Squad Leader Game With Teenage Housemates

I played a really cool game of Squad Leader yesterday with my housemates two teenage sons. We played the Guards Counter Attack scenario. The guys didn't know the rules - but that didn't matter. I acted like a kind of 'game master' and led them through the game as they played against each other - leting them know what phase they were in, .what the different units could do, and let them know about different rules as the situations arose. Pretty soon they were starting to get the hang of some of the basics.

The game took about 2 hours. Half way through the TV was turned on because X-Men was on! This was mildly distracting, we'd be half way through a phase and then Wolverine would be fighting some special forces dudes with knives. Then I'd be like, whose turn is it again??? That's right, it's your turn, and the game would continue. I would have preferred no distraction from TV, but these guys are teenagers and like to have 3 things going at the same time.

The result of the game: A decisive victory for the Soviet Union's forces, with only one unit KIA, an infantry squad that went beserk and ran accross an open street to engage their opponents. They were massacred as they ran! While the Soviets casualties were light, the German forces were almost completely wiped out by the end of the game.

I found that playing the game as a 'game master' was a good way to play. I made rulings based first on what the rules said, and then secondly on what I thought would happen logically if the battle was really happening (a couple of times a situation happened that I wasn't sure exactly how the rules applied, if at all. If I couldn't find the rule after a quick flick through the appropriate section I would make my own logical ruling.)

We played the rule that if you moved the units to a hex, then they really moved there and you couldn't move them back - this made the guys think before moving, and also led to soldiers going to the wrong places - ie "what the hell are we doing here! We should have gone over there!" We also played the rule that you announced intention to fire before checking Line of Sight.

I let the guys know when enemy soldiers were moving across their Line of Sight and put the little cross hair counters on the units - but in future games I'll make the players pay attention to this instead.

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Comment by Richard Bartlett on November 14, 2008 at 6:17am
A great idea. It's aways an uphill struggle to learn rules, especially for kids, so that is a great way of doing it. Kids like rules once they know them - I always felt that teachers should have taught kids how to play Pokemon properly rather than ban them (latter happened here in UK some schools ...).
Comment by Jim Werbaneth on November 7, 2008 at 6:48pm
Believe me, I know. In my classes I have to explain some things that we'd consider extremely basic.
Comment by Smitty on November 7, 2008 at 6:45pm
Today you would need to explain to them Hitler....
Comment by Jim Werbaneth on November 7, 2008 at 6:25pm
This is a great way to play the game, I agree. I did it years ago with law students, teaching them about Operation Sealion with Britain Stands Alone, and some were so green that I had to explain what a hex was, and what it was for. However, they were enthusiastic about a new way of learning, deeply interested in the game, and it was part of their course.

It sounds as though a good time was had by all. The only time I ever really insisted on having the TV on during game time was for sports, never movies, and it had to be important -- such has having my Penguins in the Stanley Cup playoffs. Squad Leader is too complex, even the beginning scenarios, to pay much attention to anything else.

But as you say, they're teenagers. ADHD isn't just a set of initials for the current generation, it's an ideal of how to run one's life.

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