How to bring up a child to be a good Board Game Geek.
Simon Taylor
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So you've just been born into the world. And Mum and Dad are nice enough to want the best for you, so they play games with you.

Better still, you've got a wonderful Aunt and Uncle, who are on hand to give you advice on what games to play throughout your childhood... so here's some advice.

If you're really lucky, some of the wonderful Aunts and Uncles from BGG will add comments to each age, suggesting other games that are particularly suitable for your age at that time.

So here is some advice from your loving relatives - 18 entries for the first 18 years of your life.
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1. Board Game: My First Lotto [Average Rating:3.29 Unranked]
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There's not a lot you can play before you've developed language, so to start off with, since you can't read this yet, go and get Mum to read it out for you. And since you won't understand it either, get Mum to do that bit too. This will stand you in great stead for later life - you'll discover that Mums really enjoy doing everything for you, so you should take this opportunity to set expectations.

So, as a 1-year-old, you have a couple of game choices:

1) Play a parentally-assisted game of Picture-lotto.
2) Play the "who can do the most wee on the carpet" game.

Mum will strongly recommend the former, but it's up to you.

There are doubtless numerous versions of the basic Lotto game, and when I was very young (young enough I don't remember playing it, though my mother tells me that I did), I had such a game. Mine worked like this:

1) Take a board with 9 pictures on it.
2) Take the cards, shuffle them, and put them in a face-down draw-pile (or get Mum to do that bit if you're busy smearing chocolate all over your face)
3) Taking it in turns with Mum, take a card from the draw-pile, and see if you can match it to your board. If you can, great! If not, see if it matches Mum's board. If it does, still great!
4) First one to complete their board wins. And, since you both helped, the other wins as well.
5) Ask Mum to wipe the chocolate off the cards for you, or the game will smell a bit next time you play.

Maybe one day you'll play Pandemic. Until then, this is the best co-op game in the world. Though, actually, since you've never played any others, this is the best game of any kind in the world. Funny it's not ranked higher on BGG as a result.
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2. Board Game: Bounce It-In Game [Average Rating:6.28 Overall Rank:6596]
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Congratulations! You've mastered walking - something that you'll continue to have a mastery of until you reach about 70, when it'll all go downhill again. You have also worked out how to move your arms and fingers in a reasonably controlled manner, which means that we can play Bounce!

Bounce! is simple. Bounce-It-In, pictured here, is equally simple, only it was made by a different manufacturer from Bounce!, and has two extra words in the title. It also has slightly smaller holes by the look of the picture, so I recommend Bounce! instead. Though it's probably OOP, so you might have to set up a Paypal account, and trawl through Ebay to find a copy. Don't worry about your lack of income - Mum will supply the details you need for your Paypal account. Paying For You is what she's there for - it's her second reason for being, after Doing Things For You.

Bounce works like this.

1) Take some plastic balls.
2) Squish them into unrecognisable shapes, lose a couple under the sofa, and then take some more.
3) Bounce the balls into the box, and hope that they land in a hole.
4) Celebrate wildly if you get one in the box.
5) Throw a tantrum if Mum gets one in the box and you don't. (There is no co-op about this one. You're out to win. Using tantrums is just a first lesson in gamesmanship - you might as well learn about that now.)
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3. Board Game: Snap [Average Rating:3.37 Overall Rank:15269]
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Ok, Bounce! was good, but it gets a bit samey after a while, don't you think? Fear not - this one is completely different. Play a game of Flying Hats. It works like this:

1) Take some plastic hats.
2) Squish them into unrecognisable shapes, lose a couple under the sofa, and then take some more.
3) Put the hats on the flipping device, and flip them into the box, hoping that they land in a hole.
4) Celebrate wildly if you get one in the box.
5) Get in a huff if Mum gets more in the box than you.

If that's not enough of a departure from Bounce! for you, then you can always try a new venture. Have a try at Snap!

This might be a little daunting at first, but it will soon become second nature. And it's a change to use your new-found language skills that you've been developing. You'll be able to add "Snap" to your vocabulary, alongside useful words like "Mumma", "Dadda", "Banana", "I want", "Mine", "Again", and your Dadda's favourite word "Bugga".

Playing Snap is a little more complicated, but don't worry - most big children don't really know how to play it properly even though they think they do, so you're safe enough. To play snap, you'll be needing Mum's help again. But she's just finished washing up after lunch, so she's ready to help.

To play snap:

1) Get a pack of cards (make friends with the cards, they will be friends for a long time).
2) Split the pack into half, and take half each. Marvel at your new understanding of fractions.
3) Taking it in turns with Mum to turn a card from your hand into a discard pile in front of you. One discard pile for you, and one for Mum.
4) If you see the same card on top of your pile and Mum's pile at the same time, then shout "Snap!". Don't just say it, shout it really loudly. You will later be able to replace the word 'Snap!' with 'Come on!' at any sports event you go to.
5) If you say Snap at the right time, then take all of the cards on the table, and then continue dealing to the discard pile in turns.
6) If you run out of cards to turn over, leave the top card of your discard pile on the table, take the rest back, and continue. If you run out of cards in the discard pile too, then Mum's won.

You'll find an amazing number of big children think you play snap with just one pile, rather than one each. If they try to bully you into playing that way, then just jump on their feet. Hard. Don't give in to big bullies.
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4. Board Game: Chutes and Ladders [Average Rating:2.79 Overall Rank:15346]
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Well now, you've been introduced to cards, but there are some important new components to get to grips with. Dice, Boards and Counters. Fortunately, all three can be found in your game for this year. Since you're now probably starting school, you should be used to learning, so this should be second nature.

So, it's time to play Snakes and Ladders. Since your brain is busy working with school work like colouring in, making christmas tree decorations for Mum and Dad, and losing your pencils, you'll like this game, since you don't need to use your brain for anything other than learning about how dice and counters work. Oh, and a little adding up.

To play Snakes and Ladders:

1) Roll Die.
2) Move counter.
3) Go up ladders and down snakes. (Ladders are useful things for climbing up to get higher. Snakes are particularly useless as slides, so don't ask why the game has snakes in it. This is why your climbing frame has ladders, but has slides rather than snakes. However, do remember than snakes are bad. If you ever meet one as you're wandering around the shops, you'll know to get out of the way.)
4) First one to the top wins. (This will also be true of business, when you're old enough to get a job. Remember this. Just replace snakes with "Speaking Controversially" and ladders with "Making Sure All Good Things Have Your Name On Them, And All Bad Things Have Your Boss/Employee's Name On Them".)
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5. Board Game: Racing Snakes [Average Rating:4.77 Unranked]
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Time for an important lesson in boardgaming. After all, you're five now, so it's time. Most great games have Extensions. Snap and Snakes and Ladders are no exception to this.

First, take Snap. You know how, often, you both say Snap at the same time? Right - it's an inherant flaw in the basic game, so here we introduce Snap Pools. If you say Snap at the same time, put all the cards to one side, into the Snap Pool. When a third card, identical to the two that caused the original Snap call, appears, then shout "Snap Pool". You then get all the cards from the Snap Pool, and continue with the rest of the cards as usual.

You want to know what happens if you have a second joint Snap, before you've collected the first Snap Pool? Do you have one giant Snap Pool, or Snap Pools A and B separately? Damn it, you're only 5, how did you think of that!? I can see you're going to be trouble when you're older. Go and post on BGG, under the Rules section for Snap, and ask about it.

So, you've played the extended Snap version; time for the extended Snakes and Ladders version. There are a lot of these. If you really want to drive Mum crazy, then try Alice in Wonderland. If you're hoping to get a car for your birthday when you're 18, and starting the charm offensive early, then go for a friendlier alternative - maybe you could make your own. Or, if you want a more grown-up version with a small snippet of strategy, try Racing Snakes, or Monopoly.
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6. Board Game: The Merry Game of Floundering [Average Rating:4.39 Overall Rank:14304]
 
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Bored of Snakes and Ladders now, because you've realised that all you do is roll and move? It's a fair point. You're old enough to deserve better. But you still want something enjoyable, of course, and dice are fun. What better than The Merry Game of Floundering?

This is again based on dice, but this time, you have two of them, and you get to add the numbers together sometimes. You also have a few decisions to make along the way, as you roll and build fish. And there are small opportunities to be mean to the other players! You can now not only roll-and-move, but also roll-and-build-and-shaft. Not long to go now before you can play Settlers of Catan!

You may also want to try a game of Uno - it's a rite of passage, so you might as well get it out of the way now. Or, if you want a theme to it, try Speed. That same suggestion will be made to you when you're at a club in your mid teens. Make sure you turn that offer down though.
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7. Board Game: Boggle [Average Rating:6.19 Overall Rank:1960]
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Seven! And my, how you've grown! Aren't you becoming all grown-up already?

So, time for a grown-up game, that will help your vocabulary at the same time. What? No - not Junior Scrabble - are you mad?, that's awful. No, it's time for Boggle.

Ok, so you're young, and Mum and Dad are aged and know tons of stupid words. Even your Dad knows more words than just Bugga. But that's ok, because you can ask for some House Rules. What are those? Those are rules that you make when you keep losing a game, and want to change it to a slightly different version of a game so you have more chance of winning. Well, ok, sometimes it's just because the person who designed the game clearly didn't play it or read the rules before publishing it, but that's not the case here.

So, your house rules are as follows.

1) All children under 8 are allowed 2-letter words, not just 3-and-over.

Actually, this is poor - you're only under 8 for another year. Get your long-term strategic thinking going - you'll need it for board games when you're older. So...

1) All children under 12 are allowed 2-letter words, not just 3-and-over.
2) All children under 12 score a point for every word they get, and two points if no-one else got it.
3) All children under 12 are allowed proper nouns.

Excellent. By the time you reach 12, Mum and Dad will be so old and past it, you'll beat them anyway, without the house rules, so that should do you fine.
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8. Board Game: Carcassonne [Average Rating:7.43 Overall Rank:139] [Average Rating:7.43 Unranked]
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Eight! And my, how you've grown!

So you've done a number of educational games that involve words and numbers, which is very wholesome. But it's time to play some more grown-up games now, and time for some more involving themes. Certainly you're old enough for Carcassonne.

This will introduce you to some more exciting boardgame features: Tiles, Meeples, and Confusing Scoring. It will also cement your knowledge of Expansions and Shafting-other-players. And if you're ever going to want to be living in the countryside, it's wise not to learn that farmers spend their whole days lying about in fields.

And I know how much you love your dice, so why not give Yahtzee a go?
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9. Board Game: Ticket to Ride: Europe [Average Rating:7.58 Overall Rank:91] [Average Rating:7.58 Unranked]
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Nine! And my, how you've gr-oW! I see you've not forgotten that tip of jumping on people's feet that I taught you when you were three.

With a mastery of Carcassonne, you could probably spend the whole year just playing with the expansions, but it would be a shame not to learn something new, wouldn't it? You're probably at an age now where you could play Ticket-to-Ride. And besides, you must like trains, right?

With this, you're going to have to add an element of planning to your boardgame arsenal. Picking routes that go together well, picking the right colour trains, and getting your trains down in the right places before others. But you'll get the hang of it pretty quickly.

And if you lose at first, don't worry. You've learnt another lesson that will be useful when you end up commuting to work in later life. Trains are damn annoying, and often take long circuitous routes to get where they're going, only to stop part-way there at a station and expect you to find your own way from there onwards.
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10. Board Game: Backgammon [Average Rating:6.53 Overall Rank:1089]
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Ah, a decade of boardgaming behind you - what could you want for now? Well, for the last two years, you've been playing new, themed games. So for a contrast, how about some of the old abstract games? A bit of history.

Backgammon involves the dice that you loved from Snakes and Ladders, but there's now a lot more to think about. You can have a go at draughts, dominoes, chinese checkers - all good strategy games from yesteryear. And if you get sick of Dad saying "I used to have this when I was younger", then try out some of the newer strategic games like Ingenious. See if he's ingenious enough to beat you. And remember - if he wins, shrug it off; he's an adult. If you win, shout "Come On!" (or "Snap", if you prefer), and make sure to tell Mum. Twice. Per hour.

And I notice you're playing with Dad now - is that because Mum's too busy? Yes, Mums are often busy. So persuade her to play Mastermind with you. She can do the setting-up-a-code bit, and you can do the working-it-out bit. That will give you something to work on, and she need only give input every ten minutes, put in a couple of white pegs, and then go back to peeling the potatoes for lunch.
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11. Board Game: Alhambra [Average Rating:7.03 Overall Rank:393]
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So the abstract ones were ok, but you long for some theme again. I can understand that. And you're old enough now that you can play most of the adult games out there. So how about getting stuck into some of the popular modern games that you can play with Mum and Dad, like Settlers of Catan, Hacienda, Alhambra or San Marco. Or, you still love dice? Kingsburg, perhaps.
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12. Board Game: Scrabble [Average Rating:6.29 Overall Rank:1505]
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You've been talking to Chris and Sarah at school, and they've never even heard of Carcassonne? Wow. You should teach them one day. Doubtless they'll try to get you to play some mind-numbing game like Monopoly, Cluedo or Risk, just because they've heard of them. Or, worse still, perhaps they've got some junior version of Trivial Pursuit. You have two options:

1) Remove Chris and Sarah from your friendship group. They are clearly inferior beings.
2) Find a game that they've heard of, but isn't really annoying.

Let's hope you have some social skills, and have therefore opted for option 2. What can you suggest, that they will have heard of, but will give you an interesting challenge?

First of all, you can try Scrabble. After all, you've been brought up on Boggle, so your word powers are pretty good now. And add the strategies and scoring abilities that you've picked up since then, and you'll be half-decent at Scrabble straight away. You might also try Chess - it's hardly got the excitement of the games you were playing last year, but at least it makes you think, and when you think well, you can beat Chris and Sarah nice and easily.

If you're feeling brave, there's option 3. Teach them a better game. Given that all they've heard of is Monopoly and Risk, you may have to start at a low level. Go back and fetch Carcassonne, and start with that.
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13. Board Game: Wallenstein (first edition) [Average Rating:7.51 Overall Rank:342]
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A bit of what? War? You've had enough of sheep? Really? Well, ok, let's find you a game that involves more fighting, but is better than Chris's game of Risk that he keeps trying to get you to play.

Why not try Wallenstein - you've just started learning a bit of German anyway, so that fits in nicely, doesn't it?
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14. Board Game: Puerto Rico [Average Rating:8.06 Overall Rank:16]
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The time is ripe for you to have a go at the top-ranked game in the 'geek. Let's get out Puerto Rico. You can set it up, while I make a cup of tea. Yes, exactly that number of colonists. Get counting.
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15. Board Game: The New Teen Choices [Average Rating:2.00 Unranked]
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What? You what? "Just Hang Out"? And do what? Just... chill?

Damnit. I was hoping you'd not reach the teenage phase. I guess we'll have to agree to disagree on everything now until you reach about 18.
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16. Board Game Designer: Reiner Knizia
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Good job you've gone off games for a bit, because you've got exams to take. Now get to it! You need to pass your exams, so that you can get a job, and earn money to buy board games with. If you're really lucky, you can just become a famous board-game designer and get the money and the games all at once! If that happens, and you manage to make any money, remember who it was that got you involved in board games, ok?
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17. Board Game: Yahtzee [Average Rating:5.29 Overall Rank:15240]
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And I see you've gone back to playing Yahtzee again. Oh dear, what a step backwards. Because why? Because Ashley loves it? Who's Ashley!? Ashley is... oh, I see. Hmm. Now, did your parents have a little talk with you a few years ago... yes? Good. Play nicely with Ashley. And safely.
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18. Board Game: Agricola [Average Rating:8.03 Overall Rank:17]
Simon Taylor
Australia
Live in Perth, Australia
Born and bred in Britain
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...into Microbadge ;-)
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Time to leave school and go to university. Have you got everything you need? Clothes... Pens... A Toaster... yes, good. Now, you'll need to take some good games with you, so that you can have your own board-game parties, and find friends with whom you can form lasting friendships. This is important, as you don't want to get stuck with a load of friends who boast about staying up all night to play Monopoly, once, ten years ago. But you're old enough to make your own decisions about what to take. Have a look at the 'geek.

At the moment, the top games that you've not already played are Power Grid and Twilight Struggle. And Agricola is the hottest game of the moment. So take one of those. Which one depends on whether you decided you liked sheep more than war, or the other way round. Anyway, I've done my best - now it's up to you to spread the word!

The cost? Yes, they cost a bit if you want to buy them. What did you think your Dad gave you money for - buying textbooks!?
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