The Littlest Gladiator

A few days ago Kate was asking Nik and I if we could play a game after dinner. When I asked what kind of game, she said, “A miniatures game.” Now Kate’s played her share of boardgames and whatnot, but she hasn’t really played a minis game before. She has seen me play, of course, and there’s barely a room in the house without minis in it, so I suppose her request should be no surprise. I’ve wished for some time that Hero Clix was more kid friendly, because Kate likes the minis and knows many of the characters. I’ve thought about designing a kid’s version of the game for home use, but haven’t gotten around to it (something about working seven days a week crimps my “design for the hell of it” style).

After dinner I went up to the office and started poking around through my game collection. Nearly every actual minis game was out. “Hey Kate, how about some grand tactical Civil War action with Fire & Fury? No? How about Normans vs. Vikings with Warhammer Historical? No, eh? Hmmm.” Just when I was thinking I’d have to sell her on a boardgame, my eyes fell onto a game I got when I was only a couple of years older than Kate: Melee by Metagaming. My friends and I played the shit out of that game, because making new characters was so easy it didn’t matter if you died. I pulled melee out for the first time in probably 20 years. The rules were as easy as I remembered. I figure if I could read and learn the game at age 10, Kate could play with adult help at age 8.

When I was a kid, we played with the counters that came with the game because none of us could afford minis. A quick check of the hex map showed that 28mm miniatures would work just fine though. I dug out my “pirates and gladiators” case and offered up gladiator minis to Nik and Kate. Once we had all picked our minis, I showed them how to make characters. Then I briefed them on the key rules and the coliseum opened for business. The game was quick and bloody, thanks to Nicole double damaging me right off the bat. Kate, however, was the winner. Although the game itself didn’t take longer than 15 minutes, she seemed perfectly satisfied.

Now I’ve got something we can pull out and play with Kate on short notice. I have enough figs that we can do a bewildering array of fantasy or historical scenarios. I think next time I’ll offer a bigger selection of weapons and armor types, so Kate can start to see the tradeoffs that make the system work. Train ’em young, I say.

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