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I  should be writing up last night’s Pathfinder adventure log and publishing that this week but as it’s my birthday I thought I’d give myself a chance to chill a bit and publish something I’d already written instead.  I’ll put out the next instalment of Retribution next week.

My rediscovery of roleplaying games initially came from my brother getting me an old Basic D&D set for Christmas, something I imagine his wife is regretting him doing as he returns late from the pub shaking off his alternate personality as a halfling sorcerer every other Monday night.  I quickly realised that I really wanted to share this hobby with my kids for a host of reasons I’ve already blogged about as well as it just being good fun. My fifteen year old is now playing every fortnight in my Pathfinder campaign (taking him to the pub with me has been both fun and strange) and we’ve run a GURPS game for some of his mates recently, he’s definitely got the bug. I have been feeling bad about leaving my eight year old out of the fun though. True my youngest is more enthusiastic about the idea of playing than he is about actually paying attention during the game but he definitely wants in on the action.

Full on RPGs are something that I wasn’t sure he’d got the time or attention for so I was playing with the idea of the Dungeons and Dragons Fantasy Board Game which a friend of mine said might be worth a look. By a serendipitous coincidence another friend of mine, with no interest in gaming at all, said her kids found a copy of the same game in a charity shop and hadn’t stopped playing it for nearly a month. Her kids are six, eight and ten so they’re in the same age range as my youngest and therefore I decided that fate was taking a hand. Several days later I bought a copy on eBay and it has kicked off a new avenue of games for me to enjoy, not only with the kids but also with my mates.

The game is a massively simplified version of D&D and, a bit like D&D e4, is very visual which makes it great for kids as they aren’t forced to do loads of visualising (unlike Pathfinder which I play without miniatures). The combat is fast and simple where you roll for damage (different weapons use different dice) and then subtract for armour which can then leave you doing no damage. One player is the Dungeon Master and the other player(s) split the four characters between them. By combining different reversible maps and having doors, trees and pillars on tiles a relatively large number of layouts can be made and there are instructions for making your own dungeons if you run out of ones in the booklet. The traps and magic rules are also pretty simple and playable. Like I say my eight year old loved it and the fifteen year old will put up with it so it’s definitely a win.

The one thing that I do find really odd with it is that when I take the DM role I’m actually supposed to be trying to beat the players rather than trying to write a good story. I’m not actually bothered if I “win” (which isn’t normally the case with games) so I can just enjoy the ride although a TPK isn’t the disaster it would be in an RPG.

Another serendipitous coincidence is that a couple of weeks back my wife found my copy of Talisman in the loft after we’d given it up for lost several years ago. I have a friend who points out that, like its more recent descendant Relic, it’s basically snakes and ladders with character sheets but firstly I’m reliving my youth so I’ll cut it some slack (still don’t think I’ll be buying a copy of Relic) and secondly I’m after something that I can play for a few hours with my kids. So on a recent Saturday afternoon when youngest was knackered from swimming and shopping (more of that later) and eldest was knackered from mountain biking we dug it out and played. Again the eight year old loved it (especially as he won) and even my eldest thought it was ok. I know it’s not the greatest game ever but I we had a really good few hours playing and a lot of fun together indoors without relying on the TV or computer which is a win in my eyes. I can definitely see Talisman coming out regularly on wet afternoons when we’ve got some time to kill.

The pre-Talisman shopping trip was to buy Yu-gi-oh cards as a birthday present for one of youngest’s friends and while chatting to the shop assistant (I know nothing about Yu-gi-oh and don’t really want to) he really bigged up a card game called Munchkin. He suggested that I checked out the Tabletop episode where they played it and to say the least I was impressed when I did (the geek in me was seriously chuffed to watch the legendary Steve Jackson playing it with them).  The Tabletop episode definitely sold me the idea so the next morning I was back and buying the game. If you’ve not come across Munchkin then I really recommend checking out the video, it’s basically a four player highly non-collaborative card game with a very funny set of cards, watch the video I can’t do it justice in words.

Since starting to write this I’ve managed to run some more Pathfinder sessions with both boys going for a more old school “explore the dungeon and kill all the monsters” style (check out the game logs if you’re interested).  This is definitely holding youngest’s attention more but he’s still getting bored quickly and isn’t as keen to play often as I’d expected/hoped.  I’m planning on buying a basic flipmat which I can use with figures (possibly the ones from the D&D boardgame) as a way of making it more visual but I think it might well be the storytelling bits, minimal as they are, which are slowing things down too much for him.

The D&D boardgame was definitely well received initially by youngest but I think a game in which he got very close to getting wiped out put him off it a bit.  I need to nag him into playing again but what seemed initially like something he really enjoyed may not have had quite the staying power I was expecting.  If you’re interested in tracking it down there is a good review at RPG Net.  Talisman definitely seems more his thing, although so far I can only base it on one game played, he really got it and it might well be it’s basic simplicity and lack of the need for tactics that he likes (that and the fact that he won).

The big winner from all of this though has to be Munchkin.  The first game that we played, where we managed to nag my wife into playing too, was quite slow and not as much fun as I’d anticipated however since then we’ve played a couple of games and really enjoyed them.  I’m pleased I bought the Deluxe set as it comes with a board and counters (it’s a few pounds/dollars more expensive) which makes it more visual.  Youngest doesn’t even seem to mind that he doesn’t win all that often (although it’s often a close thing), he loves the speed, humour and back stabbing and is always up for a game if there is time.  I even had an evening when my brother had to drop out of a Pathfinder session and we decided to play Munchkin instead of a single session RPG game and it went down brilliantly.  I definitely can’t recommend it enough, there aren’t many games I’m happy to play with eight year olds that I’d also take down the pub to play with experienced gamers, I’m expecting both kinds of games to be played regularly though.

So have you played any of the games above?  Do you have suggestions for good board/card games that you can play with kids or how to get them into RPGs?

For my birthday I’ve been given both Tsuro and Carcassonne which I think we’ll be playing loads.

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