The Game Loft in Action

Let there be Pax on Earth, the Game Loft/I Know ME explores 19th century international history

Look at the picture to the left and what do you see? You might see four goofy kids talking with an even goofier older woman (me). What do I see? I see four diplomats representing Japan, Russia, Italy, and France in the 1890’s discussing the state of the world with a member of the press corps. You see, if just takes a little imagination. In April imagination met with factual learning in the Game Loft’s annual Pax Britannica event. Eight teams of youth and adults spent a full April vacation day exploring the events that led to the First World War. What is even more surprising is that these young people are not the ones who are normally enamored of education, in fact many of them are struggling, but they gladly spent a day talking about colonization, trade routes, negotiated settlements, treaties, alliances, and coaling rights in the far distant past. 

The object of the game is to re-create the period between 1888 and 1916 and to grab as much territory as possible without upsetting the balance of power and causing the Great War. Although the details differ slightly from actual events, the spirit of colonial expansion is the same. Most kids would not say that those topics inspired them to spend a spring day indoors. In Pax Britannica nations must balance the pressures from their own countries for greater revenue and power with the need to keep the lid on what is a boiling pot of international controversies. The countries that are timid will lose but causing the Great War also means defeat. 

The kids poured over maps, created strategies, negotiated, delegated, gave interviews, and interpreted a set of rules that are worthy of an international treaty. What caused this dedication? We didn’t let them know that this was “educational.”

Linford Young, Pax Britannica veteran and high school senior galvanized the room with his eloquent address as the president of the United States. He was able to use his skills and knowledge to get to victory in the game. 

Thank you to our AmeriCorps members who led the event and mentored the less experienced teams. 

Many of the players in Pax Britannica 2022 were new to the game but their grasp of complex issues was heartening. In particular, the coalition of several powers: Russia, France, Italy, Japan, and Austria-Hungary created a proto-League of Nations. In all the many years of playing Pax Britannica I have never seen a time before this where war was averted and nation depended on nation for peace and goodwill. I was truly moved by the spirit of compromise they showed. 

Imparting knowledge and wisdom is the work of schools, but it is a pleasure when afterschool can add a unique perspective to the education process. 

The Game Loft in Action

Fostering belonging through food, friends, and safety year-round

School vacation should be a time for kids to have fun and be carefree.  Unfortunately, the reality is that many kids are left isolated and lonely when school doors close with families still busy working and long distances separating them from their peers.  That’s why at the Game Loft we’re open year-round offering free van-transportation to and from our site in Belfast during school breaks.  

This April Vacation at the Loft, we got outside to enjoy the changing weather with the start of Live Action Combat season.  Rio ran an epic Star Wars miniatures battle that all came down to a square off between the Imperial Forces and a small, scrappy troop of bounty hunters.  In the end, Henry’s massive Imperial army managed to overwhelm the bounty hunters and claim victory!  The week was capped with a special Pax Britannica event hosted at First Baptist Church (more to come on that soon), and a treat of blueberry pie for Friday night dessert. 

Virtual Game Loft Coming July 17th!

Greetings! We are writing to let you know that the Game Loft has gone digital during the COVID pandemic. We honestly have no idea when we will be able to open up the Loft safely in the near future, but we want to make sure that our members can still find ways to socialize and do the activities they enjoy. To that end, the Game Loft has established a server on Discord, which will enable our members to stay in communication with each other while we play our games virtually.

What is Discord? Discord is a free platform that people (primarily gamers) use to create chat servers allowing them to communicate in real time while playing games. Traditionally, it has been used for video gamers, but we’ve created a server that will allow us to chat in real time while playing role play, board, and card games. The server has “channels” that are dedicated to the different activities we do at the Loft. For example, the Savage Room area has channels for all the active role play games (RPGs), the Board room has channels for board game chat and setting up on Boardgamearena. We’ve created a chat channel for our Youth Board so they can still have their bi-weekly meetings. We have a kitchen channel where we post what is being served for lunch in case the kids want to come by and pick up a lunch to go. We even have places for the kids to post memes, pet pictures, and their artwork and poetry!

Admission to the Game Loft Discord server is by invitation only – open only to members, adult volunteers, staff. We require that all the kids, adult volunteers, and staff have handles that easily identify who they are (I’m BossChris, for example). We have the same behavior and participation expectations that we do at the Loft, plus a few new rules that help govern online behavior. We want the kids to be able to interact with each other during this strange time and to do the activities they love, but also to use a space that is safe for them to do so.

The Discord solution allows us a little more flexibility schedule-wise. As the schedule evolves, there might be games that occur outside traditional Game Loft hours. But we also ask the members to be sensible in their use of the platform. We’ve already established, for example, that there should be no posting to the server before 9 am and after 9 pm.

Here are the requirements to take part:

  • Participants must be at least 13 years of age.
  • Participants must already be members of the Game Loft with membership long forms on file.
  • Participants must have a valid email that they check regularly.
  • Parents/caregivers of participants must provide a phone number and are strongly encouraged to provide a valid email address.
  • Parents/caregivers of participants must fill out and sign a supplemental permission form that will be kept on file with the participant’s membership form. It can be printed and mailed to us at the Loft at 78A Main St, Belfast, 04915 or scanned and emailed back to Chris ( with the subject line “membership – (child’s first name)”.

In addition, depending on the activities participants want to take part in, members will need to create accounts on supplemental platforms besides Discord that are designed for our activities, such as (but not limited to) Board Game Arena, Roll20, Cockatrice, and Tabletop Simulator, depending where their interests lay.

If your child is interested in joining us on the Discord platform and meets the above requirements, please email Chris at to get instructions on how to get him or her started.

We will officially launch the Game Loft online program on Friday, July 17 at our End of the Year Zoom party. Updates will be sent via our E-courier and on our Facebook page.

Thanks, we look forward to hearing from you!

Chris Donley
Game Loft Program Manager

The Last Gasp of the Pantry Challenge

One last surviving stalk of celery greets some graying cabbage and a can of tomatoes. Last year it might have been garbage but this year it tomorrow’s vegetable soup.

Well, I made it over the finish line of the Pantry Challenge. We ate as much as possible from the stash in our freezer and pantry and only went out to eat once in early March. Ray took his coffee with him whenever he went out and we reached our contribution goal. Thank you to Jen Gunderson who contributed to the coffee challenge. If there are any others out there who saved their pennies during the last six weeks to donate to the Game Loft’s challenge please send a check with the line on the notes that says, “Pantry Challenge.” We currently have $650 in going for $1,000.

There were some challenges this week. I guess the biggest one was when I made spareribs in ginger beer in the pressure cooker and the heat must have been too high because instead of succulent spareribs we ended up with shreds of pork that I laboriously picked out of a volcanic blackened crust at the bottom of the pot. In other times we would have scrapped the whole dinner and gone out but since that isn’t a possibility we “ate around” the blackened pieces. I usually have great success with the pressure cooker but that night’s dinner could best be described as a “total failure” or more explicitly, “a revolting mess.” I had planned to make enough for leftovers but once was quite enough.

I had enough dried fruits and nuts in the pantry to make about a cup so I put them all together and made hot cross buns for Good Friday and Easter. Right after dawn we distributed them to friends in Northport and Frankfort and didn’t even get stopped by the police for unnecessary travel. I also made daisy cookies and Resurrection buns for the Game Loft’s Easter baskets. We had 16 kids take lunches that day.

All in all the Pantry Challenge encouraged me to be more careful in my purchasing. We had almost no food waste during this period and that is heartening for our budget and the environment. I am surprised to see that I even have some things left over in my freezer. In the weeks ahead we will whittle those things down as I shop more wisely. We have also learned how to eat at home on an everyday basis and that saves a lot of money as well. I hope to keep Ray brewing his own coffee as well. From now on I will make a monthly chart of the meals I plan to prepare and stick to it as much as possible. I proved that you can save $100 a week by careful planning and thinking ahead. Ray hopes to use our pantry savings on a vacation when we can travel again.

Pantry Challenge Update: Final Week

All is not lost when I still have lots of oatmeal, dried beans, and prunes

Well, I knew it would be a challenge but I certainly didn’t anticipate what Covid-19 would bring to cooking. I have been whittling down my pantry items but, to be truthful, not as diligently as I would have liked. When going to Hannaford is the only outside recreation for the week it is tempting to over-indulge. This last week will be the final push to see if I can save $100 a week and donate it to the Game Loft.

During this enforced stay-at-home period I have been doing some cleaning and reorganizing and some of that has been in my cookbook collection. This week I have decided to focus on a single cookbook and see what I can make using the ingredients on hand. It is complicated a bit by the fact this is the last week of Lent and I should be avoiding meat, sugar, butter, oil, dairy, and all the things that make food really taste good. I have decided to try a new recipe for the pressure cooker that involves lentils and butternut squash. My squash has been in the pantry for quite a long time and is looking a bit “squashy” but if I have learned anything during this period it is to use it up, don’t throw it out, so I am going forward.

I will admit to being overly enthusiastic about hot cross buns this Lent. They are my chief (but by no means only) indulgence. We have been eating Hannaford buns but this week I plan to make my own for Good Friday. Many years ago we went to a church in Canada that insisted on fasting on Good Friday followed by divine hot cross buns right out of the oven when the 3-hour service ended. Breaking a fast was never so sweet.

One final note: Please make an effort to reach out to Chris, Natasha, and Nikky and thank them for feeding kids seven days a week during the Covid-19 period. They are my heroes and I can’t thank them enough. Your words of encouragement are always treasured but never more than now. Send a note to The Game Loft, 78A Main Street, Belfast, ME 04915 or email to Chris Donley at