So this is it. According to WordPress, I have reached 100 posts with this one, having taken somewhat less that 2 years to do so: the first post was in April 2011. Back then, I had a four-year-old Miss B, who was starting to show interest in games and I, somewhat selfishly, decided to try her with some of the boxes that had been languishing in the board games collection in the hope that we would find games that we would both enjoy playing. And I figured that I may as well write a blog about it, as there may be somebody out there who would be interested.
Over the last couple of years, the game playing has been massively successful. There have been periods when Miss B hasn’t been particularly interested, so we’ve not bothered. At other times, she has wanted to do little else and we’ve been playing board or card games almost every day. She’s been growing massively as a person, as all children of her age do, but also as a gamer. We still sometimes have complaints when things don’t go well for her, but most of the time she rolls with the punches and gets over losses quickly. And, of course, she celebrates her victories with great enthusiasm, tempered with comments like, “Don’t worry, Daddy, you can get your own back next time.”
There have been some very proud moments along the way, too. My losing games like Lords of Waterdeep, Carcassonne and Ticket to Ride to her has been a great privilege and source of happiness for me. Her ability to concentrate and play nicely when we play with other adults has come along fantastically. Plus her enthusiasm for Dominion is wonderful — she hasn’t won a game yet, but she still loves playing and is steadily getting better at it.
I’m also starting to see signs that Miss B is really starting to grok some non-trivial games. For instance, a couple of nights ago we played Citadels and she played a blinder, making some great guesses/deductions and causing me all manner of problems (the first round left her with two districts and some money while I had no districts and no money!). The game was close and I predict that she will finally beat me in a two-player game of Citadels before the end of the year.
I picked up a game called Enuk at The Works just before Christmas. It is supposedly about a little Eskimo (that’s the term used in the game, even if it isn’t correct) boy helping his parents build an igloo while looking out for arctic wildlife. It looked cute and the reviews and ratings on The Geek weren’t bad for a kids’ game, so I picked it up.
This very much is a kids’ game. But what stops this from being a tile-matching memory game is a really neat little press-your-luck mechanic. You see, you turn over tiles and can keep turning over tiles until you choose to stop, you find a piece of the igloo, or animals start scaring each other off. Herring flee from salmon; salmon flee from seals, seals from polar bears and polar bears from reindeer accompanied by humans. So when you have turned over a few tiles you have to decide whether to claim those for your scoring stack, or turn over another and risk losing several tiles due to one of these fleeing issues. I really rather like that. And Miss B, after a little confusion for the first couple of times, got to really enjoy this aspect of the game.
Our first game was over remarkably quickly — when eight reindeer tiles have been drawn, the day ends and there is a special memory round for people who have managed to find bits of the igloo. So we had a second game, which used up pretty much all the tiles. Miss B won comfortably in both games.
I quite like this. The game is very random indeed, but due to it rewarding some memory, it is less so than most dice games, and that press-your-luck aspect makes the game feel rather more meaty than I had expected. It’s not enough that I would play this with an all-adult group, but it’s definitely a worthwhile purchase and Miss B is keen to play it again.
The verdict from Miss B (aged 6): “Really good because of the way things ran away from each other.”
The game: Enuk (Queen Kids), 2 to 5 players aged 5+.
I’ve been focusing this blog on mostly playing reasonably “grown up” games that I play with Miss B and we’ve been doing really well with that, but we do also, from time to time, play more traditional children’s games. Most recently we tried out the Hello Kitty branded Memory, which Miss B was given as a birthday present.
So this is the standard pairs/pelmanism game where you have to match pictures on an array of cards, and in this case the cards all had pictures of Hello Kitty in assorted guises. We played. Miss B won and loved collecting some of the pictures, particularly the butterfly kitty. I enjoyed doing an activity with my daughter.
To be honest, I’d rather not play this sort of game in general, but I find it more fun than the standard “roll and move” games like snakes and ladders, so if she wants to play this once in a while, that’s fine by me. Time for me to stop being grumpy. 🙂
The verdict from Miss B (aged 6): “Pretty good.”
The game: Hello Kitty Memory (Ravensburger), 2 to 6 players aged 3+.
There are some games I am just drawn to. For instance, Crazy Creatures of Dr Doom (or, as I understand, Dr Gloom in the USA) is about a mad scientist growing assorted weird creatures in special machines in his lab. And when I saw the artwork I couldn’t help but “need” this game.
Well, it turns out that the game plays pretty well too. Basically you have cards representing monsters in growth vats at six stages of development from ultra-cute to pretty mean and scary. The machines attached to the vats can be set to “+” or “-” meaning that the creatures are getting bigger or smaller. If you play a matching monster into a vat, you can either change the setting on a machine or force another player to draw another card. The aim is to get rid of all your cards.
Miss B has played a couple of times so far, as both a two and three player game. She struggled a bit at first, partly due to the struggle of holding a lot of cards in hand (12 with two or three players) and partly a degree of analysis paralysis. But if she got stuck it just took a few seconds to remind her of what would be legal plays, and then she was off again.
I’m planning to get this played as a lunchtime game at work soon as I suspect it could work pretty well as a light bit of not-entirely-trivial fun for adults. There is a bit of space for screwage and, and this may prove a problem in some company, the potential for everyone to victimise one player in a pretty brutal fashion. Still, it’s lots of fun for the family, is readily portable (in a nice tin which is definitely not unhinged), and I suspect we’ll end up playing this quite a bit.
The verdict from Miss B (aged 6): “Really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really good.” She tells me that it is important that there are 9 reallys. I asked her for more about what she liked: “My favourite part of the game is that you don’t have to keep doing pluses or keep doing minuses.”
The game: Crazy Creatures of Dr Doom (White Goblin Games), 2 to 4 players aged 7+.
I’d spotted Tic Tac Chec a while ago and it seemed intriguing: a cross between chess and noughts-and-crosses, which looked like it could be a fun little diversion. Now with Miss B starting to learn to play chess it came back to mind and when the opportunity for a bargain purchase came up, I added it to the collection. Actually this could easily be played with regular chess men on a corner of a full board, but this is quite a nice little set to have.
We’re still very much in the early stages of chess playing, so Miss B knows the moves for the various pieces (though sometimes gets confused by pawns) but needs a lot of encouragement in move selection. The way we usually do this is getting her to identify immediate threats, then a few possible moves, decide which of these possible moves are “a bad idea”, then select one of the remaining ones. It mostly works. In Tic Tac Chec the moves are familiar (though the pawns turn around when they reach the end) but in most situations it seems inadvisable to make captures as the captured piece can then be returned to play in any free square on the board. This all makes for an interesting twist.
So we talked about all this and started playing. I was trying to not advise unless Miss B requested help — which turned out to be almost every turn. While I was busy getting to grips with the game I also noticed that I had got into a position where Miss B could force a win, so I pointed this out and was rewarded with a lot of jumping about in a classic Miss B happy dance.
After that we had another go, which got quite bogged down until Miss B was clearly starting to get tired, so we called the game a draw and gave up for the time being.
This is going to take some time to get used to for both of us, but I think we may keep playing from time to time. It has a similar feel to playing a “first capture” game of Go, in that the mechanics are (almost) the same as the real game, but it misses a lot of “big picture” features. I don’t think this is a bad thing at all, as it allows you to concentrate on some smaller parts of the game which can still be fascinating.
The verdict from Miss B (aged 6): “Tricky.”
The game: Tic Tac Chec (Green Board Games), 2 players aged 6+.
I’ve been meaning to acquire a copy of Ticket to Ride for years now. It has developed a reputation as one of the all-purpose games for introducing friends to “proper” boardgames, while also being fun for more experienced gamers. And, increasingly, it is showing up in more mainstream shops (I saw copies in Waterstones this week) as well as the hobby game shops.
Anyway, having bought a copy as a post-Christmas treat, Miss B and I settled down to play. The rules don’t take very long to explain, even to a six-year-old who wants to take photographs of everything with her new camera, and after a few turns the only help I needed to give was occasionally reminding her where a particular city is.
It must be said that I reckon Ticket to Ride is a really good game. New players can get going very quickly, it is easy to see what you need to do in the game, there is a fair bit of randomness, but planning, thinking ahead and trying to work out what other players are up to all pay off and increase your chances of winning. I feel rather sorry that it has taken me so long to get around to playing it. If you want to see what the game is like in play, there was a great Tabletop episode that should give you an idea.
As usual I used my “play like a muggle” strategy, which basically involves not trying to directly stuff Miss B any more than necessary. In other words, I tried to make a good route, connect the destinations on my ticket and generally get the best score I could, rather than trying to reduce hers. As a result of this, I got utterly hosed. Miss B quickly connected all her ticketed destinations, then even chose to draw extra tickets and thus ended up getting bonuses for a couple more routes. I managed to get the longest route but it was not enough to catch up with our little rail baron. High-fives all round.
That was a lot of fun, and I’m looking forward to some more plays in future, hopefully roping S in to play too. Meanwhile, Miss B has been going on about wanting to have a British version of the game so it can be “Ticket to Ryde”. To be fair, though, I compulsively make the same joke when we visit the Isle of Wight, so we can’t really blame her.
The verdict from Miss B (aged 6): “Tickit to ride was 10 out of 10 I won, evan though Daddy got the extra pionts!I was red Daddy was green.” (Yes, Miss B typed her own verdict in this time!)
The game: Ticket to Ride (Days of Wonder), 2 to 5 players aged 8+.
To go off-topic for a while, Miss B has now had a birthday party which involved a local village hall, rather a lot of kids, heaps of party food, and a party entertainer by the name of Wayne Wonder (no, not the reggae musician). I figure here is as good a place to give him a little shout out on the web.
So, Wayne put on a great show for us, working really hard to keep everyone entertained but keeping it all looking easy and fun. He started off with an hour of party games (including the priceless game of popping little balloon balls into the audience for them to fetch) and then, after food, a marvellous little magic show. The kids absolutely loved it and the parents who stayed around were enjoying themselves too. This was definitely a kid’s show, heavy on the comedy, but Wayne wasn’t mucking around with rubbish tricks. There were some really nice little routines in the show and the guy has (to my appreciative but not very expert eyes) a really good touch. I’d love to see him doing some “grown up” magic shows (which he also does for weddings, restaurants, etc.).
Wayne is based in Buckinghamshire but travels around for gigs and has really good prices. Consider this a whole-hearted recommendation from Miss B and I.