Gaming with Kids: Part Two – Recommendations!

So following on from my thoughts on what it’s like growing the next generation of board-gamers, I thought I should put my money where my mouth is and do some recommendations. These are all based on things we own, and have played several times with much success, but of course isn’t exhaustive. I’ve mostly aimed for things you can play within an hour or so, and will keep the widest range of attention spans entertained! So without further ado, here are our “Top Ten” suggestions.

King of Tokyo
Whilst not the simplest nor the most complex game on this list, King of Tokyo has been a bit hit as it’s probably the most visually fun to play. You’ve got big, chunky dice, and large cardboard monsters you can stomp around with, and it just looks fun.  You play giant Kaiju monsters fighting over Tokyo, rolling dice to try and get matching sets that score points, do damage, heal, or buy special powers. It’s quick, a little random, but easy to learn and very re-playable. A sequel, King of New York, adds complexity and depth and we’ve swapped between them to taste.

Quirkle
One of the simplest games on the face of it, Quirkle is a game of matching tiles and patterns to score points. You can place tiles based on the symbol on it, either by it’s colour or its shape, with bonuses for completing full sequences. It’s deceptively complex once it gets going, and younger kids will need a lot of help with it, but it’s initial low learning curve and big, colourful pieces are a big draw.

The Great Dalmuti
Full disclosure – The Great Dalmuti is one of my favorite games ever. A fairly simple card game where you play groups of numbered cards – the lower the number, the more valuable – to clear out your hand, the strength of the game is an imposed social order on the players. Essentially, if you win the round, you get an advantage in the next one. If you lose, you’re penalised. It works best with large groups (start at 5!) so makes it an ideal party game. Remember, Life isn’t Fair, and neither is The Great Dalmuti.

X-Wing Miniatures
Most franchise games suffer from being a skin over an existing game, so they don’t always fit well. Look at the infinite variations of Monopoly (shudder!). Fantasy Flight Game’s X-Wing Miniatures Game is a space dogfighting game from the ground up, fast, intuitive, and involves pushing tiny starfighters around a table. One for older kids, and does have a high cost once you start expanding your forces as you’ll be buying for both sides. But we definitely got our moneys worth.

Carcasonne
One of the classics, but a great starter game. Everyone takes turns to place tiles on the table to build up roads, fields and cities, and then claims them with the iconic “meeple”. Simple to learn, but with a lot of complexity, youngers kids may struggle with it, even as they enjoy making patterns and building roads. There is also tons of expansions, including one with a little wooden Dragon, which is always a bonus.

Pathfinder Adventure Card Game
There is a lot of value in “big box” games, if you’ve got a regular group and the time to play them. PACG offers a campaign approach to a card-based RPG system, building small decks to represent characters and explorable locations, where you can encounter various loot, allies and enemies. It’s got a tight ruleset, but one that allows for a lot of variety as you go through the expansion decks (5 on top of the core box). Each adventure will take about 90 minutes, and whilst it’s way over our youngests head, it’s become a regular weekly feature for myself, my wife and the eldest.

Small World
Small World is a territory-control game in a cheesy fantasy milieu, where various civilizations battle it out for supremacy. Each player controls a faction made up of two parts (eg “Flying” and “Dwarves” or “Spirit” and “Orcs”) which combine to give special abilities. Some can be pretty powerful in combination and some can be useless, but if you don’t like that faction, another one will be along in a minute. Factions splurge out across the board, then stagnate and die, and you draw a new one, scoring points all the while. It’s fast, pretty good fun and has the advantage that everything is open to all players, so it’s easy for you to give (fair!) advice as the game goes on.

Love Letter
The quickest and smallest game on this list, Love Letter is a card game based on bluff, luck and an element of card counting. Everyone is courting the princess, and the object is to the last player standing as card deck runs down. Turns are very quick, and a whole game can be played in about half an hour. It’s rules are relatively complex – each card has its own special rule, for instance – but the small size mean you can learn it very quickly and as a straight up adversarial game it’s also easy to keep good natured.

Castle Panic
One of the pitfalls with kids can always be the whole “winning” and “losing” aspect of games, and whilst that’s an important part of learning, sometimes you want everyone to win. There is a whole breed of cooperative games out there that allow a family to get together and beat up a board (or, if you’re playing Pandemic, get beaten up by a board!) and Castle Panic is one of the best starters. As a fair warning to grown ups; it is a little too easy, on the whole, although an expansion slams it hard the other way. But that said, it’s a great introductory game with a much reduced chance of tantrums and upset.

Takenoko
Or as it’s known in our house, “The Panda Game”. You are all gardeners in the Imperial Gardens, attempting to impress the Emperor with your creations. To this end you  place tiles in patterns, grow bamboo, and watch out for the cute panda that eats it. You score points based on random objective cards, which then shapes your behaviour; there are many paths to victory. It’s visually cute, friendly and without direct competition plays well with a wide age range.

So thats our suggestions.  Anyone got any others?

GS Blogger: Matt

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