March 23, 2012

Gaming with Kids: Stories

There are many wonderful aspects to hobby gaming.  One of those is story-telling: creating or imagining a narrative arc while exploring space, plundering merchant sailing ships, slaying dragons, building up a kingdom, or marching armies across a map.  Now, I'm never one to imply that any theme, however good, will actually make you "feel like you're there."  That's just silly.  After all, you're just pushing plastic, wooden, and cardboard bits around a tabletop.  However, there are often fun stories generated by great themes, and you will find your family or gaming group retelling these memorable moments long after the game is folded up and placed back upon the shelf.  These photos illustrate just a few of our recent stories.

Risk: 2210 AD - One of the novel reimplementations to this traditional
standard are Devastated Lands. These are randomly drawn (4) from the Land card
deck at the start of the game and marked with large, nuclear warning style counters.
For the remainder of that game, no one may claim, enter, or march through any of
these territories as they were laid waste in previous conflicts. As you might guess,
this mechanic can really change up tried and true strategies. In this game, we had
Southeast and Eastern Europe completely devastated and cut-off from Asia.
This isolation made for some unique interaction between Europe-Africa and
Africa-Asia. On top of that, the owner of Europe still received all 5 bonus armies
even though needing two less territories to secure and protect! Of course,
growing up at the end of the Cold War, it was easy for me to concoct a narrative
of the U.S. and NATO having once defeated the U.S.S.R and the Warsaw Pact
in a great nuclear conflict leading to such devastation!

Red November - Oh, those unfortunate gnomes! This title is one of our favorite
romps for its frantic chaos. Here, the entire ship's bow was flooded except for
the missile room - and it happened to be on fire while the missiles were also about
to malfunction and launch prematurely. Luckily as both events occurred, we just
happened to have two seagnomes already there. Hooray! One put out the fire,
while the second disarmed the missiles. Just then, it, too, flooded. Doom!
However, their brave and skillful actions saved the crippled vessel as a mere
fourteen minutes later, the two surviving crew members, cowering meekly in the
engine room (the only compartment not afflicted by flood or fire), were rescued.
Those that perished were posthumously awarded the Chit of Honor for their
service to Mother Gnomia in a patriotically, moving ceremony!
Axis & Allies 1942 - So anyone who has played a fair amount of A&A over
the years probably has that story of the loan Kraut tank fending off the entire
British Expeditionary Force in Norway; or a lone Yankee Infantry holding the
Imperial Japanese Army at bay in China for a whole round. Well, here we have
sort of the reverse: mass slaughter by the invaders! Just the fact that my five
Infantry and Artillery all hit on one roll when needing a '2' or less was amazing.
But when you also consider that I'm usually lucky to get even two hits in such
a situation, the 100% hit ratio was stinking hilarious! My kids sure were
impressed with their old man!

Bang! The Bullet! - It doesn't take too much imagination
to generate narrative in this well-themed card game.
Since it can get a little long in the tooth if players are able
to play a lot of Missed! cards and Beer cards to heal, then
we like the Dynamite as a means to thin the pack...hehe.
When laid before you, you must first draw a card as your turn
begins. If you draw a heart-suited card, then boom goes the
dynamite and you loose three life points! If it doesn't explode,
then pass it to the next person. Funny thing is, there are two
dynamites with the expansion, so when the second one is
played, you can eventually get both in front of you, doubling
the danger! Now, technically we may be playing that wrong
because you're not supposed to have two, similar blue-bordered
cards in your tableau. However, the Dynamite plays differently
than those others and, besides, it is much more fun when both
are played down! One time we had a pair of dynamite circling
around for five turns before one finally went off! Talk about

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