What Are Some Good Games for Kids?

A co-worker of mine asked me over dinner tonight what would be some good
boardgames to introduce to younger kids (5-7). I have my own ideas, which I’ll
share in a bit, but first its a good idea to see what other folks have already
said on this topic. To that end, let’s head over to
BoardGameGeek to check out some of the
relevant
GeekLists.

The other lists out there are geared towards older / more advanced kids, but
I’ll mention a couple of the better ones:

  • Games My Kids and I Love to Play! – I like this list because it hits on something I’ve learned with my boys – theme is critical! Do they like playing Settlers of Catan and Samurai? Yes, but I’ll tell you it is a LOT easier to get them to play Age of Mythology or Star Wars: Epic Duels.
  • Games Non-Competitive Kids Enjoy Playing with Adults – Some great titles here that my kids have really taken to – Matthew and I played a lot of Balloon Cup this summer.

I’ve already posted Jacob’s current list of favorite games – I hope to
post Matthew’s soon. Here’s my list of some great games to get kids steered
away from the standard roll & move games:

  • Apples to Apples – More of a party game than anything else, it is still a great way to ease kids into this hobby.
  • Fluxx – Many adults hate this card game with a passion, but kids tend to like the chaos and lack of skill required to win the game.
  • Balloon Cup – A great little card game – easy to learn, quick to play, but with some nice strategy. A great counting game for kids.
  • Capt’n Clever – I don’t like this game very much, but Matthew does. It is very simple, easy to learn, and has a cute theme.
  • Star Wars – Epic Duels – A fantastic game and amazing value. Can you say theme? If you have boys that like Star Wars, get this game.
  • Dragon Delta – A great game to move to once your kids are ready for something a bit more advanced. A cool theme and a nice “programming” mechanic that gets kids thinking ahead.
  • Lord of the Rings – The Confrontation – Another nice two-player game with a great theme. Similar to Stratego, but more subtle strategy.
  • Carcassonne – This is an easy game to play, but can take some time to learn how to score it properly if you are learning from the rules. Kids love laying the tiles and building castles.

Finally, it is probably worth mentioning how to find these games. I think the
best place to start is always a local game store. Maybe you have a local
Wizards of the Coast or Gamekeeper store. If your
searches fail, then try one of the fantastic online stores like
Funagain or
GameSurplus. Funagain is my favorite because the
are in Oregon and ground shipping only takes one day.

Must Read Essen Report

The biggest event each year for the boardgame hobby is Spiel, held in Essen,
Germany each October. There are quite a few Essen reports available online,
but if you read only one be sure to check out Mark Johnson’s report in The Games Journal.

One interesting part of Mark’s commentary was his take on the crowd makeup at
Essen. To quote:

It’s an impressive sight. Essen was generally so packed with people that
getting through the aisles was difficult. And this was only Friday! The next
day’s attendance would be even greater. The crowd, while thick, was a lot more
pleasant than those that I’ve rubbed shoulders with at American conventions.
You know what I mean? A very normal crowd. More twenty-something guys than
anything else but not overwhelmingly so. There were lots of women, children
and older folks too. Everyone was clean and generally sociable.

In a nutshell, there were far fewer of the weirdos and nerds so prevalent
at the American cons I’ve attended. If boardgaming is ever to gain as much of
a presence in our society, it will need to see a similar shift in audience.
Wider participation in our hobby isn’t likely as long as we’ve got so many
games about orcs or gamers wearing costumes. Actually, there was one hall (of
about six) that featured various dragon-y things, swords and armor merchants.
Craig Berg called it the American convention inside Essen!

Having attended a few American game conventions
(GenCon and the local GameStorm), I can see where Mark is coming from. The people-watching is a unlike most other gatherings (think trekkie convention), but there can be negatives. There were signs all over the Indianapolis convention center that read something like this:

Avoid Gamer Funk — All of the Local Hotels Provide Shampoo and Soap. Use Them!

I don’t think this is a serious concern in the areas we attended – the
boardgaming set tends to not fit the gamer stereotype as much as the roleplaying gamers.

Apparently there’s a big toy contingency as well as a hall dedicated to kids.
I must find a way to work a family trip to Germany around Spiel next October!

Age of Mythology with Jacob and Matthew

Today was supposed to be an afternoon gaming session at Kevin Graham’s, but unfortunately Jacob
wasn’t feeling too well. We were all suffering from some form of allergy
attack (perhaps related to the cold weather here coupled with our heating
system kicking in coupled with an air filter that desparately needed
cleaning). So we decided to stay home and not risk it across town.

Jacob, Matthew, and I elected to play another game of Age of
Mythology
from Eagle Games. We’ve played this
1.5 times and were eager to give it another run. We randomly drew cultures;
Jacob was Egyptian, Matthew was Greek, and I played the Norse.

The first thing I need to mention is that in our first 2 games (we never
finished the second game), we didn’t play correctly. I discovered this early
in today’s game as I was referencing the rules. In the first 2 games, we
played that every player took the chosen action in turn unless it was an
attack. This means that if one player chose build, then the others would build
after that. I guess I was just too used to playing Puerto Rico and didn’t read
the rules carefully enough. Only on the gather and explore actions do all
players get to take the action. Obviously this changes the dynamic quite a
bit, and I think the game is a bit easier when played correctly.

20031102AgeOfMyth1

Things started off in a very confrontational manner. Jacob (pictured below)
decided to attack quickly – he went after both Matthew and me in the first
turn. With his elephants in hand, it made sense since they have an edge up on
other mortal units. He defeated both of us and stole resources. He took things
a bit too far though, and continued attacking until his own military was
depleted, and that cost him dearly as Matthew and I sought revenge.

20031102AgeOfMyth3

I opted for a build strategy while maintaining just enough defense to deter
attacks on me. I was able to make a few opportunistic attacks when either
Matthew or Jacob ran out of military units. Jacob and Matthew also need to
work on their strategy and tactics for this game – they play “gather all”
cards too frequently, and this allowed me to race even farther ahead. They
both sensed my advantage and started dumping victory point cubes in the wonder
category, assuming that I would never advance far enough to build a wonder.
They were wrong…

20031102AgeOfMyth2

This turned out to be a very lopsided game. Jacob in particular usually stays
even with me (he beat Ken and I in Wallenstein last weekend), but his mistakes
early on hurt him. I ended up winning all categories (largest army, most
buildings, and wonder). Chris 22, Jacob 1, Matthew 1.

Family Game of Piratenbucht

Julie, Jacob, Matthew, and I sat down for a game of
Piratenbucht this
afternoon. It was a busy day with other activities, but with 3 hours free in
the afternoon it sounded like a great idea. This is probably our most played
family game with all four of us – a fun dice fest with a great theme.

My strategy was mostly avoidance of the other players, and it worked out well.
I didn’t have to fight anyone until I had built up my ship, and then I
couldn’t lose. I raced out ahead in fame points and quickly became a target
for everyone else. I also didn’t make any friends by tipping off the Royal
Navy…

20031101PiratenBucht1

Jacob had terrible luck – if he wasn’t fighting a stronger player, he had to
face Blackbeard. We play with the variant where Blackbeard moves either 1 or 2
islands after the players have moved, so you never know where he’s going to
end up (though he is easy to avoid). Sometimes you just really want to get
that treasure on an island where he may be headed though.

At game end, I thought I had it wrapped up – an eight point lead on the
closest competitor (Julie), with only tall tales to reveal. I only had one (I
discovered Atlantis), but Julie racked up 10 points! The picture below is
where Julie revealed that she was, in fact, Blackbeard all along.

20031101PiratenBucht2

We were running out of time, so we declared me the winner since I had more
gold. I think we were supposed to fight another head-to-head battle, which she
probably would have won.

Jacob’s Top 5 Games

I gave Jacob and Matthew a project a few weeks ago – write down what your 5 or
10 favorite games are with reasons. I promised to publish them, so here is
Jacob’s list.

Star Wars Epic Duels

I like this game because of the neat miniatures and the cool battling. It is
fun with a lot of people. It is hard to choose who to attack.

Age of Mythology

I like this game because there are a lot of strategies to choose. I learned
that you can’t focus on one person to attack if you are playing with three or
more players. That is why my dad won when we played for the first time.

Wallenstein

I like this game because of the cool way to resolve battle. It is interesting
because it almost equal. You have more of a chance of winning if you put more
guys in though.

I’m The Boss!

I like this game because of its neat way of negotiating. It is sometimes hard
to get people to get into deals though. It’s hard to get a good cut of a share
sometimes.

Tigris & Euphrates

This game is fun because you have to have a lot of different victory cubes to
win. I learned that you can’t build monuments too early in the game because
your opponent could capture them immediately.