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Teaching Kids 40K
If you stick with this hobby long enough, eventually someone asks you to teach them how to play 40K. This can be a challenge, especially if the person who asks you is a child (specifically an early teen or younger). Though some gamers disagree, I think one should encourage younger players. Let me relate to you a technique I’ve found successful.

Battles with Beth
When my older daughter, Elizabeth, was 9 ½, she asked me to teach her play 40K. As she’s a voracious reader and very smart (“A” student), I decided to go ahead and teach her despite her young age.

I took this very slowly and went by her interest level. Rather than tell her to read the rulebook and get back to me if she had any questions, I ran a few simple demo games with her. At this early stage, I only gave her the info she needed to play. For example, I didn’t tell her all the fluff about Marines (extra organs, years of training, unswerving loyalty to the Emperor, 1000-man Chapters, Horus Heresy, blah, blah, blah). I just told her, “These are Space Marines. They’re the good guys. They’re really tough, really strong, shoot well, fight well, have great armor, and good guns.”

Fighting TigersDark Eldar
In our demo games, Beth played Space Marines and I played the weedy Dark Eldar 

In our first demo game, she played five Marines with bolters, I played five Dark Eldar with splinter rifles. We set up about 25" away, with three pieces of terrain (two bunkers and a hill) spread out halfway across the board. I deliberately used bozo tactics, my guys running towards her guys, making minimal attempts to block line of sight with the hill. The idea was just give her an idea of how the game went and how you move and shoot with the figures.

Well, she got the idea fast, gunning down three of my guys before I got into hand-to-hand combat, then kicking butt in assault on the last two. No casualties for her side. First win for the kid.

I made our second game more complex: more terrain (building ruins), 10 Marines for her (two squads of five, with a missile launcher in each squad), 20 DE (two squads of 10, with a splinter cannon and blaster in each) for me. 

Again, I deliberately used mostly bozo tactics, spreading out and not using a lot of cover as I advanced toward her, deliberately not using Fleet of Foot so could fire my splinter cannons, even though I knew darn well I was out of range (I was 27" away). 

Beth quickly caught on to the “stand-back-and-shoot” idea: if her missile launchers have a 48" range and can each kill two and three guys of mine at a time, why move up? She dropped lots of frag missiles on me (I didn’t tell her about krak missiles—why bother against DE infantry?). One of my squads failed its Morale test and went off the board, which was a big break for her. 

She did some pretty savvy things for a 9-year old playing for the second time. She moved back Squad A (because I was getting close) and provided covering fire with Squad B. She moved Squad B over to get a better line of sight (after I had moved behind a building) and fired Squad A. 

I never made it to hand-to-hand combat. She whittled my other squad down to three guys, who failed their Morale test and fell back and fell back and fell back until they left the table. She didn’t lose one Marine. That’s my girl! 

Raja Khandar MaduIn our third game, I threw in the kitchen sink: more terrain, characters, vehicles, different weapons. I gave her 20 Marines plus a Predator Annihilator and Raja Khandar Madu  (right). I took a Warrior Squad and two Raider Squads, plus a Haemonculus. My vehicles zigged and zagged, hiding behind cover, and I actually put some thought into my attack. This time, my guys got into close combat and inflicted some casualties, but the Redhead beat them back. Another win for Beth and the Fighting Tigers….

Analysis
While Beth enjoyed her games, it has been almost a year since she’s asked to play again—which is what I figured would happen. She’s more interested in reading, riding her bike, ballet lessons, and playing Barbies with her little sister. And that’s cool. 

But while she was playing, she was definitely learning how the game worked and how to play smart. She REALLY liked missile launchers and rapid-firing bolters. Perhaps with time (and the new rules), she’ll come back to 40K. And that would be cool, too. Beth has inherited my wife’s gaming skills; it’s almost a shame that my wife doesn’t play, because she crushes people in board games, card games, strategy games, you name it (and she’s a good role-player). 

Had Beth continued, I would have loaned her the rulebooks, let her read the fluff, and helped her choose, build, and paint an army. I’m glad I held off on that, though: it would have been overwhelming for her, lots of work for me, and ultimately fruitless, seeing as how she has apparently lost interest. As a parent, I’ve found that there’s not much point in putting a lot of effort into something your kid isn’t revved about. It’s best to take your cue from their interest level. 

Some people might object to my stacking the odds so thoroughly in her favor for the demo games; barring some outlandish dice rolls, she was guaranteed to win. I disagree: pitting an adult veteran against a newbie kid in a “real” game is unfair and self-defeating. Losing isn’t much fun, especially when you’re a child, and I wanted Beth’s first games to be enjoyable. If she ever gets back into 40K, there will be plenty of opportunities for defeats. 

So though Beth isn’t yet painting up an Eldar army, I take solace in the knowledge that my teaching strategy worked. Besides, my younger daughter (who was then four) had lots of fun rolling dice for us—maybe there’s hope for her. If you’re gonna raise gamers, ya gotta start 'em young, ya know
 

Related Pages
The Kids Are Alright

Posted September 2004 

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Fighting Tigers:
Codex <> Tactics <> Gallery <> Allies and Enemies <> Tales of the Tigers

Other Pages:
Main <> What's New <> Site Index <> The Tiger Roars <> Themed Army Ideas
Events and Battle Reports <> Campaigns <> Terrain <> FAQ <> Beyond the Jungle