I’ve just been thinking about differences in the way adults and children learn to play games. Granted this is based on a very limited sample: the kids being represented by Miss B and the adults being represented mostly by the gaming nuts I have played with over the years, so it may not be entirely representative.
Anyway, my experience of teaching a new game to adults almost always resulted in a general recipe similar to:
- Introduce the theme and describe the game’s objective in fairly general terms.
- Describe key points about the board, cards and/or pieces, etc.
- Explain what happens each turn.
- Go into more detail about whatever mechanics might need further explanation.
- Go over the end game and victory conditions.
- Answer questions (though there are bound to have been a load earlier, potentially completely derailing the planned sequence).
- Set up the game and start playing.
- Reiterate elements of the rules at appropriate times.
- Show her the various game components and describe the key features of them.
- Set up and start playing.
- Explain rules as they come up.
On Fathers’ Day Miss B proudly presented me with a copy of the Lego Shave a Sheep game. Later that day, we opened it up and spend a happy few minutes assembling the pieces, which include a mean but goofy looking wolf and four sheep. Oh, and it has the special Lego die that you stick different colour tiles onto to affect how the game plays. B has a bit of difficulty with some of the fiddlier bits of construction, but was very pleased with the results.
Now, it must be said that this is a game with less than glowing reviews out there (follow the link above and you’ll see some — although alongside that there are positive comments) but this gave us a lot of fun. Play can drag on a bit when someone decides that the best approach is to use the wolf at every opportunity (though this policy didn’t last for ever, thankfully), but making the appropriate noises for the wolf and sheep adds to the fun, the whole thing is cute, the game mechanics are clean and simple, and some decision making is required. All in all, I’d say that Shave a Sheep is absolutely spot on for Miss B right now, and not odious for Mummy and I to play, so win all round really.
The rules also suggest ways to vary the rules, from modifying the die (I do really like the die!) to adding a more significant role for the wolf (who, in the standard rules, just sits there as fun but purely decorative fluff). A few other variations also come to mind, so I’m sure we will be experimenting in future.
The verdict from Miss B (aged 4½): “It was good that there was two winners, I didn’t expect that. I liked building the sheep and shearing the sheep.”
The Game: Shave a Sheep (Lego), 2 to 4 players aged 5+.
So there we are, finishing a nice game of Ghost Party when Miss B says, “Let’s play a different game and you can try and sneak away from Hugo.”
A bit of a discussion on this and I wasn’t much clearer on the way this would work but, what the heck, I was up for this so we cleared the board and Miss B explained how it will work. We needed a few revisions during play, but this is the game we ended up playing:
- Hugo starts on the -6 step.
- Hugo moves 4 spaces instead of 3 each time.
- When you have someone on the stairs (or in the basement), you have the option of moving them back up the stairs and getting them back into play.
- Our usual kiddie rules of never needing exact rolls to get into rooms and not counting the scores on the steps or rooms.
Ending the game proved a little problematic with people on stairs constantly escaping meaning that eventually Daddy’s “enough already!” clause came into play. B’s idea of the winner being whoever sneaked up the stairs quickest was probably also not the best thought out house rule. However, we had a lot of fun. The faster moving ghost acted nicely against the escaping captives. In fact, I think that if we played until everyone was either on the stairs or in a room, and then actually scored up properly this might be quite a fun variant.
I’m sure we’ll have lots more rule changes suggested from Miss B for this and other games. I’ll continue to report back on them…