For game night, we broke out an old favorite of mine: Axis & Allies (classic version). So how did the evening go? Overall, we had some fun, but we didn't spend a lot of time actually playing the game.
Axis & Allies is one of those games that I really enjoyed as a young adult but never really got any use after I got married. It went through several moves over the years, but the packing tape that I put on it to protect the contents from spilling out had never even been removed. Occassionally, the kids have seen the box and have wanted to play with it, but I always felt like the combination of a bazillion pieces, oodles of rules, and "tween"-aged kid was a recipe for disaster.
This week, I changed my mind.
Only two kids wanted to play -- my ten-year-old son Sharkbait and my eight-year-old daughter LittleRed. The recommended age is 12 and up.
What the heck; my kids are pretty smart, right? We can do this.
I expected my son to want to play, but I had also been counting on my thirteen-year-old daughter to add some additional deep-thinking to party. Unfortunately, she had better things to
Before we could play, there were a number of hurdles. First, we had to get the box open. I bought the game some time around 1990, and it was taped up some time between 2000 and 2005. By 2012, the tape was still strong, but the box had seen better days. It still works, but I had to be careful that I didn't destroy it as I opened it.
Time spent: About five minutes
Kids status: Bouncing around in anticipation.
Next came the sorting of pieces. After several trips in the U-Haul, the pieces weren't any where near their appointed storage locations. We assigned countries and got to work. I would take the Axis powers, mostly because they are harder to play, but I do like me some Japanese island-hopping. Sharkbait would play Great Britain and the Soviet Union. LittleRed would take USA because they aren't too hard to play at a basic level. Plus, she really wanted to be "us." She may have used the term "the Good Guys."
Sorry, rest of the Allies, you are no longer the Good Guys. My eight-year-old has decreed it.
Needless to say, this process took quite a while. The kids were real troopers and even seemed to enjoy it. Too bad they don't take to sorting their toys into appropriate storage with such gusto.
Time spent: About 30 minutes, including some pauses for bathroom breaks
Kids status: Ready to play.
Next, we had to set up the board. Wait. All that sorting wasn't the setup? Nope, kiddos. That was the pre-setup. Now we have to put those bazillion pieces out on the board. Each person doesn't get the same stuff, either. No, we each have to consult our handy charts to see where we put things.
Time spent: About another 30 minutes, probably with more bathroom breaks.
Kids status: Still having fun, but eyes are starting to glaze.
Guess what, kids? It's time to play! Yay... So the game mechanics are actually pretty straight-forward. First, you buy stuff, but you don't actually get to put it on the board yet. (Your guys are building it.) Then you move any and all of your armies into battle. Then, you pick a battle, and we place our pieces on the battle board. We roll dice and pull stuff off as it dies. After all the battles, you can move anything else that didn't attack. Then, you put your new pieces on the board.
There are exceptions to these rules, like submarine attacks, off-shore bombardments, and so forth. We play with them if the kids seem to get it, and we leave them out for now if the rule goes over their heads. For the most part, the kids got it.
Time spent: About another 30 minutes. Wait. You finished the game in 30 minutes?
Kids status: "Dad, I'm done."
The number of rules and their difficulty turned out to not be a problem. The length of time spent before the game started was a huge contributing factor. Combine the pre-game fatigue with the number of pieces the kids had to control, and their brains roasted by the end of the first round.
First, I need to sort the pieces and possibly even set them up myself so that the kids can start the game fresh. Second, I need to have them only control one country each. That means getting my thirteen-year-old in on the action. Finally, I probably ought to wait a year or so before breaking this game out again. Not only will the kids be more mature, but maybe they won't remember the burn-out they experienced this time.
For now, we're going to have to stick with games that have fewer things to track.
The silver lining?
My kids won't be bugging me about pulling this box down off the shelf for a while.