Board Game Builds Bond between Penn Manor Teachers

By Ian Noll –

For a handful of teachers at Penn Manor, no matter how cool they “act” on the outside, their inner-nerd still lives on.

Since the beginning of the 2011-2012 school year a group of teachers has been holding weekly game nights to play “Settlers of Catan.”

Can you say “geeky.”

“The Settlers of Catan is unique in it’s combination of conflict and cooperation, thus allowing the players a sense of camaraderie amidst the struggles of competition,” teacher Nicholas Swartz explained.

But no matter how he tries to pass it off as intellectual, the dedication these guys have to the game clearly puts them in the nerdosphere.

The entire group consists of Swartz, Erick Dutchess, Matthew Scheuing, Brian Osmolinski and Jarod Staub.

"Settlers of Catan" won game of the year in 2007. Photo from

Settlers of Catan is a constantly changing board game, with new expansion packs always being released. The point to the game is to acquire resources and construct settlements (which can be upgraded to cities). The way to play is to keep expanding and upgrading settlements or collect development cards.  The first person to 10 points, wins the game.

Scheuing stated that it allows the teachers to have an excuse to hangout and to relax outside of the work environment.

To some people, “Settlers” might just be a game, but to these teachers it means bragging rights and lots of friendly competition. Depending on how the game the weekend before goes, the losers will usually suffer ridicule and some bashing from the winner.

Swartz stated that “coded” messages will usually be left for other teachers in school and that usually goes along with some trash talk.

These are probably the guys who made fun of others who played “Dungeons and Dragons.”

“This is the approach I take to settlers: It is essential to seek out enemy agents who have come to conduct espionage against you and to bribe them to serve you,” Dutchess said with an intensity that betrays his “unusual” fascination with a board game.  “Give them instructions and care for them. Thus doubled agents are recruited and used. That’s from Sun Tzu. In other words, watch out for snakes in the grass and one will find success.”

Nicholas Swartz (Left) and Erick Dutchess (right) are both avid "Settlers" players, holding weekly game nights with other teachers. Photo by Ian Noll

Also, Swartz said that the teachers use slang when playing; coming up with sayings such as “snake in the grass,” “hydra in the tide,” “going city style.”

They also use words like  ro-ad (row-add) for roads and bo-at (bow-at) for boat.

Their own vocabulary.  That’s uh, cool, right?

The game has brought a sense of camaraderie between the guys.

On game night, the teachers will usually play a game over some pizza or with football on in the background. The teachers from different subjects don’t usually get to associate a lot, so “Settlers” gives them an excuse to interact.

At least that’s the story with which they agreed to stick.

It leads them to become close friends, and for example, play on the same dodgeball team (Swartz & Dutchess).

Although it seems as if the sports they play are only a cover so they seem “cool” but really it may be because they don’t want their “nerdiness”  revealed to the outside world.

But their real bond happens over “the game,” they say, recounting all the special memories that they shared.

“My favorite memory would have to be protecting the crap out of the rock of Mr. Staub, he will know what it means,” Dutchess said.

“It’s amazing how a board game can be so addicting and be so intense,” Scheuing answered.

“As the premiere player, I fully advocate the game as an exercise in statistics and resource strategy,” Swartz said while a big grin flashed across his face.