When my kids were small, we played games (of course). But we generally played by our own house rules rather than the mundane exercise offered by the publisher. Rules were made to be bent, right?
So when the kids pulled out Candyland, we started at the basics. Draw a card, move your dude, suffer the consequences. Rinse and repeat.
Then we began to make it into a game.
- Name your character. This is not just some soulless plastic standee… this is your avatar for the duration of this little adventure. This is Duke McLargehuge, or Silly Sally, or Sir Fartsalot. They have a serious stake in the outcome of this journey. We care about these characters and their dreams and aspirations. In fact, let’s use some minis from some other game to represent these characters. Keep a journal of who wins and loses, game after game.
- Keep a secret, for a while. Draw a card from the stack and keep it hidden. This is your secret power. When the going gets tough, flip it down on the table with an “a-ha” and a prideful flourish, then cross that rainbow bridge with confidence!
- Choose your own path. Missed the bridge? On your next move, go backwards! Sometimes a tactical retreat is the key to a later advantage!
- Those creatures lurking in the shadows along the path… What are they really up to? Mr. Mint seems a helpful sort, and Lord Licorice looks a bit sinister, I think. That gal that lives in the Lollypop Woods scares me a little, and that thing in the Molasses Swamp looks like he might kill Tasha Yar just for the heck of it. Let’s make these characters part of the story, and grab a few more miscellaneous pawns out of some other game box.
- Allies or enemies? Now we have non-player characters in the game, let’s give them some powers and let them be part of the story. Maybe they’re like familiars that do our bidding, or golems that wander mindlessly about, wreaking havoc on the countryside once they’ve been released.
- All for won or won for all? Perhaps this can be a cooperative effort. Nobody wins unless everybody wins. “I have the Power of Greyskull, therefore I will fend off the evil Mrs. Nutt to allow you to pass safely through her dark domain!” “And I will rescue you from the clutches of the creepy Gumdrop Ghoul!”
It almost makes a game out of this box of plastic and cardboard.