Presents Under the Tree

Welcome to Cthulhu Mom Games – a blog about my experiences raising a gamer child.

During the December holidays when gifts are exchanged it’s inevitable that someone in my house receives a new game. As we are trying to build a collection of age appropriate games for Yog, it’s almost a given that one of her gifts will be one of these new games.

Ever since the birthday when I gifted Yog with Candy Land my husband has taken a more active role in researching games that are not only fun for Yog, but for the entire family. This year he found something we thought would be a winner – The Magic Labyrinth. The premise is simple – you’re trying to navigate a maze to get to symbols on the board to collect the token. However, you can’t see the maze as it’s under the board. There is a ball magnet attached to your pawn under the board and when you hit a labyrinth wall it knocks your ball loose at which point you return to your starting corner. The pawns are nice and chunky, making them great for little hands. However, you do need to be careful of wee ones who like to taste things – those ball magnets would be very easy to swallow. My husband gave me a summary of the game when he bought it and excitedly showed me the box when it arrived in the mail (our “local” game store didn’t have it and we didn’t have time to have it ordered in and then drive 45 minutes one way to pick it up). After looking at the box I was just as excited about this new game as he was and thought that we would have no problem getting Yog to play.

Silly me. I forgot. She’s four. She changes her mind more often rain drops fall during a monsoon. Despite the fact that we’ve had a few really good days where she not only played a game with us, but was the one to ask to play; and has, on occasion, played multiple games in an afternoon – we were very disappointed. She ripped open the wrapping paper, said thank you and set the box aside with the clothes. We weren’t too surprised as she didn’t know what was in the box other than “a game”. She can’t read yet, so she couldn’t share in the excitement of her parents quite yet. Besides, there were gifts that she did understand – like candy and head bands. We decided that we’d pack the game to bring to my parents later in the day.

Right. Christmas day with a four year old and we’re going to have time to play a game. Between eating, opening and playing with other presents and bed time, the shrink wrap remained firmly in place. Where it would remain until she could help open it. That’s one of our traditions – the owner of the game gets to open the box for the first time. We asked multiple times if she wanted to play. As always we got a polite “No, thank you, maybe later” or “Maybe tomorrow”. However, we had hopes for the next morning. We spent the night at my parent’s house, so we figured when the house was quieter they could talk her into trying her new game.

The next day dawned and not much had changed. However, I think she knew we weren’t going to leave her alone and the stalling tactic wasn’t working any longer. So she moved on to another. “You guys can play if you want to”. I asked if she wanted to play with us and she said no.

Eventually we sat her down and opened the box and my husband engaged her in punching out the pieces from the board. Telling her to punch the pieces out wasn’t the best choice – she proceeded to use her fist to try to knock out pieces about the size of the tip of an adult’s thumb. My husband course corrected and they got all of the pieces removed from the cardboard.

He then moved on to setting up the basic board. The instructions come with an easy layout for the maze. Since the game only comes with four pawns and there were five of us we played on three teams. My parents worked together because my mom said she’d get lost too often. Yog played on my team because I’m pretty sure she thought that’s how she was getting out of playing. My husband played on a team of one because of math.

Yog and I went first and she was happy rolling the die to determine how many spaces we could move. I started navigating the labyrinth and would ask her what direction we should go in when we didn’t know if there was a wall or not. She drew the next symbol out of the bag as we began to collect them. When we had a two symbol lead on the other players I relied more on her opinion as to which direction to head, even when I knew we would hit a wall. By the end of the game she was reattaching the magnetic marble to our pawn when it dropped. We even won the game, though I think there was a fair amount of luck involved – a lot of the symbols drawn wound up being very close to us, no matter where we were on the board.

So we finally got to play with my daughter’s new toy. And therein lays the point of this month’s post. This experience wasn’t completely about trying to get her to play a game. It was also about dealing with something I’m sure other parents have experienced – the disappointment of finding the “perfect gift”, the “perfect surprise”, something she’ll love, but never knew she wanted – only to be let down by said child’s total indifference. Sure, we tried to talk her into playing the game. But unlike attempts over the past few months we didn’t want her to play just for the joy or experience. We wanted her to play because we were curious about her new toy.
Now that we’ve gotten her to play we won’t feel as bad about playing without her. I’m curious to see how difficult we can make the game. And when Yog’s ready it will be in the game closet waiting for her to explore. And we’ll be ready to play too.
On the upside she was totally excited about the toy sewing machine we got her, so maybe we have a future in cosplay!
Until next month, happy gaming!


P.S. Here’s the link to the BoardGameGeek page on The Magic Labyrinth


Game On!

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