My daughter is dating a man with a 10-year-old son whose gaming experience, aside from video games, consists of Sequence. At least he has experience using his mind, and is learning gaming etiquette such as cheating is not allowed and how to be a graceful winner and loser.
Last weekend they were all to come over for the day but his dad unexpectedly had to work for a few hours so Cori brought Kaidan over and we showed him some games. I gazed with glazed eyes at all my gamer games, searching for some good choices for a youngster with no experience with such things. I finally grabbed Blokus Trigon and Tsuro, easy to teach, easy to understand.
These both turned out to be a good match and were played twice each.
The concept of Blokus tiles being placed only at points of the triangles caused no trouble once he saw it in action. We encouraged him to use his most “obnoxious” pieces (Cori’s term) early, and helped with finding spots towards the end.
Tsuro worried me at first since you’re given 3 tiles to choose from and I was afraid it would slow him down unbearably, but it didn’t. But I don’t think he was thinking ahead as we gamers are wont to do and that’s fine for a beginner. I chose to force him off the board earlier than I needed to, testing an important gaming skill–losing gracefully. He didn’t seem to mind and stayed engaged while Cori and I finished the game. He wanted to try again and this time, he and Cori tied, both facing the empty space once all the tiles were laid. Well done!
He wanted to see what else I had so back to the game shelf to find something else appropriate. Oh, yes, dice have not been rolled! I brought out Can’t Stop and Hey, That’s My Fish! Can’t Stop is a game we’ve had since my kids were little so it was nice to see another generation pushing their luck. This game was also a hit and played twice, then again when his dad showed up. It is also the game that made me stop and realize the difference between a 10-year-old gamer and a 10-year-old non-gamer.
It took Kaidan quite a while each time he rolled the dice to combine the four dice into two sets of two and come up with what numbers he could use that turn. At first I thought he just needed to work on his math skills but then it hit me: the pips are unfamiliar to a non-gamer. Whereas we look at the arrangement of little dots and immediately see “5″, he had to take the time to count them. How strange! You’d think they’d teach pips in school, wouldn’t you?
Hey, That’s My Fish! is a great family game, combining a spacial element with a simple movement system, and adding cute little penguins as well. Now if it would just set itself up!! It’s a simple game with enough depth to be a family game and a gamer’s filler game. No dice, no tricky corners to deal with, and no early elimination. We played twice and the second game was close.
I hope he had a good enough time with these four games to be willing to play some more. This leads to me look at my game collection in a new light and since he isn’t experienced with these concepts, I can’t depend on the age suggestions on the boxes. Let me show you what I mean.
I chose two games from my collection, which seem like good candidates at first glance: Yspahan (ages 8+), and Aquaretto (a family friendly game) BTW, I don’t own Zooloretto which is why it isn’t up for consideration.
Yspahan sent up danger flags just from looking at the back of the box. Look at all the boards, each with choices to make and rules to remember.
There’s the main player board with special rules on where you can place your pieces. The Caravan track where you can score points, or give points to an opponent, so you have to balance the good with the bad. Under that is the main board used to decide which actions you will take. Lastly is the player’s personal board with buildings you can build for points and special abilities. Oh, and let’s not forget the cards you can acquire which also give you special abilities when used. This is just way too much for most 8-year-olds and even a lot for non-gaming adults. Heck, sometimes it makes MY head swim.
This is definitely out–not even on the list for the future.
Then there is Aquaretto, part of the Zooloretto family of family-friendly games but recommended for 10+ rather than the 8+ that Zooloretto states on the box.
On closer look at the rules, it seems like a game we could build up to, especially if we start with the parent card game, Coloretto, to acquire the skill to assess the loads on the trucks.
There are fewer areas to make choices in compared to Yspahan, but still plenty to keep track of for a new gamer, like managing your depot and watching other players’ zoos and depots. The hardest part, I think, would be seeing the best way to use your coins and where to place your workers. Thinking ahead to end-game scoring seems like something you acquire with experience so some of the workers won’t even make sense until he sees how they affect things a couple of times. I think 10+ is a fair recommendation provided the 10-year-old has had experience with such games.