(Metagame Archive) The Parent’s Guide to Playing Vs. (Or How to Enjoy the Game Despite Your Life Being Over)

By Melody Maysonet

Those who have small children know what I’m talking about when I say, “Having kids changes everything.” Okay, maybe I’m being a bit dramatic with title of this article, but kids certainly put your life on hold, at least for a while. Gone are the carefree days of going out to dinner on Friday nights and sleeping in on Saturdays. And, as I discovered soon after giving birth to my future Vs. player, figuring out how to play Vs. with a baby in the house is a strategy game in and of itself.  

But you don’t have to give up your favorite pastime just because your child rules your life. You just have to learn a few tricks. And, of course, the tricks change as your baby gets older. From one parent to another (and all you single people better listen too, because children are probably in your future), here’s some sensible advice about keeping the Vs. spice in your life.

If Your Baby Is Zero to Three Months Old . . .

No problem! She probably sleeps most of the time anyway, which gives you ample time to play as many Vs. games as you like with very few interruptions. If your bundle of joy wakes up, simply cradle her in your lap with a bottle (not a bottle of vodka, despite the temptation) while you continue playing. You can even stick her in the infant carrier and bring her along to Vs. tournaments. Admittedly, you’ll get some strange looks (I did) from adolescent males who’ve probably never seen a baby up close. But you’ll also get looks of sympathy, either for you or the baby . . . I never figured out which. Anyway, when my little Caleb was this age, I got so accustomed to playing Vs. whenever I felt like it that I wasn’t prepared for the next stage.

Four to Six Months Old

Here’s where things start to get harder. Your cute little blob is becoming an insistent little person who’s no longer content to lie docilely in his playpen while you examine your resource row. Playing in a tournament isn’t an option if the little one’s around, but that’s no reason to stop playing altogether. You can still invite your (understanding) friends over for a game or just play with your spouse. If you’re lucky, you can plop the little imp in his swing and let him wonder what you’re doing as you move pieces of colored cardboard around on the kitchen table. If he’s not the swinging type, try the stroller. You can hold your cards with one hand while you rock the stroller back and forth with the other. And for those times when your opponent is taking a long time to think about his attack, take the little tyke out of the stroller and spend some quality time with him. At this stage, you can also take the baby to a friend’s house for an evening of Vs. System, but this is risky, as Rian Fike (a.k.a. “Stu”) of Metagame.com fame can attest. My husband and I took our baby to Rian’s house on the pretense of playing Vs. with him and his wife. I played one game before Caleb had enough of his infant carrier and I spent the rest of the evening bouncing him on my lap.

Seven to Twelve Months Old

At this age, your baby is curious about everything. My husband and I soon discovered that Caleb liked to look at Vs. cards. (And why not? The worlds of Marvel and DC have introduced plenty of gorgeous characters. I’ve had a crush on Green Arrow since my college days. But I think my little Caleb preferred Dinah Laurel Lance ◊ Black Canary, who looks suspiciously like Madonna.) Since our little whippersnapper was so fascinated by the cards, we gave him a handful of commons to play with while we drafted the latest Vs. set. It seemed like a good idea, and we were actually able to concentrate on beating up each other’s characters for a while. But then we discovered that Caleb liked to chew on the cards, too. (He was partial to Titania, Big Bad Bully, probably because I had recently weaned him from breastfeeding.) Maybe we’re bad parents, but we let him chew on the cards. I mean, we were in the middle of a game, for goodness sake. Then we discovered that the ink comes off the cards when they get good and soggy. Caleb’s chubby cheeks were flecked with shiny ink in a rainbow of colors. That’s when we took the cards away and gave him the plastic sleeves instead. Unfortunately, he wasn’t content for long, so we took turns holding him in our laps while we continued playing, and we let him delight in sliding around our resources and dropping them on the floor. (Hey, the cards don’t actually have to be on the table to play with them.)

Thirteen Months to Age Three

Forget about it. You won’t be able to sit down for a meal, let alone concentrate on a Vs. game. So what is the Vs. parent to do? Wait until the baby’s sleeping, drop her off at Grandma’s, or get a babysitter. Don’t even open a Vs. pack if your little one is in the same room. Otherwise, your cards will be grabbed out of your hand, crumpled, bent, and thrown on the floor.

Age Three to Five

Now that your toddler’s attention span is longer than the average housefly’s, you might be able to sneak in some Vs. games while she’s awake. But count on making stupid mistakes (like forgetting to reinforce) while you listen to non-stop whining about how thirsty she is. And you’ll forget all about that carefully planned strategy you had while you pour her juice, clean up the spilled juice, and help her go potty. Remember not to get upset about being interrupted like this. Toddlers love irking their parents, so if she sees that you’re upset, chances are she’ll want more juice and you’ll start the whole cycle over again.

Age Five and Up

Once your child can read, he can occupy himself by putting your Vs. cards in alphabetical order while you kick some superhero butt. When his still-developing mind can grasp more abstract concepts, teach him to play. And once he starts playing, your worries are over. Now you have a built-in opponent who will never tire of the game.

And thus your life begins anew.

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