LaVistamuralLindsey Tomsu, of the La Vista Public Library in Nebraska, is the unofficial queen of the life-sized board games. ‘ She and her TAB already cooked up a life-size Candy Land board game, as well as an enormous version of their personal favorite, Arkham Horror. ‘ Lindsey and her TAB received the Dollar General Literacy Foundation grant for her Teen Read Week programming, another colossal board game: a life-sized Life! ‘ Here’s a bit more about her and her program:

Where did you get such a great idea?

Back in the summer of 2011, my TAB ended up doing a Life-Size Candy Land game for the kids at the library. It was a bunch of fun making the game props and such. We did the old school version pre-candy characters. So in the summer of 2012 we decided to apply for the TRW grant and do a life-size version of our favorite board game, Arkham Horror, which compared to Candy Land was way more work and more detail. Over the course of the two and a half months leading up to TRW my teens volunteered nearly 353 hours to make that program a reality. More information about this program can be seen in our article in School Library Journal.

So this year, during the 2013 summer, I told them about the grant again and asked for ideas. Since we had already done two life-size programs and received such publicity for the Arkham one they really wanted to stick with the life-size game idea and make that our thing—what we were known for doing. They originally thought about maybe doing a life-size version of the original Arkham Horror game board (which, oddly enough, looks a lot like a Candy Land set up), but then they decided they wanted to do something new. They mentioned things like Clue but I have actually never played that and then they realized, “Everyone’s done Clue already.” Finally, someone mentioned LIFE. There were three groups among the teens when it came to deciding on this game—the ones that love LIFE and have played the older version, the ones that love LIFE and have played the newer version, and those who have never played LIFE before. Luckily, my library has a copy of the older one which everyone agreed was way cooler! So that was what we went with for the grant application. As Kayla Harbour said, “The theme is ‘Seek the Unknown’ this year. What, may I ask, is more unknown than life itself?”

How did you involve your TAB?

They were fully responsible for the idea of doing LIFE this year. Since we received notice that we were chosen for one of the grants, they have been involved every step of the way since then. Arkham was very, very prop intensive. LIFE, on the other hand, has less big props but more spaces on the board. So the work kind of evens itself out in a way. We first had two brainstorming sessions where we went through each space on the board and thought up what we could do for those spaces. For example, every career that someone can get we made pay stubs for them to carry (so they don’t forget how much they get on Pay Day) and they also each get a special item to carry during game play that represents their career (goggles for the physicist, a ruler for the teacher, a mini stapler for the business person, etc.). Another example is whenever someone lands on one of the “a child is born” spots not only do they get their “child” peg but they also have to fill out a birth certificate for the baby. Little things like that we had to brainstorm for each spot. From there we got to make three lists—things we needed to buy, things we could borrow, and things we needed to make.

Luckily for us, the actual game board has spaces that match colors of paper we had in stock so I typed out all the spaces, printed them on their color paper, and laminated them so they can be safely taped to the floor, walked on, and saved for the future! We enlarged the dollar bills and various insurance certificates so they were a more life-size size. The big crafty things that my teens have been working on include the peg children and spouses and the 3-D buildings on the board.

For the peg people we are doing two things. The spouses were made by taping two paper towel tubes together, hot gluing a little table tennis size ball to the top to make the head, and then spray painting them blue and pink. The children are made from really squat, but round, library book tape rolls with a larger Nerf-size ball for the head. Thus, the “babies” are the right size to actually be cradled! For the 3-D buildings, we purchased about 60 sheets of white foam board and built 3-D representations of the buildings. Since the buildings in the game are just white, it was perfect. I measured them out and drew the doors and windows on the sides, while the teens have been adding a lot of specialized details. This is where we are deviating from the game a bit as we want some flair and personality on our buildings. So, for example, the church got stained glass windows.

The other cool thing is our cosplay element…for LIFE, the teens are responsible for designing their “cars” out of cardboard boxes. We will even be giving away a prize for the best car!

How did you scale the game for thirty players?

Arkham was insane, taking a game meant for 8 people and trying to accommodate 30! We had fun, but learned a few ways that we would need to tweak it when played again. Since LIFE does not take an average of six to eight hours to play one game like Arkham does, I know that we will be able to hold multiple games on the day of the event. We plan on trying one game where everyone goes (we will have a chart to make sure we remember the order of players) and if that is too crazy we will split everyone up into two groups. While one group plays, the other will be responsible for handing out cash and other duties (essentially being the bank).

Overall, the teens have been working hard on the elements and can’t wait to see it live. I think a lot of them are sad that they don’t get to help set the game up (something this size takes a day to transform our meeting room), but, on the other hand, that makes them even more excited to see their work transformed the morning of the event when I open the doors to our large meeting room and they see, for the first time, the game brought to life.

Shanna‘ Shadoan is a librarian with the Denver Public Libraries. ‘ She is currently serving on the YALSA Teen Read Week Committee. Find her at

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