Welcome to the Flaming Faggot

Callovia is called "the boundless empire" yet you have managed to find its northern border - a notorious roadhouse deep within the Madrasan Marches on the edge of the wilds of Llanvirnesse. The sign above the door reads "Flaming Faggot," which would suggest a cozy, homey inn with fresh biscuits served at teatime if not for the severed troll heads mounted on pikes at the gate.

As you cross the threshold the raucous din quiets momentarily as all eyes dart to the door and calloused hands drop instinctively to well-worn sword hilts. The threat, instantly assessed, is dismissed and roadhouse patrons go about their business hardly missing a beat.

Grim, hard-eyed men huddle around tables in close conversation thick with conspiracy; caravan guards gamble away their earnings; Caemric rangers sit close to the fireplace cooking the damp of the Black Annis from their clothes as they warm their innards with Red Dragon Ale; minstrels play and buxom wenches dance for the pleasure of men who pay them little attention - until they need a companion to warm their bed.

As you approach the bar, a huge, bald barman with a greatsword slung across his back slides a mug of freshly-pulled ale towards you, its frothy head dripping over the rim.

"Pull up a seat, lad," he says, "and let me tell you a tale of high adventure."

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Fun Family Games

My daughter's sixth birthday was last week and I got her a couple of new games for us all to play on our weekly family game night.  Since Christmas is just around the corner I thought I'd post a quick review of them in case anyone is looking for some last minute game gift ideas.

I've been intrigued by the the line of Lego games ever since I first heard about them, and I was sorely tempted to pick up Heroica, but I was afraid that it might be a little too advanced for a six-year-old.  Instead I opted for the simpler Lego Magikus, which is aimed at ages 6+.

Like all Lego games, the first step is putting the game together, which is half the fun and though the box that it comes in is big enough to store the entire assembled game, my daughter often likes to disassemble it so she can put it together again.

The game itself is pretty elementary.  The object is collect one each of four different spell ingredients that are on a set of shelves.  On each player's turn he or she chooses a row or column on the shelves and rolls the die and receives an ingredient that corresponds to the colour rolled.  The first player to get all four ingredients wins.

It seems to me, however, that many game manufacturers underestimate children's abilities and over-shoot their audience.  While my daughter does enjoy Magikus, I'd say that six years old is approaching the upper age limit and that a more accurate range would be about 4-6 years old.  The game is entirely random; it requires no skill to play and can be quickly learned by very young children.

One of the really cool things about Lego games is that they encourage kids to make up their own house rules, which can be posted on the Lego website to share with the entire community, so Lego appears to share the same game ethic as the OSR community.

While Magikus may be a bit too young for my daughter, I'll definitely consider buying other Lego games in the future, and I'd certainly recommend Magikus for younger children.

The other game that I bought her was Carcassonne, published in North America by Rio Grande Games.  This is an amazingly fun game which involves laying tiles to create the countryside and the object is to complete projects such as roads and cities.  Points are scored by allocating followers to certain projects; the player with the most number of followers on a project when it is completed wins all of the points.

The game is extremely simple to learn and, because there is no writing on the tiles, it can be played by children much younger than the manufacturer recommended 8+.  Indeed, it has quickly become my daughter's favourite game and she regularly beats my wife and me.

On each player's turn, he or she draws a tile from a face down pile and places it on the table adjacent to existing tiles making certain that road sections connect to other road sections, city sections to cities, and so on.  One of the important aspects of the game is resource allocation, because you only have seven followers to devote to projects and you don't get them back until the project is complete (i.e. city or road is completely built).

While the game is very quick and easy to learn, there are subtle strategies that take longer to master, which makes it fun and challenging for all ages.

I highly recommend Carcassonne as a fantastic family game.  With several expansions available, it will provide a great deal of fun for years to come.


Anonymous said...

Hrm, I wonder if Magickus could be used as a spell-building mini-game for Heroica. Maybe combine the two with a few house rules to make more substantial RPG out of the mix.

-Ed Green

Sean Robson said...

Hi Ed; I haven't seen Heroica, so I'm not sure how cross-compatible they are, but it is a neat idea and given how house-rule friendly the games are, I'm sure it wouldn't be too tough to integrate them.

Anonymous said...

Youc an check out Heroica here if you're interested:


-Ed Green

Professor Pope said...

I love Carcassone. It's one of my favorite games. With all the expansion sets available, it's easy to keep playing it every week!

And it looks like Magikus would be a good intro Lego game for my 4YO. Thanks for posting about it!

Sean Robson said...

Hi Professor; our whole family loves Carcassonne and I expect that I'll be picking up one of the expansions soon.

I think Magikus would be an ideal introductory Lego game for a four-year old.

burned said...

I do not have any experience with playing games with a six year old, but we did start playing City of Thieves when Kay was only 8.

It's still a blast to grab our gang and sack the city after night fall. The box says "10 and up" but I'd take it with a grain of salt, as the rules are simple enough.

Sean Robson said...

Hi Burned; this is my experience most games. The recommended age seems to be set a bit higher than necessary, and younger children can easily learn the rules with a bit of help.

Dan said...

Timely post Sean. I've been planning to pick Carcassonne up myself as I've heard good things about it. Theres also a version for the idevices thats supposed to be quite good...