Kid-suitable war/conflict games
Mike Kozlowski
United States
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Michigan
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My 8-year-old son loves "fighting games." When he was younger, I'd play games like Risk and Stratego with him, but now he's thankfully old enough to play games that are actually fun. (He still likes Risk and Stratego, but I'll insist on something else if he wants to play with me.) We've been playing some decent games, and I want to know what other things I could be playing with him now or in the next few years.

I'm going to start out the list with the stuff we've been playing, and how it goes, to give context on what level he's at; then I'll move to games that I think will be good to play with him soon. I'm looking for feedback on the latter category, as well as games I haven't thought of that'd be suitable for now or later. Please add suggestions to the list, as well as the age you think he'd be ready for them.
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1. Board Game: Chess [Average Rating:7.09 Overall Rank:415] [Average Rating:7.09 Unranked]
 
Mike Kozlowski
United States
Unspecified
Michigan
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I'm a mediocre/bad chess player (somewhere around 1200-1300); when I started playing against him a few years ago, I'd play without most of my back row. Now I just play without a queen (and I'm very generous with "Are you sure about that move? Take a look around first" coaching when he makes a blunder) and it's fairly competitive.
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2. Board Game: Heroscape Master Set: Rise of the Valkyrie [Average Rating:7.42 Overall Rank:270] [Average Rating:7.42 Unranked]
Mike Kozlowski
United States
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Michigan
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We've played with the basic rules for years now (which are very basic indeed), but in the last few months, we've played games with the advanced rules, and he's had no problem at all comprehending them. In scenarios that are more complex than "kill the enemies," his tactical analysis is lacking, but he does come up with the occasional clever idea or unexpected insight.
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3. Board Game: Memoir '44 [Average Rating:7.54 Overall Rank:117] [Average Rating:7.54 Unranked]
Mike Kozlowski
United States
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Michigan
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We've been playing this for a while. He's got no problem at all with understanding the rules or gameplay. I'll give him coaching on suggested moves sometimes, but mostly he just plays it without any assistance. I tend to win, because he underestimates the value of terrain, but he's getting better at that.
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4. Board Game: BattleLore [Average Rating:7.39 Overall Rank:253]
Mike Kozlowski
United States
Unspecified
Michigan
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I played a game (with the Agincourt scenario) with him about a year ago, and it was slightly too complex for him. We just tried it again a few weeks ago, though, and he's perfectly fine with it now. He understands the rules well, and is good at looking at the reference cards to make sure he's got them right, though I'll sometimes have to remind him of an "infrequent" rule (like infantry discarding a bonus hit when attacking mounted units, or the opportunity for pursuit), help him interpret a complicated card, or suggest good moves for him.
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5. Board Game: Battleground [Average Rating:6.96 Overall Rank:1742] [Average Rating:6.96 Unranked]
Mike Kozlowski
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Michigan
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We just played this very recently, and he was enthusiastic about it. (Moreso than I expected, given that it doesn't have quite the same toy value as the other games.) We played with the basic rules, and he needed lots of assistance understanding what he could do, but it was the first playthrough of a new game, and I was consulting the manual frequently myself, so that's not surprising. His tactics pretty much boiled down to "come at 'em and roll the dice" but he understood quickly why it was important not to let your units get surrounded; and he had no difficulty at all with the actual combat resolution phase of the game (though he'd often ask my advice as to which bonus card he should play).

So that's a quick summary of what we've been playing together. Overall, it strikes me as a fairly sophisticated set of games, and his gameplay is surprisingly astute... but he's still an eight-year-old.
 
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6. Board Game: Commands & Colors: Ancients [Average Rating:7.78 Overall Rank:98]
Mike Kozlowski
United States
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Michigan
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Okay, now we move on to the portion of the list where I'm looking for some feedback on games that we should be trying soon.

This is an obvious one, since he already knows the basic game mechanic well, and will just be learning some extra wrinkles; I don't think going from BattleLore to C&C:A should be any more difficult than M44 to BL, but admittedly haven't read the C&C:A rules yet. Another plus to this is that it'll make the shift from toy-based games, with realistic plastic figures, to visually abstract games with symbology and color coding.

I think he'll be ready for this soon, if not immediately. He's expressed desire to play it, so unless the rules are a lot more complicated than I think they are, it'll be on the table before too long.

EDIT 3/9: We've now played this together, and it was less complicated than I thought it would be. BL to C&C:A is a much smaller jump in complexity than M44 to BL, it turns out. And he had no problem at all with the blocks -- in fact, he really got caught up in the theme, and ended up reading some history books about the Punic Wars. Big success.
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7. Board Game: Tide of Iron [Average Rating:7.24 Overall Rank:582]
Mike Kozlowski
United States
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Michigan
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This keeps a familiar visual setting from M44 (plastic tanks and big hexes) while ramping up the complexity. How much does it ramp it up? Based on what he's playing now, is he ready for this, or is it a ways off?
 
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8. Board Game: War of the Ring (First Edition) [Average Rating:7.79 Overall Rank:82]
Mike Kozlowski
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Michigan
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I bought this game for my (Tolkien and boardgame loving) wife a few years back, but it turns out she doesn't enjoy war games, so it's never been played. My son adopted it as a great source of toy armies (the figures are much more interesting than the LOTR Risk ones, which he also plays with), so is very familiar with it visually and thematically. I've never even glanced at the actual rules, but I get a sort of Euro vibe about it, so hopefully they're fairly streamlined.

Do you think he's ready for this?
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9. Board Game: Combat Commander: Europe [Average Rating:7.90 Overall Rank:102]
Mike Kozlowski
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Michigan
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I know he's not ready for this now. But assuming he doesn't lose interest in boardgaming (unlikely, but you never know), I expect we'll eventually be playing medium-complex hex 'n' counter games. Is "12+" really meaningful? Does anyone have experience playing these types of games with a 12-year-old or even younger child?

EDIT 3/9: Played this with him recently, too, at his begging. I ended up taking a "rulesmaster" role, and making sure that everything happened in accordance with the instructions, since there's no way that he could handle these rules on his own (really, it was complex enough that I spent most of the turns buried in the rulebooks). With that in mind, he had a ton of fun playing the game, because it's very "narrative" -- he's controlling guys who are sprinting across an open field under fire, getting sniped in the woods, advancing through an orchard to take over a well-defended farmhouse, and so forth. He really related it to some of his favorite videogames, Call of Duty and Company of Heroes. It's sort of cool that cardboard counters and hex maps can be as evocative as 3D rendered videogames.

(I enjoyed it, too. Obviously, playing it against him is a very different experience than it would be against a competitive adult player, but it's still fun.)
 
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10. Board Game: Nexus Ops [Average Rating:7.24 Overall Rank:333]
Matt Davis
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New Concord
Ohio
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This isn't the best as a 2-player game, but it sounds like a good fit, I think. It's not really a strategic game - the secret mission cards make it more tactical, because you pretty much always have to over-extend yourself a bit to achieve them and get points and then just deal with the consequences, so it's not like that's a problem.

Edit: I forgot - toy value is a solid B, I think. The figs are not as large and detailed as HeroScape, but they are cool little bug-eyed monster-y things. and if he can play BattleLore, he should be ok here, too.
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11. Board Game: Terrain Vague [Average Rating:6.68 Overall Rank:7291]
Daniel Danzer
Germany
Stuttgart
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If you can find this somewhere ...

Juvenile gangs rumbling for their turf with slingshots, wheelbarrows and garbage can lids, plus a "big brother / sister" to "clear up", each figure acting within a range of three hexes.

Great fun, but with a bit confusing rules (the English file here is claryfying some things - good work!) - highly recommended!

The size of the modular board varies depending on the number of players:




Plus an action-point-system without any dice. I (and my 11-year-old son) love it!

Plus: Another theme than usual. After this you can go over to "Full Metal Planet" (also by Ludodélire) and fight for ressources on a far planet ...
 
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12. Board Game: Xiangqi [Average Rating:7.16 Overall Rank:1003]
Daniel Danzer
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Stuttgart
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mkozlows wrote:
When I started playing against him a few years ago, I'd play without most of my back row. Now I just play without a queen (and I'm very generous with "Are you sure about that move? Take a look around first" coaching when he makes a blunder) and it's fairly competitive.


Take this (from a chinese store or make one by yourself), turn the pieces round for drawing some icons on them making it easier to play without "reading" the chinese characters ...



... and you have a fast, perfect war / conflict game with rules unchanged for at least a thousand years. Plus: You don`t have such an advantage over your son as in chess - this one has no queen at all (but cannons capturing jumping over other pieces and other cool moves)!
 
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13. Board Game: Lord of the Rings: The Confrontation [Average Rating:7.21 Overall Rank:414]
Christen
Canada
Toronto
Ontario
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I was looking at this geeklist, when my husband leaned over, read the title and all he said was, "The Confrontation". So I'm adding it

Personally, my kids are going to be little eurogamers =)
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14. Board Game: Target Arnhem: Across 6 Bridges [Average Rating:6.51 Overall Rank:3419]
David Trent
United States
Yukon
OK
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I could recommend this one. It is a nice intro hex and counter game that isn't too complex. Plus, it is free with shipping from MMP's website, so even if it is a flop, you aren't out too much money. It has a small number of units to keep track of, and the map is small enough to keep him from being overwhelmed. The rules are dense, but only about 2 or 3 pages long. The play time is low (under two hours), so it will keep his interest.
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15. Board Game: Axis & Allies: D-Day [Average Rating:6.41 Overall Rank:2095]
Eddie B
United States
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Pennsylvania
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My 8 year old son likes this. It's pretty simple and plays in about 90 minutes. The new Guadalcanal might be an even better choice although I haven't tried that yet with my kids.
 
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16. Board Game: Hellas [Average Rating:6.22 Overall Rank:2279]
Kent Reuber
United States
San Mateo
California
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A good basic wargame.
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17. Board Game: Duell [Average Rating:6.36 Overall Rank:3104]
Kent Reuber
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San Mateo
California
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A good basic fencing game. It has some basic card counting, but is pretty basic.
 
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18. Board Game: Hordes of the Things [Average Rating:7.32 Overall Rank:3129]
Andreas Johansson
Sweden
Linköping
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I spent 200 GG and all I got was this lousy overtext!
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Kids younger than eight have been known to learn and enjoy this, yet has plenty depth to keep adults interested. Painting may or not be to your liking, of course. (If it isn't, with minimal modifications this could be played with Battleground cards.)
 
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19. Board Game: Star Wars: Epic Duels [Average Rating:6.97 Overall Rank:890]
Was George Orwell an Optimist?
United States
Corvallis
Oregon
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Randy Weston - The Spirits of Our Ancestors
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This would be a great choice, if you could find a copy.
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20. Board Game: Manoeuvre [Average Rating:7.32 Overall Rank:639]
Mike Kozlowski
United States
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Michigan
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A GMT game that seems aimed at a younger wargaming audience, with bright colorful board graphics and simple gameplay mechanics.

The basic rules were no problem, and he was able to play it quickly, but the tactics are subtle enough that he wasn't really appreciating the choices that are important to make. The simplicity combined with the subtlety ended up disengaging him somewhat, and he wanted to move on to something else quickly.

 
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