Tuesday, August 16, 2005

"The Legend of Landlock" by Gamewright Games

(originally published in the Missoulian of Missoula, MT on 03/20/05)

A few weeks ago, I spoke with a woman whose son plays a lot of video games. She said she noticed a gaming trend which moved away from family games and toward more independent playing. For her, this trend had become a terrible thing with the introduction of hyper-violent games.

Her comments made me reflect upon my own past, one filled with regular Nintendo, an Apple IIe, and a tremendous amount of time spent at the local arcade. I was into it all. I loved the tension of the fighting games, the adventure of the quest games, and the simplicity of computer games. The graphics were great (at the time), the story-lines interesting and new. I can remember skipping meals - not going to sleep even - to play more.

But it wasn’t satisfying. Little did I know that you can never satisfy the hunger imposed by video games. If you could, arcades would go out of business.

Family games, on the other hand, are usually extremely satisfying. This is mainly because the enjoyment exists outside of the actual game. The interplay between family members - be it competition, teamwork, or conversation - reaffirms the family togetherness. You just won’t get this from a session of Halo or Grand Theft Auto.

Enter The Legend of Landlock by Edith Schlichting and the gang at Gamewright. This is a simple tile-based game with the perfect blend of skill and luck. And no guns either.

Since I got The Legend of Landlock, it has become one of my household’s most-played games. The premise is simple: two players build a map. Each takes turns connecting square tiles depicting either a river, some land, a bridge, or a tussock. Players keep going until they have made a square map (6 tiles by 6 tiles). The final layout is always a beautiful, unique creation.

At the beginning of the game, each player is assigned the role of land or water. If a player is represented by land, then his or her objective is to touch all four sides of the final map with a continuous stretch of land (worth several points), while preventing his or her opponent - in this case, water - from doing the same. But be careful! There are side objectives which, because of their point values, can undermine the importance of touching all the sides.

When I brought home The Legend of Landlock, my partner Annie was apprehensive. She’s not great at spatial reasoning, and our first game was a little rough.

Then she got it. Boy, did she get it. Not long after, she whooped me 21 to 5. I really had to suck it up that day, but this is what family games are all about. The championship title travels from person to person, and everyone eventually gets their day in the sun.

If you have a kid hooked on video games, I assure you that it’s not a terrible thing. But if you want more time with your child, get The Legend of Landlock and invite him - better yet, challenge him - to play with you. I think you’ll both see the difference.

Cost: $12.00
Players: 2 or teams
Age: 8 and up
Time to play: 30 to 45 minutes
Rating (1 to 10, 10 being the best): 9
Additional Comments: Great thinking game for younger kids.


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