Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Kid Games 100: MIA Games (Better With Adults)

There are a number of well-known/well-liked kid games that didn't find their way onto my Kid Games 100. Over a series of posts, I'll try to explain the logic of why I didn't include them - or, in some cases, actively excluded them. I used the top 100 games categorized on the Geek as the jumping off point for the second post in this series:

MIA Games: "Better With Adults"

I'm going to divide this into three types: speed/reaction games (and why I think they don't work well as kid games), adult-sized dexterity games, and games that really are wasted on kids.

Speed/Reaction Games

Before we get into the games, an introductory paragraph or two. While kids can understand the concept of "do something faster than anybody else at the table... and do it at the right time," for many kids, this is a frustrating exercise in learning how to lose nicely. That's especially true if playing with parents or older siblings unless everyone "dials it down" - and, after a certain point in life, kids realize that people are throwing the game to them. (BTW, that causes one of two reactions when kids figure this out - either they internalize the message "I'm a loser who needs for people to roll over & play dead for me to win" or they begin to expect people to actively work to make them happy.)

The spatial reasoning & fine motor dexterity needed to play these games doesn't kick in fully until they are 9+ (and, as you've probably seen at some game nights, doesn't EVER kick in for some people.) When playing with a group of their peers, this isn't always a problem... though I think that these kinds of games tend towards more hard feelings & accusations of cheating (due to the adrenalized nature of the games & the temptation to find ways to stay competitive.) When playing with a mixed group of adults & kids, it's a nightmare.

But, you say, "You put Thing-a-ma-bots on the Kid Games 100 and it's a speed/reaction game." You're correct - but it has two things going for it that many of these games do not:
  1. There's only one pile to pay attention to... well, two (including your own).
  2. There's a memory element that levels the playing field with adults. (This is particularly true if you play multiple games of Thing-a-ma-bots in a row.)

Please don't misunderstand me. I love these games... I just don't think they're good kid games.

  • Affenraffen - Speed pattern recognition (you're looking for both color & type of tile) as well as memory (you can't look at tiles you've claimed) with added special power tiles... and all played in real time. This is possibly my favorite game of this type (though Arriba/Jungle Speed is pretty close).
  • Dino Booom - Flip the "bones," figure out what landscape you can "hunt" on with your trusty plunger, then stab a dinosaur tile. I've played with kids & they have a difficult time moving quickly enough to be competitive.
  • Eiertanz - I'll grant that "Egg Dance" works with kids... but not as written. With younger players, we play until all the eggs are taken... then the next person who drops ends the game. (If you end the game on the first drop with kids, it's literally a 1 minute game. It ends about the time any player gets their 2nd egg.) With adults, rounds can go up to 10 minutes, with plenty of egg stealing & crazy fun.
  • Halli Galli - Here, the problem is quick math. It's not that kids don't like the game... I took this with me to children's camp & had a good time playing it - of course, I stomped them. The ability to think & react to the changing patterns just isn't there yet.

Adult-Sized Dexterity Games

Again, it's the fine motor skills development that is the problem here. There are a number of dexterity games on the Kid Games 100, but they (for the most part) don't require the same kind of steady hands that these do.
  • Arbos - a very tippy wooden tree being built out of branches & leaves. This is a very pretty game to look at.
  • Kapitan Wackelpudding - Imagine playing Jenga and then trying to move the stack around... and add some very wacky special action cards to the mix. The impatience of youth may be as big a problem as fine motor skills on this one.
  • Karambolage - Again, let me remind you: all of these are playable by kids. (My son, for example, loves Karambolage.) I just think they work better with adults. The flicking skill needed here (using a piece of cord) is tough even for some older folks.
  • Loopin' Louie - This is the game I knew I'd get questions about. It was marketed for kids & kids have fun with it. But you haven't played Loopin' Louie until you've played with some really LL sharks. The yearly tournament at the Gathering of Friends is amazing. (I'm also aware that the fragile nature of this now-very-expensive game makes me less likely to play it with kids.)
  • Nacht der Magier - Kids tend to knock pieces willy-nilly (esp. in the dark) and the game is over much too quickly. BTW, if you've never seen this game, you've missed out on a work of art.
Games That Are Wasted On The Average Kid
  • Apples to Apples - Kids - Not a huge fan of the game anymore myself (I'd rather be playing What Were You Thinking? or Say Anything for a similar kind of game) but with kids it quickly collapses into silliness and arguments. (One of the reasons I'm not a fan with adults? The same thing happens.)
  • Book of Classic Board Games - The first Klutz book of games was beautifully put together... and WAY over the head of the average kid. This is what I told the editor of the 2nd Klutz book when I went to work for her as a consultant: "This is a book that parents get for their kids because it makes them feel like they're making their kids smarter." I'm not knocking Go or Backgammon (both games we took out of the 2nd book that were in the first book); I like Backgammon a lot & I can appreciate that Go has major nuances that I will never ever grasp. I just don't think they're really appropriate games to foist off on unsuspecting 7 year olds.
  • China Moon - And now I get into hot water... because this Bruno Faidutti game was actually reprinted in the 2nd Klutz board game book - yep, the one I consulted on. I like the game a lot... but I think that it bogs down with all but the most gamer-y of kids
  • Emerald - the fact that there's a cute baby dragon on the cover does NOT make this a kid game. It's a good game, but it's clearly a family game.
  • In Teufel's Kuche - While the pop-up UberTeufel (Over Devil) in the middle of the board screams "kid game," the actual gameplay is a little tricky for the younger set. I'd recommend this for 10+ for full enjoyment... and this is one of those games where you really need 4 players to make it work. (Again, the fact that this game is wildly difficult to re-acquire keeps me from wanting to let kids look at it, let alone play it.)
  • Pig Pile - Kids can play it... the problem is (a) dealing with large hands of cards on occasion & (b) playing quick enough not to bog down this feather-light "better than Uno" game.

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