Thinking back, though, over the history of F:AT since its blog days, there seem to be few discussions about gaming with kids (besides the great articles and posts by Uba). F:ATties discuss gaming when they were kids, but I see few posts about gaming with kids or about their kids gaming. I’ve often wondered about this gap in F:AT’s forums. Is it because no one wants to replicate BGG posts about trying to get their 4 year old to play Caylus (KingPut, can you help us out on that one) ? Or is it that the F:AT demographic is skewed towards those without children or with kids too young? I really don’t know the answer to this and would be interested in hearing feedback.
I mostly play games with my family -- my wife, my 8 year old daughter and my 13 year old son. I’ll usually play with either my son, with my daughter, or the whole family (about the only time my wife will play). While I play sporadically with other people in the area—it is mostly Settlers of Catan (though I did fit in Cutthroat Caverns last year). Look, I’m in the middle of BFE (does anyone even use that term anymore or is it as archaic as I am?)---flyover country to most of you. My town of about 6,000 people is great for raising a family (we can walk to the movie theater, post office, work, school, grocery store, bakery, and library) but it is also about an hour away from the nearest organized gaming group. Driving almost 120 miles round trip to play games with strangers is not that appealing with a family. (Though even if I lived in a major metropolitan area, I’d likely still want to do a lot of my gaming with my family—they’ll be out of the house sooner than you think!)
What games will the entire family will want to play—including my wife? No family wants to play a game that one family member has to just “endure” because it is too simple or too complex. What games fit this bill? Basically, the game has to appeal to a wide age range and have a premium on fun—not brain burning exercises. Our family also likes quite a bit of theme and interaction.
I thought I’d recommend a brief list of games that might fit the bill for F:AT readers with families (or that game with young kids occasionally) with the hope that everyone else can chime in with their own suggestions. Although some of these games might never be classified as Ameritrash games, I think most are a blast to play and most have a decent level of theme.
Gulo Gulo is a dexterity game that is brilliant precisely because kids and adults can play on more or less equal footing. Kids have the advantage because they have small little fingers to try and grab wooden eggs out of the Wolverine nest without knocking down the alarm stick in the middle of the eggs. It is a race to the end of a gradually unfolding track of different colored tiles. If you are on a red tile and the next tile is a green tile, then if you get a green egg you can move up one space. But if six spaces up is a yellow tile (with no intervening yellow tiles), then if you successfully choose a yellow egg you move all the way up the list. If you mess up and the alarm stick falls out, you go back to the last tile of the color egg you were trying to nab. Though we don’t play it as much lately, we’ll still play it occasionally even when only adults are out (or if we’ve been drinking).
Pick Picnic is a fun little game that our entire family loves. The artwork is cool. Basically, each round there are pieces of corn are put on six different farm yards (each with a different color). The corn cubes are of varying quality represented by points. Each player has a hand of cards with either a) chickens corresponding to each colored farm yard or b) Foxes. The cards also have varying numbers with the max being a six. On the count of three, each player lays down a card. If you have the highest numbered blue chicken placed on the blue farm yard, then you get all the corn there (survival of the fittest)—the other chickens starve. If there’s a tie, then you can negotiate a settlement or there’s a die roll. However, if someone laid a blue fox on that farm yard, then the fox eats ALL the chickens (and scores the value of the chicken’s numbers!). Basically, that’s the game. After each round, new corn is put out and a new card is dealt. This continues til all the corn is laid out. For a quick little family game, there’s quite a bit of interaction (heck, you can eat the other players chickens!). In addition, since it is blind selection of cards, kids can often fare just as well as adults.
Survive is an older game beloved by many of this site (and discussed in the past here). An older children’s game now out of print by Milton Bradley, it simulates a bunch of people fleeing an island slowly disappearing. To make matters worse, the people fleeing can be attacked by all sorts of creatures in the sea, too. Don’t despair of finding this in thrift shops, either—I’ve found 3 in the past 2 years for about fifty cents each.
Cash ‘N Guns is another one that plays fast and furious, especially on the intro level for younger kids. Similar to Survive, this is a game that “gamers” often play but it is also fun for families with young kids. Where else can you play a board game and point foam guns at your kids to earn money (or kill them)?
Pit (make sure you get the version with the big ol’ bell) makes you feel like you’re on the floor of the Chicago Board of Exchange yelling and screaming to get various cards. It plays quick with a large number of people (including the kids’ friends) and never fails to cause a laugh. This game is over 100 years old and should be in every F:AT game closet—especially if you have kids.
Sorry Sliders is another game that combines the essential parts of the old game sorry with cool multi-player shuffleboard. People compare it to Crokinole (but I’ve never played that). You slide cool little Sorry pieces down a track to a target area (2-4 players) and try to get the highest number of points to move all your pieces up into the “Home” space. No real theme but you can whack the heck out of your kids pawns!
So, are there are any other games that fit in this category that I might overlook or might not normally be discussed on this site (e.g., I’m looking at a Horse Fair Card Game for my horse-loving daughter…)? What do you play with the entire family or at family gatherings where there are kids?
Merkles is a member of Fortress: Ameritrash.