Tuesday, December 22, 2015

A Very Gaming Holiday Break

The Little Guy has spent the past several months in kindergarten – heck, they started August 10! – and now he’s looking forward to a bit of a break from school over the holidays. Two and a half weeks of break, in fact, this entire week leading up to Christmas, the week between Christmas and New Year’s, and even the first Monday of the new year. Although I have a short list of excursions and activities to keep us busy, I also expect I’ll fall back on gaming to help keep him occupied on his long winter’s break.

The Little Guy contemplating a move
in a tank game at Historicon.
His day at school offers him a good deal of structure which we’ve noticed he misses during the weekends and occasional days off. No doubt the dose of “toy-pocalypse” he gets having a birthday and Christmas so close together will give him a host of new toys to keep him busy plus a slew of new DVDs to watch. He also got his own kid-friendly tablet as a present, loaded up primarily with educational apps and a few fun bits (he loves Angry Birds). But even with his favorite PBS Kids shows and a tablet with limited battery time I expect he’s going to hit a point where he’s still bored during the day, when he gets pokey for something junky to eat every 30 minutes, and won’t let Dad alone until he’s focused on some other fulfilling activity.

I expect we’ll spend some time – possibly even develop a daily routine – playing games. We have a good repertoire of titles we play during our weekly family game nights, including Forbidden Island, Best Treehouse Ever, Qwirkle, Tsuro, King of Tokyo, and Castle Panic; some of these seem passable with two players, but not quite ideal play experiences. I’m hoping to push our bounds in the two-player game field with some new board games. The Stratego Battle Cards game is on my radar since he’s learned his numbers and concepts such as “less than” and “greater than.” I also acquired a Stratego board game set a while back he might enjoy trying. I also just got my Kickstarter-supported copy of Less: Like Chess, but Less from Slovenia, a clever little two-player abstract game with a variable board made of coasters. I also expect he’ll want to help me explore some of the childhood board games my parents rescued from their attic and brought during their latest visit, particularly the Raiders of the Lost Ark board game. If Santa decides to bring any new games for Daddy I expect the Little Guy will want to give them a try.

I’d also like to help him with some more difficult fare to expand our family’s game repertoire. I expect these might challenge his nascent reading and math abilities (which kindergarten is aggressively cultivating). He’s asked about Spearpoint 1944 (the illustrated box for the Village and Defensive Line Map Expansion has caught his eye, as will the nice components when I open it for him); while the game doesn’t require a whole lot of reading, he does need to follow a host of rules. I’d love to teach him Memoir ’44 but I’ll have to consider whether the text-heavy cards and numerous units might be too much for him. He’s also asked about Ticket to Ride Europe (I don’t have the original one for America), though that requires some reading and geography skills, something I’m not averse to teaching him. We’ve played some simplified games of Wings of War/Wings of Glory before (the World War I flavor); I might see if he’s interested in more of that or trying out the World War II planes. He has a particular affinity for the larger bombers.

He’s requested to play Valley of the Ape several times since we playtested it as part of our nearly year-long development, so I hope indulging him in that might satisfy his urges for gaming activities. I’m also playing with some mechanics for a basic-level, kid-friendly skirmish wargaming rules; my interest in these focuses on the various historical periods I enjoy and for which I have 54mm figures (French and Indian War, American War of Independence, Civil War, and British colonial skirmishes with Zulus and Dervishes)...but the Little Guy will most likely be tempted by my 54mm Star Wars Command figures in battles between hapless Imperial scout troopers and hordes of Ewoks (which the system can handle with minor modifications).

The Little Guy has also asked me about designing his own games (and bringing them to conventions to run and sell...), so I might indulge him with some basic game-design concepts or even a craft project based on a theme he likes. This is a big “if” fraught with complications and the possibility of consuming huge swaths of time. I’ve discussed managing game design concepts with kids before, so exploring this first-hand with a six year-old may offer some new insights or strategies.

Perhaps a slightly less daunting challenge comes from my urge to expose him to some basic roleplaying game experience. Although I have a host of roleplaying games, most remain beyond his grasp. As I mentioned in my recent “Share Gaming during the Holidays” post, I need to suppress my urge to run something I like in favor of a game with mechanics and theme more attuned to his ability and interests. Hero Kids seems just about his speed with a nice graphic representation of the characters and stats. I’ve been meaning to print out the game the entire year and never quite got around to it. The Little Guy’s had a stigma about them because he needs to be able to read, but as he’s already learning in kindergarten it might be a good introduction.

Unfortunately having the Little Guy home each day for two and a half weeks isn’t going to give me much time for my own writing and game design, let alone my explorations of B/X D&D, OSR titles, various wargames, and solitaire gaming. During the December holidays, however, I usually resign myself to having little time for personal pursuits; at least I can engage in gaming on some level and hopefully cultivate in the Little Guy an enjoyment of a few new games.

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