There are many labyrinth games out there, all based on the clever sliding tiles that make up a constantly changing maze in which you hunt for treasure. Ours is called Master Labyrinth, although I understand another version with the same name and a dragon came out a few years back. Sadly ours doesn’t have a dragon.
We simplified the game by not using the magic wands or shopping lists. Instead we just raced to collect the items in the scheduled order and then counted up who had the most at the end. Each turn we discussed if Miss B could see a way to get her piece to the next bit of “treasure” and if she could think of a good way to change the maze. I’d then suggest one or two moves and leave her to it — she usually took the advice, and did well out of it, soon claiming the first couple of treasures.
One of the flaws with this game is that if the tiles aren’t perfectly lined up, they can get jammed when you try to slide them, but after initially not wanting me to help, Miss B finally allowed me to assist by straightening things out while she pushed.
We did have a bit of an issue arising later when I picked up a treasure that Miss B wanted: “Waahhh! But I wanted to get the worm.” We paused for a little while and discussed winning and losing, and how the nature of games involves not always getting what you want. She quickly calmed down and agreed that it was OK for me to get some of the treasures. From then on, however, we had some slightly over-the-top celebrations every time she found a treasure, dancing around the room singing, “Yippety yay! Yippety yay!”
Verdict from Miss B (aged 4¼): “I did like it but it’s much more boring than the other one.” (Meaning Enchanted Forest.) I had a feeling that this might have been a tricky game to play, but it went far better than I had expected, so yippety yay for that! We’ll probably pull this out again in a few more months.
The game: Master Labyrinth (Ravensburger), 2 to 4 players, age 10+.
I just thought I’d share one of the inspirations for starting this whole gaming project. I’ve not read much Gronk but the strip below was embedded a couple of months back in a GeekDad post about Monopoly and how it really isn’t what we should let people believe is a standard by which to measure board games. Well, maybe it is, but not in a good way. Anyway, I think the strip pretty much says it all…
We don’t have a copy of Monopoly in the house, and if I was to acquire one it would only be because it was free or ludicrously cheap, and it would then be plundered for spare parts (houses, money, etc.) to be used for other purposes.
That said, I did have fun playing Monopoly once, but that was largely because everyone was drinking heavily and it was a Welsh language version, so those of us who were mere Anglophones were having much fun with our poor pronunciation.
Enchanted Forest is quite a nice family game: you run around the woods looking under trees for fairytale treasures, trying to remember where they are, and periodically stuffing the other players by bouncing them back to the start or switching the quest card at the castle. In fact, this is one game that Miss B’s Mummy will quite happily play. And in fact, Mummy was available, so we had a nice game for three.
Our simplifications for this were that we rolled one die to move instead of two (so fewer options available), didn’t require exact rolls to get anywhere, had no bouncing other players (if you landed on someone, you just moved on to the next free space), we had two turned up quest items at a time, and once a treasure had been correctly located, its tree was removed from the board. Actually the latter rule was only introduced after Miss B (and me too, if truth be told!) forgot that a particular tree had already had its treasure removed, so kept going back to it. We also ruled that you could guess the location of two treasures (one per turn) while at the castle and then you had to go back to the village, and played until all the treasures had been found then counted up who had the most.
The whole thing went pretty well, though it did take quite a long to play, so I was quite impressed that this held Miss B’s attention throughout. She got a little upset about being beaten to some of the treasures, and had difficulty remembering what was where, but went for most of the game without much help.
The verdict from Miss B (aged 4¼): “I liked it but I think the maze game would be easier.” The other option for a game this session was Labyrinth, hence the comment. When pressed, Miss B said she liked finding the treasures under the trees, but it was really difficult remembering where they were. I can sympathise with that!
The game: Enchanted Forest (Ravensburger), 2 to 6 players, age 8+.
“Can we play ghost party again? With Mummy?”
Well, Mummy was willing to give it a go, so off we went with three players this time. Miss B thoroughly enjoyed dividing up the people and explaining the game to Mummy (missing out only the rules!) and soon we were playing. As is inevitable, Hugo got to move a lot more between our turns and Miss B was getting really excited as people got caught and sent downstairs. This one is definitely cemented as a favourite, but I think it’ll be a little while before we introduce the proper scoring. More positives: Miss B wasn’t losing track of which colour her pieces were this time, and the whole moving clockwise thing was pretty well bedded in.
The verdict from Miss B (aged 4¼): “Good. I liked that we all played together and I won.” Yeah, don’t rub it in, kid, you just had some lucky rolls. It seems that the social aspect is pretty important though, with all of us playing being a major selling point.
The game: Ghost Party (Ravensberger), 2 to 8 players, age 8+.
For me, Antics is one of those hidden gems that you find once in a while. This is a pretty fair abstract strategy game aimed at early school years kids. You take it in turn to place coloured ant cards with holes in them onto a spotty board in such a way that the right colours show through the holes. A bit of luck, a simple mechanic and, when you are older than about 4, space for some planning, stuffing the opposition, and other niceties.
Our game went pretty well. Miss B quickly worked out how things worked and was soon making pretty decent moves. Some complexity comes a bit later in the game when the board fills up, as you start removing ants when you can’t go, and unsurprisingly Miss B didn’t really get the tactics of not helping the opponent. I matched her by making suboptimal decisions at this point too and was soon punished by a bad run of play! Eventually, I lost.
The verdict from Miss B (aged 4¼): “I don’t think that’s much fun because we just put them on. I like it when we move them about.” Interesting. The game held her interest in play, but we’re not going to get requests for replays any time soon. I don’t know if this is something related to Miss B’s personality or to the age she is at, but moving pieces is definitely a positive factor in a game.
The game: Antics (Spear’s Games), 2 to 4 players, age 5+.
Our version is called Ghost Party, but other folks have Midnight Party. It’s all the same, give or take a rebranding or two. Either way this used to be a popular little game towards the end of a long evening of gaming, or as an intermission between a couple of more serious games. One of those “not just for kids” things. There are a few like that in the Ravensberger range.
We simplified the game a little by not requiring exact numbers to enter the “bonus” rooms and simply not bothering with the scoring: the winner was the person with the least people captured by Hugo. Two rounds of this and we won one each, which seems fair.
As expected, the major exciting points of the game were when Hugo moved and grobbled people. In our second game, we went a very long time before Hugo even progressed from the bottom step and Miss B theorised that he was having a rest. So we made our people walk past the top of the stairs taunting him, “Nur nur, you can’t catch us!” That seemed to do the trick. For some reason Miss B also kept forgetting which colour people she was playing, and occasionally we had space counting issues, but otherwise it all went fairly smoothly. I think, however, this would have been a lot more fun with more than just the two of us. Next time we will rope in Mummy.
The verdict from Miss B (aged 4¼): “I liked it because I loved the bit with people chasing around. I liked the bit when Hugo getted my four blue ones.” Rose tinted hindsight there — there were almost tears at the time!
The game: Ghost Party (Ravensberger), 2 to 8 players, age 8+.
I’ve had Heave Ho! on the shelf for a few years now, and it’s been played a few times. It’s not a bad little lightweight 2-player game which has a lot of luck, but it has cartoon Scotsmen pulling on a rope and a Nessie card, so what’s not to like? I’m not going to review the game here (and I don’t think it’s available any more, anyway), but I’m sure you can find a review out there if you look. Here, for example.
So stripping down to the very basics, we played with just the male tugger cards, no dames or actions. We also just played with a single stack of cards using a “draw a card then play it” rule. This worked well and Miss B quickly got used to playing cards onto the matching colour stack and (mostly) giving herself the good cards and me the bad ones. Though a couple of times she took a shine to a particular card and decided she really wanted it, even though it would be better to give it to me.
Of course, playing a “Heave Ho!” card is quite an event, involving shouting out excitedly before a lengthy exercise of counting up the scores on each side (Miss B is currently learning some adding and subtracting and enthusiastically — and usually accurately — employs fingers to help), deciding which side has the best score, and moving the barrel accordingly.
Miss B won, without me even helping it along (something I don’t generally like to do).
At the end of the game, we looked at the cards that were left out and I agreed that next time we would use the ladies as well. It’ll be quite some time before we introduce the action cards, but we’ll probably soon try with a hand of cards rather than just one at a time. We’ll probably stick to just one round at a time for now.
The verdict from Miss B (aged 4¼): “I liked the best bit because I winned. You losed because your team didn’t pull hard enough.” Proving that you’re never too young to gloat.
The game: Heave Ho! (Kosmos), 2 players, age 10+.