So, what games do we play, and where do we find them? We like European boxed games, because they seem to be much more innovative. They aren’t a variation of snakes and ladders, or just a “roll the die and move X squares”
This game is called The Enchanted Forest – by Ravensburger – You begin at one end of the board, and have to find various treasures. The treasure pictures are on the base of the trees, and you have to get to specific spaces to look at them. You roll two six sided dice and can combine the rolls or move independently. There is a small deck of cards that show the treasures, one will be drawn randomly to show you what to look for, then when you know where it is you have to get to the castle to tell the king. The combination of memory, strategy and a little bluffing, makes for a nicely playable game. You can play it pretty straight forwardly, or as the kids get older you can play more strategically. A(6) and J(9) really like this one.
This is “The amazing labyrinth” (also by Ravensburger). You move through the maze collecting treasures, but the maze shifts each turn as a loose tile card is used to push things around. Each time you set it up the maze it is different, which makes this game fun to come back to repeatedly. Our daughter A (6) has begun to tell a story as the game goes along, which is a fun addition.
We like a fist full of penguins for lots of reasons . . . firstly J is a bit penguin obsessed, which is why we picked it up. Thankfully it also plays well J This is a dice based game, where you roll a set of six sided dice and depending on which animals you roll you score different amounts. The penguins can be used to re-roll or “buy” extra dice. The game is limited to three turns each, which makes it a great way to fill half an hour. It is also quite strategic and encourages a lot of comparative maths.
Make N Break is a timed game that encourages visual discrimination and hand eye co-ordination. You roll a die to see how long you get, then set the timer. During your time you build the structures on the cards from the ten differently coloured wooden blocks. You race to see how many points you can get within your time. For younger children you can get rid of the timer, and you can also play on your own too.
Another fast paced game is jungle speed. Although you can play with more, it works best as a two player game. Essentially it is a game of snap, with colourful cards that can be very similar to one another. The hook though is that you have two stacks of cards each, and turn them with different hands. When you see a match you have to grab the wooden totem – with the correct hand! It plays well, encourages quick thought and visual discrimination, as well as hand eye co-ordination.
Pitch car is another very good game – the track is made of different pieces that fit together like a jigsaw to give you lots of different tracks to play. Then you flick your car around the track in a straight forward race. There is also a pitch car mini set, which is the same game, just on a smaller scale.
We have a soft spot for Cube Quest, because we met the designers when it launched as king brick – a game made in their garage. Now it’s being made on a much more professional level, by Game Wright. Essentially, you have cubes that are your army, and you try to knock your opponents king off the play board. You can play it as a straight forward game, or you can be very strategic about which cubes you use, where you place them and so on. The cubes have different faces, and different “special abilities”, which alter the game play as you go along.
Lords of Waterdeep is a game aimed at older children – I would say 10+, unless they are experienced with lots of games. Over eight turns you complete different quests to earn victory points. Each player is a “lord of Waterdeep” but doesn’t know which Lord the others are. At the end of the game each lord will score bonus points for specific types of quest. This plays well – but is a longer more complex game than the ones above.
Pandemic is a co-operative game in which the players race to save the world from four different diseases. One of the nice side effects of this game is that it uses city names as locations, meaning that the children are all getting quite familiar with where those cities are. This game plays well, and is fun. It is a pretty strategic game, meaning it will probably be better for those of 10+.
Forbidden Island is another co operative game, but much simpler than pandemic. In this game the team of players is racing to collect four treasures from an island that is sinking. Each turn they can move, or shore-up parts of the island, and working as a team is essential.
There are many, many more awesome games out there, and a good place to shop for them is http://www.leisuregames.com/index.html - the staff at Leisure games are friendly and helpful (I’ve known them a long time, and they really are good at their jobs!) If you see a game on their website and want to know more they are also very happy to answer questions and provide advice. Unlike the staff at various chain stores, the LG staff all play games, so they really know the stock well.
***disclaimer*** There are lots of local games shops out there, all of them need support - Leisure Games is just the shop I know, trust, and am happy to recommend.