It’s summer – even if the local weather wasn’t told – and, as is tradition, our nephew spent one week of his school holidays at our place. By now, he’s ten years old and an avid wargamer – we’ve introduced him to Flashing Steel last year and he plays X-Wing with his dad. Incidentally, his dad accompanied him and stayed for two days, which gave us a great opportunity to recruit new blood to wargaming!
We started with Wars of the Roses using Sharp Practice. I had some qualms about confronting a ten year old with those rules as they are a tad more complex than what he is used to, but in the end we decided to give it a try. It was me and his dad against K. and the kid in one of our home-made scenarios, namely Billeting&Bickering. The lad was very quick on the uptake and had no problems with the activation mechanics. He greatly enjoyed the suspense of the random activation sequence and of the bonus cards. (This may also serve as a proof that people who don’t know anything about wargaming traditions have no problems with activation mechanics that are emphatically not IGO-UGO).
In the end, his dad and I managed to secure the key objective and drive the Lancastarians away. However, the climax was a random event in the last round: As the key area of the scenario was a graveyard, I had painted up a ghost and added a ‘Ghost’ card to the deck. What are the odds of that coming up in the last round! The ghostly apparition generated loads of laughter as we diced for shock points to be received by the adjacent units. The Lancastarians were running even faster while the Yorkists stoically stood their ground, so the ghost didn’t change the outcome of the game. It did provide a great climax to the narrative though.
Later, we had another game of Sharp Practice were I let the kid help to design the scenario. He wanted the Yorkists to defend a village (which he set up himself), so I took the opportunity to use this as a first test for a replay of the First Battle of St. Albans, something that has been in my mind for a long time. The Yorkists managed to hold the street barricades and even the small group of Lancastarians that broke through the hedges couldn’t turn the tide – especially after the village population joined in and gave them a going over!
We also had two games of Flashing Steel – the pirates are always a favourite and the kid loves the colorful characters and terrain. Both games were played using our secret mission scenario generator, and both were won by the kid, who played together with K. against me.
Another thing we did was good old pen-and-paper roleplaying. The kid is a big Star Wars fan, so when the new Star Wars RPG by Fantasy Flight Games came out, I got a copy of the beginner’s set with the idea of introducing him to roleplaying games. We had a first session at a family reunion some months ago. The kid was crazy about the game and desperately wanted to play another adventure during the holidays! So I sat down and prepared something. As a teenager, I have game mastered a lot of RPG sessions and loved devising new narratives for my group. I have to say that this has changed: Preparing a game looked too much like my regular work to be relaxing – both involve poring over books and trying to get a narrative out of scraps of information. Apart from games with the kid, I’m definitely not getting back into RPGs! This also explains why today I enjoy the painting aspect of wargaming more than as I did as a youngster: The manual and tactile work involved is a relaxing alternative to my day job.
The most surprising moment was when the kid asked me if he could try to paint a figure. We rummaged through my lead pile (Blimey! It’s bigger than I though!) and came up with a 28mm miniature that he liked and that didn’t demand complicated painting. We cleaned it together and I spray-coated it with primer and then he was ready to go. After explaining how to handle the brushes – he is used to crappy brushes from school and immediately expressed his delight at how much better mine were – I let him work away. I was very impressed by his skills. He worked patiently and diligently and the result looks really nice. I showed him how to give it a wash with thinned down black ink and how to paint the base with structured paint, but let him do everything for himself. He is rightly very proud of his figure, which was finished in time to feature in the last pirate game of the week!
As always, it’s been great to introduce the kid to new games and to play old favourites again. I also enjoyed introducing him to the hobby aspect of gaming. Doing stuff ourselves is central to our approach to wargaming and I think it’s important to show to a generation brought up on computer games that tabletop games can be richer in many aspects, as you are not constrained by the designer’s choices and can exercise your imagination to create something new. Another great thing was that his dad really liked Sharp Practice and told us that he now understands what makes wargaming so fascinating. So we have recruited lots of new blood to join our crazy adventure!