It's Teach Your Kids to Game Week, which is very timely given that I'm trying to teach my own boys how to play something closer to the games I like to play. After various experiments in pushing miniatures (and Lego figs) around a map and rolling dice, I think we've fallen into a bit of a rut. Mostly, we pair off combatants, roll dice (the number and type vary from day to day) and the winner knocks out the loser. It's getting old for me and I've had limited success in persuading them to introduce other elements.
That is, until now. Last night I feel like we had a breakthrough. With my youngest asleep, my first grader and I got out the box of minis and some previously unused poster maps that I discovered in the lower reaches of Gen Con swag bin. Not having had much luck in exploratory games, I instead opted to construct a military scenario. My child would assemble a squad of 6 heroes from among the miniatures (and Legos and actions figures) and I'd do the same for the villains. Then, and this is the key point of departure from previous efforts, we each made up extremely simple character sheets for our guys. On the spot, I made up a rule that said we could distribute 4,3,3,2,2 values amongst our team members in both attack capability and defense.
For the first time, the boy was able to make interesting and significant character creation decisions. Which of his team members were the strongest attackers? Which had the highest defense? I swear, I think I saw a light bulb go off in his head.
Playing out the scenario was a lot of fun. I played it out mostly Risus-style, with the attack and defense values indicating the number of dice rolled. We even tracked damage with hit points equal to the sum of the dice. Movement rules were simple (characters could move one "zone" or engage one target in melee combat) but we did include rules for ganging up, which added a nice tactical element.
The obvious next steps:
* Try to craft a more traditional adventure
* Introduce more complicated movement rules
* Introduce range combat
* Move to an established rules system
* Finally, the holy grail would be start an actual mini-campaign.