LAYTON -- Students from all walks of life find themselves immersed in worlds of strategy and adventure in an unusual after-school club at North Layton Junior High School.
Math teacher Stephen Olson began teaching at the school in September and found it devoid of the traditional chess club.
He took the opportunity to begin such a club and even expand it to encompass all types of board games.
His board game club now attracts a variety of students, who have become friends despite their other interests.
"It's fun to see the interplay between those kids when they wouldn't talk to each other at all in other classes," Olson said of the club, which meets weekly.
"They are a pretty outspoken group. We talk about politics and stuff, and they are willing to speak their minds."
A lifelong board game player himself, Olson owns quite an interesting personal collection of European board games that he shares with students.
He supplies games with such names as Tsuro, Small World, Ingenious and Innovation.
Olson said he purchased many of his games from a specialty store called Game Night Games in Salt Lake City.
He also said he prefers European games, because they require strategy skills rather than focusing on luck, the way many American games do.
Seventh-grader Gavin Simmons said he brought Monopoly to the club once, and it ended up just taking up space and creating more weight in his backpack.
"New board games are fun, and I love to play chess," said Jonathan Barfuss, 13.
"It's fun because I get to play a lot of new board games that I've never heard of before," said Miriam Wilson, 13.
A group of four boys -- ranging from seventh to eighth grades -- sat around a classroom table playing a strategy game called Tsuro at a recent meeting.
Each boy had a rotating group of three cards, which he used to create a path for his dragon game piece to cross the game board.
The boy who could continue the path for the longest would win. If the path ended at the edge of the game board, it was "death."
"Thinking, thinking, thinking," Jonathan said as he tried to determine the card that would create the longest path for his game piece.
"It gets your brain thinking," said Jared Theurer, 13.
Many of the students expressed a love for board games that extends beyond the club. They said the club gives them the opportunity to play games they love -- and to learn to love new games.
"It's a break from homework and school. It's a place to get away from real life. I've met new people that I wouldn't have met otherwise," Jared said.
Eighth-grader Devin Smith said his favorite part of the club is beating his teacher at a game.
He said this as he sat across a game board from Olson in a match of wits over a game of Ingenious -- a game in which opponents place colored hexagonal tiles on a game board to create patterns to score points while simultaneously attempting to block their opponent's patterns.
Olson said even though he has played these games many times, he still cannot win every time.
"It's fun to have the kids beat me at my own game. It keeps things balanced."