Friday, July 13, 2007



With regard to the “Playmobil” historical characters I mentioned, yet again in a previous post this week, and speaking of historical and action game characters, I would like to introduce you to one of our son's mini figure character hobbies. I love to encourage hobbies around here, for they can become so exciting and fulfilling, though at times they can also be somewhat time consuming.

Tabletop war games are a fantastic way to learn (and re-enact) pivotal moments in world history. I remember as a youth sitting around our big old wooden basement table with my brothers, and often kids from around the neighborhood would drop by our basement door asking to play too. We played game after game of the good old classic board games. Monopoly was a summertime favorite, and it resided in the one lone drawer of the table. I remember crying when I lost my hotels, but I had a lot of cash, so I always felt better knowing that… funny how a child views things. The other “classic” game a younger brother and I played for hours and hours was the original game of “Risk”.

Remember the puzzle version, where you had to make the entire half of your board fast enough to beat the other player? And then came along the gaming version, and all were hooked. Today every version possible within the scope of historical realm imaginable is available as a ““Risk board” game spin-off. We own several versions, including an advanced technological computer one. When no one is available to play against, the brainy computer allows for a challenging game, but I am just no longer there with this game myself these days (wink). Whatever happened to pretending you were two players and playing as if you had someone over? I dunno..laugh. Didn’t YOU ever play double solitaire as two players too?

Anyway, after our children discovered the board game of risk, along came “Axis & Allies”, a whopping board game carrying a huge expense, one incredible world history board game encompassing many hours of play until a winner was declared, or a team when more than two players, and consequently, the enemy defeated. I still remember the hours and hours our sons played this game with their friends at the kitchen table. I remember too the mothers of those friends who called to acquire a contact store name to purchase it as a gift to their own children later on.

If you have never played a tabletop war game such as one of those mentioned above, the Lord of the Rings game is a great place to start if you’re into an ultimate hobby at the same time. It is a game that uses miniature figures and dice to fight battles from the world of Middle-earth -- from encounters between handfuls of warriors, to battles between hundreds of troops. The rules of the game are explained in detail in the Lord of the Rings rulebook, featuring many choices for play, using many interesting character traits discovered along the way, as is its purpose over the actual war game re-enactments.

However, lest I leave you with the wrong impression, there is much more to the war gaming hobby than fighting battles. The wee miniature character figures have to firstly be painted by, making it a fun part of the battle game experience, as each little figure is detailed and personalized, then carefully placed in a safe location. They are actually quite fragile and one of our sons purchased a special case with carved foam inside to hold them all during our move. It is here they are kept quite safe until the next battle requires their services.

There is a terrific book entitled “Landscapes of Dragons; The battle for your child's mind” written by Michael O’Brien, a man we’ve met through friends. In the book, he describes well the purpose for good versus evil plots. The good ole fairy tales where they live happily ever after, and the good guy always wins, that is where it’s at! Predominantly in a subject such as a war, no one is a winner really; a huge price is paid for our freedom, like at this present time. In war games, luckily the good guys seem to mostly outweigh the evil guys, leaving much for discussion around the kitchen table after the marathon all-day games.

Our son also has several buddies who share the same exciting hobby as he does, they too collect the Lord of the Rings mini figures. He learned about them first at an Education convention, when he tagged along with us to Seattle for the three-day conference. Without batting an eyelash, he quickly became hooked after being invited to play with other children during the days. The rules of the game seemed complicated at first, so reading the trilogy became a goal during that summer season. Game objections were clearly spelled out to all new players that weekend but even with a strong desire to begin the hobby, there was one little complication. He had to earn the funds to cover the costs associated with the hobby, and through the past four years, he’s been earning his way to new special paints and tiny stranded brushes when required, acquired more mini figures as his nest egg allowed for, traded figures with friends for others he desired, and began to discover the joy of making structural scenery to go along with the realistic effects necessary for dramatic backdrops and backgrounds when playing the game. Our last home landscape offered plenty of real live moss to dry out, but here there’s virtually none so far to collect for another younger son, earning his first set all by himself recently.

Recently we set up a long table upstairs in the barn loft, a gaming area for the summer season upon us, now that many summer items are outdoors and the area is ready for usage. Painting has been taking much of our boy’s time; however their creations are stunning to view their miniature details when completed. Patience is a definite virtue here with these projects.

We’re still uncertain if this hobby will become a well worn fad over time, disappearing in years to come, or whether or not it will continue with them into adulthood. It’s quite a “guy thing” it appears, as our daughters just do not share the same enthusiasm for the game. Smile.