Wednesday, May 24, 2006


My 16 year old son is the one who generally doesn't play games with me. Mostly, that's because I like Eurogames with no direct destruction of the other player's pieces. He plays third person computer strategy games. However, he often as not plays with the cheat codes that let him be invincible.

Whatever strategy and tactics he could learn from the game, and there really are a lot, are lost. His prime enjoyment seems to be to simply blow things up because it is cool. And even more bizarrely he takes some sort of pride in having done so - "I'm so cool!"

He also has a lot of Warhammer stuff. He plays with his friends and wins. I tried to introduce him to ASL, but the person to whom I introduced him was obviously going to beat him more often than not, so he dropped out of that. Losing ruins his aura of invincibility.

He spends a lot of time drawing little armies in his notebooks. They all look like ninjas or Romans or marines, sometimes all three mixed together. Then he draws little maps on grid paper with buildings and rivers and so on. Using these, he will challenge his friends to a war game using simplified combat rules that he cobbled together from Warhammer.

The war games that he plays out have no strategy or sense, usually. It is "your guys have to kill my guys, and my guys have to kill your guys". There's no weather, no reinforcements, no sieges, no ambushes, no infiltration, no spying, no falsifying orders, no daytime or nighttime, no politics, and so on. I once challenged him to one of these games a few years ago.

I took a few of his drawings and studied his map. My first moves were out of range of his troops. I walked all the way around the back, walked up to the back door, blew it up, destroyed his HQ, and killed everyone else from under cover. It was a rout. I was supposed to walk up the front of the building, because that's what all of his friends do.

A year later he challenged me again. This time he was defending a dugout. Of course, as usual, there is no talk about weather, context, reasons, spying, disrupting communications, etc. "Your guys have to kill my guys."

This time I noted that there was a roof to his dugout. I destroyed and blocked the front door, blew a hole in his roof, and proceeded to slaughter his troops under full cover from above. "You were supposed to come in the front," says he. "Sorry," I said. "Better luck next time."

Last night he tried again. This time my forces were in position A, and there was no possibility of me going left or right, because every other direction was completely impassable. And time was of the essence, I had to go forward right now. And I had to go through this tunnel and out the other side into full view of his waiting troops. And I had no grenades. I asked questions for a half an hour, but there was no way out.

I was to march my men straight into his fire with no possibility of any changes, tactics, or strategy. He just wanted us to roll dice to see how many people died. Cause that's cool. I declined to play it out.



gnome said...

Once again an excellent and rather funny post. Still, being able to remeber the days I was 16 quite vividly, I wish I had played more board games. Even, if only to win... Nah, not really.

Oh, and Yehuda, have you actually played Warhammer?

Yehuda Berlinger said...

Nope. First off, most of his time spent "playing" Warhammer appears to be either a) painting the miniatures (which lasted a few weeks), or b) searching for cool miniatures on line. I don't know if he actually plays the game, anymore, or just his made up one with the drawn soldiers.

Add to that a 250 page rulebook, and your usual war game mechanics (move, roll the dice, kill things) and I'm not really interested.


MaksimSmelchak said...

Hi Yehuda,

At least you're still cool enough that he'll allow you to play with him...

That's more than many teens will allow with their "old-fashioned" parents...

There's a bright side to everything!


gnome said...

Yes, painting miniatures is a part of Warhammer, but many people ignore it alltogether. On the other hand, it is a fun game, with enough room for a huge variety of tactics and some nice fantasy insired rules. Not as balanced as most wargames though...And of course you don't need to read the 250 pages :)

Anonymous said...

What a strange story. It's too bad you can't get him into more mentally challenging games. :(

Anonymous said...

You could always try Avalon Hill's platoon with your son. There's detail for you, killing for him and the rules are short.