Sunday, 15 November 2015

Lightsabers at dawn...

Yesterday was a good day.

I played with light sabers before breakfast, finished a major painting project (more on that in a later post), got an afternoon nap, and had sausage and chips for tea. But best of all, I played HeroQuest with my three year old son.

Unsurprisingly, when I posted about this on the Oldhammer Community page on facebook, I got loads of really positive and useful feedback from fellow war gaming parents, and one reply in particular inspired me both to write this post, and continue to play HQ with my boy in the kind of freeform way I was already leaning towards. If you like my post and are thinking of giving it a try with your own kids I strongly recommend you give this post from The Lost and the Very Damned a read. That is some professional level nerd-parenting right there!

Being a dad to two boys is the best thing I have ever done. I'll be happy no matter what they end up doing in life, and no matter what they're interested in, but like every hobbyist dad, you secretly harbour dreams of sharing your nerdy weekends and eveings with your eager offspring. I mean, it's the excuse you've been using for keeping all of these toys over the years isn't it?

So, I've been really chuffed that #1 Son (denoting birth rank only) has shown some very postive signs of early nerd-culture adoption. He loves How to Train your Dragon, and we would watch it endlessly if he got his way, running around pretending to be chased by dragons, or being picked up by me and swung around as if he was flying and then delighting in staggering around dizzy and laughing.

Then he suddenly got obsessed with StarWars - the proper ones mind you, Episodes IV-VI - and I do mean obsessed. We started watching them on repeat, to the point where even I was getting a bit sick of it. He especially likes Princess Leia (though I suspect for different reasons, at this stage at least, than me) who is "very brave!" and Mr Grumpy aka Darth Vader. Out went Dragons, in came spaceships and... lightsabers!

I say lightsabers, actually he had taken to running around with the metal striker from the triangle in the music box, using it alternatively as a 'pew' (blaster) or a lightsaber. In between he would charge around swinging it from its little red string like a flail. It was clear that for the safety of his partents kneecaps and #2 son's cranum that we needed to find him something else. I successfully argued that the safest lightsaber proxy is in fact... a lightsaber! So off we went that weekend.

#1 Son with "Oki-wan-kenoki's Blue Light Saber!" (not even out of the packaging yet)

It has been near total immersion ever since. He sits on the potty with a 'Where's Chewie' book, and wants to look at "Pictures of StarWars!" on the tablet at the same time as having the film on, despite my pleas to enjoy one thing at a time. I do like the fact that he now fully expects there to be "Star Wars Music!" while we have pretend lightsaber fights on weekend mornings. I'm not so much of a fan of the fact that he demands to play ligthsabers with me as the very first words out of his mouth, pre 6:00 am on weekend mornings. Seriously, when that is happening for the fourth weekend or more in a row, even the most die hard of nerd-dads is considering whether it was the right thing to do to show him the hallowed trilogy before he could fully deal with the awesome?

So, I was relieved to be getting a break from endless "STARWARS!" as much as I was thrilled that he seemed to be showing an interest in another of my nerdy passions when he wanted to come and look at 'models and dice' in my office/nerd cave, and ended up sitting down with the spare HeroQuest board and bits that 'AVP-Shaun' gave me after a recent score at a charity shop. He seemed to like the look of a badly painted Orc with a cleaver and a shiny gold jacket, so I quickly set out some of the furniture pieces and grabbed a handful of unsorted cards and a few of the undead monsters (somebody, posibly Shaun when he was bored, had given them a reasonable basecoat and ink shading job, so they were more fun to use than the unpainted ones).

#1 Son loves rolling dice so he took to the idea of rolling the dice and counting out the squares to move, he sits in with us on various other board games and table top RPGs like D&D and StarWars: Imperial Assault and is allowed to 'help', and this has also helped curb his tendancy to want to bash models together while shouting 'pew pew' - but sadly that instinct seemed to come rushing back when he was presented with the HQ models.

Lucky we were using the spares, and not this complete set I bought for silly money on e-bay earlier this year. Please ignore the empty Quavers packets strewn accross the floor.

He soon settled down and his Orc moved up and down a corridor a bit and then explored a room where he knocked over a skeleton to much delight. We weren't using the HQ dice at this point, just a big D6 and he just enjoys rolling the dice and shouting out the numbers (normally the right ones), so anything other than the number of squares he moved was decided by choices, or in one unfortunate instance of relapse, bashing of models together. However he was most interested in searching the little treasure chest for treasure, and was thrilled to be allowed to choose one of the treasure cards. He got a potion of Strength ("That man drink it!" he said pointing to the picture on the card).

When more monsters appeared in the room, his Orc chose to "Run away Monster!", but his escape was hampered by a rock fall tile just to the right of the door out (*Big Gasp*), so we dealt out some cards from the random pile and one of them turned out to be the red Monster card for the Zombie (which I took to signal another wandering monster had arived, clawing it's way through that rockfall I ruled, while #1 Son took it to be another form of treasure and added it to his collection of cards).

The other was a Water Spell called Veil of Mist. "Do you want to cast the spell to help you run away?" I asked showing him the other card. "Yep." More dice rolling to move down the corridor and round the corner.

We were playing in the corner of the board that has one of my favourite details, the old boot on the floor so I asked if his Orc wanted to search for treasure "Oh. Yeah" was the hushed reply. I had a quick flick through the cards I'd grabbed to see if I could find the perfect treasure card of the gem in the old boot, but it wasn't there so I settled on the Tool Kit from the Equipment deck, as both something that he would recognise (his uncle is a carpenter and has already given him a toy tool belt) and something else along with the picture of the man running away on the spell card, to emphasise that not everything in the game was about bashing.

This seemed to go down well and the card was added to his collection just as his mother called to say lunch was ready. Our impromptu RPG session came to an end, but for my money it seemed like between his choices and the cards that were dealt we'd established that his Orc was a treasure hunter, not a fighter (despite unfortunate first impressions drawn from the blood stained cleaver, but to be honest the gold jacket should have given it away). Probably an Illusionist/Thief, but when I talked to him about the game over lunch we called him an Orc Adventurer (coz we all know multiclass characters can be way OP, yo!)

Some people would have seen my posts this weekend about his demands to play HeroQuest again, and how chuffed I was. This time we'd get a whole twenty minutes but it had to be after lunch, just before nap time. So I maximised the time by getting a few things together and setting up some furniture in the central room, and some open and closed doors around a few rooms on either side of the main approach. I closed off the other areas of the board with rock falls. This all seemed to work really well, giving us a small area to play in, with enough interesting stuff on the board already to capture his attention, but with enough empty space for us to explore and fill with new stuff. His first instinct when any new pieces are put down is to pick them up, look at the little model furniture and take it to pieces (this is to be encouraged in my book). I'd say this is less HeroQuest and more Dolls Houses with Dice Rolls, or D&D for short... no wait... copyright issues there I think. What I mean here is that it didn't feel a lot different to a table top role play game.

Let's just stick with calling it HeroQuest for now.

I'd also laid out the cards he'd collected last time and he spent a happy minute or two looking at those all over again.

His 'Orc Adventurer', in his flash coat, was on the board and he rolled some dice and moved him to explore a room. There was a skeleton inside and the Orc decided to bash him. We were using the HQ dice with shields and skulls this time and he really enjoyed rollign teh special dice and seemed ot get the idea of needing shields or skulls ("Shields like Mike the Knight for you, or Black Shields for the monsters" is how we distinguished them). He rolled well and knocked the skeleton over, but showed himself to be a bad winner by laughing maniacally for a bit longer than was strictly necessary. "Poor skeleton," I said.

His Orc went into the next room and saw a treasure chest and quicly moved up to it. We talked about using his toolkit card to search the chest and he took it upon himself to select not one but three treasure cards in return! This was as I was distracted by a delivery of Oldhammer goodness and some awesome minis from Heresy (more on that in a later post hopefully) - classic party Thief behaviour! I enacted some revenge by surprising him with a monster who had been hiding behind the door (yeah, this isn't going to come back and bite me in the arse at all!). We just called it a monster as I thought the idea of an 'Evil Mummy' was not a road I wanted to go down at that particular moment, 10 minutes and counting before nap time.

More dice rolling and the Orc had to stand on a table to get away (he rolled lots of Mike the Knight shields). He tried to bash the monster again and the dice were kinder the second time so he defeated the Monster. I gave him another decision to make. "Do you want to search the monster for treasure, or do you want to eat him up?" Stupid question. "Eat him up!" By pure genius coincidence this unsavoury episode took place in one of the little rooms with bones on the floor just where the Monster had been standing, so I pointed out that his Orc was a messy eater, just like him.

I asked if he wanted to explore another room, and offered the D6 but at this point he just picked up his orc and moved him accross the board, and busied himself changing over the closed doors for open ones, and only moderatetly mangling them in the process. This room had a table in it and his Orc jumped up. Another Skeleton had been hiding behind the door, and sadly the dice were yet again against the unlucky Orc (he was weighed down by loot by this point I think) and I had to rule that the skeleton had knocked him over. "Your Orc has fallen over I'm afraid!" this is what we say has happened when a character runs out of energy on Lego Star Wars, so he knew what it meant - game nearly over. "Ohhh!" came the cry of concern.

"Well what does he do?" Instinct reaction. "He runs to find his Mummy!" He picked up the Orc and moved him accross lots of squares (and through walls, but I put this down to the Orc's powers as an illusionist meaning they just appeared to be walls to me) and placed him in the middle room which we had set up with a bookcase, fireplace with sinister painting, and a big chair. The Orc sat on top of the chair. "His Mummy's coming!" I was told "What does he say to his mummy?" I asked. "He gives her a present!" he looked at his cards and chose the Box of Jewels! Which just goes to show, Orc Adventurers might be criminal scum, but they love their old mums.

Our time was up and as if by magic his real, non-Orcy mother arrived. I tell you what, with the amount of models and paint I've been buying recently, she'll be bloody lucky if she does as well as Mrs. Orc this christmas, but judging by the smile on her face as I recounted the events of the game after #1 Son went down for his nap, I don't think she'll care.

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