Making a New Gamer
Dylan Kirk
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I began this list while living in Colombo, on December 16, 2007. It is now June 11, 2012, and boy does time fly. My son - originally 1yr 10mo. when I started this list, is now over 6. This is his gaming story to date. Start the Time Machine!

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Just yesterday (15.12.07), my son "played" his first boardgame ever. he's still only 1 year and 10 months old, but I'm of the opinion you have to start them young.

I began tracking plays on this list on 16.12.07, and I will keep doing so as he gets older. This should record his gaming development for posterity!
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1. Board Game: Snail's Pace Race [Average Rating:5.25 Overall Rank:14952]
Dylan Kirk
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Officially his first game. First played: 15.12.07

He has learned all the colours and can mainly get them right when asked. while we didn't play a whole game through, I was satisfied that he could put the pink snail on the pink leaf and roll the dice. Miracle of miracles: he not only could take all the bits out, but he happily put them back into the box, shut the box, and squared it away under the living room console!

16.12.07: Has taken it out twice already and we played once until one of the snails reached the finish line. He learned "first I take my turn, then you take your turn." The colour names are all still there in his brain, he just mixes them up sometimes! He's got rolling the dice down to a science!

12.01.08: Another go, this time just got as far as the set-up, but the colours are certainly all there and no mix ups. He can place each snail on its starting colour without issues.

06.04.08: Three "plays." The colours are solidly in his mind and he can set up without problems... whether he WANTS to set it up daddy's way or not is the main question. There was no throwing of dice across the room, he rolled nicely onto the board, and has "your turn, my turn" down pat. He proved he can move the snails, but often doesn't really care about them, preferring instead just to roll the dice. Taking out and puttng away is masterful! Played the third later... still has trouble moving the snails,but everything else is on track.

09.11.08 Been a long time, we have since moved from Sri Lanka to Shanghai and now finally have the games unpacked. Played one game to the end. He knew how to play, but mainly preferred to do things his own way.
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2. Board Game: Gulo Gulo [Average Rating:6.86 Overall Rank:948]
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06.04.08: First "play." We took out the eggs and he picked out the colours I called. He seemed to enjoy it.
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3. Board Game: Go Away Monster! [Average Rating:6.53 Overall Rank:2737]
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3 December 2008: tried this one before going to bed. My son, who loves puzzles, enjoyed putting all the bits in the right places on the cards. He was interested until the very end, when he had filled all the four cards, and thrown away all (except two) of the monsters. He took a liking to two of the monsters and wanted to hold on to them. I guess they were cute.

4 December 2008: My son hooked his mom into playing while I gave my daughter a bath! Score!

He has since been quite interested in bringing out the set, looking at the monsters, and seting up the rooms by himself. I was surprised how fast he got into and understood the basics of the game.
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4. Board Game: Cranium Cariboo [Average Rating:6.10 Overall Rank:5297]
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He's been playing this since the end of 2008, as I bought it on our way through Canada during that summer. The game interests him deeply from a mechanical sense, as he gets to use the key and open boxes. During this period of his two-year-old life he learned the alphabet, so using the advanced cards is now far more posible. The only problem, of course, is wear and tear on the game itself. He likes to open and close the boxes with the key, sometimes too forcefully. He's already punctured one of the cards on a trap door, and I now bring this out only when I'm able to watch his every move.
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5. Board Game: Hive [Average Rating:7.32 Overall Rank:205]
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No, this isn't what you think it is.

22.08.2009: My son finds I've brought home Hive (bakelite) from being borrowed out to a friend. While I'm washing up after coming home, I hear "daddy, can I play the spider game?" coming from the front room and I haven't the foggiest what the "spider game" is.

I come in and he's got Hive pieces all stacked up and then I remember: he always loved the spiders. I would be playing around with hive bits and he'd come around and take the spiders off me because he simply adores them. So now he's asking me "how do we play this game, daddy?" and I'm thinking that he's not quite ready for Hive. So I tell him "however you want", which goes down very well. We enjoy ourselves piling up the pieces, he puts them into a cup, takes them out of a cup, piles them up again. It's just father-son time that happens to involve Hive pieces.
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6. Board Game: War [Average Rating:2.19 Overall Rank:15337]
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11.09.2009 We play our first game of War.

Teaching war is easy because it's utterly mindless. My son, however, adores it as he gets to spend time with dad and he gets to win stuff. He enjoys the fact that Kings have his first initial on them, and likes the pictures on the cards.

War was just an excuse to start drilling my son in the more basic fundamentals of game play, and a good chance to make him a little more numerate. He knows (and can read) his basic numbers and the alphabet, so that much is not a problem. The nice thing about War is that it repeatedly drills "more than vs. less than" and gives my son a lot of chances to count pips to see what numbers are bigger than what other numbers. On the second play, he told me (pointing to an Ace) "Ace is one", which left me with a really good feeling.

To keep the cards "fun", I also did a few performances of the (dead simple) Four Kings card trick. It's nice, because you can tell a rather heartwarming story about brothers sticking together while simultaneously wowing your audience. He kept asking me to do it again.
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7. Board Game: Go Away Monster! [Average Rating:6.53 Overall Rank:2737]
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Saturday, October 3, 2009: My daughter, 1.5 years old, plays together with my son and I, and actually figures out where to place the pieces. She is in love with the bear bits, which she hugs and calls "bear bear".
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8. Board Game: Checkers [Average Rating:4.86 Overall Rank:15311]
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4 October 2009 - first real abstract strategy game. My son is 3.5 years old. He understood the rules, had little difficulty with the concepts of "back" and "forward", and he even got a king during the game. Like my father before me, however, I'm not going to let him win. He was disappointed that he didn't win, but I tried to explain that playing and having fun is more important than all that.
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9. Board Game: Gulo Gulo [Average Rating:6.86 Overall Rank:948]
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11.10.2009: Back to Gulo Gulo... only this time we play it correctly, to the end, twice.

He won the game once and I won once, but he still has a problem with losing. He desperately wants to win every game. I think the floodgates were less open this time around, but he still tells me that he really wants to have "Baby Gulo". I'm explaining to him each time that sometimes I win and sometimes he wins, but the fun is simply in playing. The good thing is that he does have fun up to the point that he loses, so getting him to play is really not difficult.

Non-competitive games like Go Away Monster are probably king at this point in his life (now @ 3.5 years). My game designer self is currently thinking that cooperative kids' games are a market that needs a lot more love. I'll have to ponder that one a little longer...
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10. Board Game: Odin's Ravens [Average Rating:6.68 Overall Rank:1067]
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28.12.2009 Played Odin's Ravens without Magic Way or Odin cards. He seemed to start to get the idea of the matching, and decided he liked the snowy ground the best.

Then he got a lollypop and a glass of water and I quickly put the game away.
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11. Board Game: Micro Mutants: Evolution [Average Rating:6.65 Overall Rank:2083]
Dylan Kirk
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06 and 07.03.2010

Played a couple games of combat-tiddlywinks. My son tired of it the second time, and was more infatuated with the pieces I think. Now I believe I may take it to work as I bought two sets... FF was having a sale and I got them for like 5 bucks each, can't go wrong there.

This was good for developing a few skills, not the least of which the skill of how to flick the winks. He took it pretty seriously, and flubbed up a couple times, but it was all good. We had been keeping my (almost 2yr old) daughter away from the board the whole time, but eventually she came over when we were cleaning up. I had thought she wanted to destroy the whole board, but instead she leaned over, picked up a piece, and proceeded to tiddle every wink in arm's reach. What can I say? Gifted.
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12. Board Game: Cranium Cariboo [Average Rating:6.10 Overall Rank:5297]
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We played yet another game of Cariboo, but this time, we played by the rules, drew from the advanced deck, and had only occasional interference from the little sister. She came in once and pressed her hand onto the board, which dislodged two of the trap doors. It takes a bit of doing fishing the little U-joint out of the box and simultaneously holding the trap doors open and jamming said joint back into place, but I'm used to it now.

It was a good way to keep reviewing his small letters and his grasp of numbers is just fine. He appears to get something from the game, I think it's mainly the pure viscerality of opening trap doors, finding the balls, and opening that treasure box. It's got nothing to do with the game itself, it's more the toy quality.
 
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13. Board Game: Go Away Monster! [Average Rating:6.53 Overall Rank:2737]
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14.03.10 Both my son and daughter got in on this one and they both did fantastically. My daughter didn't need any real instruction, she just desperately wanted to draw the bears as soon as possible. She still waited her turn.

My son has a real preference for given monsters, so while my daughter was keen to throw away the "kowai kowai" monsters (kowai is Japanese for scary), my son occasionally recaptured them and put them on his player board.
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14. Board Game: Space Fleet [Average Rating:5.41 Overall Rank:12990]
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14.03.10 Yes, we actually played a couple turns and he was slowly starting to get the nav computer, but playing a game like this with a 4-year-old is bound to get boring fast. He really just wanted to fly the ships around. Still, he had good rolls and had stripped my front shields and I had yet to get one of his shields down by the time he called it quits. One day, one day he'll be a wargamer...
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15. Board Game: Ribbit [Average Rating:6.77 Overall Rank:1354]
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10.4.2010 Bought this one at the game store with my son. He wanted a "scary game". He was rather upset about me getting a silly "turtle game". Walking out of the store, he was saying "I don't like it, I won't play it". In the taxi on the way back, he asked for the box to look at. Walking back to our house he was asking when we could play it. We got it set up and played a little before it devolved into bedlam with sister flinging cards all over the place and turtles talking to each other. Still, it's all good.

11.4.2010 The game came out again and we played around with the turtles mostly. Then we took out Hive and flicked the pieces around. My son made stacks of pieces and we took turns flicking our teams (my son was the "spider team" and I was assigned the "ant team") and when we hit another piece we got to pick it up.

He's thinking about games more as an impromptu design matter rather than a question of following rules, which is pretty cool. I like that he is using his creativity. I used to try to make him follow the rules, but now I give him a go at the real game before letting him just do whatever he wants. He requests games more now because of it I think. He can learn rules later.
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16. Board Game: Battle Line [Average Rating:7.42 Overall Rank:179]
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11.07.10 My son and I played open-hand Battle Line without Tactics cards. Since it's really just colours and numbers, he started to get it. I was pretty pleased that he was able to grasp the very basic gameplay and I hope to get this to the table (or floor) again as soon as possible. Of course it's not as "cool" as other games where you flick stuff or have really colourful models, it's still enough to capture his attention. It has elephants, after all.

Admittedly I have missed a few games of Go Away Monster and one game of checkers between this and the last entry, but I think everyone gets the idea.
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17. Board Game: Checkers [Average Rating:4.86 Overall Rank:15311]
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25.09.2010 Another game of checkers, but he got it far better this time. Rules are starting to make sense. He was rather weepy at the end when he lost (my dad never gave any quarter in games, and look how I turned out), but he played well, all things considered.
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18. Board Game: Hammer of the Scots [Average Rating:7.56 Overall Rank:299]
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2010.09.25 OK, so perhaps we'll file this under "wishful thinking", but I got a few blocks out, gave them to my daughter and son to move around the board (in turn, moving up to the entire contents of one region one space at a time) and got them to start figuring out movement on an oddly-shaped board. Also got them to try rolling dice "above two" or "above three" to hit. The results are promising. Perhaps I should design a mini wargame trainer for the tykes so they are ready when the time comes...
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19. Board Game: Crokinole [Average Rating:7.79 Overall Rank:75]
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2010.10.03 Several games today with loads of kids coming over during the Chinese National Day long weekend. Crokinole, Micro-Mutants, and Gulo Gulo all made a showing. We are now playing with other kids, playing games to the end more, and understanding more complicated ideas about games. The battle now is clearly not with his ability to learn and comprehend complex rules, but:
1) to keep him interested, and
2) to teach him to lose gracefully.
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20. Board Game: Battle Line [Average Rating:7.42 Overall Rank:179]
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2011.02.05 Once again, Battle line made a showing (twice, I might add) and my son seems to be getting the concept of colour and number matching much better. He still can't fan his cards, but his motor skills are pretty good so I think he should be able to get it soon enough. He's going to be five this month, and his attention span and comprehension have both really expanded over the past year. Currently his two favourite "daddy and me" activities are games and lego, but we seldom have time for games.

We also played hive by the rules this time, and he started to get the drift. Still a long way to come, though. The abstracts are simple and straightforward so hive and checkers will likely be his first "real" games that he can play with some degree of skill.
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21. Board Game: Monopoly [Average Rating:4.39 Overall Rank:15333]
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Well the day finally came that my son would play Monopoly. He likes money, and is getting good at counting now (he's now 6 years old). We've played many more games than I have logged on this list, but I thought after about five years it was finally time to publish.

My thoughts on games for kids his age? Gulo Gulo is a winner, as is Schildkrotenrennen. He wants to play the awesome stuff with explosions and miniatures, and those might finally start coming out. He has already been able to play a lot of formative games like checkers and (to a lesser degree) chess. I'd like to start him on Go, and that may work out if I get him playing on a 9x9 board.

Go Away Monster is no longer captivating his attention, but he might play it with his 4-year-old sister. I've used him and his sister to playtest games that I put together for their age group, and they enjoyed it. He would really like to play Space Fleet because of the totally rocking minis, and Battlefleet: Gothic will probably make its way to the table as his first minis wargame. I learned my first minis game at the age of 10 or 11, so he must have it in his genes somewhere.

Why publish this list now? I dunno. I never planned the list to be a certain length or contain certain things... It's just been a work in progress for almost five years. It's something I can use to remember what it was like when my boy was still little. We play games together. We have fun. That's all. Hope you enjoyed this list, it's been a while in coming
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22. Board Game: Ticket to Ride: Europe [Average Rating:7.58 Overall Rank:91] [Average Rating:7.58 Unranked]
Dylan Kirk
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2-09-2012, Ticket to Ride: Europe... And he won!
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