If you’ve clicked on this review, then you likely already know that The Kids of Carcassonne (KoC) is for, well, kids. I am not a kid, as my receding hairline and growing paunch demonstrate all too clearly. That said, I have a daughter, so I’m well-qualified to write a review for kids, because I have one. So there.
Like many gamers with young children, I’ve been eagerly waiting for my daughter to reach a suitable age to sit down at the table and game with me. I often tell my wife that the only reason I wanted kids was so I could build a captive gaming group. (She thinks I’m joking. I’m really not ) I’ve been working hard, and at 5.5 years of age, my daughter is usually happy to sit down and play simple games with me. Thus, in true behaviour modification fashion, it’s time for me to get her addicted to Euros, and I bought KoC to help start the assimilation.
KoC follows standard Carcassonne play, albeit simplified for younger audiences. Each player chooses a team of brightly coloured meeples (red, green, blue or yellow) to represent their flavour of children. The goal of the game is to be the first to place all your meeples on the board.
Game play is typical Carcassonne: Each player, in turn, chooses a face-down tile at random and flips it over to reveal a set of roads. The tiles may also show some kids dressed in bright outfits running along the roads. Not surprisingly, the colours of the kids’ clothes match up with the colours of the meeples.
Unlike other Carcassonne games, every tile can be played next to every other tile so younger minds will always find a valid move, no matter where they try to place their tile. As tiles are played, a network of roads quickly develops. Roads are completed when both ends terminate at an end point, typically a village, a body of water, or some other dead end. Once a road is completed then every player who has children on that road gets to place one of their meeples on top of the child. A completed road may have no children, or one, or several, depending on how the cards have been laid, and every player gets to place their meeples on the board as the roads are completed, whether or not they were the player who laid the final road tile.
The first person to place all their meeples is the winner. In the case of a tie, the person who laid the last tile is declared the winner... assuming that they placed one of their meeples down on their final play, which isn’t always the case when you play with children, but there you go.
If you know Carcassonne, then you know the general look of KoC. The art style is very familiar, and a meeple is a meeple is a meeple, right?
Well, almost... all the components in KoC have been thoughtfully super-sized. The meeples and the tiles are about twice as big as those found in most Carcassonne games, making it easy for smaller fingers to manipulate the game pieces and helping to limit the dreaded "earthquakes" which every Carcassonne player has faced at one time or another. In addition, the tiles are thicker and heavier than standard Carcassonne pieces, giving them some welcome extra durability.
As well, the roads are pretty clear. It is almost always obvious whether or not a road is ending or continuing on, which is good both for little minds and older eyes.
There isn’t a lot of strategy to be found in KoC, as it’s tough to plan ahead, but there is some surprising tactical depth. Every tile drawn will have 0, 1, or 2 children on it and, quite often, the children pictured on the card won’t belong to your team. Thus, when placing a tile, you aren’t just looking at what will help you the most, but also what will help your opponents’ the least... assuming you’re playing to win, that is, which isn’t always the case in a kids game.
Just for fun, I broke the game out once and played it with two adult friends. We whipped through a game in about 8 minutes, and there were some surprisingly entertaining moments of screwage as we attempted to manipulate to board to deny each other a win. I’m not saying that we’ll be breaking KoC out at our next session or anything, but there was some depth here, unlike many of the other children’s games I’ve suffered through over the years.
What’s the Kiddie Verdict?
I’ve only played the game with my daughter and one of her friends, so that’s a pretty small sample size, but they both enjoy it quite a bit.
A game with children involved typically lasts 10-15 minutes, so if your spawn hasn’t reached that attention span level yet, then I wouldn’t go down this road. My daughter is typically good for one kick at the can whenever I suggest breaking the game out, but after we’ve finished she’s usually done; she won’t often play the game back-to-back.
That said, she is usually very receptive when I suggest that we play the game, so I’d say that her rating of it would probably be a solid 8/10.
Both the kids I’ve played with, one of whom is five and the other six, picked up the rules quite easily. The concept is nicely easy to grasp, and the tactics can be as simple or as complex as you wish to teach.
What are the Kiddie Drawbacks?
The designer did a decent job of giving everybody a good choice; you would think that with four bright colours, and identical meeples except for colour, choosing teams would be pretty simple, right?
If you said "yes," then you probably don’t have kids.
There are two girls and two boys pictured on the front of the box, each of them dressed in one of the team colours. I think it’s the yellow girl who is wearing a "princess dress." Thus, by default, most girls must have yellow.
Similarly, the red boy on the box is holding a sword. Every boy I’ve seen who has played this game must therefore have the red meeples.
Some kids have a hard time with winning and losing. My daughter is normally pretty good with it but if she’s tired, or in a mood, a loss can send her into a meltdown.
However, we discovered that we can actually play in co-op mode. The goal is to work together to build a road system so that we both lay our last meeple down at the same time. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t (as you often need a card to come up in the end game with both our colours) but we win or lose as a team, and that can be fun for kids who have a hard time with competition.
You can also play co-op by building one massive road. My wife likes to play the game this way, building a long, snaking road which winds all around the board. Once all three of us have enough children in play, we close the road off and everybody lays down their meeples for to share the win. The downside to this version of the game is that no meeples are placed until the very end, which risks boredom. Boredom can be death in children’s games.
Finally, the game offers enough control so that adults can virtually always manipulate the game to force a win for a kid, if they so desire. I’m not going to try to tell you whether or not that’s appropriate, that’s a call every parent should make for themself. If that is your preference, though, then I can almost guarantee that you can sit down with your spawn and give them as many wins as they could ever wish for.
At $20, I found this game to be well worth the coin I spent on it. The components are excellent quality, the game has far more depth than I expected, and it’s (dare I say it) fun for me too, not just for my daughter. If she asks to play Candyland, then I have to explain that Daddy would rather dig his eye out with a dull spoon, but if she asks to play KoC I’m more than happy to break it out.
On her last sleepover at Granny and Granddad’s my daughter insisted that KoC be packed alongside her favourite stuffed seal. It doesn’t get much better than that!
My copy gets taken out at the request of my 4 y/o now and then. It usually ends up being a 'free play' session as she doesn't quite grasp the concept of a 'closed road' yet, but I'm hoping in a few more months she'll be ready to play by the rules. We also were given a copy of The Kids of Catan as a gift, but I'm hoping she forgets about that one.
The base game is simple enough for a five year old. Our daughter loves it. Her strategy isn't solid (she loves placing farmers and finishing other people's cities), but solid enough that she can score points and stay competitive. I honestly think it's a mistake to start them on a kids version when the game is already so accessible. Just my opinion of course.
- Last edited Fri Sep 9, 2011 11:36 pm (Total Number of Edits: 1)
- Posted Fri Sep 9, 2011 11:35 pm
LOL! I told my wife the same thing, "I can't wait until my daughter is old enough to play games and all".
Funny thing is, my wife actually kind of fought me on it, not wanting me to push superheroes, dragons, aliens, monsters, games, etc on our daughter, and she pushed for princesses, tea parties, and dolls.
Well, my daughter likes to play with her my little pony figures. Not so much dolls themselves. She loves to dress up like a princess, make herself up all pretty with her crown, jewelry and shoes (she's almost 7). BUT - she also LOVES Superheroes, Dragons, and Zombies...lol. And I really didn't even have to push for it at all - she just had a natural interest when she'd see me reading, watching, or playing something, and actually asks and requests it. It's a wonderful feeling. My seven year old daughter would prefer to play ZOMBIES!!! and Zombie Fluxx over Candyland and Spongebob Bingo, although she still can enjoy those games (usually with her mother...lol. I try to survive a round or two, but thankfully those games stopped interesting her after about 5 yrs old.)
This sounds interesting, as I have tried Carcassonne but like some people have said about their older parents "not getting it", that's the boat I'm in. I get the tile placement and closing off roads, but I guess I don't really get the unit placement and how it really affects scoring during the game and in the end. When I play the digital version against the computer, I lose horribly every time. This is a game that I would LOVE to figure out, but the Android version doesn't have a very good tutorial, and I don't have anyone yet to play the game with IRL that can teach me the real mechanics and scoring of the game to that extent. Not sure why I don't "get" that particular game, maybe it just isn't grabbing me "thematically" enough to get me to focus. I love games like Thunderstone and Elder Sign, ZOMBIES!!!, and am looking forward to learning/playing Munchkin. But for some reason Carcassonne just hasn't gotten me. I'm thinking this might be a good entry point, not only for my daughter, but for my wife as well as she has ZERO interest in even learning euro-games. Maybe if they got this one down (And I was able to finally figure out all of the scoring and strategy), I could transition them both to the regular game.
Thanks for the review!