We're big geeks. It should come as no surprise to any of the regular readers of this blog. One of our biggest geeks, and one that we really want to pass along to our children, is role-playing games. And tonight, we tried one of our first non-Pokemon related games. We played a round of the incredibly kid-friendly Happy Birthday, Robot! by Daniel Solis (who is, in my not so humble opinion, one of the best indie writers out there).
Happy Birthday, Robot! is primarily a story-telling game, with dice to help determine who gets to add what to the story. It's a fantastic gateway drug for some of the more advanced games because it introduces the younger or new players to collaborative story-telling. The rules are incredibly simple to follow - including rolling three dice at a time to find out how many words can be added to a sentence and how many your "neighbors" (the two players on your left and right) can add. There are freebie words (Robot, Robot's, And, But), tokens to loan to your fellow players and to add bring a close to the game and an epilogue section to pull things together at the end. The story comes together one sentence at a time and can sometimes go pretty far afield of what the first player to utter words thinks it will.
Tonight, it was just Rich, Teddy and I playing. As enthusiastic as Pete was about wanting to play, he just doesn't have the counting or reasoning skills for it quite yet (though his story-telling ability is top notch). It took us about an hour to play and the time went quickly. This time around, Rich and I did the writing because, while Teddy's writing is getting better, we figured this might be a bit much the first time around. But I am hoping to use it as writing exercises in the future.
The first phase is dice rolling and the dice are split based on what the storyteller rolls. Any ones and twos stay with the storyteller. Any threes and fours go to the person on their right. And any fives and sixes go to the person on their left. Dice are rolled three at a time and the storyteller can keep rolling sets of three dice until either they don't want to roll anymore or one of their neighbors has four dice in front of them. The number of dice each person has in front of them is how many words they can add to the sentence, along with their individual free words (the storyteller gets the free word Robot or Robot's, the person on their right gets the free word And, and the person on the left gets the free word But). The storyteller writes their part of the sentence first, followed by the And person and then the But person. The three need to come up with one sentence. When they are finished with the sentence, the storyteller gets tokens (placed heads up) equal to the number of dice they had for the sentence. Then it moves to the next person, with them becoming the storyteller and the person on either side of them becoming the neighbors. After the first roll, the storyteller can borrow tokens from other players to add words to their sentence, placing borrowed tokens tails side up. The last round happens when one player has ten tokens, allowing any remaining players to have one last chance at being storyteller. The final portion of the game is the epilogue, where each person gets to write a complete sentence by themselves. It starts with the person who has the most tokens, then going around based on the decreasing number of tokens. When it's your turn, you can write a sentence with as many words as you have tokens and using the free words Robot, Robot's, And, and But. Then sit back and enjoy the story that you created together.
Teddy really enjoyed rolling the dice and coming up with his parts of the sentence. Being the youngest, he was the first to roll and come up with the beginning of the first sentence. By the end of rolling, Teddy had four words that he could use (with the free word Robot), I had four (with the free word And) and Rich had three. It took about a round, seeing each of us take our turn at storyteller, for Teddy to really understand what he was doing. And we did help with suggestions as we played. Teddy has the tendency to use a lot of words where a few would do, so we would help him still get the idea across but fit within the number of words he was allowed to use. I think we crafted a pretty good story, all told. And Teddy said he wants to play again.
I do think, though, that we'll stick with three people playing for awhile. As we were getting closer to the end, Teddy's attention started to waver a bit and he was ready to end the story. But he did finish up with us, coming up with some great sentences at the end. I'm hoping that this will become a regular weekend game for us. And maybe in a few months, as Teddy gets more into it, we'll check with our friends' to see if they and their six year old daughter would like to join us.
And now, without further ado, here is the story that we created tonight by playing Happy Birthday, Robot!
Happy birthday, Robot!
"You are two today, Robot, and we're gonna have fun!" said his Mommy.
"Can we go swimming and then to the park to swing and slide?" asked Robot.
Robot danced while Mommy thought about going there. Robot stopped dancing and came to Mommy but she wasn't ready yet.
"Ok, Robot, if you are good."
Robot sighed, "Ok, Mommy. I promise I'll be good for you."
They went to the pool and had lots of fun, but Robot rusted! Robott's Mommy took out his special oil and he could move better now.
"Mommy, let's go home now," said Robot sadly, "But I want to rest."
Then Birthday Robot slept until morning and felt so much better but was kinda sad. Then Robot's Mommy came in and brought him a cake! Robot smiled at his Mommy, "Oil cake with cookie icing! My favorite!"
"The cake was really yummy and now I'd like some milk," said Robot.
"Ok," said Mommy, giving him a hug. It was the best day ever.