I was having a chat with my better half the other night and verbally confirmed what I had been thinking for some time. My penchant for board games has less to do with the actual game and more to do with the social aspect.
Back in the EQ days (heck, even the BB days) I played video games for the social aspect. Sure, there were always options to play board games, and I certainly did, but video games provided a rather easy way to play without the need to move outside my house. I played D&D back then, but it was nearbouts an hour there and back to play with the group. That wasn’t really an issue online.
With a wife and 2 kids, they are mine to manoeuver to play boardgames. What kid doesn’t like snakes and ladders, or trouble? Those are staples that will be around for another 100 years. The challenge is getting them to play more in-depth games. And to that end, I think I’ve found some ground rules.
Gaming Rules for Kids
The most important rule is that there are only a handful of rules and that they are presented at all times. When kids have to refer to some manual for a rule, then they are out of the game. Their attention span and appreciation for nuance isn’t really developed. Having my kid stay focused on say, Decent, is a massive challenge since the player involvement is rather minor.
My kids are also primarily French and the eldest is just starting to read, so long instructions don’t work either. An intuitive game, one that mimics what’s on the board, is what works well. This means that dice games, counted movement games and picture games work great. Math games quite a bit less. A game where someone rolls damage, then calculates critical change, then rolls defense, then armor and has a trigger ability, then removes health… that’s just too much.
Games also shouldn’t last more than 30 minutes. If it’s a dice game and it lasts more than 15, there’s a problem. My kids would much rather play 2 games of 30 minutes than 1 game of 60.
Finally, games that require some strategy/long term choices are best played in a team. This way, the kids get to talk it out together rather than self-reason. It’s the exposure to other thoughts here that really counts and after a while, they start thinking macro instead of micro.
Gaming for Neophytes
Let’s get this out front – everyone is a gamer. Young, old, breathing or sleeping, people are bred to game. From playing crib with my great grandparents to kerplunk with my little one, everyone has fun with games.
Now that said, with thousands of games available, there’s one for every itch. Finding your personal itch is important, but finding other people who share that itch is even more important. My wife couldn’t be bothered with MMOs but I showed her Puzzle Quest and lost her for 2 months. Plants vs Zombies had her for even longer. She’s a fan of Pandemic and Monopoly (my family has a history with Monopoly, rage and all). So it would seem that she has a like for strategy games, though perhaps more appropriately she likes tactical games. She also really likes randomization, which I’ve yet to figure out why.
Playing with her has shown that while she sees the long game in a discussion, she doesn’t necessarily see the links between the short and the long. Many board games have a ripple effect from the first dice roll, though there’s probably more than simply rely on every decision made instead. My guess is that a CCG game like Hearthstone would work, because of the immediacy and randomness of play. A game like Dominion, or 7 Wonders would not because of the long view required. I’d sure like to try them out with her though, I’m all for surprises!
I know my sister likes boardgames, though the few I play with her are trivia games. My youngest brother is more into the strategy games, more in lines with Risk or miniatures. We 3 used to play a lot when we were younger, even playing quite a few games with my dad. Hero’s Quest in particular was a super fun time. But we were exposed to a lot of games, of many different types. From those years of games, we each developed an affinity to a particular style.
And I think that’s really the conclusion here. To get someone into gaming, any type of gaming, you just have to keep trying different types of games. Eventually they’ll find something that clicks.
So I have my list of games I’d like to try with the family. I just need to find the right price point to try some of them out. I really don’t mind paying $50-$70 for something I know I will really like and then can play for quite a few years. Finding something dedicated for the family and youngings, that has a certain immediacy. And spending $40 on something none of the kids like… well I might as well head to the park instead.