,907!

The campaign wraps on 18 August 2017 if you've just arrived and would like to make a contribution.