I love a board game. We have a ton of them, but they don't get played as often as I would like. This is partly because, while I have a standard level of game proficiency, Ben is some kind of super-wizard, particularly at Scrabble and its ilk. He was a childhood Scrabble champion and has the trophies to prove it. Without the imposition of a handicap, Ben will win every time, and where's the fun in that?!
That's not quite the truth. In all honesty, I am not a competitive person at all and very much enjoy game play, separate from the end result. I'd love to play more. Like so many nourishing pursuits, we just don't make time for it, and we should.
With the summer holidays spreading out around us, I have been reaching for board games to play with the boys. I say "boys": Spike usually looks like we're draining the life force out of him, if I try and get him to play! Oscar, on the other hand, quite likes them. Until recently, though, we would divert Oscar to other activities if he suggested a board game. They always seemed to end in a storm. As per a not insignificant percentage of the 4-5 year old community, Oscar's need to win meant he found them too stressful. He coped with it by trying to impose rafts of wildly creative, but very difficult to follow rules, rendering the game unplayable. It was frustrating for everyone. I'm happy to say that either the break and/or the passage of time has improved things and we've enjoyed several drama-free games.
Oscar's long-standing favourite is Lego Champion. He is a complete Lego-fiend, so it makes sense that he would gravitate towards it. It is also a hugely creative game, as you design and build the game and create your own rules. For the previously mentioned reasons, this game was also top of the list of Games We Must Not Play, so it was with trepidation that I agreed to play it.
To avoid arguments about what we had agreed the rules to be, I wrote them down as Oscar formulated them. The gameplay was quite complicated, but I was amazed at how coherent and workable the rules were. Here was the game track that Oscar designed. You can see there is a "Green Zone" and a "Blue Zone". The coloured bricks are the landing squares, and the object of the game was to proceed from the white brick to the purple brick. Not visible is the dice which has coloured sides.
Each player started off with 5 "hearts" (obviously a concept borrowed from computer gaming), which I scribbled out on paper.
- Roll BLUE - Move forward one brick OR, once per game, teleport to the dark green brick (which was the 3rd to last green brick and is not shown above).
- Roll GREEN - Roll again immediately. If you roll another green, move forward three bricks. If any other colour is rolled, move forward only one brick.
- Roll PURPLE/RED - Back one space.
- Roll ORANGE - Move forward one space and lose a heart.
- Roll PINK - Move forward on space and gain a heart.
If a player arrived at the grey plank with less than 5 hearts, they had to enter the shark tank and stay there until they had accumulated 5 hearts again (by rolling pinks).
Oscar also had plans for a final Boss Battle in which players had to face off against a formidable-looking red dragon, but he's still refining that aspect of the game. As designed, the game worked really well, and Oscar was so focused and engaged throughout. We played to a conclusion and we both had a lovely time. I was proud of him for thinking hard about how to make the game work, and for following through to a satisfying end (for everybody!).
I am definitely inspired to try and bring more board games back into our lives. Spike did like Scrabble for a time, so perhaps Junior Scrabble will be next out of it's box. If there's some sort of Scrabble gene, we should probably exploit that! At worst, Ben can start teaching them all those pesky two-letter words.