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I have a soon-to-be 4 year daughter who enjoys playing board games. It has been my intention to try and quickly wean her off bland roll-and-move games and introduce her to games with a little more skill and strategy. Who knows, maybe I can eventually get to play Puerto Rico Other than games designed for her age, she's played Uno and Reiner Knizia's Amazing Flea Circus and she loves them. After scouring BGG for a suitable next game, I decided to get her Sleeping Queens as a treat...
Gameplay (brief summary, skip if you already know how the game works)
The mechanics of the game are simple. There are 12 queens (represented by face-down cards) sleeping in the middle of the table and you are all attempting to awaken 4 (or 5 in a 2-3 player) of them. You achieve this by playing cards from your hand of 5. There are a variety of cards available...
King - Lets you wake a queen of your choice
Knight - Steal an awoken queen from another player
Dragon - If someone is attempting to steal one of your queens you can veto it with a dragon
Sleeping Potion - Puts another players awoken queen back to sleep
Magic Wand - Allows you to veto the potion
Jester - Draw the next card, if its a picture card - then you keep it - if it's a number, count the number around the table and whoever it lands on gets a free queen.
Number Cards - The number cards (1-10) can be discarded as a single, or in duplicates (say you have 2 x 4's you can discard them together); or a valid sum of numbers (so if you have 1, 3 and 4 - you can play them all since 1+3=4).
Variant/modification for younger children
Before I started playing this, I decided to alter the rules that lets you play cards that can be summed together. This wasn't going to work with my daughter since she hasn't begun to learn arithmetic yet (!) So instead I changed it to allow you to play a sequence of numbers - so if you hold 3, 4 and 5 - you can play all of those together. This seemed to fit ok although it may have slightly increased the speed of the game from the original since you can now play 2 cards away that are in sequence, rather than the minimum 3 required for a sum.
Does my daughter enjoy it
SHE LOVES IT! After playing a couple of rounds (as a 2 player initially) the rules clicked and she got it. Adding a little drama around the actions solidified her enjoyment. For example: trotting the knight card over to her queens saying in a bold voice "come with me fair maiden to kingdoms anew" only for her to pounce her dragon card out "ROOAARRR!" The knight card scurries away to the discard pile screaming for help and my daughter is in fits of laughter.
The artwork is great and each king and queen have different names/themes (such as the "Cat Queen" or the "Puzzle King"). The number cards also pictorially belong to particular queens (so the 5 card has 5 moons for the Moon Queen, the 9 card has 9 pancakes for the Pancake Queen). All this really appealed to my daughter so the fun didn't stop with just the game - she spent a further 2 hours playing with cards as characters in a cardboard box castle!
Do the rest of the family enjoy it
You could tell how much my daughter enjoyed it by her eagerness to play it (and explain the rules) with anyone else who came to the house. So we played about 4 games of it with mum, uncle and aunt and another 5 games with mum, nana and granddad.
All the adults seemed to enjoy it too. Obviously I think this has something to do with the fact that the kids enjoy it so much but you know you're onto a winner when granddad offers at the end of a game: "let's shuffle these together and play again shall we?"
There's quite a lot of luck involved so its clearly not a game for hardcore strategy game fans. But for a light game that your kids will really enjoy (and is fun to play with them) - its a must buy.
I can't say that you should definitely buy it for a younger child of 3-4 years old. My daughter loves it, but she's already capable of playing Uno and other slightly more involved games. So I guess you should gauge it carefully on what your little 'un can already handle. Here's a few qualifiers:
Do they understand games that allow a choice of actions (rather than just autonomous roll-and-move)?
Can they count, read and sequence numbers 1-10?
Are you able to play this game with them? This is important as they do require a little help from time to time.
If so, then I highly recommend buying it.
"If everybody is thinking alike, then somebody isn't thinking."
Welcome to BGG.
Thanks Jamie. My son's nearly 4 and we're on the hunt for games one step up from snakes and ladders. I think this game is too far ahead for us right now, as there are just too many small rules to remember.
At present my lad enjoys: snap, go fish (standard pack of cards, holds all 7 cards and remembers what I asked for etc); Dinosaur game (orchard toys race game like simplified formula D); and various orchard toys bingo games (shopping list, animal lotto etc).
We're pretty bored of lotto games and memory games, so I've got my eye on a few dexterity games (haba) and games that use colour and rhyme such as haba's monza and Orchard Toy's Rhyme Robber.
Any other recommendations from fellow geeks for games a small step up from snakes and ladders would be greatly appreciated. A go fish type game that drives another mechanic would probably work.
As a quick note, 2 spring to mind:
Reiner Knizia's Amazing Flea Circus - has very simple rules and the components were designed with kids in mind: bright garish cards and little rubber dogs and cats. Both of my kids could play this (and really enjoy it) at the age of 3 as a guide
Pinguin-Party - another Knizia with very simple rules, hardly any setup time and plays very quickly.
UNO - a classic and very easy to get hold of. Young kids easily grasp the concept of "follow the colour or the number" and "get daddy with that +4!"
Have you tried any Peaceable Kingdom games? They do a series of cooperative games. I recommend "Race to the Treasure" and "Stack Up!". "Hoot Owl Hoot" is also great. It's like a children's version of Cartagena. If you prefer something that's not co-operative, you could try "Fish Stix".
From Playroom Entertainment I recommend "Sherlock", "Catch the Match" and "Right Turn Left Turn", although these games play quicker.