When you have kids, you don’t have as much free time to game as you used to. If you’re fortunate, you can still squeeze in the odd Necromunda campaign or 2000-point 40k battle. You might even be allowed to sneak off to an Infinity tournament once in a while. But many parents will admit that they aren’t getting to roll dice as often as they’d like. Unless, of course, they find a way to get the kids involved in their hobby.
Thankfully, games are becoming more and more accessible, thanks in part to streamlined rules sets (like Age of Sigmar) and the use of custom dice which use intuitive symbols to display game effects (like Legion and X-Wing). So introducing our young ones to our favourite games is easier than we think.
It’s not a hard sell, either. My eldest is 8 years old, my youngest 5, and they were both dazzled by painted miniatures a couple of years back. They’ve even started daubing bright colours on a few old minis (no, they don’t thin their paints!), a process which delighted them, especially when they got to play with those minis in a game once they’d dried. For example, ‘Golden Man’, my daughter’s favourite mini, is a headless Scout Sergeant from Advanced Space Crusade who is painted head-to-toe (well, neck-to-toe) in Retributor Armour gold and has featured in about a dozen games across as many different systems so far. So he’s a veteran of her very own Long War.
So what games do we play? Well, we had little skirmishes using the Age of Sigmar rules. With only a handful of models each, these were simple little scraps which didn’t take long. The warscrolls made things a lot easier, as the kids were able to start reading them almost immediately. It’s a great learning tool, as well; even my youngest was applying modifiers, rolling dice and celebrating when the right result came up. Now that we have new Skirmish rules in White Dwarf, the kids can even build their own warbands!
Space Crusade has gone down a storm, with its very simple rules for shooting. It was always a brilliant gateway game, which should never have gone out of production. But at the moment, the game the kids are loving the most is Shadespire.
Another game with adorable and intuitive custom dice, Shadespire also benefits from having awesome gameboards and miniatures. It’s a short game, too. Now, it can be deep and complex, with the introduction of decks and objectives. But I’ve worked out a way to make it more accessible.
When my son’s playing with friends, who are all about 8 or 9 years old, we have 2 boards and 4 warbands, each one starting in a corner. We take a couple of ploys and objectives - simple ones, which are designed to go with the warband - and we go for broke. Because you have a small board and 4 warbands, you’re fighting for your life from the first activation. Thanks to the simple combat system, you see the kids developing tactics before your eyes, which is amazing. It’s always surprising how cunning they can be when the dice start rolling!
Your kids will always want to be the good guys. I hope!
With younger ones, we just remove the cards altogether. A favourite method in our house is to plonk 9 objectives down on starter hexes, deploy our warbands on the board edges, and then go for it. 1 glory per objective held at the end of a turn, 1 for taking out an enemy. If we want a super-fast game, we inspire everyone at the start. If you want to avoid too much one-hit death, employ a secondary defence - fighters who require a shield to block a hit can use a dodge result to mitigate the damage suffered by 1, and vice-versa. This makes things a bit more forgiving!
Another game that caught my son’s attention was Star Wars Legion. We were working our way through the excellent Rebels show when we went to Salute last year, where he got the chance to try the game out. Some of the mechanics were a little beyond him (and me, at first) but when it came to moving and shooting, he was in his element. When we got back, he raided my X-Wing collection and we had a few games of that, without any cards. He loved being able to fly the Falcon and Luke’s X-Wing.
Of course, we could talk about the other benefits of getting kids into the hobby. It keeps them off the street, helps them make friends, facilitates their learning… seriously, tabletop gaming will really help them develop their reading and mathematics skills. But it also provides families with another awesome thing they can do together, where they can share their passion for collecting and painting minis, building strange worlds and rolling buckets of dice!