Friday, March 03, 2006

The Search for Kids Games

I've been playing with a group of children fairly regularly for the last year and a half. Last year it was primarily a group of rowdy boys from 5th to 9th grade. HeroScape, Doom: The Boardgame and Star Wars: Epic Duels were the perpetual favorites. Throw in some Knizia's Lord of the Rings, Formula De, Pirate's Cove, Pitch Car, maybe Bang and the crowd would be happy.

Times were fun. Enthusiasm was high. I thought I had this gig figured out.

This year things are different. Most of the boys from last year are gone. A couple of the boys are still there, but they are now too cool to play boardgames. This year's group consists mainly of young girls and the smart boys, most of whom are elementary school age.

What a difference a year makes.

Pirate's Cove still gets requested, but I think it has more to do with box art than anything. Attention to Pirate's Cove is usually waning by the middle stages of the game. Half the kids want to fight and the other half want to win. Half way through the game the fighters realize they aren't winning and lose interest in the game. Last year no one was concerned with winning. Sinking the other guy was the unofficial goal of the game.

I must shamefacedly admit that I've even sat through a game of Uno this year.

What can I say? Every kid wanted to play Uno.


The game that has received the best response this year is Villa Paletti. Niagara went over pretty well, as did Carcassonne. Gulo Gulo keeps them interested and Star Wars: Epic Duels is still pretty popular, but as much as they like it, few of the kids can handle the text on the cards.

I just picked up Sac Noir (Bausack) for a very good price. I think it will probably get played. Star Wars Miniatures also holds promise. I think small 30-40 point squads of commons will be work well with these kids, I just need to remember to borrow the game.

Another problem is that I never know if there will be 2 kids or more than a half dozen. Last year I had a fairly stable group. Talisman is a game that scales well and appeals to kids, but I tend to get agitated when I have to tell a kid to get the cards out of his mouth for the umpteenth time.

It's Talisman man!!! Second Edition!! Put the cards on the table, these things don't grow on trees. And don't put the chits up your nose!!!

If I were a kid I wouldn't enjoy playing Talisman with me.

Anyone have any suggestions? I need to find a couple more games that are currently in print, that scale well from 2-8 and appeal to kids from first to sixth grade.


Initial Impressions

Indonesia: Oooooooooooooh, big fiddley game. I'm sold. Turns out to be pretty good to boot. Might be as good as Roads and Boats and less fiddley.

Reef Encounter: Huh? How is this an upper tier game again? I'm with DW on this one, you read the rules multiple times and still need a tutor to learn the game. I can see how it can get much better with familiarity.

Siena: Still need to play this one. The rules are right up there with Reef Encounter. You need to read them several times to begin to get a feel for the game. Whereas Reef Encounter rules are actually pretty well written for a game with lots of depth, Siena seems to have poorly written rules to go with a game with less depth. And oh, did I mention "counter-intuitive"? The game seems to be about competition to produce goods and climb the social ladder. Hidden somewhere in the rules is a blurb that the point of the game is to earn "consent points". (Actually consent points are mentioned in the opening paragraph and not mentioned again until page 9.)

Elasund: Its predecessor Candamir was a dog. A big dog that left big doggy-doo piles on the carpet. The next game in the series has a lot to overcome. Elasund does not leave me wanting to poke my eyes out to make a polite escape to the emergency room instead of finishing a game. It might even grow on me. It seems kind of fun and might be more challenging than most games in the Settlers series.

Euphrates and Tigris Card Game: Pretty good job of transferring an upper tier boardgame to a cardgame format. What's the point, again? Any game based upon Tigris and Euphrates will be a lesser game. I would just as soon play Tigris and Euphrates, which remains my favorite game. The E&T Card Game is much more like the original than the San Juan cardgame was to Puerto Rico. If anything it is too much like the original.

Commands and Colors: Ancients: Hmmm. Better than and more tactics involved than Memoir '44. I think if you like Memoir '44 or Battle Cry you will like C&C more, unless you are strictly a Civil War or WWII buff.

Descent: I like it. It's better than Doom: The Boardgame which I liked quite a bit. Just wish I had friends that liked this kind of game. Played once. Made lots of mistakes, and spent too much time searching the rules. Really, really want to play again.


Jon said...

I suggest some card games like Bohnanza and Wheedle.

Alex said...

Reef Encounter is an upper tier game in much the same way that Age of Steam is an upper tier game.
Both are games that take 2 or 3 plays to even figure out how to approach. Both are extremely deep and appeal to the type of gamer who likes to sit and stare at a board. And both have their fair number of detractors.
I like both a lot, but they're certainly not for everybody. Happily, I was taught Reef Ecounter by another person, so I never had to struggle through the rules myself. Perhaps I'd like the game less if I did.

Coldfoot said...

I think I will eventually like Reef Encounter. Right now that assumption is a matter of faith.

Melissa said...

Bohnanza is a good suggestion.

Biggie is at the younger end of your age spectrum but here are some thoughts:
Finstere Flure
Zendo (not technically in print but you can get icehouse pieces for it)
Dawn Under
Pick Picknic
Bohnanza, as already suggested
Apples to Apples Junior (we have the 7+ edition)
Halli Galli - for the younger end of the spectrum, admittedly
Settlers - not for the full group, of course
Through the Desert

and maybe some abstracts, too.

Fraser said...

I'd add:

and the two most scalable games numberswise I can think of at the moment:
The Great Dalmuti and 6 Nimmt!

Anonymous said...

I've found the SimplyFun game Walk the Dogs to be popular, especially with girls. All those cute dogs!

Iain said...

Bruno Faidutti has a good list of games for the youngest kids in your group:

smatt said...


I suggest Snorta! and Fluxx. While neither are at the top of my personal list, both accomodate a wide range of ages. I've played both with several kids, and they went over pretty well. Also, you could just do a variant on Werewolves without buying the game, and this is easy for everyone.


Net_Lemming said...

The kids in my high school game club LOVE Wings of War- Famous Aces. We have had 3 sets (12 planes) at once for giant dog fights. I track victories thoughout the year and award ACE status to any student with 5 or more kills. Being an ace is quite the status getter in the teenage nerd world.