Home > Games > He’s not on the track, he’s standing on the platform

He’s not on the track, he’s standing on the platform

October 9, 2012

Oregon is a game that I picked up at The Works (a UK discount book store) because it was cheap, had reasonable ratings and reviews on BoardGameGeek, and had cowboy meeples in it. We have finally got around to playing it, and it’s pretty good. It’s all about distributing buildings and farmers (aka cowboys) around an area of countryside in a way that allows them to interact and earn you points.

Miss B sits back to sup on a Ribena and think about where to build that warehouse.

This is one of those games that I think you kind of figure out in play and things that sound like they might be a bit tricky are actually pretty straightforward once you get to do them. The theme is pretty thin but it all looks nice with cute tiles for the buildings and those awesome cowboy meeples.

After a few turns I got a bit of a telling off from Miss B. Each turn I had been outlining to her what options were available and making a couple of suggestions of moves she might want to make. She told me that this was annoying and that I should not tell her what to do unless she asked for advice. Fair comment, of course, so I backed down and let her play. From then on she asked for help a few times but did very well (she actually won the game!) and it is notable that the first move she made after shushing me was one of the moves I would have suggested — and probably the one I would have chosen myself.

This is proving to be an ongoing issue that is really hard to get right: how much do I help Miss B on her turns? I want to make sure she understands what options she has available and prevent her making really bad moves, but I also want her to be able to understand the game situation and make her own decisions. Luckily she is fairly independent minded and wants to be in charge of things, so there isn’t much danger of her simply relying on an adult’s instructions.

I think the way forward is to offer advice at the start of play and encourage her to tell me when she wants to “go solo”, then she can ask for advice later if she wants. I still reserve the right to give an “are you sure?” if she does something that looks like an obvious bad move.

The verdict from Miss B (aged 5¾): “Oregon was 9 out 10! I enjoyed building the gold mines and the coal mines! I won by 11 spaces. You got a counter with gold on one side and numbers up to 6 on the other side the same with the coal counters. It took a long time for me to get a warehouse and train station. The thing I didn’t like was if you played a joker or another turn marker because it meant you couldn’t play it until you got another train station or warehouse. I often put marks on the game I’m playing, do you?” (I’m going to have to get Miss B to write posts herself, possibly with me scribing, as she really seems to want to engage with her readers!)

The game: Oregon (Rio Grande), 2 to 4 players, aged 8+.

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  1. Nicnac
    October 12, 2012 at 11:51 pm

    I think the ‘are you sure?’ approach sounds like a good idea, gives her enough room to come up with the best solutions herself, whilst still teaching if necessary.

  2. October 14, 2012 at 10:08 am

    I think you’re right, though the situation sometimes comes up where Miss B is completely stumped and doesn’t know what to do. This isn’t exclusively a problem for kids as sometimes, particularly with an unfamiliar game, it is hard to figure out what your objectives are and what you need to do to achieve them. Some additional guidance can also be good with Miss B so she can get to a reasonably competitive position without me having to play too badly, as repeated big failure is not good for morale. Still, we’re getting more games where the “are you sure?” approach is perfect — and several where we don’t even need that, which is awesome.

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