Sunday, February 17, 2013

Family Day Weekend Play & New RPG campaign

This weekend, we had a great time playing games with our family and friends. This time around, to the surprise of my fellow players, I didn't rush around taking photos with my camera to post on here. Here's a quick summary of the games we played:

  1. Labyrinth - DH, my daughter and I played the fancy tin version we received as a gift from an aunt. (Contrary to some people's beliefs, we don't spend all money in our possession on games; they are gifts or games owned by friends that we use.) We tend to play the "younger children" version of the game, where we can look at all our cards at the same time and it is not required to return to your home base colour at the end. We didn't realize that there was another, special edition version of Labyrinth that was part of the tin set. It has a variation on game play using twelve maze cards that gives players certain advantages like switching places with another player, moving through a wall, or having a second turn immediately after your first one. We didn't try these cards out because we wanted to play the quickest way possible. I won this game.
  2. Forbidden Island - Once again, three of us played. This was a new game for DH but she caught on quickly. We were lucky in that many of the cards at the top of the flood deck weren't crucial to our mission. I was the explorer, so I could move diagonally. DH was the pilot, so she could fly to any spot on the board as one of her moves. My girl was the messenger, so she could give cards to people even when they weren't on the same tile. This is a cooperative game and we were delighted when we succeeded in obtaining all four treasures and escaping the island. Yeah us!
  3. Lords of Waterdeep - Lords is fast becoming one of our family's favourite games. Game time is short - only eight turns, which takes about an hour. DH, DM, James, my girl and I played. DM used a very different strategy from his usual modus operandi, as did James. The eventual winner was the youngest player. She had a really unique secret Lord and earned victory points by the number of buildings she built, instead of the number of quests of a certain type that she completed. For the first time ever, final scores went beyond 100; in fact, three of the five players broke the 100 point mark.
We hope to get together again soon, not just for the fun board game action, but because after a long hiatus, we are playing another role playing game! This is a D&D campaign, set in the Forgotten Realms world. Each player has two characters. I will write more about this game as it progresses. In the meantime, here is a sketch of all the player characters, illustrated by our talented daughter.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Maplestory Update

Welcome the girl as today's guest blogger, to give an update on the family's recent obsession with Maplestory.

Maplestory is an MMORPG (massive multiplayer online roleplaying game) that takes place in the fantasy realm of Mapleworld. Though, it's a bit different than normal fantasy games, where everything is still very medieval. Maplestory is a bit like a cross between the modern day world mixed in with that Middle Earth type setting. So, you can have a shopping mall right next to a huge castle.
Anyway, in the game, you play a normal (if not slightly chibi-fied) person who is on a quest to stop the Black Mage, an evil magician and the main antagonist. But to do this you need to become an adventurer. This means that you need to level your character up to tenth level and learn new attacks by choosing a job path.
There are many types of jobs to choose from. There are the normal ones, which are Warrior, Wizard, Archer, Thief and Pirate. But our prefered types of classes are the special variations. These are only available during certain events and are a bit more powerful than normal occupations are.
For example, my favourite class is called Mercedes. For this character, you play an elf princess who wields two magical crossbows. Still, when it comes down to it, she's really only an upgraded archer.
One thing these classes have that the others don't is a more in-depth storyline, where who you are matters more than what you can do. This is why I have a vast number of characters who I'm still working on leveling.
To date, my cast of characters includes my Angelic Buster (a type of pirate, exclusive to female players), Mercedes, Thief, Wild Hunter (an archer who rides a giant cat), Dual Blade (a thief with two swords), Jett (a pirate from outer space), Blaze Wizard (a wizard specializing in fire) and Aran (a warrior with an axe).
As for Peter, his prefered class is called the Demon Slayer, who uses blunt weapons like maces and dark spells to attack. He also enjoys playing the Kaiser job, where you fight with a flaming sword.
All the characters are quirky and unique and really fun to play!
One skill required to play this game is strategy. As you level up, your character gets "Skill Points" to spend on different stats. There are five stats that you can increase: your Strength, Intellegence, Dexterity, Luck and Health. There are skills that are more important to some classes than others. But you need to keep this in mind when you distribute the points, otherwise you may end up with a weak character.
Another important thing for the player to have is determination. A lot of the enemies in Maplestory, though odd looking, are difficult to beat. So, you need to be able to perservere and continue to try if you want to suceed.
Lastly, you also need to be fairly quick at pressing buttons if you don't want to get killed. Maybe this is why Peter's characters are higher level than mine...
Overall, Maplestory is a really enjoyable game and we're having a blast with it.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Scribblenauts Unlimited

I'd like to welcome the boy as today's guest blogger. He'll be talking about a new game for Wii U: Scribblenauts Unlimited.

This game is a little bit of a puzzle game. As much as I don't like puzzle games, it's probably an imagination game. You can think of anything you want and add adjectives to make it cool, exciting, anything you want. As much as that sounds cool it has a bigger power to make your own items and in the original scribblenauts you only had a limit to what you could have on the map but no, its unlimited and you used to always write again, etc. Now, you have a backpack, which you can put anything you want in it and you just can bring it back whenever you want. There's also some references from Nintendo. You can have Mario characters and Link characters. It's pretty amazing to what you can do. I've never seen a game just like this. Besides imagination, all you need is to learn how to write stuff. I have one word that describes this whole entire game, and that is: epic.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Winter Holiday Fun-Fest

As I was updating the family blog - the private one for the grandparents and aunts living far away - I stumbled across some photos of games we played but I didn't share. Here's a quick recap of the fun we had playing some old and new board games over the Christmas break.

December 27, 2012 - Forbidden Island

 This cooperative game can get pretty tense! We got very close to achieving our goal but the cards conspired against us. Usually I don't put photos of children on the blog, but the girl's face says it all.

December 27, 2012 - Blokus

Do you really need to see another Blokus photo? Probably not, but I'm super-proud about the results of this game. Yes, it's true that I won this match, but the super-cool reason for this photo is that I nearly used all my pieces! I just had the four-square square left. Since I've only ever used all my pieces once in all the times I've been playing, having just one remaining is a big deal for me.

December 29, 2012 - Lords of Waterdeep

This is one of DM's games, based on Dungeons and Dragons - specifically, the Forgotten Realms setting. I don't think I've written about this game on this blog before. I really like it, and so does hubby, despite the fact that it has many Euro-game elements, like resource acquisition. The great thing is that it also has lots of player interaction. At the start of the game, every player chooses a colour for their two agents (which turns to three agents in the fifth of eight rounds) and a secret Lord that they follow and that influences the best type of quests to take. Players take turns placing their agents on different spaces which can earn money, minions (I call them by the colour of the squares but they have identities like fighters, thieves, priests and wizards), quests or intrigue cards. You accumulate victory points based on quests you complete and actions you take.

This is a view of my cards and equipment. The square things with round holes are coins. I have four orange men (fighters) and two black men (rogues) at my disposal, and you can see a few of my quests that I was trying to complete. In this particular game, my daughter was the winner. (The scoreboard is the grey box border - you can see the green and red counters in the upper right corner.)

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Minecraft during school hours

Usually, I try my best to limit this blog to the games my son and daughter play (ergo Family Gaming). However, this anecdote bears repeating in several venues and it fits here.

Last year, my school was one of three that participated in the TDSB Multi-School Minecraft server, with server space provided by Ryerson University's EDGE Lab. Along with Liam O'Donnell and Denise Colby's respective schools, we ran after-school Minecraft Clubs that targeted (but were not limited to) students under-performing in literacy, numeracy, and social skills. This year, because of various factors surrounding the provincial government, Bill 115, and contract negotiations, it was not feasible to use Minecraft in a club setting. Instead we lobbied for (and after many months, finally received) permission to open the ports during the instructional day for use during school hours.

I chose to use Minecraft with a Grade 3-4 class as part of their media time. Prior to yesterday, small groups had the chance to play the game on one of my student accounts in single player mode. Friday, February 8, 2013 was the first day that all the students could interact together in the same virtual world. It was wonderful to see how thrilled they were to work together and there were several things worth recording.

The students were the ones to decide to use Minecraft. In the fall, we intended to make "What Is Media?" instructional videos to post on YouTube. Each class could decide what format this video would take. One class used claymation, another used stop motion animation with Lego, and a third used traditional actors and costumes. This class voted that they would use Minecraft. Because we didn't have access to the multi-player server, we postponed this project. They were able to pick skins (of recognizable mass media characters from different media texts) and become familiar with how to move in the game. On February 8, four groups logged in. It took a while to find each other (the portals were malfunctioning) but by using the warp command, we found each other and posed for a group picture.

The students said their first task was to begin building the sets they needed for the movie. I scouted out an area that were far from other schools and their construction sites and we flew to our location. Together the students cleared the land.

What I loved was all the problem-solving going on, and how they turned to each other for answers. The "go-to" group was comprised of two ELL/ESL boys sharing a character. The fascinating thing was that the other students didn't yell out their names when they needed them - instead, they used either the avatar's name or the skin:

"Mario, can you show us how to place a block?"

"Hey Pondergrim, this isn't working - can you help me?"

I'm amazed by how quickly they adopted the character and identified with them. I guess I shouldn't be that surprised; my own children reacted strongly when I first suggested I "give away" their Minecraft characters. In fact, one of the other groups asked if they could use one of the "female avatars" next time instead of the one they used - the Incredible Hulk.

The students were having so much fun and working so hard that (with their regular class teacher's permission), I let them stay an extra period (during my own prep time) to let them continue. I tried to stay quiet and out of the way - I filmed them as they played. When I asked why there were so many torches placed on the ground, they explained that they needed the light so they could continue to work through the night. All the students were in creative mode so they could access all the block types they needed for building the movie sets. This was very different from last year, when we stayed in survival mode until near the end. This turned out to be useful for another reason: one player hit another player (on purpose or by accident, it's unclear) and because they were all on creative mode, no one got hurt.

When lunch time came, there were many groans when I announced that we had to go. "Team Mario" ran up to speak to me after the class.

"Miss Molly, when I finish my lunch, can I come to the library and go back on Minecraft?"
(Unfortunately, the answer to that was no.)

"Miss Molly, thank you! Thank you for that class!"

These boys were the experts, the ones the others turned to for assistance. They aren't often in such a position because they are still learning English. Minecraft leveled the playing field and it's a field they want to return to play on as soon as possible. (I'll try to upload some of the short video clips I took. Apologies if it doesn't work - I'll do it through YouTube in a separate post if it fails.)