Saturday, August 11, 2007

When the goal is to participate ...

There's an interesting thread on the Geek this week about playing games with children, questioning whether the "my two year old can beat me at World in Europe" claims are quite what they are cracked up to be.

Earlier this year, I posted about playing Cluedo (Clue) with both the kids. We dealt cards to me, Fraser and Biggie, and played what was really a 3-player game, except that Otto rolled dice and moved her person, occasionally sucked one of us over into whatever room she was in, and was shown cards when she did. As I said at the time, by no stretch of the imagination was she playing Cluedo, but she was engaging in a family gaming activity (and loving it).

Over the past year and a half, I have been asked several times about games that a much younger child (or a disabled child) can join in and play with the family - even if they are playing by different rules.

Here are some that I can think of.

Carcassonne - this one stands out as obvious. The younger child can enjoy the 'co-operative jigsaw' aspects of the game, while the rest of the family plays. Add a random element by giving the smallest player Meeples to play with and making the rest of the family comply with the 'one meeple per area' placement rules, or just ignore their Meeples and keep going.

The Bucket King - we actually tried this yesterday, by request. "I want to play the Buckets game." Build your bucket pyramids, then each play cards in turn. But only the cards you play on your turn count. We played with hands of 7 cards and allowed play of 2 cards together to beat an 8. All stacking (and especially collapsing) rules applied. (This is a little different to the other games on the list, in that we weren't playing by the "real" rules either)

Make 'n' Break - children are surprisingly adept at building things with blocks. Don't worry about the time limit, of give your youngest one a little longer - depending on the child, they may just be happy to build and knock down structures of their own devising until the timer rings.

Ingenious - more pattern matching - don't bother keeping score, just take turns matching the patterns. Again, in a multi-player game, a very young child represents a random element but that can add attraction.

What other games can you think of? Remember, participation is the goal here.



Anonymous said...

Wings of War is another game where younger players can participate and have their plane fly around the table also.

When I introduced this to my daughter, I didn't want to have shooting at each other be an aspect of the game - so we didn't deal in damage decks and special damage....we just flew around taking pictures of each other. 2 pictures at close range, 1 picture at long range. Winner is the person who takes say 5 or 8 pictures first.

Smatt said...

What a great idea, Rich! I played Wings of War for the first time yesterday, and I was marveling at how great a game it would be for a younger crowd. I didn't even consider going younger and changing the scoring to make it more kid-friendly.

I was going to mention Aquarius. Once again, you match pictures. If you take out the action cards, it's a pretty easy exercise. Including the action cards is a matter of memorization for those that can't yet read.

Dr. Matt J. Carlson said...

I enjoy Cartegena. It may be a trivial suggestion as I often refer to it to non-gamers as "advanced Candyland". Rules are pretty simple, but there's enough there for adults to enjoy. A really young child might give a slight advantage to the player right after them in order, but the other players could ignore the youngest player's pieces if they really required maximum strategic play.

Melissa said...

Thanks for your comments. Rich, that's exactly the sort of thing I was thinking of. And which small child doesn't like flying a plane around a table? :)

smatt and Matt, thanks for the suggestions too. Matt, the advantage from sitting after the youngest player can be considerable - and even greater is the advantage of NOT sitting before the youngest player (and therefore being free to screw over your next opponent).

Anonymous said...

Race games come to mind as well. It is quite easy to allow the small drivers in on Formula De. They simply change gears and roll need for them to stop in the corners or worry about damage.

Winners Circle is another is Stretch Run. Ave Ceaser (as Q Jett) was a winner.

Anonymous said...

I've used Carcassonne but totally ignore the farmer rules. Other good game that we discovered are :
1) Basari (really random with a kid around) and kind of interesting for little girls to collect gems.
2) Lumberjack - building the towers, you will be surprise at how good they score
3) Tongkiaki - sending tonga out for exploration is always fun

halfling said...

We have taken up Robo Rally with our little ones who are ages 9 and 6. We play face up with the cards and offer help if desired. Also we leave off all the special weapon cards and pick the easy boards and only 1-2 flags. My 6 year old is surprisingly good at this game, but her spacial sense is strong.