Friday, May 18, 2007

Future Family Games and Lord of the Rings Battlefields

I can always find an excuse for buying a game, even if it is a game that I might not be playing anytime soon. I can justify buying monster war games that I won’t be playing with the Appalachian Gamers by telling myself that these are retirement games I will play when I have a room where I can leave a game set up for weeks.

But I’ve noticed another excuse creeping into my head recently. I’ve been telling myself that certain games are ones that I will be playing with my daughters when they are older. I have daydreams about dull rainy weekend afternoons suddenly enlivened when I pull some board games off the shelf.

Although I can steer my daguhters’ interest toward games, I have no idea what kind of games they will like five or six years from now when they are old enough to play the simpler adult games. They like dinosaurs now, but I find it difficult to believe that they will be clamoring for dinosaur games half a decade from now.

My best guess is that they are most likely to enjoy the same novice-friendly Euro-games that I show to my non-gamer friends. Games like Ticket to Ride, Settlers of Catan, Alhambra, Around the World in 80 Days, or Pillars of the Earth. I tend to enjoy games a little heavier than these, but I’ve had success bringing some of these games out when non-gamers are around.

My most recent purchase that prompted my gaming-with-daughters excuse was Reiner Knizia’s latest expansion of his Lord of the Rings game. That is, Lord of the Rings Battlefields. In case you’ve missed it, Lord of the Rings is a cooperative game in which the players operate as a team of hobbits trying to make it to Mordor to destroy the evil ring. The cooperative aspect of the game appeals to me because I suspect that winning or losing as a group might prove more enjoyable than having a winning daughter lording it over a losing one.

Lord of the Rings now has three separate expansions that make the game more difficult and more complicated. I can easily imagine playing the basic game with my daughters when they are twelve or thirteen, and then adding the expansions after they master the basic game.

I did get to play one game using the Battlefields expansion with the Appalachian Gamers. As others have noted, the expansion could justly have been titled Lord the Rings Flowcharts because of the way the expansion gameboards channel the movement of the forces of evil. But that didn’t bother me; the rest of the game is also a fairly abstract version of the toils of Frodo.

As I suspected, Battlefields increased the difficulty of the game. Substantially. Our party of four hobbits lost two members before arriving in Mordor. We stopped playing at that point because it was clear that the surviving members would only travel a few feet toward Mount Doom before being corrupted and killed.

It is possible that the next time I play this game will be with my daughters many years from now. But one thing bothers me. My eldest daughter runs and hides whenever I play the movie version of Lord of the Rings on TV and Gollum makes an appearance.

But if her love of dinosaurs is likely to fade, won’t her fear of Smeagol likewise disappear?

I won’t know for years.

2 comments:

jeffrey said...

My son started playing Lord of the Rings without me and with his friends at age 10. So you might not have to wait as long as you think!

Gerald McD said...

"My best guess is that they are most likely to enjoy the same novice-friendly Euro-games that I show to my non-gamer friends. Games like Ticket to Ride, Settlers of Catan, Alhambra, Around the World in 80 Days, or Pillars of the Earth."

I think you are definitely correct with this guess. Our grandchildren have enjoyed a wide variety of themes, if the games are well-designed, give all players a reasonably-equal chance to win, and play in a fairly short time frame. Our nine-year-old grandson likes almost any game the adults play (and he wins his share), and there are a number of Eurogames our eleven-year-old granddaughter enjoys. Bohnanza is a favorite for both of them. Add Carcassonne, Hunters & Gatherers, Pickomino, Loot, Royal Turf, For Sale, and Station Master to your list, also.