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Subject: After Disappointing Results With Adults, I Turn to My Kids rss

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James Fehr
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Hi there! Follow my gaming exploits on Twitter (fehrmeister)
The first couple of times I played this game were not very successful. See:
But after playing a couple of times with some friends who knew the game like the back of their hands, and getting a good feel for how the game is supposed to play, I decided to try it out with my 4 oldest children (aged 7 through 10). My oldest boy, Sam age 8, had tried it once well over a year ago and still remembers many details about his experience, which he thoroughly enjoyed and regaled his siblings with stories of. The other kids were eager to try it themselves, including my oldest girl, aged 10, who has gotten over her distaste of pretending to be shooting cowboys which had kept her out of that first game last year.

It was much easier to explain the different cards and how they were to be used to the kids than I thought it would be. I dealt each of them 2 character cards from which they could choose, and helped them understand what each character was good for. Then we dove in with one of the 7-year-old twins as the sheriff. I helped the kids a little with the meanings of their various cards as we played, and no one was too worried about other players seeing their hands. The only real challenge in explaining the rules was of course how the shooting distance works, but even that was only a small obstacle that was no match for the kids’ zeal to learn this game. Our first game went for several rounds. Sam and I were outlaws and eventually we were able to knock off the sheriff. I had been a little concerned that the child playing the renegade would not understand the order in which she should try to eliminate the other players, but my 10-year-old girl handled her role very well, actually leading me to believe she was probably the deputy by her feigned loyalty to the sheriff. No one cried when they got eliminated, and it was funny to listen to the kids talk to each other as they went off to bed about how they had done and what fun they’d had.

They had so much fun the first time that they were begging to play it again, with Mom as well this time. So the next day before bedtime we brought it out again, and this time the kids showed up in cowboy hats and scarves, which they had dug up on their own. They were already a lot more comfortable with the cards and how to use them to their advantage in this second game. Outlaw Mom was dispatched fairly quickly, but the rest of the outlaws were able to win without her as the other 7-year-old twin was the sheriff, and couldn’t maintain law and order long enough for the victory. My wife was quite taken aback with how well they understood the game, and how much they were into it. In this game, we brought out the Fistful of Cards expansion, but only got to use the first couple of cards as the game only lasted about 3 full rounds.

The kids have wanted to play it each night since then, and I’ve obliged them whenever I could. I’ve played many different games with them over the past couple of years, but no other game has grabbed their collective imagination this way and had this much staying power for all of them. It’s been very amusing and satisfying to find a game that looks like it’s going to become “our game”: one that I can bring out any time and have a bunch of cowboys in line ready to join me. They are now very familiar with all of the cards and the various characters and their abilities. It’s one of those turning points in my family’s gaming life where I’m now having just as much fun playing an “adult” game with my kids as I would with adults, and where they can play just about as well as adults to boot.

I’m going to bring out the Dodge City expansion soon and see how they respond to that. They will love having even more characters to choose from, and I don’t think the green cards will be too complicated for them.

Some general notes on the way they’ve been playing:
- They almost universally dislike the dynamite card. If someone gets enough courage to play it, it will immediately be snuffed out with a Cat Ballou card. They figure if you’re going to go down, it shouldn’t be because of such a random event.
- They absolutely love the Willy the Kid character and the Volcanic gun card, and use it to its full advantage.
- No one really wants to be the Renegade, but they’ll still give a good effort if they end up with that card. The most popular role seems to be that of the Deputy for some odd reason.
- The favorite card to play on an opponent seems to be the Duel card. It’s always the first card to go if it’s turned up by the General Store card. They love how you can play it on anyone and enjoy saving up enough Bang cards themselves so it can’t backfire on them.
- They prefer not to play with the Fistful of Cards expansion, as they feel that too many of the cards are similar to character bonuses, and they don’t like the idea of having someone they’ve done away with coming back from the dead. It made me chuckle to hear these little tykes discussing this.

I didn’t think this would make a good kids game, but I have been very pleasantly surprised and pleased! I’m now looking forward to many more evenings of this with my little cowboys.

Edited: Corrected some spelling
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