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Author Topic: Gaming with kids: reviews and recommendations  (Read 8301 times)

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Offline Brian Bloodaxe

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Gotta agree with your assessment of Once Upon A Time. Roleplayer friends have been trying to convince me that it is awesome for years, but they are all wrong. If you want to tell a story play an RPG, roll some Story Dice or light a campfire, pop a bottle of nettle wine and tell a story. If you want to pay a game, pick one, and have fun. Once Upon a Time exists in that neither-one-nor-the-other limbo with eductional videogames and shandy.

Offline Garwoofoo

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I said I'd post a bit more about Agricola: All Creatures Big and Small, as it's a current favourite.  Talisman, while great fun, takes a very long time to play, so I wandered into the Orc's Nest last week and asked if they had any short two-player games they would recommend.  They suggested Seven Wonders: Duel, and this.



Not my picture but hopefully you get the gist.  Each player gets a small farm that they need to build up.  Each turn each player takes turns placing their three workers on the central board which allows them to collect resources, build fences, gather animals, construct buildings and so on.  You need to make sure your pastures are big enough to hold your animals, that you've got the right balance of farm buildings and so on.  After eight turns you tot up the scores based on how many animals you've got and how effectively you've used the available space.

It takes five minutes to set up, twenty minutes to play and it's actually pretty great.  There's never quite enough time or workers to do everything you want to do, and you need to plan ahead when you're laying out your farm.  There's not much direct player interaction but you can block players from collecting certain resources.  One slight problem is a lack of variety - games can pan out very similarly once you've worked out a strategy - but this is dealt with by a couple of small expansions which each add a number of additional buildings.  (Although I do feel that these should have been included in the base game).

Anyway, we both like this a lot and it's got me looking at the main Agricola game which is the same kind of thing but about a thousand times more complicated.  One for later, maybe.

Kid's rating: HIT
Adult's rating: HIT

Offline Garwoofoo

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Super Dungeon Explore has been a source of some fascination for a while now.  I got it when it was super-cheap on Amazon and never really expected it to be something that Holden would want (or be able) to play.  But there's something about the very complex games with hundreds of pieces that seems to draw him in.  He kept returning to it, reading through the rules, and laying out the game; we had a quick trial of the automated Arcade Mode a few weeks ago with both of us half-understanding what was going on, but still had fun; and this weekend we got the chance to try it out for real.  We roped in a couple of likely-looking individuals and had a proper run through.



We played Classic Mode - I played the monsters and the other three played as the Heroes trying to beat the dungeon.  It's definitely a bit simpler and more straightforward than Arcade Mode because each player only has to keep track of the things that directly affect them, rather than Arcade Mode where you're keeping track of numbers on cards on both sides.

It's still a very slow game.  That's not necessarily a bad thing - part of the reason was because the Heroes team were genuinely spending a lot of time discussing the best approach and working out strategies, and that was great to watch.  However, it's often a bit too complex for its own good (the various special attacks that each character has add flavour, but don't really increase the strategic options that much and certainly give you a lot more to keep track of and resolve) and it's a very, very long game.  We played for over two hours and the Heroes hadn't yet cleared the first tile out of three, partly because they were playing very defensively and partly because it just takes ages.

That said, we all really enjoyed it.  Holden was fine with the complexity of it all, which surprised me a bit, and it held his interest throughout until we all collectively decided to declare it a draw and do something different.  I thought he might take a bit of a back seat but in actual fact he seemed to be picking up the rules a bit quicker than the other guys in some cases and was very forthright in how he thought the team should act.  I think a second game of this would go a fair bit quicker, due to rules familiarity and probably a slightly more aggressive play style, and we might have a crack at a two-player game next weekend if we get the chance.

I don't think Super Dungeon Explore is a classic.  But it's fun for what it is, and it's made me realise that the pair of us would probably enjoy (a) a simpler dungeon crawler - the fantasy setting and levelling up really appeals to him; and (b) a proper co-operative game; the discussions of strategy that were taking place were surprisingly in-depth and it was great to see him holding his own with the adults. 

Kid's rating: HIT
Adult's rating: HIT (with reservations)

Offline cavalcade

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It's not that the rules are complex in SDE. It's that they're full of ambiguities and generally poorly written. So, even 6 or 7 games in you'll frequently come up against "what's supposed to happen now?" moments.

Try Legend of Drizzt. Simple rules. Over quickly. Fully co-op with a campaign to play through. It's the least brutal of the 4 D&D board games, but you can tweak it to make it more or less difficult by adding or removing "Healing Surges". There's a bit of character customisation, and you level up once in the game. It's not the greatest game in the world, but it's the lightest ruleset dungeon crawler out there. It also has play value for kids anyway, as they can join all the dungeon tiles together and stick the monsters down and play with it like a toy, if that floats their boat.

Also - before playing anything, see if the axe-murderer on "Watch It Played" has done a Youtube video on it. He's exceptional at running through rulesets and explaining games (without offering a critique).

Offline feltmonkey

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I concur - those videos are very good (if pretty slow) and the guy is definitely an axe murderer. He's Canadian though, so you can chuckle when he says "aboot" instead of "about." Those crazy Canadians! He's definitely crazy. Dangerously unhinged.

Offline cavalcade

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Those dead eyes. Like shark eyes.

But a shark that's good at slowly explaining boardgames.

Offline Garwoofoo

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Here's one I thought would be a big hit, but hasn't really worked out.  We all know Carcassonne, right?



I love the game but it's not been a success.  Holden will play this if I get it out but it's not one he's particularly enthralled by and I don't think he quite "gets" it.

I think it's those pesky fields.  (For those who don't know, as well as building cities and roads, you can place followers in fields, and they get points at the end of the game for the number of cities in that field - but they're stuck in place for the whole game).  He understands the concept, and if I ask him he'll describe how they work, but he needs prompting to place a follower in a field and doesn't really pay any attention to them after that.  I think it's tricky for him because it's something you need to plan across the whole game and there's no real feedback until the very end as to whether you've made the "right" choice or not.

Also, he likes building big cities and long roads but doesn't play aggressively in any way and gets a bit miffed when someone muscles in and steals his creation.  Which is kind of the whole point of the game.  Ah well.  We'll revisit this one in a year or two.  In the meantime, the more pacifist building games like All Creatures Big and Small seem much more in line with the kind of things he prefers.

Kid's rating: MISS
Adult's rating: HIT

Offline cavalcade

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He's right. It's shit.

Offline Brian Bloodaxe

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He's right. It's shit.

It's not shit.

But it's not great.

Gar, have you tried playing it without Farmers?

Offline Garwoofoo

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Yeah, and he prefers it that way, but it's very dull for the adults as it makes the game so straightforward.  There are better games to play.

I like Carcassonne but it does only really come into its own with a couple of expansions.  The base game is a bit dry.

Offline cavalcade

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Everything not great is shit. BLACK AND WHITE MAN.

Offline Garwoofoo

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Another game that most people here are probably familiar with: King of Tokyo.



This occupies a unique place in our library of games as it's pretty much the only game we can always round up extra players for.  It takes no time at all to set up and you can explain the rules in five minutes.  (Listening to one kid explain the rules to a bunch of other kids always cracks me up). As a result we've played this with a whole range of people from ages 6 to 70 and pretty much always had fun.

I do think this is really well-designed.  There's a big random element because of the dice, obviously, but also the opportunity to re-roll a couple of times each turn which adds a bit of strategy and mitigates the effects of any really unlucky rolls.  The cards add variability to the game, meaning it's never the same twice.  And in general I really like the way that there are multiple ways to win and you often have to switch your strategy halfway through.  After playing stuff like All Creatures Big and Small (where there's pretty much one way to win, and the winner is the person who does that thing in the most efficient way), this seems nicely unpredictable.

Its biggest problem is that it has a fairly specific sweet spot - it's best with 4 players.  It's OK with 3, but the 2-player game barely works at all, and more than 4 brings in a second city location and loses the 1-versus-many mechanic that defines the game.  Also you get long delays between turns with lots of players, and if you get knocked out early then there can be a lot of waiting around.  But played with small groups, in small bursts, it's a really nice game, and a deserved classic.

Kid's rating: HIT
Adult's rating: HIT

Offline Garwoofoo

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These two got a bit of discussion in the other thread this week.

Tsuro is a model of simplicity, backed up by exceptionally high-quality components which make it a pleasure to play.  Each player takes turns to place a "path" tile, from a hand of three, and then moves their little token along the path.  As players meet in the middle of the board, you get the opportunity to send your opponents in unexpected directions and, eventually, off the side of the board.  That's really all there is to it, and it's little more than a filler between more engaging games, but the thick, glossy cardboard tiles and solid playing pieces make it a lovely, tactile experience and it's simple enough to be enjoyed by all ages.



Kid's rating: HIT
Adult's rating: HIT

Tsuro of the Seas takes everything that's good about the original Tsuro and pretty comprehensively ruins it.  The lovely design remains (although the player stones are replaced by tacky little plastic boats) but it's now full of so many random elements that there barely seems to be a game in there at all.  Dragons are randomly-placed on the board, move randomly, fall off the board randomly and appear randomly.  As well as slowing down the pace of the game enormously (working out the movement for six dragons, in the right order, is time-consuming and fiddly), it means any player can go out of the game without warning - say, when a new dragon appears right on the tile you happen to be on.  It's no fun at all.  It remains the only game from our entire collection that has reduced kids to tears, mostly because of the sheer surprise of going out because of a roll that someone else made on their turn rather than any specific action or choice that the player themselves might have made.  There's a small expansion for this that tries to mitigate some of the randomness by giving the players cannons to counter the dragons, but of course whether you get these or not is in itself random and there are also a whole new bunch of random elements to further screw up the game's balance.  It's an absolute mess.



Kid's rating: MISS
Adult's rating: MISS

Offline Garwoofoo

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Incidentally, it's the boy's birthday coming up next month and I'm going to trust you lot.  I'm ordering copies of Sushi Go! and Deep Sea Adventure based on your recommendations.  I've also got a copy of Caverna: The Cave Farmers as it's a super-complex relative of All Creatures Big and Small and something we can have fun working out together.  If there's anything else anyone would specifically recommend at this point in time I'd be interested to hear about it.

Offline Brian Bloodaxe

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Incidentally, it's the boy's birthday coming up next month and I'm going to trust you lot.  I'm ordering copies of Sushi Go! and Deep Sea Adventure based on your recommendations.  I've also got a copy of Caverna: The Cave Farmers as it's a super-complex relative of All Creatures Big and Small and something we can have fun working out together.  If there's anything else anyone would specifically recommend at this point in time I'd be interested to hear about it.

I'm sure you'll get on fine with Sushi Go! and Deep Sea Adventure looks great.

Other than that the two unqualified successes we have had are Machi Koro and Age of War.

Has anyone recommended Small World yet? It's great, it's like a simplified Risk with randomly created fantasy races and ignoring any turn which doesn't involve you having your armies stomping across the board. It also comes with four different boards so that you always have an appropriate one for anything from 2-5 players.