Recommend
9 
 Thumb up
 Hide
4 Posts

Alhambra» Forums » Sessions

Subject: 1st Game with Daughter (9) and Son (6) by Sag, Father of 4. rss

Your Tags: Add tags
Popular Tags: Kids [+] [View All]
Man thinks, the river flows.
United States
Riva
Maryland
flag msg tools
Avatar
mbmbmb
When Tanga put Alhambra up for $9.99 I just had to jump. In spite of a far-from-direct route that it took to my house via FedEx Ground, it arrived just one day late and I had the opportunity to play with my two oldest kids, Kaylin and Sean.

I took the time to read the rules once-through prior to the game, which I don't necessarily recommend when you play with your kids. It is often the case that your kids will enjoy discovering the game from scratch with you, and will absolutely love cracking open the plastic and pulling out the pieces for the first time. If you do decide to buy this one you might consider a compromise -- keep the game in the plastic and read the rules here online first. But if they're older it's fun to just jump into it for the first time with them, rules and all.

All that said, with Alhambra I had the basics of the rules under me before we sat down, and I think this was a good idea this time. Alhambra is not a heavyweight game, but a few of its concepts can confuse a kid (or you!) on the first pass -- choices on your turn allow you to do one of three different things, the palace you build has to obey certain rules, and there's ways to get extra turns and a few of the technicalities involved in that are worth having in your back pocket beforehand. I let Kaylin and Sean do most of the game setup and explained the pieces as they set them down in place. Nothing too complicated and they got to play with the tiles and boards and stuff.

As with Queen's Necklace and Ticket to Ride, I chose to play with my cards face-up on the table so that my kids could see how my thought process went, and I recommended that they do the same so that we could help each other learn on this our first time playing. All agreed and the cards remained face up for the duration. This proved valuable in one way, but changed the game a bit in another, which I'll get to.

Once the pieces were laid down we had the opportunity to play. This was a late evening session, and it was the night we set the clocks back so we could play to 9pm. This gave us plenty of opportunity to get through the first scoring round and see how the game played out. My son had the worst cards to start so got to go first. I recommended he take a "9" money card for his turn, as that would even up his money deficit and he went for it. I went next and picked up an 8. My daughter got great money in the initial deal of cards and was able to pay the exact amount for a palace tile on her first turn -- which as the rules state allowed her to go a second time. She picked up a valuable money card and was the first to start building her palace.

Play continued around and on Kaylin's second turn she got a break and did the double-turn trick again and was feeling pretty smug about it. I didn't take the time to do an appropriate "reevaluation of expectations" with her which was a mistake on my part. Playing a game with a younger brother is perilous for nine-year-old girls, as there is always the possibility, however remote it may be, that he might (hang on tight) actually win the game. In the event that the little firvulag actually manages to come from behind to do it, a parent should be fully prepared to separate the children with no little haste and have a well-practiced explanation that politely and clearly lays out how life works (my wife refers to it as the "shit happens" speech and has a great writeup for anyone who is interested.) I always have my copy of the speech ready but had I tuned her in early it might have been less needed.

It was about this time that I figured out that, when you play your cards face-up, you can figure out on your turn whether you will have an exact amount of money for a purchase at the beginning of your turn next time around. And I don't mean for a "likely" purchase next time around -- with the cards up you can be sure you'll get it. This is a neat trick that you don't bump into in most games, likely because we weren't actually using the rules as written. But there it was.

I described my thought process out loud on this and my kids seemed to understand what I was getting at. In a real game with the cards hidden this will not be the case -- you will not be able to determine if the other players in the game can purchase your targeted tile before it comes around to you again. With the cards showing you can not only figure out which tile you have a shot at, but actually know whether it will be there or not because you can see if your opponents will have enough money to buy it before you. Although this would not happen in a real game, it worked out well in our mini-game because I was able to show my son that he would be better off taking a 4 Florin card than the more valuable 8 Florin card because it would give him an exact match for a purchase on his next turn. A calculated risk if the hands are hidden, but a sure thing in this case. He grokked that well (as did my daughter) and each changed their game play appropriately. A good lesson had been learned -- do your math and be thinking one turn ahead. In a real game this would be a good bet.

As it happens this turned out to be a VERY valuable play for him as he ended up having the opportunity to purchase TWO tiles for the exact price, and got three turns instead of the normal one. At this point my daughter realized what cheating looked like, even if it didn't, you know, include the violation of any actual game rules. She protested that Sean had "way too much money" and that three was just too many turns. I asked her if she wanted me to start confiscating money and she quickly said no (she knows me quite well at this age) but she wanted to know if the rules specifically said three turns were OK. Well good news! Alhambra's rules specifically state that even FIVE turns are OK, if you're lucky enough to be carrying around exact change. So she got quiet. Steam began curling off the top of her head.

The problem was that when her brother added to his palace with the new pieces he neutralized one of her palace parts and suddenly had the longest wall. In short order the first scoring card came up (right at 9pm) which was our agreed stopping point for our first stroll through the Palace of Alhambra. Sean won by a nose, Kaylin was two points behind in second, and Dad, in spite of playing his best game, only scored two points and looked pretty foolish. I told them I had been investing for scoring opportunities in later rounds, and they pretended to believe it.

A good little session although short and incomplete. It gave a good run of the rules and although our palaces weren't huge we each had a feeling of accomplishment even if our little brother did cheat to beat us. A nice use of the time with my kids.

What I learned:

1. Six-year-olds have the math skills for Alhambra. Sean is two months into first grade and was fully capable of the addition required for purchases, and was also able to understand the "get to the exact amount by selecting the right card" math.
2. With coaching he could stay within the rules and play a solid game, which is usually my minimum requirement for playing. With cards hidden I think I could simply tell him "try to add a color up to the exact cost of the tile on it and pick that card" and I think he could take it from there. No doubt he could understand add-up-enough-to-exceed-the-cost on his own. This is a nice foray into money use with a very small penalty for making mistakes.
3. Nine-year-olds are fully prepared for the game. Although Kaylin likely couldn't go head-to-head in an adult crowd with cards hidden, I don't doubt she could play a solid if not cutthroat game, and is fully capable of understanding the rules. Likely explain them too. She's ready.
4. Important to keep an adult nearby when the kids are playing to intercede if the little brother starts to win. I don't doubt that had I not been there Kaylin would have accused Sean of cheating and the game would have broken down. Without my eyes there at the time it would have been difficult to figure out if cheating had occurred or not, although given the cast of the play I'd have likely worked out the plot line without the script. I'm guessing the rules would have been hard for them to follow as well. We made some mistakes on the "walk-around" technicality on palace building (see the rules for details) and had to "do over" on a few occasions. Had I not been there these likely would have fallen apart. Once they have played a dozen times the rules will likely not be an issue, but the arguing as with any game is bound to happen.
5. The game is essentially language independent, except for the rule book. Color coding manages the cards, tiles, and scoring. Color blind kids will likely encounter some difficulties that may make the game harder for them, but the text would suffice.
6. The materials involved are tough. The cards are quite solid although they stuck a bit, which may not be an issue after a few shuffles. A nice bennie -- the cards come shuffled! In the event a card gets damaged it's likely not a crisis as all of them go face up before you can purchase. It's not much of a mystery who is collecting what. It's also possible to play a card or two short as no single card is a show stopper for victory or defeat. To summarize, the game is well designed for the kind of beating a kid or two will dish out.
7. The one place where I think the packaging dropped the ball is on what the real Alhambra is. There is some quick mentions of it and when it was built, but a few photos or drawings and a one-paragraph blurb on who built it, who the patron was, or who lived in it would have been very nice. In my opinion, the rule-writers should have found the name of an appropriate historical figure and used that as the dummy third player for their two-player rules instead of "Matt." Matt? Who the heck is Matt? Would it have killed them to use Yusuf?

If you're looking to get your kids playing a "grown-up" game (and that's how I would sell it to them), Alhambra is a good choice that I have not seen appear on any of the kid's lists. I wouldn't expect a threat to your gaming ego from them, but this game is a nice change from Madagascar Sorry! and Hungry Hungry Hippos. Good for the math skills, teaches forward thinking, and has a nice historical theme for what is one of the most fascinating parts of European history. I'm glad I got it, and glad I got it out with the kids.

Sag.
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Denise Lavely
United States
Carmel
Indiana
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Thanks, Sag! I've been thinking about introducing this to DD age 6, and your session report have given me some good ideas.

There have been a number of session reports lately on how to play various games with the younger set, they are really helpful for us parents!
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Man thinks, the river flows.
United States
Riva
Maryland
flag msg tools
Avatar
mbmbmb
Re: 1st Game with Daughter (9) and Son (6) by Sag, Father of
    I'm not brave enough to pull it out with my three-year-old twins yet.
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Billy McBoatface
United States
Lexington
Massachusetts
flag msg tools
KGS is the #1 web site for playing go over the internet. Visit now!
badge
Yes, I really am that awesome.
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Re: 1st Game with Daughter (9) and Son (6) by Sag, Father of
I think that it's the real Alhambra on the cover of the box, if you want to see it.

As for Matt, I found him puzzling too. Earlier (German?) editions apparently call him "Dirk" (as in Dirk Henn) instead, which makes perfect sense.

I played it last night for the first time. It was a 2p, with my wife and 4yo daughter being a team. Adding up the cards is too much for the daughter, but as a team they had fun, because my daughter was able to place the tiles on the alhambra and pick out "the biggest" money card for the draw. We had a good time. Can't wait until she's 6 and can play on her own like your son!
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Front Page | Welcome | Contact | Privacy Policy | Terms of Service | Advertise | Support BGG | Feeds RSS
Geekdo, BoardGameGeek, the Geekdo logo, and the BoardGameGeek logo are trademarks of BoardGameGeek, LLC.