Thursday, 20 October 2016

Gaming with Kids - The First Adventure

Today, I inducted my 4-year-old daughter into the wide, wild and often weird world of miniature wargaming.

Before we start, I want to give a shout out to a group that I set up to discuss and advocate using gaming with children, Tabletop & Kids. As a primary teacher, parent of young children and avid gamer, I feel that there is not much out there in the way of support and would dearly love to see companies make gaming more accessible for a younger audience. If that's something that interests you, please come over to Facebook and join the discussion - Tabletop & Kids.

Tabletop & Kids
This past summer my daughter, Pickle, had her 4th birthday. Being that bit more grown up, we've been able to enjoy things like watching some of my favourite childhood films, reading chapter books at bedtime and spending time at the historical sites and museums in Leicester. And as it has been half-term this week, I thought that now was the time to introduce her to miniature wargaming.

I wanted to get her inspired so first thing this morning we took a trip into town to visit Warhammer Leicester. The store is a friendly place and there were plenty of well painted miniatures to pique her interest. It helped that last weekend was Armies on Parade, so there were even more eye-catching models than normal. She had fun working out which were the goodies and which were the baddies. When she realised that the models needed to be painted before being played with she was hooked; stage one was complete.

Oops. I forgot to take any pictures in town. Enjoy these cute kittens instead.

Beautiful though GW stuff is, it is far too small for her dainty fingers to work with, and so stage two had us visit all the toy shops in town looking for plastic 'armymen' or the like. I've actually done a fair amount of research on this in the past, as I use them for gaming at school, but that is something for another time.

Sadly, we didn't manage to find what we were looking for and so returned home with an adjusted plan. Instead of painting models, I quickly drew some cardboard standees and Pickle coloured them in. As we had decided to play a game inspired by a greatly simplified version of Frostgrave, Pickle's gang were generic fantasy hero types...

This photo was taken before Zeon the barbarian recieved his horrific facial disfigurement.

I was genuinely surprised and impressed at the creativeness of the names she came up with.

...and mine were a gruesome bunch of ne'er-do-wells.

It remains unclear as to why Wortfinger is so unhappy. Though, judging by the smirk on Ross' face, I'm sure he had something to do with it.

Pickle was adamant that the zombie was called Ross - after her uncle.

After that, it was time for stage three, coming up with some rules. We took a rather RPG-like approach to generating spells. We simply discussed what sort of magic the wizards would have and - after quashing the idea that they should both be Elsa - came up with three spells for each. We decided on possible positives for casting them on your teammates, negatives for casting them on your opponents and how difficult they might be to actually cast. As my daughter is only just learning to read, I recorded just the names of the spell and a casting value, adding a picture as a memory aid. (The whole thing was so loose, we even came up with new effects for the spells during the game when it added to the action and drama.)

Sparklewand knows at least one more spell than Gandalf the Grey!

Wortfinger's collection of spells rather gave away his character.

The table was set with Duplo terrain and toy pirate gold as treasure tokens, and the game - and thus stage four - commenced.

An extremely tight formation and starting with one warrior under a chair was Pickle's game-winning plan.

Knowing that measurement would be a problem, I got some over-sized straws and cut them into long, medium and short measuring rods. Only movement was measured, we assumed that magic and arrows were more than capable of getting across the table.

Pickle attempts to conduct her minions like the sorcerer's apprentice she is.

We simplified the game whereever possible; die rolls were usually 3:1 in favour of the active player to keep the game moving and glass beads were used to mark wounds taken (three and your model was dead). As the game played out, there were plenty of exiting moments when crucial die-rolls were failed or it was realised that characters had been snuck up on. It became clear very early on that Ross and Sparklewand were set to be bitter enemies.

Trust me. This was way more intense than comes across in the photo. 

The dwarven footsoldier, Pankank, made it off the table with the first treasure. His barbarian friend Zeon was not far behind him. After that, it was I was on rather the back foot. Pickle played extremely boldly and managed to grab almost all of the remaining treasure from under my nose.

He will be greatly rewarded by his master.

Her luck held out and, despite loosing Sparklewand in a frankly suicidal attempt to grab his third treasure, she was triumphant.

...and gracious in victory.
All in all, today was a huge success and I couldn't be more proud of Pickle. The game must have been around 40 mins, which is a huge amount of time for her to concentrate. We had started early, and apart from meal breaks, she stuck at everything we did all day, without loosing interest. She enjoyed every aspect of the hobby that she got to experience and there is plenty more of it to explore in the future. Before we had even finished the game she asked, 'Are we going to play this again tomorrow?'

I haven't told her yet, but we have some friends coming over so that we can try out the child friendly RPG, "No Thank You, Evil!" I'll make a geek out of her yet.


  1. Thanks for posting this. Our daughter is due this February so aI have a few years before this scenario .. but good to know there are other trailblazers ahead plotting a course.

  2. Thanks for sharing. That sounds like a wonderful experience! I've been playing with my nephew since he was 8 and now I want to start with my nieces, however I thought they were too young until now - but thanks to your inspiring report, I'll give it a try!

  3. This makes me so happy to see! I've started my 7 year old in RPG gaming with No Thank you, Evil! Let their imaginations soar!

    1. We had our first game of No Thank You, Evil! last night. It was awesome fun. I'd never DMed or even played a RPG before, so it was a great experience, but not all that exciting to blog about. I'll have to organise a session I can document better.