Random Gaming Thoughts

Welcome to Cthulhu Mom Games – a blog about my experiences raising a child in a gaming family.

I’ve had a lot of thoughts bouncing in my head lately, but none of them long enough for a compelling post on their own. So I’m going to follow the example of some of my fellow bloggers and just hit you with those thoughts this month. Maybe the thoughts will be more compelling when compiled. Or not.

Next month I’ll talk about con prep with a Kindergartener and how my LARP design is going. I’m waiting until next month to talk about the LARP design because I’ve stalled a bit on that. There’s a couple of reasons. First up is time. I’ve been overly busy, to the point of getting ill. So I had to drop some activities and since I have some time for this, the LARP went to the back burner. Second is writer’s block. I ran into some issues I needed to solve and plain just couldn’t. See reason number one for one of the biggest road blocks there. Third is that I am waiting for confirmation on the space I will have at the convention. Location will affect some of my planning. So, in the next couple of weeks this will be my new focus item, and then I’ll have something to tell you for real.

SIX IS AWESOME! So is having friends with kids a little bit older than Yog.  Not much older, but old enough. Old enough for what you may be asking? Old enough that when the kids want to cross the parking lot to play on the swings when we’re at a mutual friend’s house for a party I have no problem letting them go on their own. My husband and I got to play in whatever game we wanted all day, whether that was together or not. We didn’t have to think about where we sat. Neither of us had to volunteer to sit out to be available for Yog’s needs.  Yog on her own is still a little tough. But I can’t fault her at that. Being the only child in a house where the adults want to play a board game when you have no interest and no one else to play with must be boring. She can still be really needy and our usual tactics need to come into play. Though I will say I was particularly let down at the latest gathering. Prior to the party I told Yog what we would be doing that weekend and she told me that she would “sit on my lap and roll dice for me”. That happened a total of ZERO times that weekend. Even when I asked her and reminded that she told me she would to that. And no, I didn’t expect her to ditch her friends to sit on my lap and roll dice. I’m not crazy. Well. I am, but not like that. When she was on her own though it would have been nicer than the whining. Also, I was looking forward to just having her with me.

I consider myself to be one of the luckiest gamer girls in the world. I hear horror stories from other women about experiences at conventions, gaming stores, or in their own gaming groups. I have not one horror story. Not one bad gaming experience that was a direct result of my femininity. I’ve had bad gaming experiences. Ones where the game wasn’t for me, or where personalities didn’t mesh, but gender identity wasn’t the issue. Or at least I never felt it was. I had one bad game store experience, but my husband had the exact same experience, even when I wasn’t there, so I don’t think it was me being a woman that caused the problem. That just wasn’t the store for us. We do however have an awesome game store that we love to get to when we can. The owner knows our names, despite the fact that we’re only there a half dozen times each year. Even the other customers are awesome. I can’t think of a time when I haven’t wound up having a random conversation with another customer, and it was never about “why is a woman in a gaming store?”. I’ve not been to a ton of different conventions, but again I’ve never been made uncomfortable because I’m a woman. I am one of the luckiest women in the gaming world. And I try to not forget it.

I love games, but I tend to play one game to death, then move on. The good thing is I play the hell out of a game. The bad thing is that I may never go back to that game again. There are almost too many games in the world for me. But I can also be easily overwhelmed by too many choices. I have to avoid some diners because there are too many choices on the menu.

On that – I’m of the opinion that if your description of a game is “it plays like X” I probably am not interested. Either I’ve never played X, so it doesn’t matter. Or I have played X and I like it, which means I don’t need another game “like X”.  I have X. I like diversity. However, I know this is inherently a problematic stance. For one – there are only so many ways to combine cards, dice, random draw bags, etc. into a balanced, playable, enjoyable game. So uniqueness is hard to achieve. Secondly the human brain works well on comparison. It’s quicker to say “this game is like X” than it is to try to explain the details of the new game. I understand it’s a shortcut and that it really works for a lot of people. However, if you’ve been reading my blog for any length of time you’ll know I’m just weird. Mass marketing tends to work against me going for your product in any arena.

LARP is such an interesting cross section of talented people. Everyone brings a different set of talents to help tell awesome stories. Some are great at costumes. Others, make up. Still others, character creation. And everyone is willing to share their talents without breaking each other’s banks. I love collaborating with such an eclectic group of people to just  have fun.

I hope you enjoyed the random thoughts. Please use the comments to expand on them, share your experiences, or ask my random thought on a topic.

Until next time – Happy Gaming!

Dreamation 2017

Welcome to CthulhuMom Games – a blog about my experiences raising a child in a gaming family.

Another wonderful Double Exposure convention has come and gone, though this one felt particularly fast. I suppose the change in schedule didn’t help that.

Yog is in kindergarten this year, so we couldn’t go on Thursday as a family as we had in past years.  This took some extra planning on our part. I was still running three events and assisting at a fourth. My husband had decided to run a few events. So the question  was how were we to maximize our gaming time without asking too much of our friends?

I went up on my own on Thursday. This gave us two advantages – we could secure the connecting rooms we would need for our village to take care of Yog and I could get a jump-start on running some events and playing.  Yog and my husband came up Friday night after school and work. It was stressful for him, but I was prepared with pizza, soda and game books.

But I get ahead of myself. Thursday. I arrived early on Thursday afternoon to allow myself the time I needed to get three people’s worth of luggage and groceries and one person’s worth of LARP costuming up to the room and unpack well before dinner. While I love the craziness and energy of a convention I find that I need to ease into it. I got the room set up and had a realization – we had bought way too much food. We typically get stuff for breakfast and lunch and eat in the room. We also typically have had more people eating breakfast and lunch for multiple days. On the upside, we can go light on grocery shopping the following week. Once the rest of my crew arrived we went to the pub for dinner. When we got back the registration desk was open, so we got our badges and started the gaming.

My opening game for the weekend was a table top game named Omnisystem; “Rememorex: Dischord and Rhyme” by Eschaton Media. It was a fun romp through my childhood and reminded me of a John Hughes film. The GM went the extra mile to have cassettes and other late 80’s/early 90’s memorabilia on the table.

Friday morning was the first of the events I was running – Family Game Table. I was, unfortunately, alone for the two-hour block. I did however work on my Ice Cool skills and may be able to finally get my penguin to curve the way I want it to about half the time. I also played a few solo rounds of Fuse. This was not completely unexpected since when I got to the convention floor Friday morning it was very quiet. I have a feeling I wasn’t the only lonely GM that morning.

Friday during the official lunch break I ran my LARP Character Development seminar. I had another great group of people. As always it was a ton of fun seeing how everyone interprets the same exercise differently.

I went right from the seminar to my last table top game of the weekend a game called “Damn the Man, Save the Music!: Revolution Records – Open ‘til Midnight” by Make Big Things in which I played a troubled artist working at a record store in the 90’s. The game used a standard deck of cards and six-sided dice to drive the story. I loved the simplicity of the system and the twists the cards could create.

While I was playing my afternoon RPG I got a text that pizza had been ordered for the room. My game ended on time and I headed to the room to get ready for my first LARP of the weekend  – Cthulhu Live! 3.5 “You Can’t Get There From Here” by PST Productions – and greet my family. It was as I was conferring with my roommates as to how to style my hair that I realized I was about to play in my third 1980’s era game of the weekend.

Traffic had been bad, so Yog and my husband were running behind. They arrived at 7:40 to find me in high waist pants, heavy makeup and poufy bangs. I got Yog a slice of pizza and a cup of milk and sat her down. I gave my husband his game books, poured him some cola and sent him off to the registration desk to claim his badge. My awesome friends took Yog from there and I was off to be a go-getter reporter. Somehow I didn’t go insane or die. Though I almost did join a cult. But then they all turned to ash. I think I made the right character choice.

Saturday morning was the second run of “Family Game Table”. Yog was very excited. We went to registration, got her badge, then picked up our GM form and headed to our room. This sounds all normal and it was except for one thing, Yog was dragging the heavy suitcase full of games through the convention space while dressed as Wonder Woman.

021817-dreamation-3
This is what LARP planning looks like.

I was simply her escort. She was ready to run the event herself. We got to the room and I set up Ice Cool, Jenga, and Pirate Dice. I thought that having the games on the table might get more attention than two people sitting in a room. Yog and I spent some time blowing bubbles when she had an idea. She wanted to “play in a dress up game like mommy”. So
we started brainstorming ideas for a LARP for children. Her first idea is that “It’s a game where all the kids get to be superheroes”. From there we came up with some other basics and when I later talked with my friends I think we have a workable idea for our next convention. Kids. They make you do the darndest things. I had retired from writing and running LARPS years ago and here I am jumping in with both feet again because Yog asked me to! We were joined for the last half hour by an 18 month old and her mom. Yog enjoyed playing building blocks with the Jenga pieces with the other girl, who enjoyed tasting the blocks.

 

Saturday morning was also the premier of a new LARP – Bright Story “Pilot” by Phoenix Outlaw Productions. I REALLY wanted to play, but it ran concurrent with Family Game Table and my time with Yog. I had a couple of friends who wanted to do a sister group of characters with me and I couldn’t resist! So we planned the characters out, I put together a costume and hosted The Family Game Table in my Bright Story character costume.

After Yog and I had cleaned up from Family Game Table we went on a dragon hunt. At the past few events there has been a large blow up dragon somewhere on the convention floor. Yog was determined to find it, so we went off adventuring. This was fine by me as it enabled me to keep her moving and I could direct her to places I wanted to visit. Like Bright Story. We stopped down because I wanted to say hi to my friends. The players were amazing. When we peaked in to the play space someone came right over to us to say hi, at which point Yog informed him that we were looking for a dragon. I had forgotten that another friend of mine was playing a dragon in the game and this kind player went off to find her. She came out of the game for a few minutes and chatted with Yog with her dragon puppet, which Yog loved. I can’t wait until the next time this game gets run and I get to play.

Yog made her first Dealer’s Room purchase ever on Saturday afternoon as we wandered around. She bought a pair of hand-made horns. I had purchased a pair earlier in the convention, so we wore our horns together for the rest of the day.

I took two hours to go play Puerto Rico Saturday afternoon. It’s been years since I played that game, but it all came back. All but the strategy that is. I came in last place, but had fun anyway.

Saturday night my husband got Yog to dinner and bed with the help of our friends while I disappeared early to help set up The Dresden Files Fate LARP Rules “Empire State Chronicles: Magic Night” by Phoenix Outlaw Productions. Sunday we packed up and headed out after our routine of one last pass through the Dealer’s Room. My husband had to use Yog’s cuteness to get me home as I kept stopping to say “a quick goodbye” on the way to the parking lot and getting swept up in conversations about the weekend’s experiences and games to come.

I will say that this felt like a whirl wind convention for me, even with the time on my own. My family events did not have the success I continue to hope for, but I did come out with an idea for a new game for next convention. So the next few months will be rife with me writing and planning. And relying on my awesome friends for advice.

Until next time – Happy Gaming!

Holidays 2016

Welcome to CthulhuMom Games – a blog about my experiences raising a child in a gamer family.

The holidays came, they celebrated, they ate, they played and they moved on. Or so it felt. Adult life kept getting in the way this year making the holidays feel a bit disjointed, but we still made time for fun. Which of course for us means game time!

We had several parties between Thanksgiving and New Year. All went well with many games played, and for us more than we have in parties past. Here’s why:

Age Five is Awesome!!!

So is having other kids Yog’s age at the party. The first party of the season was weekend of Thanksgiving. The other children had arrived at the gathering before us and were anxiously waiting our arrival. When we got there they greeted our entire family and then they disappeared with Yog. The only time we heard from any of them was when food or drink was desired. So my husband and I got to play two different games at the same time. Not that I dislike playing games with my husband, obviously, but we do have some differences in taste at times. Parties are where I get to scratch my itch for the lighter, party style games he hates and he finds the one or two other people to play the really complicated games I won’t touch.

As always we brought along some of Yog’s games in hopes that having other people her age to play with would encourage her to do so. Unfortunately she isn’t as excited about Ice Cool as she was when we first got it. We love playing it, but once we told her she had to play it as a game and not just as another toy house, she lost interest. I think the first time she played because it was unique and new. The second time was because we had let her practice free form with the penguin after the first game and she figured if she played the game she could “free play” afterwards. Which we did allow and would continue to allow. With a skill based game you need to practice to get good at it, however if you don’t ever follow the rules, it’s never a game. The third time we offered to play with her she said she would flick the penguin around, but not play the game. So I told her we weren’t going to play at all and to pick another activity. Lucky for me the other children that were at our holiday party love Ice Cool. It’s so much fun to watch their excitement over successfully getting their penguin to land where they planned. They did so well I taught them how to make the penguins jump walls when we were done playing.

This year for Christmas we didn’t buy Yog a game. Technically. Ok, we bought us a game and her a play set. Playmobil makes an awesome hockey rink toy that’s a playable game! I still haven’t read the rules or played it yet, but we plan to. At least my husband and I plan to. Yog plans on “playing hockey” on her own terms. Which is what we anticipated happening and therefore are fine with happening. We got her the rink, which came with two goalies and two players, a Referee and Linesman set that came with a Stanley Cup, and a ZAMBONI! Because ZAMBONI! That came with another figure, because we don’t have Google self-driving Zamboni machines yet. She loves playing hockey and I look forward to beating my husband on the ice.

playmobil-hockey
Playing hockey

Christmas wound up being a later night than originally planned. We started by playing Resistance, during which my husband learned where I inherited my devious streak as my mom completely fooled him into believing she was innocent. Unfortunately that same devious streak kept him from being able to tell if my sister or I were the other traitor…allowing my sister’s traitor husband to escape! This was followed up with my husband and family played Black Orchestra. I didn’t play as they had reached the maximum number of players. I figure that we own the game, I’ll have plenty of opportunities to play. Besides, I hadn’t had a chance to watch A Christmas Story yet and tradition is tradition. Luckily we had packed clothes and pajamas. So at the appointed time Yog was off to bed and we spent the night.

New Year’s Eve was similar to the Thanksgiving party in success. The big difference was that Yog had a little more time alone. We figured that would mean going back to tag team game play, but Yog had other plans. She found ways to entertain herself, sometimes telling me to “Go play a game”. She’s always been really good at self-entertaining (I’m never sure if this is because she’s an only child and had to learn this skill or it’s just part of who she is. Most likely it’s a bit of both.) As always I invited her to play with me, rolling dice or playing cards, but she turned me down. She’s still “not the kind of kid who plays games.”

New Years Day was traditional. For us. Pork pie, Mummers and Arkham Horror. At least Yog enjoyed the pork pie. She has lost interest in even helping to set up Arkham Horror, which is a shame because I got my husband some organizational tools that made the game take up a bit less space. She didn’t even watch the Mummers! If it’s not animated it’s not worth watching apparently. Instead there was a school-house and toy cars to use for story-telling. Just wait until I tell her she was a role player as a child! Mwa-ha-ha-ha!

Ok.

I know.

All children a role players.

Just let me pretend that she’s a little bit of a gamer, all right?

Did you get any new games for the kids this holiday season? Share your favorite discoveries in the comments.

Until next time – Happy Gaming!

Play with Me – Ice Cool

Welcome to Cthulhumom Games – a blog about my experiences raising a child in a gaming family.

We recently had one of our rare family trips to the game store. They’re rare because our “local” game store isn’t very local – it’s about a 45 minute drive from home. As a result my husband will often go by himself. He goes more often because while I love playing games, he loves reading about and buying them. So he researches and purchases, I play. It works for us. Anyway, we found ourselves in town as a family and took advantage of that to visit the store. As always, Yog was plied with the promise of a new die if she behaved well. This led to her contemplatively wandering the store, picking up boxes and deciding whether or not the game in hand was “good enough for Daddy”. Occasionally she would point to a box and say “We have that!”, which was fun.

Of course we couldn’t leave the store with just Yog’s bribery die. After a lot of consideration we decided to make a purchase that we hoped would work for the entire family, not just me and my husband. That purchase was an adorable game called Ice Cool.

And, yes, Yog earned her die. She chose a purple D8 this time around. Now if only we could convince her of the need for a dice bag so I don’t step on this one. Hmmmm…dice – the “Legos” of a gaming family!

In Ice Cool you are playing penguins trying to sneak extra fish before lunch time. Each player has a different colored penguin with a “weeblesque” bottom. The game is played in several rounds with each player taking a turn being the “Hall Monitor/Catcher” and the others being the “Runners”. The goal is to get your penguin through the three doorways on the board to collect fish cards before the Hall Monitor catches you by bumping your penguin with hers. Players use their fingers to flick the penguins causing them to slide around the board. You can even make them jump the walls on the three dimensional board. Oh yeah, the “board” is actually several boxes that you arrange together using provided clips. Don’t worry about storage, they stack inside each other and the game takes up as much space as an average sized game. Yog can assemble the board herself as there are colored dots to help you match the doors.

The fish hunt begins!
This was shortly after we started playing for the first time.

The box says this game is good for ages 6+ and the Boardgame Geek community agrees with that assessment. I however think that this game is great for any kid once they get over the “stick everything in my mouth” phase. Sure younger kids are probably going to struggle more with the manual dexterity, but that will grow with time and this is a fun way to practice fine motor skills. My suggestion is to not allow wall jumping until your little one can consistently get the penguin to slide. We (my husband and I and well, so far all of our friends we’ve introduced the game to) are still trying to master making the penguin curve the way we want it to. I, however, am quite skilled at jumping walls. Sometimes I’ll even show off and jump multiple walls. And sometimes I’ll show off and retrieve my penguin from the floor outside of the box. That is all to say that yes, a younger child will struggle more, but you can choose how aggressive to chase each other down until your little one gets the hang of moving the penguin.

This game has been a real hit, despite the fact that it is a competitive game. Yog doesn’t seem to mind if she has the lowest score, she enjoys the game just for the sake of playing. Though I will say she wants to be the chaser all the time. I think the biggest reason she loves this game is because it is active. Once play starts the chairs get pushed aside (or moved into a better spot to help Yog reach the board) and everyone is on their feet. What I love about this is that it’s not a huge game. Most games I have seen that involve moving around need more space than I have available. I know there are a few games out there that are mobile and don’t take up a lot of space, but they’re not that common.

Another plus – even when the Hall Monitor catches you, you’re not out. The caught player continues to play and could even be the first player to go through the three doors. The round ends when either the Hall Monitor has caught all the other penguins or one of the Runners has gotten through all three doors.

Scoring is randomized. Having the most number of cards doesn’t guarantee the highest score. When you pass through a door you collect a random scoring card with a value of 1, 2, or 3. To even things out, if you reveal that you have two “ones” in your hand you can take a second turn. I wonder if making the scoring a little more random takes some of the pressure of getting a high score off of Yog, making it more palatable. Then again, she really doesn’t seem to care what her score was, even though she will count it up herself.

This has become the new “go-to” game if we know there will be children at a gathering. The only downside is that it can only take four players. So far that hasn’t been an issue for us, but I could see there being a line of waiting players.

I guess you could call this my first game review as this “Play With Me” didn’t involve modifying a game. This is a great family game right out of the box, or in this case, in the box!

Check it out here, give it a try and share your thoughts.

Until next time, Happy Gaming!

Play With Me – Flashpoint

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

Though Yog often says she “is not the kind of person who plays games”, we have, on rare occasion, gotten her to play with us. One game to which she gravitates is Flashpoint. The age range on the box is 10 and up, but the community rating on Board Game Geek is 8 and up. With a few minor modifications, Yog was playing this at around 4 and a half.

The theme of the game is that a house is on fire and you are the rescue squad there to save the people and put out the fire. I can totally understand if the idea of the house being on fire is too scary for your little one. Yog was able to separate the game world from her own, so we never had an issue with the theme. She also loves the fact that she was playing the hero in the scenario, so maybe that helps make it less scary to her.

One of the great things about Flashpoint is that it’s cooperative. With Yog we’re giving cooperative games a try for several reasons. Firstly it makes it easier to help her with the game without “letting her win” or skewing the player balance, since we’re all working toward the same goal. Secondly, we’re hoping that if we all win or lose together she’ll be more likely to want to try other games. If we all lose together we can model losing behavior for her in a shared way and she can see that it’s not that big of a deal, and really the chance of losing makes the game more challenging and thus more fun.

We always use the starting “family game set up” when playing with her. It’s the easiest version of the game, both in set up and in play. The rule book will tell you exactly how to set up the board. I’m hoping now that Yog is working on reading skills that in a few months she’ll be able to look at the pictures in the rule book and start setting up the board  herself. I know it’s not too far off, since the one time I set the board up and was putting cubes in the wrong spot she corrected me. If you would like to read the rules before buying the game, check them out on the game’s website – http://www.indieboardsandcards.com/fpfr.php

The only big modification we make for Yog to play this game is how we use Action Points. Each player gets four Action Points for their turn, which she or he will use to move, put out the fire, and

Yog contemplating her next move
Yog contemplating her next move

rescue people. If you do not use all of your Action Points in a turn, you may carry the unused points over to your next turn, however when we play with Yog we do not do this. To help keep track of unused Action Points, the game comes with Action Point tokens. We use these tokens to help Yog track how many Action Points she has available by using them as counters. On her turn we give

her four tokens and as she uses her points she hands the tokens to the next player. This player will do the same, and so forth around the board. I’m going to guess that not carrying over unused points makes the game harder to win, but we’ve managed to win despite that. We felt that changing the number of available Action Points each turn may have been too confusing to start. Once she grasps the game better we’ll add the rule back in, again a not too far off event. From there we can only hope to play the Experienced rules, and, dare I say it, the expansion!

Speaking of the expansion, there is one piece we do use from that when playing with Yog. It’s of a large fire. I haven’t played the expansion enough to tell you what the piece is supposed to be used for. With Yog we use it whenever there is an explosion, always with a loud vocal “KABOOM!”  to go with it. We lay it on the space that was rolled during the “Advance Fire” phase, spread the fire, then remove the token. Yog really likes the visual.

I would say that Yog gets the basic rules of this game, but not the strategy. We let her make her own choices, even if that means we come closer to losing due to lack of solid strategy. However, since one of the goals of the game is rescue people, she often makes good choices.

We really enjoy this game (with and without Yog) and I love how well it scales well for the younger set without us having to change much about the game. I would recommend checking it out, or just buying a copy.

Until next time – Happy Gaming!

 

 

 

Gaming at Parties

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

Any time of year is a good time for a gathering of friends and family. Whether you are celebrating a secular or religious holiday, or just enjoying whatever weather we have at the time, doing so with those you love makes it much better. In our circles this generally means at least one game will be played, more likely several games as these gatherings tend to be hours long, and occasionally overnight affairs. And there is the challenge to tackle – how to navigate playing games at a party while taking care of your child/children.

If your family and friends are anything like mine you have people all over the gaming spectrum. We have friends who make us look like we’ve never rolled dice before. Family who want low strategy games. Other friends only want to play party games. Yog might want to play, she might just want to interrupt us every few seconds. What’s a gamer to do?

For me, gaming at a party is all about mindset. I go into a gathering knowing (or trying to know) what that group of people is like. If they aren’t gamers at all it’s totally possible that we won’t be playing any games. On the other hand we might go to a party and spend the entire evening playing one very intense game. Having a general idea of what to expect helps us choose appropriate games or avoid the disappointment of not getting to play a game at all, as well as the child care strategy. Sometimes it helps to ask the host if they want to have games at their party. They will know what kind of space they have available and if their guests will want to play.

When going to a gathering with mostly non-gamers we’ll choose something lighter, most often a party game with no board that’s easy to learn. Box size and weight is important too. We don’t want to lug around a huge, heavy box and not play the game, especially given we are still marveling at the idea that we can leave the house for a few hours and not have to bring three bags of baby gear (seriously there were times we felt like moving would have been easier!).  Party games are also a great way to get children involved. Choose a game played in team and allow the children to guess. This is highly dependent on your group being open to having a child on their team (though usually if kids are invited to a party there aren’t many there who wouldn’t be). Depending on the age of your child the participation may just be for a feeling of inclusion – or to get more answers right than the other team! If you’re like me pop culture references aren’t your strong suit, but most kids have current trends memorized.

If we’re going to a party with a lot of gamers we’ll try to get requests ahead of time, that way we’re more likely to have what everyone wants to play. Speaking with the host is helpful here as well if you know your host has a well-stocked game closet. Again, who wants to pack several heavy boxes and leave them in the car because the host already owns the games you brought?

In addition to involving Yog in the adult games, we always bring along a few of her games, even if we aren’t anticipating any other children being in attendance. Usually there are a few adults willing to play a few rounds of one of her games. Sometimes without any children. It’s not our fault game designers are making compelling games for children! Typically we let her pick the games to bring along. Size and weight typically aren’t concerns with her boxes. At the gathering we’ll offer to set the game up to get the kids started or ask a few other adults to join in.

Involving Yog in an adult game can be tricky. She’s still small enough to sit on my lap, which has advantages and disadvantages. In the advantage category is that it’s easier to direct her participation. In the disadvantage category is that she’s tall enough that reaching around her can be difficult. Typically I will let her roll for my turn if there are dice involved. If a card needs to be played I’ll hand it to her to put on the board. A pre-game hand washing is usually involved for the safety of the game and health of the other players.

What do you do if you can’t get your child involved in a game? We’ve learned a few strategies for gaming party survival. The obvious one is to take advantage of nap and bed time. We have a travel cot and that has allowed us to go to gatherings during naps or later at night. The trick to using nap time is knowing about how long your little one will sleep and pick a game that won’t take longer than that. When Yog is awake and needs attention we take turns playing games and keeping an eye on her. Then there are the times when she’s happily coloring, playing with the other children, or otherwise not in need of our undivided attention. These rare times are when we try to sit down and play a game together. Tip one – play the same game. We go to some gaming parties where there are several games going on at a time, almost like a mini-convention. Being at the same table means that Yog isn’t running back and forth between us, nor are we interrupting two games. It also helps with game flow. Speaking of game flow – tip 2 – play a turn based, not phase based game. Performing all of your actions in one turn frees you up while the other players take their turns should you need to attend to your little one. Which leads to tip 3 – don’t sit next to each other. Put as many people on either side of you as the game allows. This allows you to take turns leaving the table if needed without stopping the game. This of course only works if both parents are at the party. If you are solo for whatever reason hopefully you have friends who are willing to help wrangle your child while you take your turn. I would still stick with turn based games in this situation, as it allows you some time to step away from the table without interrupted the game too much.

Hopefully some of these tips help you with your next gaming event. Please share your tips, tricks, and questions in the comments. And until next month…

Happy gaming!

 

Dexcon 2016

Welcome to CthulhuMom Games – a blog about my experiences raising a child in a gamer family.

Thanks for your patience while I gathered my life back up and put the breaks on. There’s no guarantee that this won’t change the release dates of the blog going forward, but I’m going to try hard to get back to the regular “last Tuesday of the month” commitment I made (at least to myself!).

July’s gaming got a kick-start with our attendance of Dexcon, one of the many conventions run by New Jersey company Double Exposure. We have been attending this convention for over a decade now, which gives us familiarity with the space, schedule and staff, which is a big advantage to us.

This was probably the most relaxing convention experience I’ve had in a long time, which is odd considering I ran four events and NPCed for a fifth. There were a few things that played into this. First off was my mind-set. I came into this convention without expectations. I didn’t expect certain behavior from Yog. I didn’t expect to enjoy any one game more than another. I didn’t expect to sleep. I didn’t expect to exercise. In the past these are all things I thought would happen and when they didn’t I felt like I was doing something wrong. The only thing I had wrong was expectations. So that helped me relax.

The other major player in the relaxed feeling of the convention for me was the lighter schedule I had planned for myself. In recent years I didn’t have a single block open. I figured the lunch and dinner breaks would be enough. However when the schedule came out there were blocks where nothing interested me. That isn’t to say there wasn’t anything going on, or anything “good” going on – just nothing that I felt like doing out of the choices available. Sometimes that was because what I wanted to do needed a four-hour block, but due to needing someone to watch Yog, I only had one of the two-hour blocks open. So I had more down time, which left me with more time to chat and wander the convention floor.

We also lucked out in our hotel room. We were on the fourth floor, which meant we could walk the stairs. I know this isn’t appealing to everyone, but it’s not uncommon on a Saturday to have to wait for what feels like 20 minutes for an elevator that you can actually squeeze yourself into. Having the option to take the stairs meant we didn’t have to do that wait, which can be a big thing with a bouncy five-year old. Also, when I got to a larp and realized I had forgotten something (like the time two of us were at the same game and realized neither of us had a room key…) it was quick and easy to resolve. Check in had a small stumble, but the desk staff was quick to resolve it, a welcomed relief from our past few experiences at this hotel. As usual, we had our connecting rooms so that Yog could keep something that resembled her sleep schedule while the adults keeping an eye on her could enjoy the convention and each other’s company.

We had arrived Wednesday night, the official start to the convention, but most of us didn’t make plans for anything but sleep. I stopped by the LARP Bizarre event to say hi to everyone I knew, being as that might have been the only chance I got to really sit and chat with anyone I know who was running a larp. I had considered playing a table top RPG, but decided that being up to 2 am the first night of the convention when Yog would have me up by 7:30 and I had a 9 am event to run was a bad choice. I could be irresponsible later in the weekend when I would have more friends with whom to spend time (not everyone gets there right away).

Thursday morning I ran the first of three sessions of Family Game Table. Yog discovered a game she loves – Jenga. I had begun setting up Eldrich Horror for solo play since at 9 am it was just Yog and I in the room. Yog asked me about the Jenga blocks, I believe because she just wanted to build with them. Which, honestly I would have been fine with, but I wanted to see if she would give the actual game a try. And she did. And then she played for an hour straight! About 45 minutes into the slot we were joined by a Dad and his daughter who was no older than 7. We pulled out Legendary and I got to teach it to both of them. They had so much fun that the daughter was asking to come back and play another game later. Unfortunately I was only running the morning slot and they were only there for the one day.

Yog playing Jenga. Or is it Batman?
Yog playing Jenga. Or is it Batman?

Immediately following my event was another kid centric event called “Early Bird Adventures”. The woman running the event set up a scavenger hunt and prepared a science experiment for the kids. Both Yog and the daughter from my event made colored slime and then ran around the convention floor together, with the help of both parents to decipher the clues to find the little containers stashed around. Each container had a letter in it. Once we collected the letters, we returned to the game room to solve the anagram. Each child got a medal for successfully completing the scavenger hunt. I am sincerely hoping that she will be back at Dreamation, and if not for Dreamation, next year’s Dexcon. I loved the idea and the girls had a blast. So much so that Yog asked to go back the next day. We weren’t able to make it back due to our schedule, but we did get to chat with the hostess since our events were back to back.

In addition to our two events, which ran back to back, in the same room, three days in a row, there were a few board games in the board game room that were geared to the younger set. There were at least two LARPS designed for the pre-teen set, including one run by a teenager! Even though Yog didn’t participate in any of these events, I was ecstatic to see them on the schedule. It shows that what has always been a family friendly convention is making strides to being family inclusive.

Friday morning started out much like Thursday did, Yog and I in the room alone. A man and his son poked their heads in, I invited them to play, but they declined. About half an hour later they came back and we played Eldritch Horror. Saturday’s session didn’t see anyone outside of my game group, but we did play Flashpoint.

I also ran a two-hour seminar on using Improv techniques for LARP character development and was an NPC for the Dresden Files – Empire State Chronicles LARP. In between all of that I got in Settlers of Catan, Tsuro,  The Resistance, a Cthulhu Live LARP,and a Vampire, the Masquerade LARP.

I tried a new experiment this time around with Yog. I brought her to my game of Tsuro. I wanted to see how she would handle being in the main board game room, which can be overwhelmingly busy. Tsuro is a pretty quick game, lasting no more than 20 minutes. We played three times in about 45 minutes. Yog sat next to me the whole time and was well-behaved. The group at my table was very welcoming, even inviting her to play, which she turned down.  I don’t think she’s ready to sit there for a full two hours, or for me to play a game that she can’t interrupt with questions, but I was very proud of her at this event.

My in between event time with Yog was spent wandering the convention area and talking with friends. Yog is starting to discover the joy of the dealer’s room and almost came home with a really cool pair of horns. Unfortunately she couldn’t hold up her end of the bargain to behave at dinner. There’s always Dreamation to try again.

As always, we had a great time, and the wait until February is way too long!

Let me know what questions you have about Dexcon and our experiences and I’d love to talk them over with you.

Until then, Happy Gaming!