A while back, I mentioned that my had created a board game for his third-grame math project, which he called Attack on Ilum. This is the game manual that he had to write with a sketch of the board design. He created the board from foam board and drew the grid, drawing and coloring the objects. We didn’t get time to really playtest the game, but I think on the whole, he has a pretty good idea. I thought the game squares should have smaller and more, but he wanted the larger squares [4 inches x 4 inches] so that the game didn’t last too long. The two boards are then glued back-to-back to make one game board.
He had some trouble coming up with pieces but ended up using foam board again.
I had to guide him along, to keep the game’s focus simple, and used the exacto knife to cut the foam board. But the majority is his work.
If you’re interested, feel free to download, create your own board and pieces, and play with kids. According to my son, the game is designed for ages 8 and older, and I think the math aspect is educational, a good way to practice fast calculations and memorization.
Projects like this are good because they work in different kinds of thinking. He spent time researching what planets to use and coming up with a plot of his own, as a kind of backstory. I’m thinking of suggesting we do a similar project over the summer, but focused on a different subject, like history or science. It’s a good way to practice planning long projects as smaller tasks. But it’s a game, which makes it fun.
First, my son has to make a math board game for class, and we talked through it on Friday. I tried to guide as little as possible, but I had to keep pushing about the simplicity of design and goals. He’s not quite done, but I think he came up with an excellent game that has some variety and strategy to it. He’s halfway through drafting the rules, and he just laid out the basic board design. I’m very anxious to see what he comes up with for the final product, and I’ll definitely post the results here. I think he has something that we’ll be playing on family game night.
What was fun, too, was talking to him about basic board games and gameplay–race, random and luck, territory building, combat, etc. I didn’t inundate him, but I took the kinds of games he’d played and generalized from the specifics, to find out what he liked best and to encourage him to have both the subject and the type that he enjoyed. It’s definitely a fun exercise to do with kids, of encouraging them to create anything really.
Second, a couple of weeks ago, my son and I got back into miniatures gaming. I’m not sure what started it exactly–but I ended up getting more Star Wars miniatures and more maps, which helped greatly with the variety. When we tried to play last year, my son liked the idea of the game but not so much the game itself. But, as I’ve been explaining the new figures and their abilities, he has been more and more interested. Perhaps my mistake before was that I tried to simplify the game and stuck to only using the base attributes, ignoring the special abilities.
So, on Saturday, we sat down to a full game. In the recent purchases, we picked up the current uber piece–General Obi Wan Kenobi, whose abilities make him nearly very difficult to defeat. But, from one of the ‘blind’ booster expansions, we also got a very rare Captain Rex, who, in some ways, is even more devastating than Kenobi. But my explaining these characters just didn’t register with my son, but when he saw the two of them tear through my droid army, he nearly forgot about his other 8 characters and focused on three characters, finding their strengths and advantages and then using them to defeat my squad quickly.
The problem was that, when my Dooku piece managed to take Kenobi down to half health, my son had that panic and wanted to stop playing, like when some lose the queen in chess. It was very, very late [about 11 pm], so we stopped. But he understood that he was still in an excellent position and wanted to play again. We had a family day on Sunday for Mother’s Day and never started a new game. [We actually stayed up talking in the bed about the game and about Star Wars, how the troopers could work together. We decided to play through a scenario the next time so that we could have more of a story to act out.]
I could see that both his enjoyment and feel for the game had improved over time, just because of his maturation as a 9-year-old. Will we go to a tournament or a game night? Probably not for a while because I’m not sure how many kids his age play this game. [In fact, I've noticed that few of his friends and classmates play even battle card games, like Pokemon or the newer, popular Bakugan.]
I also think that simplifying can also take out the interest and even the creativity of some games. My intention might have been good, but I didn’t realize how much the complexity added to the interest in the game, thinking it would be too much for him. Part of that comes from the assumption that games are learned, first, in the abstract and in explanations. But just jumping in and dealing with the complexity can sometimes be the best way to learn.
I played Advanced Civilization with 6 friends for about 13 1/2 hours on Saturday, and it was blast, especially since I’ve not played an all-day board game in ages. It’s amazing how well Advanced Civilization stands up after all these years as an excellently balanced game. At one point, I had 3 calamities that threatened to wipe me out, but I was able to get back into the game and remain competitive. The nice thing, too, is that there was talk of starting up a D&D 4th edition campaign. [The computer game Advanced Civilization is available for download at abandonia, and it's a very near, if not exact, duplication of the board game, unlike, of course, Sid Meier's adaptation.]
In that game session, I talked to several friends are game developers, and they confirmed not only how steadily the game companies in Dallas have continued to wane but how the recent cuts across game companies is going to affect the games we see, though not until 2010, given development cycles. Plus, the necessary credit for producing AAA games isn’t there. One large publisher is even concerned about the lack of new releases for the fall. [Again, I'm amazed that there's not more interest in producing up-market games for the Wii because of its relatively cheap development costs.]
I had played through a bit of Zack & Wiki and then stopped to play other things. But I picked it up again on Friday, playing with the kids who were very helpful. Games like this are actually excellent multiplayer games, as even my wife sat down and tried to help with a couple. The reason is that the game, unlike RTS, RPG, and FPS games, doesn’t rely on controlling the character to have fun–a puzzle is a puzzle . . . as long as the gamer listens to others and respects their suggestions.
I picked up Skies of Arcadia in trade from Goozex, and I’m looking forward to playing it. Having fun with Chrono Trigger has made me eager to play through those RPGs that i really didn’t give time to before. I found that Skies was actually rather available in different game stores as a used game. This could be one of those games that would probably make a good suggestion for a game club such as Michael Abbot’s [which I keep meaning to join].
Playing games, especially board games, as a family can be tricky largely because my 6-year-old daughter is at a disadvantage. I recently ran across a very promising coop board game called Pandemic, in which all the players work together using the strengths of their roles to prevent the spread of a disease. Below is a video of the creator talking about the game’s design. [It's a little advanced for my daughter, but as a coop game, it's easy to help her along.] I like the fact that the game not only encourages but also requires lots of discussion, which is both good for the family and good to help teach the kids about strategic thinking.
The kids and I have now played three sessions of Dokapon Kingdom, increasing the number of weeks [7 turns per week] each time. The kids really like it, although my six-year-old daughter has a tendency not to venture out much and, thus, often comes in last place. Far and away the most difficult aspect of the game . . . moving. The auto move feature is sometimes frustrating, so I encourage the kids to turn it off and then, the games uses arrows to show all your possible finishing spaces.
I really like the risk-taking and exploration that the game encourages. My nine-year-old son has now been rewarded for a certain strategy, which is stealing and liberating towns. So, he’s setting off now for all the towns, moving into areas further and further from the starting castle, which has that ‘home base’ security that my daughter still clings to. Yet, no place is truly safe–you can be attacked by monsters or other players from afar, or you can get into several battles and lose track of your health. She sees my son succeeding by venturing outwards and is now trying to do the same. By playing a non-thief role, I’m trying to them how other roles, or jobs, can be rewarding.
Something else that is interesting is watching the kids develop informal rules, which, if you’ve watched kids play, often. For example, when the kids saw that thieves steal items from other players, they wanted to play a thief all the time, but then the advantage of the role quickly disappeared because everyone stole from each other. Partly out of self-preservation but also to advance the game, my son proposed that we not focus on stealing from each, or, as he said, ‘we just steal the same things from each other.’
This kind of gaming can be difficult to find, where the official rules of the game don’t overwhelm the players and allow them to be creative and even develop their own play. In a way, Dokapon Kingdom has only a few rules.
You can move or use an item each turn.
You have to earn gold to win.
Otherwise, the game is dealing with all the choices and responding to the different actions and events.
In a way, the game has that kind of tabletop rpg feel, even though in the multiplayer mode, there’s not a story per se. But it has that feel of finding the unexpected–that dynamic gaming feel. In a party game like Mario Party, you can do a few things to affect other players, but those actions are limited, until you get to the minigames. In Dokapon Kingdom, what you do, what squares you land on, has a significant impact–with battles, levelling your character, or getting great items that help you attack or defend against opponents.
With games like Mario Party, the minigames get old and there’s not as much of a progression outside of the board itself. With Dokapon Kingdom, it’s not about moving around the board in a specific order but about getting the most gold, which you can do several ways. You can be good, or you can be evil . . . in several ways.
But right now, I’m enjoying watching the kids play in ways I haven’t quite seen before–while not completely new for them, the risk-taking and game-making is at another level. Perhaps soon, I’ll have my tabletop rpg group, and we’ll have those marathon sessions.
After the break, I’ve posted images of the instruction manual, which give you a pretty good idea of how the game works, what the different actions, jobs, battle commands, and spaces are, and how to use the game controllers [for Wii remote, classic controller, or Gamecube controller].
Trying to relax in the face of impending deadlines at work and feeling way too behind, I spent some of the Thanksgiving days off getting in some time with a couple of new games. Come December 19 at 7pm, I’m going to begin marathon sessions with these 2 new games, as well as Fable 2. Both are RPGs that are quirky and not your traditional RPG in many ways. Both emphasize fun, have large replay value, and should be approached on their own terms. Besides, who needs dark and brooding for the holidays?
After picking up Chrono Trigger DS last Tuesday before the holidays, I got in a couple of hours with the game. I never played the original, but I was expecting a silly little RPG that is fun. And it is. I can’t help but think of Philip K. Dick as I play the game because, like Dick’s stories, the writing itself, the expressions and the style, is often awkward and unpolished, but the idea of the story is greater than the writing. And, like Dick’s characters, the Chrono characters are often stilted and simplistic, yet there is something memorable about them, something that keeps you interested in them. What really got me was how earlier scenes, actions, and characters in the game were used in the trial scene as evidence of both guilt and innocence. It seemed like a very fresh element, even though the original game was released 13 years ago, the kind of thing that made me think, ‘wow, that was cool.’ Needless to say, this little RPG has pushed aside Fallout 3 for my game time for the holidays.
I have some extra points on goozex, and all the games I have requested have very long waits. So, I decided to try Dokapon Kingdom. I looked at it as a simplified multiplayer RPG that I could play with the kids, replacing the very tired Mario Party 8. When it arrived in the mail, I took a couple of hours to play the solo story mode, and I quickly realized that my assumptions about the game were wrong because Dokapon Kingdom has far depth than I expected. The battles themselves are not complicated [at least, initially] and have some variety, but it’s the board game aspect that really adds to the RPG elements.
I’m reminded of some of the excellent [often German] board games that introduce a certain amount of randomness that doesn’t overwhelm or dictate the game but rather provides opportunities to develop strategies for winning. Along those lines of dynamic play, you are also encouraged to change jobs/classes, either to deal with your opponents or to unlock more jobs.
The goal centers around getting the most gold, but there are many ways of doing that–completing quests, stealing from other players or from NPCs, investing in your towns. When I read how one player used a disguise to look like another player’s avatar and then stole from a merchant, leaving the other player getting blamed for the crime, I was hooked on learning more about the game. I also have found that you can play evil or good, like in most RPGs, but these paths are not overtly part of the game but part of your play style.
The game would great for LAN parties, particularly playing with experienced gamers. I’ve played just a little with the kids, but I think the game works well for them, too. While I understand some of the criticisms of the game, I think it’s much better than the 71 average score on metacritic. It’s a game that could be easy to dismiss as slow and superficial, but if you read stories from people who play it and approach it for what it is rather than it isn’t [as in, a traditional multiplayer RPG], I think you’ll find a great little game.