Saturday, 1 June 2013

father figure

Recently I have been playing boardgames with the children more and more. It is partly because my elder daughter Shee Yun is eight now, and is starting to shift from children's games to adult games. We start abandoning those simplified rules that I used to make up so that she could play some of the adult games. Younger daughter Chen Rui is six, and is not quite there yet. She does play some adult games, but tends to need help. Shee Yun is keen to learn new games and often likes to refer to the rules herself. She is inquisitive. She generally can handle the rules, but the strategies are still slightly beyond her.

When I play with the children, they don't really give me much challenge. The enjoyment of such sessions does not come from tense competition or the battle of wits. Instead it comes from the act of teaching, of guiding, and of seeing my children enjoy the games. When I was 12, I wanted to become a teacher. I still enjoy teaching others, be it in playing a new boardgame, or in something boring and work-related. I think I enjoy the act of communication, of seeing ideas getting through to others.

14 Apr 2013. We played Qwirkle, a love-at-first-sight game for Michelle. She asked me to buy it after her first play. Chen Rui still often makes mistakes when playing a tile, positioning it at invalid spots.

26 Apr 2013. Allen and Heng. I brought Planet Steam to OTK ( It has been a long time since I last played.

This is the first edition. The components look wonderful, but unfortunately they are not practical. Those round silver high-pressure tanks can be easily knocked over and will roll all over the place. The red caps can be easily knocked off too and you need to be careful when trying to place them onto the tanks. Fantasy Flight Games is publishing a 2nd edition. The box will be smaller and the components different. Probably not as good-looking, but hopefully more practical.

These transport vessels are basically storage facilities. The icon and number at the top left indicate the type of resource the vessel can hold, and how much can be stored.

Planet Steam is a market manipulation game. You start will limited resources, and use them to build equipment to mine more resources. You can use these mined resources to build more equipment, or you can sell them at the market. Prices and resource availability at the market are fully determined by player actions. The objective of the game is to earn the most money, so the game is all about understanding, manipulating, predicting and utilising market trends. You do spend much effort on developing your mining facilities, but the key to winning is having a good grasp of the market, and turn order. The two highest scorers in our game were the two players who were first and second players in the last round of the game. They both stored a lot of expensive resources. By the time they had sold them off for a handsome profit, such resources were no longer scarce, the market price reflected that, and other players couldn't make as much money from selling such resources.

5 May 2013. Michelle and I played Fauna with Chen Rui and Shee Yun. We still needed the measuring tape to help the children guess the body and tail lengths of the animals.

This was the first time I taught the children The Settlers of Catan. Shee Yun understood the rules, and knew how to plan to collect the right resources to build something she wants. However she didn't do it in the most efficient way. She tended to rely on swapping four resources she didn't need for one that she needed, which was definitely not ideal. Rules-wise, there was no problem.

Chen Rui (6) struggled (and I don't blame her, she's only six), so Michelle jumped in to be her strategist.

This is the Chinese version of the game, published by Capcom.

Shee Yun was red, and she worked diligently to win the longest road trophy. However neither she nor Chen Rui (yellow) planned well to improve their resource gathering abilities. I (green) was the only one who had any cities. Eventually I linked up my two stretches of road, wrested the longest road trophy (worth 2VP) from Shee Yun, and won the game by reaching 10VP.

Chen Rui requested to play Kakerlaken Poker, a game in which convincing liars will do well.

Shee Yun asked to play Wasabi. She planned meticulously to complete her recipes with style, i.e. the ingredients needed to be lined up in the exact order as the recipe. She scored many bonus wasabi cubes (each worth 1VP) because of this. I, on the other hand, didn't bother about quality, and focused on quantity. We didn't try to block each other at all. I managed to end the game and win it by completing my 10th recipe before the board filled up. This is an instant win condition and scores don't count. Otherwise Shee Yun might have won.

Shee Yun wanted to play At the Gates of Loyang. I wonder whether it's the beautiful vegetables that keeps her coming back. I don't enjoy this game much. It feels a little one-dimensional to me because it is all about maximising vegetable production and then matching demand and supply. Previously I had invented simplified rules to play this with Shee Yun. I dreaded those even more. So I suggested that we play the proper rules. She agreed. I was a little worried at first, but she managed to grasp the rules well enough, although her strategies are not quite there. I gave her strategy tips along the way, but didn't need to correct rules mistakes much. She enjoyed the game. Hmmm... that may be a bad thing because I really am not so keen about this game. Maybe I should distract her with Agricola.

The components are indeed gorgeous.

Shee Yun was the one who suggested Rabbit Hunt. In this game you play both farmer and three rabbits. On your turn you play cards face-down onto the table, and you may move your farmer to hunt for your opponent's rabbits. When your farmer steps on a face-down card, the card is revealed and if there is an icon, an event is triggered. Most cards do have icons. There are good and bad ones, e.g. gaining a carrot (needed for the farmer to move), peeking at any card, and losing all carrots if you still have a rabbit in your hand. Rabbits are special cards that start in your hand. You need to play them face-down and hope they don't get caught by your opponent.

Shee Yun is not good at hiding her intentions at all. I could read her like an open book. So I caught her rabbits quite easily, especially in our first game. When I saw her hesitate, and then place a card far far away from my farmer, it was so obvious that she was playing a rabbit card. I couldn't help but start laughing. She giggled too.

I had caught one of her rabbits.

The rabbit footprints are the card backs, i.e. the face-down cards.

Chen Rui had wanted to play Wasabi too, but she couldn't play in the afternoon, so she asked me to play with her in the evening. She took a rather different approach from Shee Yun. She intentionally tried to mess with my plans, even playing the Wasabi card to block out some of the ingredients on the board. She is always the cheeky one. But it's nice to see she has a little mean streak (or maybe I should call it a creative one) when it comes to boardgames.


Jason said...

Amen! This is what it's all about. As the movie, 'The Game Plan' said, "Never underestimate the power of the father!" Great pics - joy to see.

Rob Harper said...

Thanks for posting this. It's great to see your updates about playing with your daughters. There is a lot of joy to be had with kids, even if you don't get a strategic challenge out of it.

I'm really looking forward to the day my daughter starts beating be at "serious" games. I don't think it'll be long!

Hiew Chok Sien 邱卓成 said...

I hope my children will continue to enjoy playing boardgames as they grow up. It's a great way to get a family to sit down together at a table (other than dinner). As kids grow up, they will have their own interests, hobbies, friends and aspirations, but I hope at least now and then we will still get together around a table for some quality gaming time.

flamesofthephoenix said...

This is good to see. My 7-year old son enjoys playing board games, which is nice. He seems to have a similar issue that you described when playing Catan. He would rather trade with the 'bank' than with me. He used to focus only on building roads, but he now seems to be doing much better now. He beat me not all that long ago and I wasn't taking it easy on him.

Now, he keeps asking to play other games like Axis & Allies or War of the Ring. I don't think that he is quite ready for those yet, but hopefully it won't be too long.

Hiew Chok Sien 邱卓成 said...

I think it will be even more fun and exciting when I see my children not only digest the rules, but also grasp and devise strategies. Very much looking forward to that proud gaming dad moment.

flamesofthephoenix said...

I totally agree with that. Until then, we can still enjoy the quality time spent with the family. Keep up the good work!