Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Prepare for the onslaught - Minecraft Mania!

Putting the kids to bed - virtually.
This blog is just one of five I maintain, excluding the various wikis I belong to. One of those wikis is http://gamingeducators.pbworks.com and it is the place where two of my colleagues and I have been collecting our thoughts, working together on proposals, and sharing our reflections as we play Minecraft together. I know I have talked about Minecraft before on my other blog. It focused mainly on my experiences being a supremely n00bish player and the things I learned. Ever since I began experimenting with and playing on Minecraft, my own children have been interested in it. My son offered to play for me and my daughter peeked over my shoulder to see what I was up to. Minecraft has educational accounts and as part of the Multi-School Minecraft Server Project, I bought five accounts for use with students, using my own money. (There was another post on the issue of using my own money for school things, but I don't want to overlink readers to death - this is supposed to focus on family gaming, after all!) To make sure they worked, I invited my own children to come play with me on the multi-player server the teachers were using to play amongst themselves. We have had a FANTASTIC time together. I admit, there's been tears and frustrating moments but they've enjoyed it so much that they've started to add to my Minecraft Journal that I keep on the Gaming Educators wiki. Some of the content is so engaging to read that for the next little while, I'm going to post excerpts from my Minecraft journal, complete with screen shot photos. (The photo in this post was taken with a regular camera - I branched out into taking videos of the three of us playing together and snapped a shot quickly.)

Monday, January 23, 2012

Forbidden Island

The kids received a lot of board games over the holiday and in the early days of January, we finally got a chance to crack some open. One of the games was Forbidden Island. It's a collaborative game, in which the players are trying to retrieve four treasures and all make it to the helicopter rendez-vous point before the island sinks. The first time we played it, the crew consisted of the three Maliszewskis. (My son declined our invitation to play.) It was fun and tense and despite our best efforts, we lost. Here's a photo of the board at the end of our first game of Forbidden Island.

The next day, our family friend came over and to provide a change of pace from the very-competitive Risk Legacy, we decided to play Forbidden Island with four players. Once again, it was a very close game, but this time we won! Playing before helped because we knew more about playing our character cards (you select one prior to the game's start and it gives you extra abilities that you can you to help yourself and your friends - I was the diver, which meant I could swim between areas that had sunk - areas that are usually made inaccessible by the lack of land).

I'm not describing how to play the game very well. Let me try to paraphrase the rules.
The island is represented by location tiles. You lay out the island in a certain pattern but the placement of the individual tiles is random. There are three decks of cards - a flood deck, a treasure deck, and adventurer cards. Before we start to play, each person picks an adventurer card for special powers. To collect treasure, you need four cards with the same image and you must go to the tile with the picture of the treasure on it. You get two treasure cards at the end of your turn. Some of these have other benefits besides the items we need to claim. However, some are "waters rise" cards. The water level starts at two if you are a novice (you can set it higher for extra challenge). At the end of your turn, you must draw two flood cards. These match the item location tiles. If you choose a flood card location and that place is "normal", it then becomes flooded. If you choose a location and it is already flooded, then it sinks and is removed from play. Each player turn consists of three things: 1) taking three actions of your choice (moving, shoring up a flooded area, giving a treasure card to another player, or capturing a treasure) 2) drawing two treasure deck cards 3) drawing flood cards (it starts at two but when waters rise cards are turned over, it increases the number of flood cards you have to pick).

Here's a photo of our winning last scene.

And a close up of our treasure!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Last Night On Earth

We played a game that belongs to our family friend over the winter break called Last Night On Earth. My husband already wrote extensively about this game on his blog but I thought I'd offer my $0.02 as well. Now that I discovered how to use the macro feature on my camera, my shots of miniatures in action have greatly improved. You know you've got a family passionate about a certain hobby when most of the photos for 2012 have not been of the kids or vacations, but of scenes from our recent game-playing adventures.

We played in two teams. Hubby and daughter were the people; friend and I were the zombies. My husband became irritated rather quickly with the game because the zombies have a lot of advantages over the people and weapons that you would think would do significant damage to a zombie had little to no effect. Even I had to agree. Our family friend thought it was just a case of "sour grapes" on the opposing team's part. Despite all odds, the people won the game, in large part because they found a weapon powerful enough to mow down the zombies en masse. This was originally on my husband's Christmas wish list but I was unable to find it in the stores. I'm grateful that I didn't buy it because it wasn't as enjoyable as we had hoped.

Friday, January 20, 2012

The Worst Mother in the World

The only problem with composing the daily blog posts in advance is that I miss some of the more current events and reports that would be worthwhile to share as they occur. Our family's been playing a wide variety of games together lately and a lot of great stories have emerged from the experiences. One tale that was a bit painful to share until now was our fourth Risk Legacy game.

Our family friend takes Risk Legacy quite seriously but none of the rest of the players (my husband, my daughter, and I) are quite as dedicated to winning at all costs. In fact, if you remember from a post a while back, our friend has suggested that we don't play games properly because we are too considerate of our daughter to attack her or do what we need to do to win.

There was a moment late in the game where I had a chance to grab another HQ, earning me a fourth star and victory. The only challenge was that it was my daughter's HQ and it was well fortified with armies in the city she founded, Unova. I mentally debated about making this move but I decided to do it - I placed a Biohazard scar on her city. In Risk Legacy, this means that if you have armies in that area, you automatically lose one group at the beginning of your turn. My daughter reacted very strongly.

"HOW DARE YOU?!" she screamed.
And then she began to cry torrentially.

I felt like the worst mother in the world. I took her upstairs so she could finish crying in private and compose herself. I talked to her, telling her I didn't mean to make her feel bad, that I was only playing the game. She understood but was still pretty shaken up. She was a bit embarrassed too. She said she knew it was a game and it wasn't the end of the world but she just couldn't help her emotional reaction.

We finished the game (my strategy failed and the family friend won) and I worried that my girl wouldn't want to play with us anymore. We played our fifth Risk Legacy game and she won, fair and square. As victor, you have several options to choose from as your winning action. She chose to remove the Bio-hazard scar from her city. 

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Inter-Family Support

Full disclosure here: my husband is a writer and he specializes in writing RPGs. He just recently finished a huge project - a science fiction role playing game called Thousand Suns. He is proud of it, and rightfully so.

The dedication to the book is as follows:

To the memories of H. Beam Piper and Poul Anderson - you lit the fire.
To Marc Miller, Loren Wiseman, and Dave Nilsen - you kept the flame.
To Mary and Peter - you inherit the future.

My girl has played in Thousand Suns campaigns and she created this illustration of some of the characters.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012


Who's Starfy? He feels to me a bit like a Kirby rip-off with less personality but to my kids, he's worthy of art.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Our Pre-Teen Artist Does Terraria

Today is my daughter's 12th birthday. Happy birthday, hon! It's only fair to put some of her art up on the blog on this special occasion. A while ago, her brother created a Terraria comic and this is her version of it.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Super Kirby Galaxy - yes, *another* Kirby-inspired game from m'boy. Yesterday's post was a collaborative venture; he and his friends jointly made the comic about being transported to a video game world. Today it's all from my son's Kirby-fueled brain.
And of course you need the sequel...

and an item list may come in handy...

Friday, January 13, 2012

Lego - Imagination Igniter or Extinguisher?

When we were shopping for Christmas presents, we spent a lot of time in the Lego aisle in the toy stores. So many of the products are very specific, so much so that I worried and wondered if this was stifling the inherent creativity of Lego building. I think I might have been worrying for nothing. My husband wrote a post about our New Years Eve Heroica game (although he didn't include my brilliant idea to buy some grey bricks to cover certain sections of the maze) and then we have my boy's Lego-inspired comic above.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

New Year's Eve Events

Games are awesome. I interrupt my previously schedule flow of kids' drawings to give you two examples of why games rock.

1) New Year's Eve's Eve
No, it's not a typo. For the past sixteen years, my dear friends from university have held a party on the night of December 30. It's an eclectic mix of people and the festivities last from early afternoon, when most of the young families come, up until the last person leaves sometime after midnight. Poker is usually the game of choice for the late late evening. This year, before the poker chips made their appearance, we played some board games together as a group. I brought my new game, Spot It, to play with my friend's cousins, my friend's sister, two FoaFs (friend of a friend) that I had never met before that night, my nearly 12-year-old daughter, my friend, and me. It was simple and easy to learn. It was fun to play and broke the ice. Then we played The List of Things. We had nine people participate and it was quite funny. It's much better to play with a large group for this game, as the challenge involves guessing correctly and remembering all the options. (For those, like me, who have never played: there is a rotating leader position, who takes a card and reads out the topic, like "things that don't exist but you wish did" or "things you'd like to do with chocolate". The players write their answer on a scrap of paper and pass it to the leader. The leader reads out the list of things twice only. Then the rest of the players take turns guessing who wrote which thing. Points are given for correct guesses and people are eliminated from guessing if their item has been identified.) 

2) New Year's Eve
On December 31, we did not go out dining and dancing. We ordered in Chinese food and we finally got a chance to play our new Lego board game, Heroica. My son LOVED it. He thought it was hilarious and he was preoccupied with collecting all the gold pieces on the board. My husband said it'd be a perfect vehicle for introducing kids to RPGs like D&D - all you'd have to do is keep the same characters and the loot you gain in between games. My son read the comic that accompanied the game. My daughter named all the characters. We played three games - the scroll, the helmet, and the goblin king. My barbarian won the scroll round. Hubby's knight won the helmet round. Despite the fact that I beat the goblin king, I lost health and the knight snuck into the throne spot to steal my victory. Here are some photos of my barbarian's goblin-slaying spree and the knight's win.

Sir James takes the goblin king throne!

Sir James gets the helmet - Hudge the barbarian witnesses it.

Hudge smash all bad trolls!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Thanking Daddy, PvZ style

We love it when our children draw or write of their own accord. This was a thank you note my son wrote to his father. I don't remember what he did to earn such a lavishly illustrated thank you note but it took a while to fill the garden.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Worth repeating - an emancipation & censorship tale

Sometimes I repeat myself on this blog. I scan a lot of drawings and there have been times where I posted the same illustration twice. Like my aging parents, there are certain stories that I tell over and over again, with a vague sense of "you might have heard this before" only halting me temporarily. Today's post is a prime example. I could have sworn that I mentioned this event previously on the blog but I can't recall when. Since it's a good story and I scanned (or maybe re-scanned) the visual to go with it, I hope you'll forgive me if I repeat myself.

My son loves the game Pikmin. He played it pretty badly the first time around because he didn't take the time to read the directions on the screen carefully. He has replayed it several times since then and done a lot better. One day he decided to make a "tribute poster" for everyone in the house to contribute to so we could all share the Pikmin love. I always thought that Captain Olimar was using the Pikmin a bit like slaves, making them do his work for him, sometimes sacrificing them to bigger enemies, even throwing them as projectile weapons. The statements I wrote on the poster reflected this position of mine. My son was not impressed.

A few days later, he approached me. I wish I could recall all the logical steps he took in the conversation. He talked about how we willingly do things for people we care about and since the Pikmin care about Olimar, it was not slavery and so my son was justified in erasing the heretical statement I had written on the poster insulting Olimar's relation with his little plant friends. Her erased the one in the upper left corner but missed one in the lower right. See if you can see it.

Monday, January 9, 2012

How much is that moshling in the window?

Yes, the boy does think of things other than Kirby. Click on these two drawings and you'll see the details for a Moshling Pet store. Creatures are grouped according to type with lots of details.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Two Great Things that Go Great Together

You were thinking peanut butter and jelly? Here's what the Left For Dead characters might look like if they were Lego figurines. According to the gifted artist, Miss M...
"Daddy showed me pictures of custom mini figures made to look like the Left For Dead characters so I decided to make them myself".

Saturday, January 7, 2012

More Kirby Tips

My son is the Kirby expert in the house, and he knows it. This is his attempt to "educate" the rest of us.

Friday, January 6, 2012

The Kirby Rollercoaster Ride

A little while ago, I wrote a post about the kids creating their own games, and I mentioned that the boy made a large amount of signs to go with what I originally called "indoor sledding". My boy had a much more marketing-savvy name for his attraction - the Kirby Roller Coaster. You actually got prizes for riding it! Here's one of the signs he made to go along with his ride.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Kirby on the brain

Can you tell my kids have Kirby on the brain? What it is about this pink vacuum that makes my children admire him so? My brother, who bought my son a fighter Kirby plush toy for Christmas, suspects he likes Kirby because he has insane amounts of power and is really hard to lose while playing. He may have a point, at least with my son - I know that he has not enjoyed Donkey Kong Country Returns as much as he thought he might because it was a lot harder than, say, a typical Kirby game. My daughter drew this for my son, to highlight several incarnations of his Royal Roundness.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Who's got the power?

I wish this was a post about the Occupy movement or an insightful commentary on how institutions or corporations try to assimilate games for their own nefarious purposes ... but we aren't talking about that kind of power. (Actually, Volume 19 Issue 3 of the magazine I edit has "power" as its theme, so maybe I can squeeze some mention of it in there.) My son is more focused on Kirby powers. I'm not sure how McDonalds fries count as a power-up, but it's m'boy's art.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Not James Bond but just as debonaire

According to my son, the master of disguise is Kirby. Here's his artistic interpretation.

And it comes in two pages as well, with a handy information sheet ...

Monday, January 2, 2012

Where Did the (Kirby) Time Go?

During the dying days of December and the brand-spanking new days of January, people's thoughts often turn to time. They consider the past and plan for the future. Here's my son's version, with his favourite video game character, Kirby. I think the upper left corner deals with the ancient past and the lower right consists of Kirby in the future. I'm not sure about the other quadrants.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Happy 2012! (Kirby Help)

Happy New Year! It's hard to believe that I only started this particular blog last year (in February, if you want to get technical, so it's not a year old yet). I hope I'll be able to encourage my Minecraft buddy D to post some of her stories this year on here to expand the reach and appeal of this blog. In the meantime, here's a helpful tutorial drawn by my son to show you how to draw Kirby.