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Introducing Children to Tabletop Games

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JDHultgren
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This topic was the primary driver in what got me into game design, and I thought it would be an interesting discussion to have here and hear other designer's thoughts.

By and large, most kids' games are mass-market garbage. Hungry Hungry Hippos, Bettle *shudder* and the like are horrible "games" to get children into the hobby. I've been interested in games that give young children a REAL introduction into tabletop and board gaming - introducing cards, dice, mechanics, board movement etc etc, but I've found them very few and far between.

Now, when I talk children, I'm talking young children. My daughter is 4-soon-to-be-5, as is my primary test audience. There are certainly games out there that cater to the 8+ age group - something like Zooloretto Dice immediately comes to mind, but finding something for the younger kids is tough. I think the trick is trying to create something that is at least semi-engaging for both adults and children alike.

I think an important part of introducing children that young to games is to have them working TOGETHER, rather than competing with each other. Winning and losing isn't really a concept I want to put importance on at that early age (or ever, for that matter), and it prevents the children focusing on coming first and beating the other kids. I'd much rather they all work together to defeat the game.

A couple of my own concepts are:

HOMEQUEST - an imagination game for a small group of young children. The game is simply 3 decks of cards - the first is a quest, the second is a location, and the third is a danger. The parent flips over a quest and reads it out, flipping over both the 'location' and 'danger' cards when the quest text calls for it.

For example, "Quest: The Wizard's Book

'An elderly wizard in a pointed hat has got himself into quite the kerfuffle and managed to lose his most prized possession; his book of magic spells. He would very much like to have it back, and has politely asked if you brave heroes could retrieve it for him. He remembers leaving it in his tower, which lies beyond the *turn over Place card* Snowy Mountains, but he is scared to go back there himself because a *turn over Danger card* Stomping Giant moved in and chased him away.'

The kids then go off and make their own fun using those parameters, encouraging imagination, co-operation and role playing. It's a game my grandfather used to play with us when we were young, and you'd be amazed how long kids will go off and play in the world you set for them. A great rainy-day game and one for parents who might not be the most imaginative or creative individual.

DEFENDROIDS - A Yahtzee-style dice game. A monster is attacking the city, and the players must pilot their giant robots to defend it. Players each have 5 dice with different symbols/colours on each face. Players take turns drawing a card from a deck (representing the robot's attacks), which has a combination of 3 coloured symbols on it. The child then rolls and rerolls their dice Yahtzee-style, trying to match the symbols on their card to power the attack. Each player who can do so manages to hit the monster, but each time the dice comes up Red, it powers up the monster - if the monster can get 5 red dice, it hits the players back. The kids then draw new cards each round, with a new combination of symbols that need to be matched.

I'd like a part of the game where you can also give dice to other players - so if you manage to match your 3 symbols before the end of your rerolls, you can give the extra symbols you rolled to a teammate. If I've matched a Blue, Green and Yellow and I still have a Yellow and Purple left, I can see if any of the other kids need a Yellow or Purple to match their set. I'd have to test and see - it could be complicating it too much (it's difficult to reign in your ideas and remember that you're designing with a 5 year old in mind, not adults).

That's a couple of my thoughts on the topic. Do you guys have any? Are there good games out there for that age group that you could suggest I take a look at?

AdamRobinGames-ARG
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Kid Games

I am currently play testing for my game, Nut Job. My target audience is 5+ and so far has been well received. It's a competitive game, not a Cooperative game. However it does have omnidirectional movement (instead of a lineal course or a loop) and gets children to start looking a couple moves ahead (a little strategy). I still have some minor kinks to work out. Because of the move mechanic, I have found it to be more of a challenge for some adults than the children.

I've also heard of Robot Turtles, which seems interesting. It's a game designed to teach basic coding concepts. Not to familiar with it yet, but have heard a lot of good things about it.

We're expecting our first child soon, so it'll be a couple years before we can game with and experiment on them.

Adam

questccg
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King of Tokyo

Apparently, not by my own design, "King of Tokyo" is a very popular "kids" game... I have seen it played out via some online videos and the idea seems pretty cool. When you talk about better mechanics than things like Monopoly, Risk and Clue, King of Tokyo is a refreshing change...

But again it takes an involved parent to KNOW what games are OUT THERE and which one could possibly appeal to your children. Notice that King of Tokyo is a popular choice... I am certain there are just as good games that are not as popular for kids as well...

Perhaps that's something Tom Vasel might want to tackle as a video: top 10 games for kids (to introduce them into Table Top games).

BTW I understand that King of Tokyo is probably geared towards an older audience... And that you might be looking for games for a younger audience. I mentioned it, because it is a very good game for kids!

JDHultgren
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Yeah King of Tokyo was

Yeah King of Tokyo was definitely one I had my eye on - I suppose Defendroids is my 'slimmed down 5 yr old friendly' version of it. Definitely a great kids game, no doubt about it, but maybe a bit too advanced for the age group I'm looking at.

You hear that, Vasel? Great idea for a Top 10! You've got 4 kids, get on it!

Supafrieke
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Two boys, 8 and 7

There are some mass market games that I would certainly recommend for younger players: Jenga, Yahtzee Jr., Zingo, S'Match (matching on multiple elements), Connect 4, Checkers... There are lots actually. I only try to avoid a few games where there are no decisions to be made, like Chutes-n-Ladders, Candyland, CLR and the like.

As my boys became a little older, we upgraded slowly to games like Carcassonne Jr, Duck-Duck-Bruce, Mastermind, Zooloretto-mini, Catan Jr, Forbidden Island, and Blokus.

Most recently we have really started exploring mid-level games like MyHappyFarm, Pandemic, Small World, and Qwirkle.

For more free form games like you've mentioned, I can recommend Rory's Story Cubes as a good storytelling device. Of course, simple number and letter games make great fodder for developing stories during car rides.

You'll probably be surprised as I was at how quickly your little one will be able to tackle new and difficult games.

questccg
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Heroscape - kid-friendly also

JDHultgren wrote:
You hear that, Vasel? Great idea for a Top 10! You've got 4 kids, get on it!

Heroscape is a miniatures game that is also very Kid-friendly. Tom recommends the game because the plastic pieces are very resistant. But remember this is a miniatures game where half the FUN is building the scenario's landscape.

It's more simple in terms of combat - but it's like a HUGE Lego puzzle since the piece interconnect and you can have all sorts of maps to build...

Definitely another game Tom recommends for kids. But again an older audience than the one you are looking for. But Tom recommends finding copies of this game - because there are only a limited amount of these on the market and you need a fair amount of pieces to make your terrain...

Cheers

questccg
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8 years and younger

Here is a link from The Dice Tower about kids games:

http://www.dicetower.com/top_ten_lists/current-top-ten-list-kids-8yrs-ol...

markgrafn
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Fantastic!

JDHultgren wrote:

I'd like a part of the game where you can also give dice to other players - so if you manage to match your 3 symbols before the end of your rerolls, you can give the extra symbols you rolled to a teammate. If I've matched a Blue, Green and Yellow and I still have a Yellow and Purple left, I can see if any of the other kids need a Yellow or Purple to match their set. I'd have to test and see - it could be complicating it too much (it's difficult to reign in your ideas and remember that you're designing with a 5 year old in mind, not adults).

Complicated or not it's a fantastic idea! The concept in essence is teaching kids the value of sharing (which is something I never did growing up.) I think games that kids should play are the games that teach life lessons and behaviors, like sharing or compassion rather than the games I was playing at that age.

On another note - I'd be happy to use the HOMEQUEST idea the next time my friend brings his kids around and see how that goes to settle down those beings of endless energy.

JDHultgren
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markgrafn wrote: Complicated

markgrafn wrote:

Complicated or not it's a fantastic idea! The concept in essence is teaching kids the value of sharing (which is something I never did growing up.) I think games that kids should play are the games that teach life lessons and behaviors, like sharing or compassion rather than the games I was playing at that age.

On another note - I'd be happy to use the HOMEQUEST idea the next time my friend brings his kids around and see how that goes to settle down those beings of endless energy.

Thanks Markgrafn! Sharing and helping your teammates is exactly the idea I was going for with that mechanic, so I'm glad you think it's worth doing.

I'll definitely let you know once I've got HomeQuest up and running - it's a fairly straight-forward project that I don't think will take long - it's more a matter of finding time for it amongst all the other projects.

Send me a PM to remind me to hit you up once it's ready to test.

Soulfinger
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My family really enjoy's

My family really enjoy's Habba's Animal Upon Animal. Hape's bamboo games are also aesthetically pleasing and quite fun, if not innovative, particularly Stormy Seas. I really recommend both companies for making pleasant products. At 8, my son enjoys Talisman (with a few cards censored), Super Dungeon Explore, Zoon, and an assortment of Lego games. He just started on Risk this week. I've been trying to salvage my Hero Quest set for him. He also got a big kick out of WizKids' Rocketmen game

Lucia_Flores
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My kids are about the same

My kids are about the same age group - daughter is 10 and son going to be 6. We play a lot of board games at home. A couple of our favorites are:
1. Qwirkle: This one is a strategy game meant for young kids. One earns points by building rows and columns of blocks that share a common shape or color. Son loves it.
2. Blokus game: This one by Mattel is another favorite; you need to place as many tiles as possible on the board and while placing them, you have to have it touching a corner of one of the other pieces already on the board. Involves some strategizing to begin with, but is easy enough for kids aged 5 and up.
3. Diggity Dog: This is meant for younger kids, we used to play it a lot earlier but lately it seems my kids have grown up for it. It's a sort of a memory board game in which kids need to help puppies find their bones.

And then of course, there's the ubiquitous snakes and ladders, chinese checkers and all which are evergreen. Still love them.

pelle
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Kids ~ 5 and 7. They love

Kids ~ 5 and 7. They love Hero Kids. In theory a RPG, but plays more like coop boardgame. Also very diy and youngest loves to color her characters.

Mice & Mystics with oldest kid.

Robot Turtles.

Would love to see more good coop adventure games for that age-range. Competitive games for children as a rule are really dumbed down and boring for adults. Coop games can be much more complex and interesting, plus you all win or lose together.

ErnstFourie
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Is that an open invitation?

Quote:
Send me a PM to remind me to hit you up once it's ready to test.

Is this an open invitation? I have sunday school classes whom i'd love to play this with.

Maybe if you want to have a variant for older children, say 12-15(?) you can add a bit if an bargaining/auction-type rule. It might be an easy way to make a game accessible to a larger audience?

The Professor
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Introduction Early is Key

I introduced my daughter to both RPGs and board games at a young age, playing both at 8 years old. She's a quick study, and as an only child, developed a great vocabulary. Despite all of the bad press centered around RPGs back in the late 70s, I'm still a strong proponent as it provides an opportunity to expand their imagination in a way impossible through watching television, reading novels (though I'm a big fan of reading!), or playing video games.

Interestingly, as military war gamer, I've met a folks filling a number of professions, but no profession is more represented than that of the attorney when it comes to classic hex-and-counter war games...I guess that if you're comfortable reading 100 pages of rules and interpreting them, you're predisposed to the idea of researching answers.

Anyway, though a bit begrudgingly now, she still plays games when friends visit and especially during my hosted monthly Game Nights, in which we'll play Arkham Horror, Kingsburg, City of Iron, Historia, or Game of Thrones. In short, teach them early and keep it exciting.

Happy Gaming!

Cheers,
Joe

-Eberhardt-
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pelle wrote:Kids ~ 5 and 7.

pelle wrote:
Kids ~ 5 and 7. They love Hero Kids. In theory a RPG, but plays more like coop boardgame. Also very diy and youngest loves to color her characters.

Mice & Mystics with oldest kid.

Robot Turtles.

Would love to see more good coop adventure games for that age-range. Competitive games for children as a rule are really dumbed down and boring for adults. Coop games can be much more complex and interesting, plus you all win or lose together.

Humm never heard of Robot Turtles will have to check it out. :)

Mechadonic
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Games for children

Kinderspiel des Jahres (Best Children's Game Award) could be helpful to check out. From my research i found some interesting games for children:
- Dancing Eggs
- Spooky stairs
- The Hare and the Tortoise
- Catan Junior
- The Magic Labyrinth (my favorite, very clever)
- Fabula

It all depends what kind of game you are looking for but also what kind of game you think your children would have fun with :)

Soulfinger
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My son decided on a board

My son decided on a board game theme for his 9th birthday. Rampage (now entitled Terror in Meeple City) and Descent are on the menu. The former looks like a fantastic game to play with children. I'm really excited about it. I'm sure that he'll be very excited to play his Doctor Who Risk, but that's more something that he wanted for the branding.

OLD Fool
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Just an idea. For rainy day

Just an idea. For rainy day young entertainment, how about having the children design part of the game them self. How about having cards that they randomly choose that has human, animal, alien, robot, so no. A board that they move around by way of dice roll, that has pictures of different body parts. The children have to draw their own picked card caricature a bit at a time by each time they land on a board picture. the winner is the one who completes their picture first. Or a wipe-able game board that has a card turn move base with pictures of such as trees, monsters, bridges, witches, etc. ... that they have to draw onto the board and interact or battle with.

Myersd37
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Peaceable kingdom games

I have a four year old girl who loves playing board games with me. I attribute it to the games she played last year and this year. The Peaceable kingdom series of coop games for young children are perfect for teaching those general board game skills that the OP was referring to. The games we own are Seeds for the birds, Hoot Owl hoot, Mermaid island, and Race to the Treasure. The best among them is race to the treasure which teaches a lot of board game skills in a simple package. She has also played Shut the box (dice rolling and math skills) as well as go fish (Disney princess version, of course) and Spot It. I recommend all of these for getting young young kids into gaming.

Edit: race to the treasure, not race for the treasure.

wombat929
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Kids Games

We've had a lot of success transitioning our kids into real games -- at 9 and 6, they can both play Small World well (viciously, even) and we're working our way through mice and mystics.

At younger ages, we had a lot of success with

FORBIDDEN ISLAND and
CASTLE PANIC

These coop games allow them to see how to develop strategy, and it doesn't take long to help them get games.

The younger one also really liked WHOOOWASIT for a long time, but that's heavily centered on roll-and-move, so caution there.

Soulfinger
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We finally tried out Hurry

We finally tried out Hurry Cup, which is not too shabby of a game for playing with children. The best part about the game is that it is $5 with free shipping from Tanga:

https://www.tanga.com/deals/298de151486/hurry-cup-the-board-game?interna...

The price makes it good for prototype components if you need some precut cardstock hexes to glue over, dice, oversized pawns, etc.

Vuoripeikko
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One interesting thing about

One interesting thing about board games for children. An RPG was released in Finland called Astraterra - unfortunately not yet translated to english. It was specifically designed with children in mind and the base of the game is very simple, BUT you can "enable" some of the more complex rules as the players learn the game. Not to mention how the game is thematically very approachable with such themes as adventuring, exploring, pirates in space etc.

I still find it funny that "health" in that game is "guts" - when it runs out, you yield, run away, cover in fear and so on, which makes death rare. (the game still goes over the possibility of death and doesn't downplay it)

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