Good Chess Books for Kids

Every once in a while I get asked what chess books for kids would I recommend.
I haven’t read too many, but here are a few recommendations:

  • Starting Chess, by Harriet Castor.
  • Checkmate at Chess City, by Piers Harper. This one is especially good if your child enjoys puzzles.
  • Bobby Fischer Teaches Chess, by Bobby Fischer. This is not a good book to learn chess from, but a great way to improve skills. Jacob just read this cover to cover and enjoyed working through the puzzles.

Gaming with the Rudes – Sunday, Jan 25

Jacob and I traveled across town to the Rude household for some Sunday
afternoon gaming yesterday. Matthew had a birthday party to attend, so it was
a good chance to play some heavier four-player games.

New Eden

I’ve written about New Eden before – this is the prototype developed by KC
Humphrey. I’m going to be demonstrating the game for some folks later this
week, so I wanted to brush up on my knowledge of the rules and practice
teaching it to a group. Ken, Brandon, and Jacob had not played yet, so this
was a perfect opportunity. I have described the mechanics of the game before, so I won’t repeat any of those details here.

We had limited time for this game, so we only played one season (a normal game
has two seasons, with a scoring round after each). I found that I had
remembered the rules well and didn’t have to reference the rulebook very
frequently. We used the small board configuration for four players, and
started with half the fuel supply (21, though after talking with KC it should
have been only 20).

The group enjoyed the game very much. The end of the game found everyone
thinking about strategies, how to take advantage of certain card combinations,
etc. which is a very good sign. I mostly avoided conflict and got three
uncontested farms near a lake, but Brandon turned out to be the smarter player
and finished with three more points than I, taking first place.

Amun Re

Ken was eager to bring out Amun Re, as was I, so that was our next choice.
Every time I play this game I enjoy it more. Unfortunately, this time I had a
similar result as the last time I played this game – very strong
start in the old age, poor finish in the new age.

I exhausted my funds at the end of the old age via sacrifice, trying to
maximize the scoring of my two temples. I also drew no bonus power cards in
the new age (I was able to score two of them in the old age, so I guess it
evened out).

Final positions in Amun Re. Brandon finished seven points ahead of the closest
finisher (me), mostly by virtue of his temples that score their maximum
potential.

Brandon played a very strong game again, quietly gaining two temples, one
bonus power card, and a temple majority on one side of the Nile. He finished
far out in front, beating me out by seven points.

El Grande

There wasn’t much time left, but I was eager to teach the group how to play El
Grande and at least get in a few rounds before taking Jacob home. I really
love this game (I’ve only played it 1.5 times though). Very easy to teach and
learn, beautiful components (perhaps the nicest I’ve ever seen in a board
game), but challenging to play well.

We only played through the first scoring round, but Brandon completed his
trifecta, showing up the adults one more time with a victory. His victory was
sealed when Jacob, Ken, and I all chose the same province for our Castille
caballeros!

Senjutsu with Jacob

Jacob and I had some spare time this afternoon while Julie and Matthew went
shopping for a birthday present. Looking into the game closet for a two-player
game, I pulled out Senjutsu, a two-
player game we purchased at GenCon Indy last summer. This game didn’t receive
broad distribution, but I have seen it locally at Rainy Day Games. I strongly recommend this game if you are a fan of
chess or stratego – you can order it online directly from the manufacturer.

Each player has 10 warriors, 3 of which are officers. Warriors can move
orthogonally while officers can also move diagonally – officers also pay a
better reward when eliminated. At the start of the game, players arm each of
their warriors with three weapons, resulting in a highly customizable setup
(learn more at the Senjutsu home page). Similar
to Stratego, one of these weapons is a scroll that, if captured, results in an
immediate victory for the capturing player. There are three ranged weapons –
swords, spears, and bows, each with their own abilities (bows are by far the
most powerful but are also scarce). You can also equip your warriors with
armor (absorbs an attack), a counter-attack (used to win hand-to-hand
combats), and a special Ninja that, when abandoned, acts as a bomb and will
destroy a capturing warrior. The arms are stackable blocks that are only
visible to the owning player.

Players alternate taking turns where they can attack (optional), move 1 space
(required), attack again (optional), move 1 space (optional), and attack
(optional). The board has a few obstacles – a palace in the center which
blocks line of site and cannot be entered, and four forests that block line of
site but can be traveled through (though you cannot attack from a forest nor
end your turn there).

When a warrior is eliminated, he leaves behind all of his arms – either player
may then recover these by moving a warrior to that space. A warrior can only
carry four arms at a time, though there are no stacking limits.

Finally, each player has a stack of clan cards that give special abilities.
Clan cards are awarded every time you eliminate an enemy warrior (only 1 per
turn though). If you eliminate an enemy officer, you also get to draw a
replacement arm block and place it on one of your warriors.

Jacob and I had a fun match. We both started defensively, firing long-range
bow shots to try and pick off enemy units, though we had both put adequate
armor on our front lines. As we moved out to confront each other, warriors
started to be eliminated – Jacob was ahead 1 or 2 warriors at one point. I was
able to penetrate deeply into his lines though, killing off a warrior and
capturing his stack, then using that stack to eliminate two more close by and
withstand a counter-attack. This was the turning point in the game, as it was
only a short while until I captured the scroll.

This is a very fun, quick two-player game that I highly recommend. The parts
are very high quality and it plays in less than an hour (15-20 minutes of that
is setup time).