Raiding the Toy Chest: Kids' Games for Serious Gamers
Bill H
United States
Absecon
New Jersey
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"Shijuro" in Awatum (Serpent's Tongue)
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"A master in the art of living draws no sharp distinction between his work and his play, his labour and his leisure, his mind and his body, his education and his recreation." LP Jacks
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There have been plenty of geeklists about quality childrens' games, or kid's games that grown-ups can enjoy playing with children, and a few about kid's games that could be fun for adults as fillers (possibly while enebriated).

I'm looking for games designed and marketed for children that:

Would be enjoyed by "serious gamers", if they gave them a chance.
Are sufficiently substantial to be a "main game" at game night (not a filler)
Take on different qualities when played by adults (gain cutthroat or heavily strategic elements).

Games like Loopin' Louie are fun for all ages, but I'm looking for games that take on a different quality when played by a group of serious adult gamers.

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1. Board Game: duck! duck! Go! [Average Rating:6.02 Overall Rank:3938]
Bill H
United States
Absecon
New Jersey
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"Shijuro" in Awatum (Serpent's Tongue)
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"A master in the art of living draws no sharp distinction between his work and his play, his labour and his leisure, his mind and his body, his education and his recreation." LP Jacks
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This plays like a slightly-less-random RoboRally. The theme is rubber duckies racing to tag a series of buoys then finish at the drain. Players select a move (each may contain an optional aspect, like choice of branches or a selection of facings) and reveal them simultaneously, resolving in the order of unique numbers on the cards, with smaller moves occurring first.

Strategy involves second-guessing opponents' moves, sometimes playing a less optimal move to get the the jump on an opponent.

The last-place player gets to move the bird-dog which can obstruct or be steered into opponents to send them to remote teleports (the starting position life-preservers). Some of the more advanced maps contain multiple board areas linked by teleport, and forcing the game leader onto a remote board can set them back several moves as they attempt to maneuver back onto the life preserver to return.

Touching a buoy earns a unique special move token which may be subsequently used for things like a special move or rotation when needed, or to unexpectedly take control of the bird-dog for maximum screwage.

With kids, this is a friendly rubber-ducky race game but with older players it becomes an intense bout of out-thinking and out-maneuvering.
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2. Board Game: Château Roquefort [Average Rating:6.85 Overall Rank:1089]
Bill H
United States
Absecon
New Jersey
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"Shijuro" in Awatum (Serpent's Tongue)
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"A master in the art of living draws no sharp distinction between his work and his play, his labour and his leisure, his mind and his body, his education and his recreation." LP Jacks
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Each player controls 4 mice and takes 4 actions per turn. An action consists of:
1. moving your mouse 1 space orthogonally,
2. removing a roof section adjacent to one of your mice (revealing that section of the floor tiles),
3. Once per turn you may slide a spare tile into the edge of the roof, shifting the entire row (or column) by 1 space.
If two of your mice are on pictures of the same cheese, you collect that cheese token. Collect 3 different tokens to win.

The tiles are random each game and initially hidden by the roof pieces. The floor spaces are mostly open frames to reveal the tile beneath. Tiles may be blank, contain a cheese, or be another open frame which allows the mouse to fall into the box (removing it from the game).

Children love to make the mice fall in (it's difficult to keep them from trapping themselves just for fun) and enjoy matching the cheeses for tiles.

More mature players use the sliding tiles much more effectively by moving certain cheeses under obstructions or by coordinating over several turns to get an open frame beneath the leader's mice. These games run longer with more defensive moves and some brain-burning strategy to the tile shifting.
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3. Board Game: Hare & Tortoise [Average Rating:6.65 Overall Rank:1085]
kSwingrÜber
United States
Ridgefield
Washington
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I've only ever played the German version, Hase und Igel, but it's a real brain burner. Not because I don't speak a word of German (the cards are very simple), but because of the math and logic involved in playing this with intelligent, computer-geeky type adults...

No variants needed!

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4. Board Game: Heimlich & Co. [Average Rating:6.45 Overall Rank:1542]
kSwingrÜber
United States
Ridgefield
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Another tricky game from Ravensburger Spieleverlag GmbH. A lot of second-guessing needed. Sometimes I think these games are marketed as "kids' games" since they have simple rules, and minimal components... but they can be quite complicated when played with adult gamers.
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5. Board Game: Connect Four [Average Rating:4.84 Overall Rank:15418]
Christian Jorgensen
New Zealand
Auckland
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I don't think a lot of people realise just how much thought can go into a game of this.

For a really good game you need a bigger playing board, or you end up filling the plastic rack up to no conclusion. One game my friend and I had we filled, and emptied, the rack 5 times before one of us won.

After that we used to use a go set, with one edge designated as the bottom. Having more room to play takes connect 4 from good to great.
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6. Board Game: Two by Two [Average Rating:6.08 Overall Rank:4647]
Rob Bartel
Canada
Edmonton
Alberta
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Excuse the shameless self-promotion as I post my own upcoming game to this list. whistle It's a serious question that came up throughout the game's development, however, and in the publisher's choice of artwork and positioning for the final version.

Any game with a Noah's Ark theme inevitably takes on a childlike feel, thanks to the menagerie of cute and fuzzy animals and the familiar simplicity of the story. As you can tell by the cover art, we decided to embrace that while hopefully not going so far as to turn away adult players. At one point, however, we actively considered pursuing a contrarian, adult-centric position for the game, complete with a stern Noah pictured against a darkening and stormy sky and a more naturalistic approach to the animals.

Design-wise, the final rules also include two scoring systems, basic and advanced, to better support both audiences (for those who are curious, Valley Games has posted the English rules to the files section). There's also an aspect of gameplay (the potential drowning of animals) that goes deliberately unmentioned in the rules, although it is implied. Blind playtesting has consistently found that families and children typically steer clear of that aspect and assume that it's prohibited whereas groups of adult gamers usually arrive at an "Aha!" moment one or two games in and suddenly start shifting and rethinking their strategies to take that more vicious approach into account.

All told, this prototype became a recurring favorite of my regular gaming group (you'll find many of their names listed in the playtesting credits). All of them were grad students at the time, without children, and heavily into Euros (Power Grid and more recently Dominion were other recurring favorites, for instance).

Once the game's finally released, I'll be very interested to see how it fares among different types of gamers and how the general gaming public ultimately ends up categorizing it.
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