Play as superheroes (with your kids!)
A love for board games and role-playing games often starts when you’re a kid. You see a “Let’s Play” video with a group playing Dungeons & Dragons. Your uncle brings over a board game with more tokens than you've seen in your life. You stand in the bookstore in the “Games” section, flipping through full-color books with rules to be heroes fighting monsters. You visit a local game store and see all the grown-ups at the table, laughing and rolling dice.
But there’s a chance, when this happens—when it’s time to strike out in a new hobby—we don’t know any other kids who want to play. Or the online games aren’t as fun as they imagined. Or the adult games at the tables are too adult.
How do curious kids get into gaming—one of the most fun, imaginative, creative and social outlets around?
If they’re in the Kansas City Metro area, no problem. They come to KantCon July 14 to 16 at the Overland Park Convention Center for the games made just for younger kids and their parents and guardians.
The 15-year-old annual gaming convention over three days features not only a large, curated collection of hundreds of board games for attendees to pick up and play at their leisure—including giant-sized Jenga towers—but role-playing games specifically designed to be less complicated and age-appropriate in its own KantCon Junior sessions. Family-friendly games so far in the roster include Animal Adventures, Castle Panic, Galaxy Trucker, My Little Scythe, Mysterium Kids and many more.
To help pick between games each session, KantCon Junior is debuting a rule-complexity ratings system—d6, d8, d21+. Guardians who bring children can use those ratings to gauge whether a game’s rules and themes are appropriate:
D8—a little more complex
D12-plus—for experienced young gamers or guardian/youth duos.
“Themes will be roughly analogous to TV ratings,” according to KantCon Coordinator Jamie Lindemann. “Kind of ‘G’ for general audiences all the way to ‘PG.’”
Lindemann says the chance for families to build shared memories is the goal: “I want KantCon Junior to be the place where kids and parents can have a conversation later on about the games they played together.”
The game library, with age-curated ratings, and some Kansas City Junior events will happen Friday and Saturday, but the bulk of the special sessions happy Saturday, July 15.
Saturday is also when Lindemann himself will host a brand-new experience for guardians who bring kids to the convention: a two-table role-playing game sessions designed for adults with kids. At one table will sit adults playing “Guardians” or superheroes. Another table will host kids playing “Allies” or the superheroes’ sidekicks. Designed to allow new players to drop in and out every hour on the hour, “Save Our City” will see KantCon Junior Coordinator Jamie Lindemann and game-master Tricia Rightmire running a custom-made day of comic-book-based adventures that will find the kids and the adults playing separately, then coming together at the end of every hour to share the adventures with each other so far.
Lindemann’s motivation for all the work going into the day-long experience is a little selfish, he says: “I proposed this game, because I wanted there to be a thing to play with my own 8-year-old son.”
Each hour, Lindemann will run adults through an adventure using rules from Blades in the Dark. The game is normally for characters who play “daring scoundrels” and other criminals, but here it’s modified for courageous superheroes taking the fight to the bad guys. At the same time, Rightmire will run kids through an adventure where they try to save the city and its civilians in a modified version of Amazing Tales, a game specifically designed for under-age players new to role-playing games.
“The kids are like the Robin to the Batman in the superhero pairs,” Lindemann says. And during every comic-book-sized adventure, a “trigger event” (like the Guardians finding a base on the moon) will affect both tables’ stories.
The fact that the adventures appear in the same shared world—like a DC or Marvel movie crossover—will add to the power of shared memories, Lindemann says.
“The idea is that it makes the world feel richer, so parents and kids say, in later sessions, ‘Oh, man, that villain was in my back story! Something I made up was in your story!’”
At the start of every session, instead of “pregens” (a set of pregenerated characters to pick from), Lindemann and Rightmire will let adults and kids use a brand-new card-based superhero generation system to generate their heroes’ identities, origins and powers.
Lindemann hopes the custom experience brings guardians and kids closer together while giving them chances to play with their peers. The event is brand-new, debuting for the first time at KantCon and only open to, yes, adults bringing kids with them—especially kids who’ve never playing in a role-playing game before.
“I love running games for people who haven’t played,” Lindemann says. “It’s like working with an actor who hasn’t developed bad habits yet.”
And don’t worry, parents: Events designed specifically for KantCon Junior run 9am to 6pm for all three days—no late-night games for the youth.
Registration for adults, kids and families is open now. After registering, attendees will gain access to Warhorn.net, where they can see all the board games, role-playing games and others in advance through July 7. Guardians bringing kids can sign up early for KantCon Junior events.