Spoiler Alert for Game of Thrones
My daughter began playing My First Castle Panic the same weekend that Game of Thrones aired its epic hour and a half long battle for Winterfell. In My First Castle Panic, an army of green cartoony monsters attack the players’ castle; in Game of Thrones, an army of undead attack a beloved castle.
The day after I watched the episode, my daughter and I played the game together. In my imagination, our gaming castle became Winterfell, and the green cartoony monsters took on a paler hue. They were coming, and we had to stop them.
It’s the most fun I’ve ever had while playing a kids’ game.
On the board of My First Castle Panic, the path for the monsters is lined with shapes and colors that match the cards in your hand. If a monster falls on a space with a red circle, and you have a red circle in your hand, you can beat the monster from the board.
Red circle, blue triangle, green square: we beat them back.
But then there are tricky cards that allow monsters to jump ahead, move ahead, bang against the gates.
You can play up to four players, but in my experience, the best number is two. The game is more unpredictable: you really might not win. The more people you have, the more cards are in play, and the easier it is to win.
On this afternoon, we lost.
I loved not being able to predict if we would win–which could also be said for the Battle for Winterfell. In the show, the army of undead battle the castle for an hour and a half. They breach the gates, causing horrific destruction.
One of the characters I care about is named Arya. She’s a teenager. We first meet her as a carefree girl in this very same castle. Spoiler: over the course of the show, she becomes a badass assassin. She is scared of nothing. But this battle rattles her.
To free Arya from fear, another character invokes the refrain from Arya’s assassin training: “What do we say to the god of death?”
Arya responds, “Not Today.”
The next time we see her, she’s stabbing the Night King in the chest. With one slice, she defeats the whole undead army.
I thought about Arya’s victory while watching my daughter send green monsters to the abyss (the box). I wondered how I might give her Arya’s resilience. While I’m pretty certain that she’ll never have to battle an undead army, I know that she’ll have to battle more figurative monsters in her life.
I thought about the refrain that freed Arya: “What do we say to the god of death?” “Not Today.”
During our third game against the monsters, we started our liturgy: “What do we say to the monsters?”
My daughter matched her weapon of a red circle card with a red circle tile: “Not today, monster!”
The green monster flew back into the box.