Games to Play in the Dirt: Army
This is a game that can be taught to kids in order to get them interested in things like probability, measurements, sportsmanship, and strategy. Eight years old is a good age to introduce this game, though younger kids might have no problem picking up on its rules, their attention span might not keep up with the length of the game. It's also a game that can keep the interest of adults, particularly by using house rules to increase the complexity of the game. Given the short list of needed materials and simple rules, this game can be played on the kitchen table or even while camping.
-Objects to represent each side's soldiers. Plastic army men work fine, but so do different colored rocks.
-One to five coins, the more the better.
-A string of about one foot in length.
-Sticks or other linear objects to represent cover.
-An object to represent the flag.
-Objects to represent groups of soldiers that have already gone this turn.
Players will move and attack with their soldiers in the play area in an attempt to wipe out the opposing army or capture the flag in the center. Regardless of how many soldiers a player has lost, if the flag is returned to their side of the board they are the winner.
Play Area Setup
You'll want an area to play on that is roughly twice the length of the measuring string. Split that area down the middle so that each player has half the area in front of them. Players will take turns placing the sticks on their side of the board. The sticks represent cover that the soldiers can hide behind so placing them strategically is important. In the dead center of the board place the flag token. The game will grind a bit if there's too much cover, so be careful not to overdo it.
Players will take turns placing their soldiers in groups of five along their edge of the play area. These groups of five are called "teams" and the members need to be touching each other at all times to show they are a team. There can be as many teams as the players would like, however, more than four would cause the game to bog down. Determine who deploys first by a coin toss.
Each turn is broken up into two parts which may be done in any sequence. The first player to deploy will be the second player to go. The turn consists of the movement and attack for a single team of soldiers. Once a team has moved and attacked, mark that team as having already gone this round, this ends the moving player's turn. The opposing player then takes a turn in the same way. After all teams on both sides have been marked as having gone, then the tokens are all removed and a new coin flip determines who starts the new round. If a player has more teams than the opponent, that player gets to continue moving the extra teams until every team has moved on both sides.
When it is a player's turn they will select a team that does not have a marker indicating that it has already moved and may move it up to half the length of the measuring string. A unit may move less than the allowed distance and may sit still.
If the team being played is close enough that the measuring string can reach from any of its soldiers to at least one soldier of an opposing team it may attack. To attack, take one coin per member of the attacking team and flip all of them. Count the number of "heads" results and remove that many soldiers from the targeted team.
A soldier has cover if it is touching a piece of cover that is in any way between the soldier and any member of the attacking team. If a soldier has cover from an attacker, the attacker must flip the coins that landed on "heads" again before removing soldiers from the target team, only the "heads" results from this second flip will be counted to remove soldiers in cover. Soldiers in the target team that are out of cover must be the first ones removed as the result of an attack.
Capturing the Flag
During a team's movement if a soldier can touch the flag then the flag may be picked up. Picking up the flag does not stop a team's movement. The soldier holding the flag cannot fire so if attacking with the team carrying the flag, flip one less coin. If the flag carrier crosses within a half length of the measuring string from a player's starting edge, that player has captured the flag and is declared the winner.
Feel free to modify these rules and come up with different objectives to keep the game interesting. There's nothing to say that some special weapons don't flip more coins, or that there aren't three flags and the first team to capture two is the winner. This is just a basic skeleton of a game that players can take and make their own.