Family Adventure Time! The Great Sweeping of Ammowan Guest Review

Today on Dice Hate Me, we are lucky to have another guest review from the multi-tasking master, Marc Specter.This time, Marc takes a look at a storytelling game, currently on Kickstarter, that is great for families and gamers alike. Enjoy!

A few weeks ago Robert Burke put out the call offering the opportunity to give his newest game Gnomes: The Great Sweeping of Ammowan (on Kickstarter now:, a try.  Always eager to be an early adopter, I replied and said I would love to give it a go.  By the next day I had received the file.  And it sat.  And it sat.  So in addition to a review, this is my apology to you, Robert, that it too me so long to put this out there.

Even though I did not immediately take action–despite the gnomes’ impending doom–I did think about how I was going to execute this experiential game.  This was no mere sit down at a table to roll dice, flip cards, and smack talk.  “Gnomes” was about the experience, getting the family together as a group to save the kingdom that had make its home in our yard.  Allow me to explain…

Gnomes are tiny creatures who live in the Kingdom of Ammowan, aka our backyard (or your backyard, or local park, you get the idea).  Every year the Great Sweeping takes place, where the trolls come through trying to capture the gnomes.  Gnomes are typically very careful to clean up after themselves, especially at this time of year.  But it seems this year a few young’uns forgot and left some things around.  If the trolls find these items, the gig is up, and the gnomes are in trouble.  And so with much debate and a council vote, the gnomes have contacted us, the Giant-folk,  to help save their kingdom.

Our Ammowan adventure began when my wife and I went to our local Hobby Lobby to pick up gnome-things.  These were easily located among the dollhouse toys, and we picked up everything we needed in less than 20 minutes and for under $20.  We took a look at the available materials and decided we would have 5 gnome-sites: picnic, garden, fire pit, woodcutter, and harvest.  It took no more than 30 minutes total to set up the sites (below).  In the harvest (not pictured) we tied a string to a long tall plant from which buds were being harvested.

Picnic: a broom to clear debris, then some plates with silverware. Carrots and broccoli to eat.

Garden: the gnomes fenced their garden and planted carrots and tomatoes. A sunhat provided heat protection.

My wife Angela prepares the gnome fire pit.

Firepit: some twigs stuck into rocks and a carefully balanced cookpot

Woodcutter: left behind his hat, axe, wheelbarrrow, and freshly chopped wood!

We sat down together and worked on how we were going to put together our adventure.  We decided to use the stock letter that was included with the file, as it said everything that needed to be said.  (In fact, if we were to do it over again, we would probably cut the letter in half.  It was a bit too much reading for our 8-year-old.)  We then decided to draw a map of our backyard, and mark the locations with little gnome heads.

Studying the map of Ammowan


Lena (age 5) looks at the map and exclaims, "This is our backyard!"

Our kids’ adventure began when my wife snuck out through the garage and rang our doorbell.  Always eager to first to the door, my 5-year-old opened up to find the note, tied with a piece of ribbon.

The letter from Mika Mumpus, tied with ribbon for style.


While we read the letter from Mika Mumpus, the chief gnomestress, the kids pored over the map.  Both my 5- and 8-year-old got very excited very quickly.  I decided to call a family vote to see if we had time to do this.  It was everybody’s turn to vote to take up the mission or to just say that we were too busy.  With my 12-year-old abstaining, I voted that we were too busy, but lost to 3 urgent votes that we must undertake the mission NOW!  We got on our coats and shoes and tromped out to save Ammowan.

My kids dove headlong into the backyard, quickly identifying the locations on the map and then searching around for the specific gnome-sites.  It did not take very long, but at each site we carefully pulled apart the constructions and placed them in our collection bucket.

After we were all done, there was a discussion at length of what to do with the gnomes’ stuff and how to get it back to them.  We decided as a family that we would leave it on our back deck and the gnomes could come and get it anytime they needed it.

Lena finds the climbing rope that was part of the harvesting site

Lena & Frank find the gnome fire pit, located right under our fire pit!

The gnomes are saved! Frank & Lena pore over the spoils of their adventure.

So was the Gnomes worth it?  ABSOLUTELY!  Despite the bit of prep time necessary–about an hour all told–the excitement that it brought forth in my children was unparalleled.  Going in, I felt good that my 5-year-old would buy it, but much to my surprise, my 8-year-old was all in, and it was amazing to watch them go.  They were shrieking with glee.
Gnomes provided what few other games can: an immersive experience for the entire family.  Even my 12-year-old, who was not to be duped, was along for the ride.  It was like having a mini-Disney in my backyard: the children were enraptured by the magic, and we as parents lived through their excitement.
We will be having dinner in just about 2 hours, and the “thank you” note is on our front porch just waiting to be discovered.  This will provide closure to Gnome experience, and my kids will go to bed pleased with a job well done.  If you are the parent of a child, do not miss the Ammowan experience.

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