Neil Tomlinson
United Kingdom
Oldham
Greater Manchester
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My parents are non-gamers.

When I first threw myself into this hobby, I could get Dad to humour me with a game or two, but Mum point-blank refused everything I put under her nose. I think there's a history of people criticising her plays and offering 'advice' in card games which made her cold on gaming in general.

It was Ticket to Ride which broke her. And after we had played that for the gazillionth time she was even ready to try some other games. I gently fed her a diet of quick-playing, low-complexity games and now we play almost weekly and have a variety of regular favourites to choose from. Though I think Dad is still humouring us a little.

Unfortunately, the games with simple rules and short play-times are overwhelmingly Eurogames, and I have recently realised that, at heart, I'm an Ameritrash fan. Ever since I signed up here, I've been shrugging off my desire to play the likes of War of the Ring (First Edition), Twilight Imperium (Third Edition), and Descent: Journeys in the Dark because of the killer complexity/length combo. Also, a part of my soul resists attempting the sort of game where I have to give my parents Xelgrathna the Ancient and Hiarhblon of the Archiverse, then try to explode their character's brains with my Volyxx of Despair.

It's the latter reason that's kept the D&D Boardgame accumulating several strata of dust on my bedroom floor. I bought it intending to play against friends, but one found it 'fiddly', and the other played his adventurers like a suicide squad with an emphasis on maximum entrail deposits. After staining several dungeon walls a tasteful burgundy, he lost his appetite for dungeon crawling. So the bedroom floor became its home.

Today I bit the bullet. If I could take my Mum from outright game-refusal to regular sessions of Through the Desert in a couple of years, then maybe I could get her from this game to Twilight Imperium (Third Edition) before 2059. This game is simple(ish) and short(ish), and my parents can even be on the same team against me! It's as good a starting point as any.

Introducing a Eurogame to my parents has always felt comfortable to me, because placing houses in China or excavating temples in Tikal are nice innocuous themes to present to a middle-aged couple. I was keenly aware of the difference in theme and play style with this feller. I was initially embarrassed as I laid out the dungeon and figures, and sorted the various fantasy paraphernalia into neat cardboard piles. And then I was simply puzzled.

They responded to this game the same way they've responded to every other new game I've taught them. They didn't comment on the theme at all, and expressed their standard concern about having to learn new rules. If I'd emptied Louis XIV onto the table instead there'd have been no change in reaction.

Maybe the genre differences that seem large in the gamer community barely register among non-gamers. Maybe their exposure to Loopin' Louie has left my parents unfazed by any wacky components I can pull out of a cardboard box. Maybe all the games I've shown them seem geeky to them, and this one produced no sense of change.

Whatever, it was a promising start. I outlined the rules, briefed them on the characters, and asked them to pick two each. Mum got Mialee the Wizard and Redgar the Fighter, and Dad got Lidda the Rogue and Jozan the Cleric.

Dad seems to have some wargaming genes in him, because he immediately realised they should place their characters around the door ready to kill any monsters, with the burly Redgar leading the charge. The first room had a lone goblin for an easy introduction to combat. Mum took the direct approach, marching Mialee straight into the room and casting her Magic Missiles at gobbo. I'd placed the little feller out of range of Redgar's paltry 4 movement spaces, so he didn't manage to get a hit in, but the other 3 heroes turned him into a pincushion with various crossbow bolts, arrows and throwing daggers.

The combat had gone smoothly, although Mum had been conditioned by Ticket to Ride, China, etc, to 'play' her weapon/spell cards on the board when using them, rather than keeping them by her character card. Stop it, we said, to no effect.

Dad had the Rogue, so I took great glee in glancing frequently at the Dungeon map as though checking for the positions of traps. He was exceptionally good at rolling blanks on the 'search for traps' die, so while he was repeatedly rolling, Mum, with the scent of goblin blood up her schnozz, devil-may-cared across the room towards the next door. There was a brief cry of alarm from the cautious Dad, and he convinced her to let him do his trap-searching first. He eventually rolled an eye, to discover... "There are no traps in this room."

The next room had a couple of columns "What are those?" and treasure chests in it. Dad experienced some temporary confusion about the state of the heroes' visual abilities.

"Are there any monsters in this room?"
"No."
"How do we know?"

I looked at the board, completely devoid of monsters.

"Because... there aren't any there. On the board."
"So if there were monsters here, we'd see them?"
"...yes..."
"And what are these treasure chests doing here?"
"They're treasure chests. In the room."
"Are we supposed to be able to see them?"
"...yes. On the principle that when you walk into a room, you can see what's in it."
"Right."

That out of the way, he proceeded to roll several blanks on the 'find traps' die, followed by the 'not allowed to search any more' symbol. The room had no traps in it, but I made sure to watch carefully where they were stepping, as though ready to scream "TRAP!!" at them at any moment. Mum would probably have happily blundered around the room, oblivious to anything that might shoot a javelin into her face, but Dad insisted on a cautious approach.

He debated where the most devious place to put the traps would be ("You'd definitely put one in front of the treasure chests.") and then the heroes crept around the edge of the room towards the chests. Mum picked up the Blade of Banished Kings for Redgar, and Dad used Yondalla's Amulet (chuck the chest contents up to three times until you find something you want to keep) to get the Blessed Bow of the Elves, which he gave to Mialee. And then they crept around to the other door.

The next room had a couple of goblins in it, and two more chests. Mum went gung-ho with her characters again, bringing Mialee in for a bowshot, and advancing Redgar straight towards the goblins. Dad winced.

"If you move there, the goblins can attack you on their turn! Back away."

Dad was such a cautious player he wanted the heroes' human-wall character to hang back from danger too. I pointed out that Redgar had the most hitpoints and the most powerful Melee attack, and so it was probably wise to advance him towards the enemy. He didn't agree. Mum went with her original plan and left Redgar in the front line.

On my turn, I attacked Redgar with both gobbos, and good rolls made him lose three of his eight hitpoints. Dad adopted an 'I knew that would happen' expression, as though this was a devastating blow to the heroes. One goblin was shot to pieces before Redgar’s next turn, but his first swing of the game, Mum picking up her Blade of Banished Kings and placing it in the centre of the board (“Stop doing that.”), killed the remaining one.

Lidda searched and found no traps, and then Jozan healed Redgar back up to seven hitpoints. The chests contained a potion to restore spell points, which Mum glugged down, and a Burning Hands spell. Mum equipped the Burning Hands and passed the Magic Missiles over to Jozan. The heroes were brimming with hitpoints, but Dad put the Magic Missiles in his knapsack and kept his Greater Restoration spell (resurrect a dead hero) equipped. Just in case.

His cautiousness seemed more like gutlessness at this point. I was playing with Mum, Ms Damn-the-Consequences - attacking with impunity and striding across potentially trapped floor tiles with gleeful carelessness. And I was playing with Dad, who yelped at the thought of the heroes actually doing anything dangerous. Optimum play was somewhere between them, probably closer to Dad’s attitude, but I was drawn to Mum’s reckless approach for its sheer entertainment value.

In the next room Lidda finally found the traps Dad had been searching for all game. The heroes traversed the floor without consequence, and lined up outside the door for the final chamber.

The last room contained three goblins and seven chests. I reminded them that the adventure would instantly end when they defeated the goblins, and the opportunity to look in the chests would be gone. I got the upper-hand in the initiative card deal, and sent the middle gobbo to block the doorway and give Lidda a hiding. His roll was ineffective. Dad, tempted by the promise of adventuring goodies, sneaked Lidda through the goblin’s tile and straight to the nearest treasure chest.

The booby trap he unleashed was in the heroes’ favour. A choking mist docked a hit point from everyone in the room and the three goblins instantly lost a quarter of their health. The gobbo in the doorway didn’t last much longer – Jozan misfired, but Redgar obliterated him at a stroke. And then it was Mialee’s turn.

I admit to being vaguely horrified as Mum marched Mialee, the weakest and most vulnerable combatant, straight into the room with the remaining two goblins, who were to move immediately after her turn. Dad aarghed and collapsed his head into his hands. There followed an urgent imploration for her to change her move, and then the atmosphere went rotten.

Dad had unwittingly cast “Bitter Rememberanceremind your wife of all those card games where her play was criticised and ‘advice’ was offered” and Mum went into a sulk. She didn’t like this game any more. She wanted to play it her way and hated being told what to do.

Dad changed tack in a nanosecond. He downplayed his advice and started to encourage her moves and actions in the game. When Burning Hands took two hitpoints off the nearest goblin, he cheered. Then it was my turn.

I didn’t want to destroy or discourage Mum, but I did want her to learn that her move had been genuinely foolhardy, on the offchance she ever agreed to play this game again and could learn from her actions. Jozan had his Greater Restoration handy (oh Dad, how I’d judged you) so I made the obvious play – assaulting Mialee in a goblin sandwich. They struck hard, but she managed to cling onto a single hitpoint.

Now Dad’s characters got their turn. Lidda had lost her throwing daggers in a previous power attack, so she went looking for more treasure and got a Hammer of Liberty. Jozan shot a couple of bolts at a goblin – Dad extended his hand of dice towards Mum: “Give me luck!”, and she wasn’t too sulky to refuse him. Mum’s Redgar skewered one gobbo, leaving a solitary goblin with three hitpoints to defeat. Back to Mialee’s turn.

Mialee had one hitpoint, and only a single point of defence. The goblin would attack on the next turn. She ignored it completely and went treasure hunting. Dad managed not to flinch and diplomatically reserved his assessment of the move, even after she triggered a booby trap and was forced to shoot an arrow at Redgar by a Voices of the Damned spell.

On my turn, I again attacked Mialee with my goblin. The roll came just shy of stealing her final hitpoint. The heroes carved gobbo to a single hitpoint before Mialee’s turn came again. Dad cried “Get him, Mialee!”

Mum’s Burning Hands reduced her to 0 spell points, and thus 0 armour, but it didn’t matter. Crispy toasted goblin all over the place. Dad cheered and congratulated her. They’d completed the quest.

Although Dad’s efforts had succeeded in jollying Mum out of her sulk, their immediate sentiment upon finishing the game was that we shouldn’t play it again.

But I don’t believe them.

For most of the game we were having good fun, and with this episode in memory Dad will surely avoid any heavy-handed advice in future. Mum called him a ‘bossy boots’ in a sing-song voice at game end, a chastisement weak enough to prove the absence of resentment. I’m confident I’ll be able to get this back on the table soon with only a mock-horror “Oh no!” from both of them to overcome.

And Dad seemed to really get into this game - he was much more engaged than he has been with the Euros we’ve been playing. Maybe he’s an Ameritrasher too, without knowing it. I should see if I can get him to play The Legend of Robin Hood one day.



Or War of the Ring. devil
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Robert Wilson
Canada
Riverview
New Brunswick
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Cool write up

you are the Ameritrash evangelist
 
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Michael W.
Canada
Toronto
Ontario
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Its cool you can get your Mom and Dad to play anything

My mom was always up for a board game but dad wouldn't play unless it was sports or card related as in poker crib or euchre ...

Good AAR!

ArrOOoo!
 
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Chris Bloch
United States
Chantilly
Virginia
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Bravo! Wonderfully written.
 
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Ronald Estes
United States
La Vergne
Tennessee
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Nicely done! Thanks for a great read.
 
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Gabe Alvaro
United States
Berkeley
California
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Excellent session report! I felt like I was reading a character-driven screenplay, very cinematic. Would love to hear more about the gaming adventures of Neil, Mum and Dad.
 
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Anselmo Diaz
United Kingdom
Crawley
West Sussex
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Wow! It was a joy to read your game session. Well written, funny, and describing all the action(both on the board and in the room) perfectly.
Few session reports I've read that combine both so eloquently(they are either too short, unbalanced, or drag for far too long being tedious, resulting in me abandoning the idea of finish reading them).
Well done!
 
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David Gardner
United States
Washington
Dist of Columbia
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Neil, this was just a wonderful, spirited writeup in which you brought the gamers alive far more than the characters -- which is the sign of someone who understands not just good games, but also, good living.

(*Neil Tomlinson added to your favorite Geeks list.*)

Out of curiosity, would you list your respective ages? You may gloss over exact specifics if it would offend your mother. --D
 
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Ethan McKinney
United States
El Segundo
California
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That was quite long, but the writing really carried me along. Well done!
 
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eddie rey falucho
United States
Glendale
Arizona
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Alright, officially jealous. Not only do you get to game with your parents but you get to play a hack and slash with loved ones.

Great write up.
 
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Neil Tomlinson
United Kingdom
Oldham
Greater Manchester
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Thanks for the encouraging responses everyone. Much appreciated.

Mum's 51, Dad's 57. (I just asked, and will now have to explain why and they'll probably read it gulp.)
 
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Dan Scott
Canada
Port Perry
Ontario
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Quote:
He eventually rolled an eye, to discover... "There are no traps in this room."

Classic moment! I actually laughed when I read that.

What a great session report.. very well written!
 
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Ryan Goodwin
United States
Grayslake
Illinois
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I loved it the first time through, but I realized you are from the UK, so I re-read it and imagined British accents, which made it 10 times better for some reason! Thanks!
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btrhoads
United States
Pennsylvania
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Your session report made me laugh. Thanks.

Ben
 
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Paul
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That is a brilliant session report, very well written.

Nice one.
 
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Emiel Ament
Netherlands
Groningen
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Hehe funny playthrough. laugh You're lucky with such parents
 
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