Thursday, March 31, 2011

Dungeons and Dragons Saves a Marriage

As my family moves from Massachusetts to New Hampshire I've spent some time thinking about the last few years. I made some good friends, met some adorable patients, and my wife and I had a daughter. All those things are so important but this is a gaming blog so...

One of my fondest memories turned out to be playing D&D with my wife and friends. Especially striking was our last game in Massachusetts in which she and I were confronted by a giant evil fungus monster. Very scary at the moment believe me. She and I both had the same idea about how to defeat it and shouted it out simultaneously. There were some laughs but I thought about it a bit afterwards.

I'm sad to say that married couples may have few chances to work together on fun challenges. We certainly work together to change diapers and brush our kid's teeth but I don't find those challenges very exhilarating or uplifting. Yet in this last year of couple's D&D we've solved riddles, defeated trolls, and at one point blew up a dragon. I believe that our gaming has been a great source of fun but in addition I think it's reinforced our sense that we are a team and can work together and have fun.

Granted we could probably achieve the same thing by building a treehouse or playing softball so D&D is not necessarily unique in this capacity. Of note, though, the cooperative nature of role playing is a bit different from, say, Monopoly. Further, you finish the game with an exciting story to remember. I believe playing has really brought us together. It's been an interesting discovery and something that I plan on exploring with my kids as they get older. For some couples and families the role playing experience my really reinforce those vital bonds.

Black Powder - Old School Gaming

My Boston wargaming group recently ran a demonstration game of Black Powder. This is a set of rules designed for battles with miniature soldiers from the era of "black powder," the American War of Independance, War Between the States, or Napoleonic period. The game was marked with quite a bit of grumping but in the end I believe the rules have some qualities that are ideal for younger players.

The Black Powder rules were designed by some of the world's best game designers. Serious wargamers had high expectations for Black Powder to rock the gaming world. They probably should have read the book's forward which states that these rules are designed to allow players to put lots of toy soldiers on a table and play a quick simple game.

Our demonstration game bore this out. Black Powder ignores a multitude of details which experienced wargamers expect. Instead, a game involves laying out as many miniature soldiers as you can on a nicely decorated table and then speedily zipping them around until the battle is over. I found the game to have a very charming quality. It's a hardcover version of game rules designed by clever ten year olds who own 300 green plastic soldiers and want to have a battle.

Specifically, I'd recommend Black Powder for anyone with lots of soldiers who is looking for a simple fast game. That would include a parent who wishes to introduce their kids to miniature games. I might consider combining these rules with the Walkerloo figures or the 54 mm figures available through outlets like the Hobby Bunker. Alternately, I think Black Powder is terrific for experienced gamers with lots of figures. It is not, however, a complex or detailed game and I would look elsewhere if that's your desire.