From the computer to the tabletop, this is all about games. Updated each week-end.
The giving season is upon us, or already over if you’re one of those people who has their gift-buying sorted over a month in advance. Your job now is to stand smugly around and tell the rest of us how organised you are while we panic.
I often get questions from my non-gamer friends who want to buy ‘a game’ for a child, friend or younger relative, but don’t want to buy the wrong game, or a bad game. After fielding more than usual of these questions this year I decided to put my thoughts into writing.
I’ve divided each section into age. Age suggestions on a box are usually an indicator of that game’s complexity rather than the subject matter. When buying a gift you don’t want to overwhelm the recipient, but provide them with something to actively engage with and use to explore their own enjoyment of games. Most games listed are suitable for anyone older than the game’s range too.
As well as my write-up, I have linked to popular site Board Game Geek so you can see what others think. One warning about that site is that people write reviews based on a game’s suitability to a group of adults, which is not necessarily the game’s audience. Many great games for kids have low overall scores, but don’t be concerned by this.
Up to 8
Early years gaming is a highly formative time, and I meet a lot of people who played the usual games in their youth, became disenchanted and gave up, but later discovered other, better games that they wish had been around in their time.
This game has been around for years and is available in almost any shop that sells toys. Connect 4 invites two players to compete to be the first to complete a sequence of four coloured disks, in a vertical, horizontal, or diagonal pattern. The patterns, especially on the diagonal, can be quite a challenge for the very young to even see, but they soon catch on.
Another game that is great for the pre-literate audience. Pictureka asks up to four players to compete to the the first to find a specific image in a maze of illustrated boards. Whoever finds the image first must remember to shout “Pictureka!’ loud enough to be heard. A great game to play across age groups.
Once people get the hang of gaming, some more complex rules and interactions can be introduced. The goal of games for this age group is usually to allow the players to display their competence without being an overly long game.
I mention this game first as it’s ‘on the line’ between this age group and the previous. Gamers below 8 can easily play this charming, art- and story-based game. However very young gamers will find it physically difficult to hold the cards in their hand, out of sight of the other players. So bear that in mind.
In Dixit one player gives a clue, and then each player secretly puts forward a textless card which has art matching the clue. The cards are then revealed and players then try to decide which card belongs to player who gave the clue.
The object of this game for 2-8 players is to stay on the board longer than any other player. Easier said than done as your piece moves according to the path laid out by tiles you play in each of your turns. Careful positioning and forward thinking will see you stay on the board longer, and sometimes you just get lucky.
This competitive jigsaw puzzle of a game is one you can leave the kids to play by themselves without any trouble. Players compete to build the biggest monster they can to score points, but you don’t score any points unless your monster is complete. Players have to weigh the benefits of a large monster against the risk or not being able to finish it, leaving them with no points.
In Takenoko 2-4 players compete to feed and care for a panda, while trying to make sure it doesn’t eat your most precious stores of bamboo! brightly coloured game pieces, a module tile map, and a cute panda playing price combine to make this a much-loved game for younger players. The game is less simple than it looks though, and so this becomes a borderline game between this age group and the next.
Younger games with a few notches in their belts are ready to tackle games with stronger themes and a deeper strategic core.
Up to 5 players compete as witches travelling the lands, delivering potions to wizards in their towers. Players must decide a risk-/reward strategy of being ‘brave’ and risking losing their turn to another player, or being ‘cowardly’ and doing only half as much as they could if they were brave.
This game for up to 6 players plays best with 4-6. An airship goes visiting a series of fantastical cities. Each voyage becomes more dangerous than the last and players have to decide whether to stay in their current location or join the other players on the voyage to the next city. Larger rewards await at the later cities, but if the airship crashes then the passengers receive nothing.
In King of New York up to 5 players each take on the role of a different monster trying to destroy the city of New York, and dominate the other monsters. Players can smash building, crush troops, and attach each other. Monsters can also gain power ups throughout the game to improve their abilities to cause mayhem.
A simpler version of this game, King of Tokyo, is suitable for the 8-10 age group.
This article turned out longer than I planned, so I’ve decided to break it into two parts. Part 2 will cover games for the 12-14 age group and then the 14+ group.