Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Runebound with My Son

My son asked to play Runebound the other night. He got it out and set it all up, picking a character (largely at random) and waiting for me to come play. I sat down, and he dove right in. Now, he just turned six and has played this (not to completion) once, yet he remembers nearly all the rules and a lot of the encounter cards. I've played 3-4 times, and I still can't remember all the rules, nor do I remember any of the encounters. We've been playing for two nights now and are nearing the end of the game. When he earned enough experience to get a heart, I warned him that he couldn't do the green encounters anymore then - he told me he didn't care and they were too easy anyway. He then promptly trounced a blue and red encounter. We aren't done with the game, but probably will be in another night. I don't know if he'll want to play again or not, but I suspect he will. One of the interesting and rewarding things about playing games with my son (and any child) is the discovery. That euphoric feeling of playing something new and cool. Not just the game, but the whole experience is new to him. Not to be jaded about my game collection or hobby, but my collection in a lot of ways is a lot of games that have similar experiences. I've worked to have a fairly good spread of games - dexterity, party, card games, light games, heavy games, thematic and abstract. Classic and newer classics. Yet whenever I play a game, I usually have that - "oh yeah, this game is a little like XYZ" moment. When I play or teach my son a game, he doesn't have that yet. He still has that sense of wonder that comes with a new game. The kind of excitement that makes a player want to keep playing a game over and over. He isn't jaded. He doesn't know that there are 100 cards and that only 1 of them is cool and that you will probably only get to see 10 of them a game and we'll have to play another 30 hours of the same game if we ever want to see that one cool card again. Nope. For my son, all he knows is that he played this one game and something soooooooo cool happened once that we have to play again. For him, that kind of effort is worth the payoff - because it isn't effort. Nope, its simply doing something cool and fun. So rather than thinking about how I'd rather be playing Combat Commander, I enjoy the experience. We read the flavor text on the cards. He digs the excitement of a scary encounter. He is jealous that I got a quest that will net me some coin just for walking to a nearby city. He loves that he had enough cash to buy a really bad-ass weapon (though he doesn't know that it is awesome until he tromps his next encounter with no effort at all). It isn't a game for him, it is a cool story that he gets to control. And you know what? That's what this game is supposed to be.

1 comment:

Jaybird said...

The best post I have read on your blog yet. It is great when we are able to enjoy games for what they are rather than enjoy them mostly as a hobby.

Two games have elicited the same reaction in me that your son had--Kremlin and Gunslinger. As gangly and shambled as a high school freshman, but also as full of life and pure innocent fun.

Funny how games take themselves so seriously nowadays. We get preoccupied on eye-catching game bits, slick card art, and elegant mechanics that sometimes the sheer enjoyment is lost.

Which brings another argument up for another day--what is enjoyable in a game?