Modifying Boardgames for Children

Modifying Boardgames for Children Hot

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JexikJexik   February 05, 2016  
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Kids with boardgame

I worked in child care for a long time, and kids like playing games, but sometimes the games that they're most excited about playing are the ones that are over their heads. It was part of my job to figure out how to modify activities for kids age K-6, and I like teaching games, so this is something I'd like to work to get better at. Most Euros seem pretty hard to scale back for younger players because they're such tightly controlled systems, but modular games with dice and minis generally seem a bit easier, despite how complicated they can get. I've also got four nephews and a niece, and started the oldest two (now a 13 y.o. nephew and the 11 y.o. niece) at 6 and 4 on Heroscape. My girlfriend's 5-year-old son has watched us playing some games and of course he wants to be involved.

 

Heroscape had a kids' version (the Basic Game) built in. It's really no good for more than a play or two, even if your kid is 5. If the kid knows his numbers from 1-9 on sight, and knows the difference between Red, Blue, Green, and Gray, then you're good to go! You can start playing with the real side of the cards and slowly introduce new units and their powers. "Sgt. Drake can use a grappling hook to pull himself on top of stuff, and he's so fast that guys can't even shoot at him." Even if they can't read, kids tend to absorb stuff like this pretty quickly in my experience. Kids can start as young as 3 or 4 by just playing with the pieces and trying to build maps. I can think of no better game for a dad and sons. And it seems like Tom Vasel played it quite a bit with his daughters. My nephew who played this at 6 really likes games now, even though most of the time he'd rather play computer games with his friends.

 

X-Wing- the box says 14+ somewhere on it, and they might be right, but you know what, I'm gonna try slowly teaching a 5-year-old anyway. There are some basic rules in the box but I had to go simpler than that. I started off our very first game without any ship movement at all. It was his X-Wing v. my TIE Fighter, and we just traded shots until I blew up- that showed him how the combat worked. Then I put one asteroid down and we started trying to do maneuvers before shooting. He had already watched us and knew how to check for range and use the front 90 degree firing arc (he still needed to be reminded to start at the edge of the base). But the thing he had the most difficulty with completely blindsided me. He couldn't manipulate the dials! He kept holding both the front and back together. I tried different ways of explaining it, and we both got a little frustrated after about 3-4 minutes of effort. Maybe if I let him mess with one for 30 minutes he'd figure it out, but we opted instead to just have him point to the maneuver he wanted to do and I'd see if it was on his dial. I was still picking (but hiding) my maneuver ahead of time, and I think this was still one step too hard for him. The next time we play I'll simply execute my maneuver and then he'll be able to react to where I am. I'll continue with 1 ship per side for awhile I think.

 

D&D- outside of war games, RPGs are some of the most intimidating games around for a lot of people, but we tried it with the same X-wing attempting kid from above. He has played happily for hours in two sessions now, but I bet if we tried Pandemic he'd get bored and confused within minutes. We gave him the well-armored Fighter, told him a few things about the character, and he was ready. He loved the fact that it was a storytelling game and that there were all of these different dice to roll. He could just say what he wanted to try to do, and I could tell him what die to roll and tell him what happened. His mom was sitting next to him if he needed to refer to anything off of his character sheet, but the great thing about RPGs is that the burden of understanding all of the rules is on the DM- I think it's almost more fun if people aren't trying to optimize the shit out of their characters. 5e was a natural 20. The main thing to modify here is the kind of language you might use to describe everyone getting wounded.

 

Sure, we can all play Loopin' Chewie (which he also loves), but sometimes kids get excited by trying a more complicated and challenging game. What games have you had success with playing with younger kids? How did you modify teaching the games or breaking them down?

 

Posted: 05 Feb 2016 09:58 by Mr. White #221781
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You're right. Games like Heroscape and even Dungeon are simple enough to modify for the 5 year old set. Like you mention, games like Hey That's My Fish, There's a Moose in the House, the many HABA offerings are all great kid fair.

To your question though, I feel like I've successfully modified a few 'older' games for younger kids.

Ticket to Ride: We give each kid 9 (three sets of three colors) of those glass beads. The type you find in games like Pente. Anyway, the kids play their ticket cards face up and put one bead on the ticket (say a blue one) then the other two beads of the same color on the two destinations. They can then use these visual cues to help them see which two cities they need to build between for a given ticket. It's worked well.

Zooloretto: We have two awards at our table. A winner by points (standard rules) and a winner that has the most babies. This is the prize the kids usually shoot for as they simply try to collect the most mature animal pairs and see who can have the most babies in their zoo.
Posted: 05 Feb 2016 10:53 by dragonstout #221789
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Great article idea; very timely for me!

My 5-year-old is very interested in playing games, and he can completely read and everything (at school he apparently reads the rules of games there to other classmates), but is mostly terrible at having the patience to follow the rules of the game, even for little kid games, of which we have many; he inevitably starts making up rules, which is fine except that his rules tend to be some variant of "he can't lose".

Bizarrely, one of the best jobs he's ever done playing a game completely by the rules was X-Wing, a few days ago...with FULL RULES, no kidding. I think it's that he's been so damn curious about the game and wanting to play the game by the "advanced rules" (we had played it a month ago by the quickstart rules) using all the tokens in the box etc., that he was willing to make a real effort. He even made all the decisions about the dials and actions all by himself (and measured range by himself). That was really a miraculous fluke, though. We also played Dungeon a few months ago.

He's SO interested in playing the grownup games, and this kind of "how do I simplify these games" is exactly what I need. It's very hard to talk him out of wanting to play with EVERYTHING, so I need to somehow hide the fact that we're playing something simplified.
Posted: 05 Feb 2016 11:26 by Columbob #221797
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I got Dungeon! for my nephews (then 7 and 8) last year, it turns out that the eldest isn't that patient with playing games (though he will play plenty with me, and they will all readily play something like Blood Bowl: Team Manager with a bit of guidance), and their younger sister (now 6) is just as willing to play, especially with the second brother. It doesn't get much simpler than Dungeon!
Posted: 05 Feb 2016 11:47 by the_jake_1973 #221801
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A couple that I know like to play Agricola and a couple of their kids enjoy playing as well. The children are 8 and 6. They have grasped the concepts of the game and do not get board while playing it. One concession that they have made for play with the younger child is that when the sheep go to the kitchen and the output is food, the sheep are making the food in the kitchen for the family.
Posted: 05 Feb 2016 11:50 by Shellhead #221802
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Don't sell kids short when it comes to learning games. My dad taught me how to play Acquire at age 6, though I wasn't playing well enough to win until age 9.
Posted: 05 Feb 2016 12:00 by Columbob #221804
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I don't make concessions regarding where meat comes from with my kids. Understand that you're eating an animal. If it's disgusting for you (and my youngest has never really been crazy about meat, same as her uncle when he was a kid), then there are alternatives.

I think a lot of people would become vegetarians if they only understood/witnessed the process behind meat: slaughter, butchering and sometimes transformation.
Posted: 05 Feb 2016 12:27 by Black Barney #221806
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Transformation into something delicious
Posted: 05 Feb 2016 12:36 by Shellhead #221807
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Columbob wrote:
I think a lot of people would become vegetarians if they only understood/witnessed the process behind meat: slaughter, butchering and sometimes transformation.

Historically, the opposite has been true. Outside of India, the vegan thing is a very recent concept, and only arose after a protracted period when people were mostly absent from the process of turning an animal into meat. In times past, people were more likely to witness where their meat came from, and they didn't have a problem with it.
Posted: 05 Feb 2016 13:22 by bocaJnoJ #221811
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Columbob wrote:
I don't make concessions regarding where meat comes from with my kids. Understand that you're eating an animal. If it's disgusting for you (and my youngest has never really been crazy about meat, same as her uncle when he was a kid), then there are alternatives.

I think a lot of people would become vegetarians if they only understood/witnessed the process behind meat: slaughter, butchering and sometimes transformation.

I agree with this.
I pretty much only eat fish because I could (and have) looked a fish in the eye and killed the fucker. I just couldn't do it to a cow, so I am not going to be a pussy and pay some other person to treat it like shit and do it for me and put it in a package so I dont have to see what really happened. I certainly could not slaughter/cut up/process it even if I did somehow manage to shoot it in the head.
But I'm not getting on any high horse since I have eaten meat, on rare occasions still do.
Its weird though that the dairy industry always manages to get a free pass on being complete cunts to the animals, but we're lucky enough to have some local farms that adopt a totally different animal friendly method, it costs quite a lot more but we think its worth it.
Stuff should cost more, in general, stuff being cheap is usually the result of someone being a &/)& to someone or something else.
Except Heroscape. That shit should be cheap.
Posted: 05 Feb 2016 17:46 by mads b. #221836
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Just to get back to board games I play X-wing with my daughter who just turned seven. We play without upgrades and usually have two or maybe three ships each. Also no asteroids because they stress her out. We don't usually finish the games, but that's okay. But the last time we played she had the Falcon and the 360 degree firing arch was great for her.

I've also played Dungeonquest with her and at one time the three year old joined in. He basically just wanted to go and wake up the dragon, but had fun nonetheless. And for Dungeonquest you don't have to change anything except for using the original combat rules (we just got a used copy of the original Swedish/Danish edition, so that's sort of a given now).

At other times the eldest has joined in while I played Robinson Crusoe, and we also play Dungeon Roll and recently Drako together which is quite fun. And then there's kids games, obviously, but that's something else, I guess.
Posted: 06 Feb 2016 16:48 by LAP #221859
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are you in Köpenhamn dude? I heard there was quite a big game culture over there, of course, its a city I love to visit in summer and get pleasantly intoxicated while sat in nyhamn enjoying the view, but maybe one day I'll get to meet an actual FATtie - are you a fan of Heroscape :)
Posted: 06 Feb 2016 18:16 by mads b. #221863
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LAP wrote:
are you in Köpenhamn dude? I heard there was quite a big game culture over there, of course, its a city I love to visit in summer and get pleasantly intoxicated while sat in nyhamn enjoying the view, but maybe one day I'll get to meet an actual FATtie - are you a fan of Heroscape :)

I used to live in Copenhagen, but now I reside some 40 minutes away by train in a relatively small town. But I'm there for work quite often.

And yes, there's a big board game café (Bastard Café) which has really gained momentum and is almost almost full. And by full we're talking 150 or 200 people playing board games. And I also know that a few of FFG's living card games and especially X-wing have quite active communities centered around the FLGS Faraos Cigarer.

I had a Heroscape set which I sold for some reason some years back. But it was a lot of fun. Let me know if you're in CPH at some time and maybe we can meet up at Bastard for some gaming.

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