The force is strong with this one, it seems. Yes, that’s my beloved son, taking his first steps toward a larger, more gamer-filled world, as he becomes a temporary apprentice to Lord Vader. (Don’t ask me why the Rebel Alliance officer is standing near them. It just doesn’t fit continuity!)
The second day of Gen Con was our family day, as I took my son and wife to the convention with me. This day is was lot more leisurely paced than yesterday, because we spent more time being selective and sitting down to demo games, because with a six-year-old, you really have to be a bit more picky. He’ll lose patience if you’re chatting up designers about setting specifics. He wants some action, and if he doesn’t get it, there will eventually be a meltdown. With summer ending, we’ve been in meltdown territory for the last couple of weeks anyway, so it was touch and go, but we found enough games for him to get up to speed on quickly that it kept him highly engaged.
One game that we found very interesting, though not particularly fantastic (in the narrative sense of being fantasy-driven) was Bears! from Fireside Games. This dice-based game aims to simulate a bear attack during a camping trip … so, you know, it teaches helpful life lessons, as well. Depending on different die combinations, the players are able to escape the rampaging bears by shooting them, running away, or sleeping contentedly in their tents. However, if there are more bears left over when this is all done, then those sleeping in tents get eaten and lose points instead of gaining them.
Speaking of dice-based games, this was the first Gen Con go-round for game publishers The Haywire Group, which got its start with the game Dicecapades!, featuring over 100 different dice. The majority of their games are very dice-heavy. The two which captured my attention were their more educational games:
- The vocabulary-building Word Pirates!, in which you have to spell words to build a path (Scrabble-style) to get your pirate to a treasure.
- The math-building Number Ninjas!, in which you roll a math equation to calculate how many spaces to move, past various ninja-oriented obstacles. One cool feature of this game is that there are two sets of dice, one of which has only addition and subtraction while the other set includes multiplication, so that kids of various age ranges can play the game. (I didn’t actually play it, so am not sure how they balance such a cross-ages game, since multiplication would allow for much further movement than addition. I’ll ask them about that tomorrow.)
It’s been a long day, so I’m kind of exhausted and want sleep before tomorrow’s events, but I suppose before going to bed I should cover at least one fantasy-related products (for those who consider rampaging bears, word pirates, and number ninjas to be too mainstream). Let’s go with LEGO’s new Heroica game line.
If you’ve missed it over the last couple of years, LEGO has begun coming out with a dizzying array of board games with an intriguing LEGO spin – you build the board using LEGO components. As one expects, these usually result in somewhat versatile boards, although some (such as Pirate Plank, the one my son actually decided to purchase today) have a static board set-up that’s the same for each time you play.
Heroica is an attempt to create a traditional fantasy setting out of LEGOs. Given that LEGO has co-opted nearly every franchise around, from Harry Potter and Star Wars to Batman, it makes sense they’d make a foray into the high fantasy genre. Picture a LEGO version of the classic fantasy dungeon crawl, a la HeroQuest, and you’d end up with Heroica. In this world where monsters rule the land, a band of brave adventurers attempt to defeat the most powerful monsters.
The combat rules are very straightforward and my son – again, only 6 – had no problem adapting to the rules of the game. I have trained my young padawan well, it seems. (The rules of LEGO’s Ramses Return, however, were not followed so easily, but that was later in the day and I think exhaustion may have been a factor.) There are four games in the Heroica line, each which seem to have some different monsters and terrain elements. Here are the descriptions of the different games, taken directly off the LEGO website:
- Draida Bay ($14.99) – The Goblin army has seized control of Draida Bay, cutting off supplies to the region. You must take a stand against the Goblins, but can you defeat the powerful Goblin General and take his Crystal of Deflection?
- Waldurk Forest ($19.99) – Hidden in the ruins of Waldurk Forest, the Dark Druid is restoring his strength. You must use all your skill and power to find your way past his lurking monsters, but can you escape with the Chalice of Life?
- Caverns of Nathuz ($19.99) – Deep inside the Caverns of Nathuz, the Golem Lord has discovered an ancient artifact and is using it to create his own army of monsters. You must fight your way into the caves, but can you recover the Sceptre of Summoning?
- Castle Fortaan ($29.99) – Castle Fortaan has fallen to the Goblin King and his army of monsters. You must find a way past the Goblin horde to defeat the King, but can you discover his secret battle plans and return with the Helmet of Protection?
I believe the picture above shows Castle Fortaan (left) & Waldurk Forest (right). The version we played at the booth was Castle Fortaan, which was a lot of fun, and I can definitely see some cool ways that the games could be played together. Even just playing them sequentially, the prizes from one game could provide in-game benefits when playing the next game, turning it into a fun introduction to a roleplaying campaign for young gamers-in-training.
Or, of course, you could just merge all of them together and create a single uber-game board, as they had on display in this next picture. I haven’t delved into the rules to find out what gameplay elements are changed when you go this route, but I assume it’s described fairly clearly.
There were certainly many more kid-friendly games, but these were some of the ones that most captured my son’s attention, and which my wife and I thought we would actually want to play with him, so they’re among the best to pass along.
Tomorrow, my son will be left with grandma and it’ll be a full day of adult goodness with just my wife and me. (Not that kind of adult goodness. Really, get your mind out of the gutter.) Now that I’ve been through the Exhibitor’s Hall a couple of go-rounds, I have a good idea about the handful of games I’d like to zero in on for more detailed analysis, so expect to have the real cream of the crop coming up tomorrow.
Until then …