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Subject: First-time Play with my Nine-Year Old rss

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Jeremiah Dwyer
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After wanting to try Forbidden Island for months, I finally bit the bullet and bought it last week at Borders with one of those 40% off coupons. My oldest child, a nine-year old boy named Caden, could barely contain his excitement. For three straight days he asked, "Dad, can we play Forbidden Island?" but other chores and responsibilities kept intervening. Finally, last night we had some free time, and we were able to play our first game of Forbidden Island together.

As it was out first play, we set the difficulty to the lowest level, and we decided to choose our professions, rather than randomly draw them. Caden chose the Pilot, and I chose the Messenger; this seemed like a solid combination, with little overlap of special abilities. The Island cards were placed, floods were processed, and off we went!

We were lucky in terms of our initial Treasure Card draws, as we drew three cards of the "Globe" treasure between us. Caden played first; he passed off his "Globe" treasure card to me, flew to a treasure site, and shored it up. On my first turn, I was able to shore up the landing/take off spot, as well as another site.

I won’t detail every move we made throughout the game; needless to say, with the game set to the lowest difficulty level, we didn’t have too much trouble finishing with the victory. What helped us out in winning, besides the lowest difficulty, was: 1) prior general experience in playing cooperative games; 2) Caden’s Pilot ability was really fun for him, as he regularly played the "Hero saving the day" by moving across the board to take care of a problem; 3) two of the three "Waters Rise!" cards came late in the initial run through the Treasure Card deck; 4) my prior experience playing Pandemic, which (I think) helped in terms of formulating priorities (the two games have a similar feel, more so than with other cooperative games such as Castle Panic). We ended the game with Caden flying over to the Landing Point, and me using the Lift-Off card to escape with victory! We lost three or four tiles along the way, but only one proved to be problematic (it hindered my movement toward the end of the game, requiring an extra turn to get to the Landing Point before we could win).

As I’ve noted in my prior session reports, when I play games with my kids, I hope to facilitate the development of logical thinking as it applies to the particular game we are playing. In head-to-head games (most recently, Pirate vs. Pirate), I initially played with a significant handicap to myself, in order to allow for them to make the multiple mistakes I anticipated they’d make on the first play, balanced against keeping it competitive so the kids would have a fun, positive experience with the game. After they saw a few of my moves (and how competitive those moves made me, despite starting with three fewer pieces), they adapted, and I simultaneously increased my playing strength by adding back pirates to my side.

With a co-op game, I this type of effort tends to require a different approach. With Forbidden Island, I’d generally ask Caden what he thought we should do on each turn; if he overlooked something very important, I’d raise the issue as a possible concern (usually he realized how important said issue was, such as finishing a turn on a flooded tile that had a high probability of disappearing on the next turn). As we play this again, what I’ll probably do is: 1) raise the difficulty of the game, per the instructions; 2) solicit more advice on my turn, but; 3) see is he requests any advice on his turn. To the extent he doesn’t, and ends up making mistakes, that’ll provide teachable moments.

Next up: introducing my almost seven-year old to the game. I’ll turn over some of the teaching of the game to my nine-year old, to add even more skill-development to his gaming experience. Overall, this game has been played and reviewed a bunch, so I won’t go into detail regarding that stuff. What I will say is that our initial session was a lot of fun, easy to learn, and had a few tense moments that added to the excitement. I highly recommend this game to anyone looking for games to play with their 7-12 year olds; the co-op nature of the game also helps in terms of sibling rivalry issues - we all win or lose together!
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Rick
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Nice report! Couple of things:

Rimjack wrote:
...if he overlooked something very important...such as finishing a turn on a flooded tile that had a high probability of disappearing on the next turn...
That's not really an issue. Your pawn just swims to an adjacent tile (he doesn't even have to be the diver.)

Also, for added difficulty (and maybe add more interest) you could try different tile layouts:

I'm sure a 7 and 9 year old boy would love the Skull Island one.
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Joel Eddy
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When I play with my son (who happens to also be nine) and his friend, they always request one of the variant islands, and then get upset when we lose.

I think we've won the game one time using one of the variant islands. To be honest I still enjoy playing with those islands. It's an alternative way of increasing the difficulty.

However, you almost HAVE to have to a pilot on some of them.
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