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My grandson Jack loves building things and has been building with Lego bricks for two years now (he's 6 years old). We try to steer him away from his favourite Dr Who character games, as although these are good, they are either far too easy or very bitty and take too long to put together, only to find you have to make up a game to play with the construction. So after trying him with Harry Potter last year, this year we asked relatives to buy some games based Lego.
This one became a firm favouite by Boxing Day when the tired adults wanted some peace and quiet from Jack's enthusiastic playing. He had several sets of Lego so I chose one we could make in about 20 to 30 minutes and still have enthusiasm left to play the game.
With all these new Lego games there is a standard packaging and a leaflet, which should be read carefully by an adult before allowing the child to open the inviting plastic bags full of bricks. Jack wants to have everything done yesterday (I wonder who he gets that from?) and has to be restrained from pulling the bags apart. One thing I have learnt from using Lego is that it's a bit like flat-pack furniture- you need to identify and sort the pieces before building. Naturally this is frustrating for a child but I manage to make a game of it by saying things like 'I wonder if you can find 4 pieces of this monster's head, I can't see where they are?' While he looks I start to gather different colour pieces together.
Another preparation must is to glance through the booklet and decide which part you will start on. In this game there is a playing board and a cave to build with firebricks and a monster area complete with bats and treasure. The monster is large and takes separate construction, as does the dice, so if you have an impatient grandson like mine then I recommend leaving the monster until later. Jack sees things in a very literal way so gets annoyed if he can't make something and often calls dad to help out. Since I'm trying to learn myself and get Jack using his hands more, then I don't want him giving up if something looks too difficult.
The booklet shows the monster construction first, but I started with the board as this was built in several pages of simple steps. Every time Jack found the correct piece I'd give him praise and he'd carry on fitting little pieces together. Once we completed the board then we looked at the monster construction. This required some patience and since Jack has some co-ordination issues with being left-handed, then I wanted him to do most of it himself.
The completed board and monster are not large, but building it together is fun as well as taking concentration. This particular game has a lot of colourful bricks and needs tiny fingers. I found it hard with my arthritis but we did make it in about 30 minutes the first time. The monster took a good fifteen minutes and the dice took about 10 since we weren't sure which combination we'd use. These new games have a self-build dice and in this game you can use numbers, colours or a colour combination. I believe that most of these games are similar, with the rules allowing for flexibility.
Playing the game.
The object of this is to get your explorer from the start by building brick walls with a throw of the dice. With each pathway built across the magma (lava) flow then the hero moves towards the monsters cave and can do battle with the monster for the jewel prize. Each player has the same goal and can build their own wall across the board. Some skill is needed to judge whether there are enough bricks to build the pathway, but you can change the rules for this if you need to. Obviously three players building with the same colours are going to use too many blocks up and can't reach the cave, so nobody can win. There are three different colours and enough bricks to go around obstacles.
These come in the form of a wall of fire with four bricks and you can place this in front of your enemy to stop him reaching the goal by throwing a red colour. You can also stop a player moving by throwing a black side of the dice and landing a bat on his head stopping him moving. (Jack loved this part). Played strictly by the rules could cause the game to become too long or difficult and the age range on this is 7 upwards. Jack is 6 but bright enough to think a move ahead. I still needed to bend a few rules to spare tantrums, but I don't allow him to win, only to have a better chance. You can see why the dice can have several different permeations allowing say one side to have four different coloured dots. This means a player can choose his needed colour. This also advances the game's difficulty otherwise it becomes stale very quickly.
To me a game needs to be easy enough for a child to win enough times to build confidence without getting bored. By changing rules an adult can win but put it down to luck, although we usually talk a bit about strategy. Jack is old enough to understand this but can have a tantrum if he loses too often or is over-tired. Board games are a good way of teaching skill, thinking ahead, gamesmanship and in this case, building skills.
Jack understands why my arthritis causes me problems with tiny pieces and helps me out. This stretches his own co-ordination and concentration. He was thrilled when we made the monster without dad's help. (Dad is excellent at Lego and building skills.) I think that games are also a way for children to play together either with other children or with family.
This game is one in a series of similar games and at £8 on Amazon at the moment is a real bargain. It's a game that will be played with, not a hugely expensive model of a spaceship or a wizard's castle that will only be looked at.
We had plenty of fun with this and managed to link it with another game that I will probably review another time. With it's standard size pieces it is easy to add on another board and extend the game. Jack gets bored easily and also gets over-excited. Board games and building help to calm him down and I recommend this for any parent with a slightly hyperactive child. It's also good for sharing with siblings.
Thanks for reading and happy building.