Wargaming with a 5 year old

I recently decided I wanted to teach my 5 year old to play war games. As with a lot of parenting decisions there were ‘good parent’ reasons and ‘actual parent’ reasons.

The good parent reasons were that Wargames teach you basic math in a way that doesn’t seem like work. For me wargames also taught me an intuitive feel for probability. Knowing the odds without having to explicitly calculate it out has helped me a lot in life when making decisions. Wargames also teaches you can do everything right and still roll a 1.

The actual parent reasons were that we had been having Lego minifig battles for the past 6 months and I was getting bored of him just deciding who won. There are only so many times you can have Ninjago defeat Paw Patrol before you need a change of pace. Additionally with the quarantine I hadn’t been able to wargame with friends.

One of the joys of parenting is indoctrinating them with your interests.

To start with I decided on a skirmish game even though the large armies would impress him more. Army sized units are harder to move around and the battles take up too much room for our 2 bedroom apartment. I also decided to use Lego minifigs instead of buying and painting models. This lets him create the characters he wants and I don’t need to raid his college fund to buy models. For bases we use 2x2 Lego blocks.

After talking to my friend with a 7 year old and reading Board Game Geek I decided on Songs of Blade and Heroes. It’s meant for 5 to 10 models and a single battle should take 30-60 minutes . With a 5 year old this is normally a 1 to 2 hour game. The game is very streamlined with characters having only 3 stats plus a small set of special rules to represent powers such as shooting, cavalry, undead etc.

The three stats are combat, quality and point cost. A fight is just roll a die each and add your combat plus any situational modifiers. Quality is used for all other rolls. A basic human cost 30 points a dragon 250 and an average game is 300-500 points.

The most interesting mechanic is that for every character when you activate them you roll 3 dice and need to roll their quality or higher. Better characters have lower quality. If you roll 2+ failures though your turn ends without you getting to activate anyone else. This introduces a ‘push your luck’ mechanic which a 5 year old can’t really understand. So instead we play that you can always roll on 3 dice and the only consequence of 2 or 3 failures is that the character gets fewer actions. This has the added benefit of not needing the group activation rule which is also a little complicated for a child.

Another benefit of Songs of Blades and Heroes is that it has rules for creating your own units. So if he wants to build a heavy cavalry wizard or a giant flying raccoon he can and it just costs more points. Although we don’t calculate exact points I usually handicap myself 25-30% points.

The rules are pretty straight forward but to ease him into it I introduced a new rule every game. So far all the games have been between 6 and 9 models. The exact order was:

Game 1: Human infantry and shooters

Game 2: Infantry, shooters and long move

Game 3: Infantry, shooters and cavalry

Game 4: Infantry, shooters and cavalry (cavalry is the most complicated special rule)

Game 5: All the above + non-humans

Game 6: All the above + leaders

Game 7: All the above + magic

Game 8: All the above + morale rolls

Game 9: All the above + jumping rules