Board games through the eyes of little people
dave de boer
Canada
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My son is almost 6. Watching him play games, I’m reminded how little people often see things so different than big people. Sometimes, they just see things in a totally different way. Other times, their thoughts are embryos of what will later develop when they are teenagers or adults.

Here are some reflections on little people, big people and board games.
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1. Board Game: Memoir '44 [Average Rating:7.54 Overall Rank:117] [Average Rating:7.54 Unranked]
dave de boer
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Board games have nice bits.

Troubadour Jr can play a simplified version of M44. From the moment I opened the box, he was interested in the tanks. “When can we play with the tanks,” was his oft repeated query. Kids like the neat bits in board games and will have fun just because of those bits. Now, if I ever found a game with little tractors....

Us big people are supposed to be mature, so we shouldn’t suffer from this ‘magpie’ complex. Ahem, it seems that many of us have not progressed very far. Board game publishers know this and keep dangling more glittering gems that have us chasing around like lemmings. Fortunately, wives also know this and do their best to restrain us.
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2. Board Game: Cloud 9 [Average Rating:6.48 Overall Rank:1650]
dave de boer
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Board games are a negotiating position.

Credit goes to Mr Homo Ludens for this one. I read in one of his session reports how his son extended his bedtime because they were playing a game. Brilliant! Kids are such good and clever negotiators. I remember my son doing exactly the same thing with Cloud 9 one evening. He will also say things like, “If I behave myself, can we play a game after.” Or, “we haven’t played together lately, Dad.” Guilt, guilt, guilt.

Negotiation is an important skill. As an adult, my son will need this skill when he tries to convince his wife why he needs another board game when he already has 70. Best to start learning early.
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3. Board Game: Formula Motor Racing [Average Rating:6.39 Overall Rank:1939]
dave de boer
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Board games are a succession of small victories.

Never mind the big picture. Kids have fun with the small stuff. In Formula Motor Racing, Troubadour Jr doesn’t mind too much if he loses in the end. He just has fun passing other players and sending particular targets (read, Dad or Grandpa) back to the end of the row. Live for the moment.

A good reminder for us big people.
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4. Board Game: BattleLore [Average Rating:7.39 Overall Rank:253]
dave de boer
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Board games are interesting.

Troubadour Jr hasn’t played Battlelore too often. There’s too many other games that we can play that it isn’t worth the energy to try simplify this one. Nevertheless, whenever I play, he’s hovering in the background. “What’s a knight?” “What’s a goblin?” “Why is he riding a lizard?” “Are there lizards around here?” Etc, etc. He never forgets anything, either. Later on, I’ll hear him patiently imparting his wisdom to his friends with that special tone of voice kids have when they’re playing the role of resident expert on a particular topic.

I have to say, I’ve learned an interesting tidbit or two from board games, now that I think of it.
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5. Board Game: Marrakesh [Average Rating:6.26 Overall Rank:6146]
dave de boer
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Board games are funny.

Games make kids laugh. Troubadour Jr chuckles when he looks at the funny camel pictures on the tiles from Marrakesh. He chuckles when someone’s car flies of the track in PitchCar. He chuckles when Dad and Uncle Rob trash talk. He chuckles when he looks at the cards of For Sale and sees a welcome mat in front of cardboard box, a sewer manhole or a dog house.

Its good for us big people to remember that games are fun and humourous. If we take the time to see the humour, we can make the game a lot of fun for everyone else too. It really can be very funny in a Charlie Brown sort of way when that random event pops up at the last minute to ruin your fantastic plan. There’s always next time.

EDIT: grammar
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6. Board Game: Elfenland [Average Rating:6.74 Overall Rank:795]
dave de boer
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Board games let you collect stuff.

Ever notice that kids like to collect stuff when playing games. The games that Troubadour likes best are the ones where he can collect stuff. Its tangible, something he can see. It can be city markers in Elfenland, or a row of casualties in M44. Collecting is fun. Its especially fun when he counts what he has and then counts what you have and finds that he has more.

You can see where this is going, can’t you. One day, Troubadour Jr will be able to gloat over a large collection of games that he has built up. Or inherited from his Dad. It seems like that collecting itch doesn’t go away.
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7. Board Game: Animal Upon Animal [Average Rating:6.87 Overall Rank:728] [Average Rating:6.87 Unranked]
dave de boer
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Board games make other things fun.

Troubadour Jr went through a phase where he wouldn’t eat his peas. Or any vegetable. Or soup. Or anything that wasn’t pizza, pancakes or bread with chocolate spread. He would sit at the kitchen table long after we were finished and had cleaned up, picking away at his food and bemoaning his fate. I got into the habit for a while of playing a game with him to speed the process up. While playing the game, he didn’t notice that he was eating brocolli, rice or chicken. He was too engrossed in the game.

Us big people sometimes don’t have enough fun. We’re too busy being serious. I use board games as a way to relax and kick back with some friends. It’s a very necessary part of life, to help us forget the stuff we don’t want to think about but somehow always spend to much time thinking about.
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8. Board Game: The Farming Game [Average Rating:5.83 Overall Rank:7150]
dave de boer
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Board games let you build stuff.

Most kids have the ‘building gene’ tucked away somewhere. I always find my son behind me on Saturday, dragging his rake over the grass clippings, or tagging along with his own shovel and wheelbarrow. If I’m building or fixing, he’s building or fixing. In the farming game, Troubadour Jr gets to build his own farm. Its part of doing as adults do. He loves it.

I guess many of us never grow out the fun of building. But building on the kitchen table with meeples is a lot less trouble, causes fewer accidents and blisters and uses up a fair bit less sweat than building a real deck outside.
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9. Board Game: Old Maid [Average Rating:3.58 Overall Rank:15335]
dave de boer
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Board games let you get attention from other people.

Troubadour Jr doesn’t care what game we play. Sure, he likes the ones with cool bits (and if I ever find that game with little tractors, I’m not sure will play anything else ever again) but really it doesn’t matter what game it is, as long as he gets to play. Nothing makes a kid feel good more than spending time with the big folk.

Good reminder for us Dads.
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10. Board Game: PitchCar [Average Rating:7.25 Overall Rank:314]
dave de boer
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Board games have the potential for action.

Where do kids get their energy from? They always seem to have more than us big people do? Troubadour just loves those games where there’s lots of action. PitchCar is one of his favourites, and he’s like a little blur zipping around the table, fetching his car when it caroms of the track or lining himself for the next shot. And he could play for hours without losing steam.

Sigh. How quickly time flies.
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