Category Archives: Game parenting

Theseus (his mother, father, grandmother) and the minotaur

One of the games that has made several appearances at our table recently is Minotaurus –yet another entry in the LEGO line of board games.

The concept is fairly straightforward.  The game is played inside a maze.  Each player controls a team of heroes whose goal it is to reach the temple hidden in the center of the maze.  Sound simple enough?  Well, there just so happens to be a creature lurking within this maze who would like nothing better than to thwart your every move.  Enter the minotaur. 

The playing field…

On each player’s turn a very cool 6-sided LEGO die is rolled.  Side 1 and 2 of the die have been replaced with gray and black panels.  If a number is rolled, you move one of your heroes that many spaces.  If gray is rolled you are allowed to remove one of the gray sections of the maze and place it anywhere else in the maze you’d like.  Most likely players will place the gray section somewhere that will block another payer’s path to the temple.  If black is rolled, the player then controls the minotaur and is allowed to move the creature up to 8 spaces anywhere he or she likes.

My son has had a lot of fun messing with his mother and grandmother.  For some reason he likes to team up with me and take on the ladies in our family.  Seeing how the rules are fairly open-ended, this teamwork fits in perfectly.  We’ve ended up house ruling a few things, but in the end everyone has had a good time.

If I move here will I be able to mess with Grandma?

You can create your own mazes, and the rules even encourage this, but so far we’ve only explored the recommended setup.  And speaking of setup, the game comes with a cardboard template which makes reverting the maze to its original state a snap.

I’m already thinking of ways of incorporating our LEGO Heroica pieces into this game.  Maybe have some nifty treasure items stashed in the dungeon—err, I mean maze–that can be used to get a free turn, block the minotaur’s attack or something along those lines.

Age: 5+

Players: 2-4

Playtime: 20-30 min.

Overall impressions

Minotaurus is a fun–if somewhat simple–game that may take some player creativity (in the way of implementing house rules) to keep the game interesting and entertaining.  The base game is definitely fun for a few plays, but in order to hold your child’s interest, you may need to come up with additional rules to keep things fresh.  Sure, the LEGO factor doesn’t hurt this game, but at the end of the day if the game’s mechanics are not engaging enough, the game’s components will more than likely become fodder for other LEGO building projects.

Babblings from an old portal master

Okay, here’s a dream I could have seen having not long ago.  I get called into a large game studio’s office and am asked point blank what kind of game I would have them design.  The sky’s the limit.  They’ll make whatever I want.  As several high level execs sit around the table ready to take notes I quickly suspend disbelief and start in.

First, I’d want a game that I could play with my son.  I’d want it to have the basics of most RPGs: character leveling, loot, hidden treasure, boss battles, power upgrades, a healthy dose of dungeon crawling, and in this case be co-op friendly.  The sky’s the limit, right?  I’d also like it to have several distinct classes all with their own abilities and skill trees and…

At this point one of the executives cuts me off and says, “Mr. Carter, this game already exists.  It’s called Skylanders.”

Holy crap.  They’re right.

My son’s college fund in a box

We’ve had Skylanders in our home for about 4 months now, and to be honest, I couldn’t be happier with the game.

I’ll admit the game struck me as a bit gimmicky when I first heard of it.   The base game comes with a portal of power which you need to plug into your game console.  You then take one of the Skylander figures and place it on the portal.  Within seconds a digital avatar of the Skylander appears in the game and you are in control of it.  Seeing this demoed in the store is one thing.  Playing it at home is quite another.  Once my Skylander was in the game and I started exploring things, the gimmick was gone and I was left to enjoy a very well-crafted RPG.

Certainly the game is also a money sink.  Somewhere in the neighborhood of $50 gets you in the door, but if you ever want to play with more than the 3 starter Skylanders, you’re going to end up paying quite a bit more.   And certain areas of the game can only be unlocked with specific types of Skylanders.   So, if you’re wanting to experience everything the game has to offer, you will be spending quite a bit more than the entry fee.

Unfortunately, this did not work. Gravestorm, we could have used you, old friend.

Yet all of this is still a no brainer for me because here’s the thing:  This will be the game that goes down in our family record books as the one that made a video gamer out of my son.  Sure, it could have been Super Mario, Lego Star Wars or any number of other kid friendly titles available out there.  But his will be Skylanders–a very well done entry level RPG.  Already “hit points,”  “level up,” ‘boss fight,” and “legendary upgrade” are terms that have entered his vocabulary.  On several occasions I’ve found myself discussing the game and basic strategies with him while we’re in the car.   It’s been a trip (pardon the pun).  He has a Skylander poster on his bedroom wall with all of the (32) different Skylanders—something he stares at quite a bit when we’re in his room getting him ready for bed.

Indoctrination on my son’s wall.

Just some further random impressions I’d like to share:

  • Drop in co-op play is brilliant—anytime anywhere.  It’s that easy.
  • To be honest, this is a game I would enjoy playing by myself, but seeing how excited my son is to play, I generally only do so with him.  Heck, Daddy’s got his hands full trying to keep up with the games on his own list.
  • Kaos, the smack-talking uber bad guy is a lot of fun and elicits some priceless smack-talking from my son as well.  What a joy it is to sit next to your child on the couch while he’s yelling, “How do you like us now, you giant poopy doody face?”  That’s my boy.
  • The game’s difficulty slowly ramps up throwing basic puzzles, a few mobs and the occasional boss fight your way,  and before you know it there is enough challenge to give even the most seasoned veterans a  run for their money.

If you’re looking for a video game to play with your child, where the basics of RPGs are introduced in a family friendly way, I can’t think of a better choice than Skylanders: Spyro’s Adventure.

Weeds

A yard man’s yard

My father was a yard man.  That was his thing.  Every bit of free time he had he spent working in our yard.  It was his sanctuary.  He’d mow the grass twice a week, water the yard every other day, and the result: a well manicured, deep green Bermuda carpet, was the envy of many a homeowner in our neighborhood.  We were allowed to play in the yard, but for things that could potentially harm the grass (like tackle the man), we had to go elsewhere.

My yard

My son’s father is a gamer, not a yard man.  A good bit of my free time is spent in front of a computer, not a yard.  Our yard has patches of dirt littered throughout it, and  in many places more weeds than grass.  It is the envy of no one; the eyesore of many.   My son doesn’t seem to mind though.  He enjoys taking his Nerf sword and beheading the weed stalk monsters every chance he gets.

What I wonder is this:  Did I in some way rebel against my father’s passion?  And in this very same way will my son do the same thing with me?  I really have no clue, but this unsettling idea has crept up in my mind on several occasions.  Maybe my son will turn into a yard man himself. 

Future father:  [opening the back door] Hey buddy, come on in and play some LotRO with your old man.

Future son:  Ah, gee Dad.  Not right now.  I’m just getting ready to edge the grass.  And then I’ll need to fertilize.

Future father:  Don’t you want to grab your champion and run Stand at Amon Sul with me?  For old time’s sake? 

Future son:  Is that an offensive or defensive skirmish?

Future father:  Offensive, but we could run a defensive one if you’d prefer.

Future son:  What’s the point?  I’m already at level cap, and I’d just as soon wait until Fall of Sauron comes out.  Anyway, they say it’s going to rain tomorrow.  I’d better get this yard fertilized.

Future father:  You’re not my son.  I’m taking away your yard privileges.

Future son:  Whatever Dad.

I certainly hope this is not the way things play out.  I’m very much looking forward to having a gaming buddy in the years to come.

Heroica (by the rules!)

Out of the blue my son informs me that he wants to play a board game by the rules.  Up until now he’s equated playing by the rules as something unfun and restrictive, and I’m sure I’m to blame for this line of thinking.  In the past I’ve let him just play with the board game pieces and figures as he wanted, and when I tried to implement some sort of structure to the game, he generally balked and would have nothing to do with it.

 So when he told me he wanted to play a game by the rules, I was more than willing to oblige.  That game ended up being Lego Heroica–more specifically, the Draida Bay adventure.  Recently Lego has gotten into the board game market and some of their releases have been surprisingly RPG centric.

Heroica: Draida Bay setup

Our game lasted a mere 5 minutes, but during that 5 minutes my son played completely by the rules.  Our mission in this adventure was to infiltrate the goblin fortress and take out the goblin general.  My son played the barbarian and I the wizard.  He made a beeline for the general, while I set my eyes on a heavily guarded (well, it sat behind 2 goblin soldiers) health potion.  My son’s first two rolls were bad (like father like son I guess), and he was down to half health before taking out any of the goblin guards.  Eventually his luck changed and before he knew it, he stood before the goblin general’s throne.  My wizard managed to catch back up with my son’s barbarian, just as the “boss” battle was about to begin.  I handed him the health potion I picked up.  He downed it right before engaging the goblin general.  This time he rolled well, and we watched as the goblin general went down like a sack of potatoes.  When I asked what his barbarian wanted to do next, he informed me that he planned to sit on the throne for a while (again, like father like son).

Age: 7+ (My son is a couple of years shy of this and we still had fun.)

Players: 2

Playtime: 5-10 min.

Overall impressions

Heroica: Draida Bay was fun, while it lasted, but there’s really not a lot of game here.  I can’t see my son wanting to play through this adventure again, as is.  Maybe if we set up another scenario, something Lego encourages you to do, the game would have more lasting power.  Maybe having daddy captured and tortured by the evil goblins (my son would like that), and he has to come rescue me.  I know there have been other sets released in the Heroica line, and maybe by combining the different sets into a bigger campaign, the game could come into more of its own.  As it stands though, it’s a tad on the light side for me.  Still, my son had fun and he did play by the rules.