International TableTop Day: Creating New Gamers

Family Games GeekMom Toys
Image: Sarah Pinault
Image: Sarah Pinault

Today has been a momentous day. The first International TableTop day, and the day my son became a Gamer. He has been playing board games for a while now but this was his first event, and his first independent purchase.

Our local event was hosted by a co-worker who runs Weekend Anime in Westbrook, Maine, with her husband. We told her ahead of time the kind of games he likes, Monsters Menace America, Battleball, Jenga, and the types of games we like, Catan, Roll Through The Ages, Stratego. She had only one suggestion, and so when we walked through the door, she was there with Takenoko ready to roll, ahem. Her description of the game “Like Catan but simpler, and with Pandas.” We were sold.

DSCI0878I will never forget the wonder in my sons eyes when he stepped into the store and all around him were kids of all ages playing games. But that was unmatched by the pure joy he experienced when he realized he got to sit down and play a game, with other gamers, and only one parent involved.

In Takenoko, you are given the responsibility of providing a habitat for the Giant Panda, a gift from the Chinese Emperor to Japan. You must cultivate and irrigate the land to make sure the Panda is well fed. The first person to achieve seven objectives ends the game but might not win, the person with the highest number of points wins the game. It is rated for ages thirteen and over but with just a few simple tweaks to the rules, barely even tweaks, it was the perfect game for my three year old.

DSCI0882Up until this point we have played simple games with him, or taken games that we like and invented completely new rules for the pieces. With Monsters Menace America, we attempted to modify the actual rules for a younger audience and had some success. In Takenoko, Toby had his first full gaming experience where each person took a turn, rules were not bent for ease and avoidance of tantrums, and the game play was natural and progressive. We played up to seven objectives, Toby lost interest after about four, so that will be something we tinker with the next time we play. The beauty of this game is that there are options for making it longer and more complicated or short and simple.

When he was done playing, there was still so much to do. He helped his dad bring in old games to trade for new, he perused the other board games in the store, and then he became assimilated into the lifestyle. He walked over to a group playing a variation of Magic, he watched, he asked questions, he moved on. He thoroughly enjoyed every moment he was there and, despite having come directly from an Easter Egg hunt, he was engaged and well-behaved for a full two hours. When it was time to go, he was perfectly content, having used leftover Christmas money to purchase his own copy of Takenoko.

DSCI0881The great thing about Tabletop day is that it is an event for all ages. Hard core gamers were perfectly content to wait their turn while the kids took their time, were prepared to answer his bizarre questions about the game they were playing, were willing to set up a game and sit waiting for someone to play with. Babies were everywhere and everyone was having a thoroughly good time. It was an unusually wonderful experience to sit and talk about mastitis with a fellow GeekMom and not have a single person bat an eyelid. The rest of the day is being spent at home learning how to play Castle Panic with his dad. Thank you Wil Wheaton, you’ve made my three year old a very happy gamer.

Note – I link to Amazon in this post but I encourage you to find your local independent gaming store and purchase through them if at all possible.

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