Board Game Road Map
July 9, 2018 3:04 AM   Subscribe

Let's say you had a toddler (for argument's sake, a 4 year old). What board games would you play with them. Y'know, actually fun (I mean, maybe you need to start at Snakes and Ladders, but do you really?) AND THEN What would you play with a 5 year old. A 6 Year old. A 7 year old etc.

Basically, help me plan a route of indoctrination that ends up with a 16 year old who wants to play Agricola with all the expansions / has rolled up an Aarakocra paladin/bard multiclass just to see how it plays.
posted by Just this guy, y'know to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (27 answers total) 38 users marked this as a favorite
maybe you need to start at Snakes and Ladders, but do you really?

Pretty much. It isn't fun for you, but it is fun for small children because for small children, mastery is what's fun. Snakes and Ladders is about mastering the elementary mechanics of boardgames and reinforcing those skills through repetition.

Likewise, Monopoly and Clue are popular because for older children, independence is the shit. With those games, they are not just following turn-based rules; they have to make choices and there are (safe) consequences to those choices. Sometimes those consequences are board throwing and crying but nevertheless, those games are developmentally appropriate and challenging for short evolving humans.
posted by DarlingBri at 3:27 AM on July 9, 2018 [13 favorites]

Have played all the following with my 5-6yo (in rough order of them getting older):
My First Carcassonne (First played at 4 1/2. I reckon at this point he could graduate to regular Carcassonne, maybe without scoring farms)
Ticket To Ride: First Journey
Creationary (Lego Pictionary)
Beasts of Balance
Forbidden Island
Coconuts (small child warning: coconut pieces look exactly like Maltesers!!)
Kingdomino (initially played without the tile-selection mechanic)

(Just taught them the last two in the last week)
posted by EndsOfInvention at 3:30 AM on July 9, 2018 [7 favorites]

Oh, and we played Hero Kids (essentially D&D But For Kids) last month.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 3:33 AM on July 9, 2018 [1 favorite]

I've been playing Mille Bornes with my kids lately. I'm not a huge fan (though removing a few of the hazards makes it more playable), but the kids love it -- and they get to team up on me.

Another one they loved a few years ago -- and it has some similar elements -- is "Exploding Kittens." They really enjoyed the "Nope!" card and teaming up on whatever parent was playing. (Some, um, edgy elements to this particular game... barfing and farting, which was OK for my household, but YMMV.)

DarlingBri has it: choices/independence is important. But also, young'uns treasure predictability/safety/playing the same scenario over and over and over. *sigh*
posted by cgs06 at 4:59 AM on July 9, 2018 [2 favorites]

My kids learned the rules and a little strategy for Uno when they were 3 and 5. It was what we had in the house but it also ruined games like Candy Land and Snakes & Ladders - games of chance. They also play a young version of D&D.

I remember playing war, rummy 500, poker and canasta at young ages: 6-7 or so.
posted by peanut_mcgillicuty at 5:14 AM on July 9, 2018 [2 favorites]

My toddler loves the HABA games. She started with first orchard and a fishing game. We are going to get her the real orchard game soon, which has actual strategy.
posted by rockindata at 5:19 AM on July 9, 2018

We seem to have created a board and card game addict (he's currently 6) and the way you imagine is how it went pretty much. Started with the typical little kid games (go fish, shoots and ladders, candyland), got a couple newer cooperative kid games (Hoot Owl Hoot, e.g.). My husband taught him chess last year (I hate chess, personally) and he started going to weekend chess classes offered at our public library. We also play Uno, Aquarius, and Fluxx is huge in our house because of the different IP decks. We have Adventure Time, Doctor Who, Cthulhu, Math and original flavor. We also just got the board game version. We play one of those almost every night at dinner time. Fluxx is really a game mechanics crash course because the rules and goals change constantly. Now that he understands how games work in the abstract, I find that I can choose games that say they're for kids 2 years older than he actually is. He cleans my clock at monopoly every time.

I will say though that mileage is going to vary depending on temperament of kid. Our kid just naturally loves systems of all kinds, so I think games and their rules twig him in the same way that knowing our bus system and where all the routes go does. And he's not competitive, so we've never had tantrums over losing, which has made the procedure much more enjoyable.
posted by soren_lorensen at 5:19 AM on July 9, 2018 [1 favorite]

Qwirkle is good from about six (not tedious for adults either).
posted by Segundus at 5:27 AM on July 9, 2018 [1 favorite]

I have a nearly-four-year-old and I nth DarlingBri’s advice. I also have to add: the worst thing you can do is try to force it. Little kids gravitate to different things naturally, and when they get a whiff of an activity being a requirement rather than just fun, they’ll resist. And it is easy for board games to come off as REALLY uninteresting, with the rules and tiny pieces and sitting in one place for half an hour. Especially if you try to go too far above the kid’s level.

Our kid hasn’t been into board games, but he likes building and open-ended play. So he’ll “play” adult Carcassonne by assembling the tiles into roads and “sandboxes” for the meeple to play in. I think that’s a good way to foster interest if a kid doesn’t take to games right away - have them available, and let them explore and interpret the components in their own way.
posted by Metroid Baby at 5:37 AM on July 9, 2018 [5 favorites]

Quoridor is pretty good for kids in that age range. The rules are simple.

My 6 year old can now read well enough to be on her own for Apples to Apples. Until this year, she played on a team with another player.

Around 7, various incarnations of Fluxx became a hit with my now 9 year old and our younger (the 6 year old) loves it as well.

Banagrams is great just to play around with. You can either play the actual game appropriate to your child or you can make up your own rules with the letter tiles. So, my daughter would use the tiles to spell out silly sentences. It's a little less of a traditional game that way, but it involved cooperation, etc.

Both of my kids are starting to get a decent hang of Cribbage, too.
posted by zizzle at 5:45 AM on July 9, 2018 [1 favorite]

I could see Love Letter (age range 8+) and its multiple variants being a good one for elementary-aged kids. The standard deck has only 16 cards of 8 different types, the rules for each are literally printed on the cards, and players' hands are limited to just two cards, so tactical choices are always constrained and there's never that feeling of not knowing what to do.

It's simple to learn, built for fast play, and easy to keep in a pocket or purse, which makes it great for taking on trips or for when you have a few minutes of downtime in waiting rooms and the like.
posted by Strange Interlude at 6:18 AM on July 9, 2018 [2 favorites]

No Stress Chess is your gateway drug. We started playing when ours was 3.5, He now plays it with his friends at 7. Enjoy.
posted by jbenben at 6:18 AM on July 9, 2018

Rat-a-Tat Cat is genuinely fun starting around age 5 and including for adults.
posted by latkes at 6:22 AM on July 9, 2018 [1 favorite]

Also, if you're going to be introducing any games that come with card decks, you'll want to get (or make) one of these.
posted by soren_lorensen at 6:29 AM on July 9, 2018 [1 favorite]

Tsuro (also an app) is great for even the littlest players. Simple rules and an even playing field for kids, but enough strategy to keep it interesting for parents. I'd recommend all the Calliope games for indoctrination purposes, they have that indie euro boardgame flavour you're trying to instill, but with simpler mechanics that makes them work for family game night. After Tsuro, your kid can graduate to Roll for It (also also an app), then to more elaborate Titan Series games.
posted by Freyja at 6:57 AM on July 9, 2018

I think a lot of it is taking the kid's lead.

At 2/3/4, we mostly played games that we made up, often combining gross motor skills (at the intersection of sports and make believe and RPG and board games). We did some D&D-ish things involving telling a funny story and rolling d6's now and then to figure out if good or bad things happened (I think it was like 1=bad thing, 2-6=varying levels of success), and we played some of our board games with significantly simplified rules, like Ticket to Ride with trading and 100% open hands, or sometimes just building pretty tracks with the fun toy trains. We had some cooperative games too; kiddo really likes Outfoxed.

At 5/6, he started getting interested in the RPG's we had (primarily Mice and Mystics), and we played a lot of that, with some lightly edited rules. Because it's co-op, stuff like reading the cards was less of a problem. He could somewhat play shorter adult coop games like Forbidden Island, and loved kid ones (or playing games with no-winner rules). We also started playing competitive games for real to practice being a good sport. Uno, checkers, the kid version of Ticket to Ride, chess with help, Zingo.

At 7.5, he can mostly play the types of games that run under ~ an hour--card games, checkers, chess, Robo Rally, Ticket to Ride, co-op games we have. He could probably swing standard Carcassone or Catan with minimal assistance. We have house rules that cut the run time of longer games or just play until it gets boring. He still likes most of the kid games he has. For card games he still prefers to have this card holder. He spends a fair amount of time thinking about RPG's (Castles and Crusades right now); his favorite part is rolling up characters and making up backstories. He isn't interested in magic users because the spells are a little beyond him, and is figuring out how to participate at a table full of grownups, but seems to be on the track you're hoping for.
posted by tchemgrrl at 7:09 AM on July 9, 2018 [1 favorite]

At 4-5 we were playing Trouble, Sorry!, Snakes and Ladders.

We moved on to a kids version of Settlers of Catan, which had a pirate and treasure theme.

At 6-7 we are now on Risk, and Stratego, and a family version of Settlers of Catan. I can't google now but there's also a Harry Potter game that has 6 different levels because it adds new cards for different villains.

One warning is that at a certain level, it's really hard get your kid to like the same stuff you do. You can make it fun for them, and not overdo it, and sometimes they just won't catch the bug you have, and that's ok too.
posted by thenormshow at 7:38 AM on July 9, 2018 [2 favorites]

We've had success with Tiny Polka Dot. Lots of mini maths games in one, simple rules that go up to age 8 ish, easy for kids to grasp.
posted by threetwentytwo at 8:39 AM on July 9, 2018 [1 favorite]

You can search Boardgame Geek by minimum age. For instance here's all games ages 3 and up sorted by geek rating. If you sort by "Num Voters" the mainstream games you already know are at the top, like Candy Land. And here's 7 and up, with some games that have legitimately high ratings.
posted by Nelson at 8:39 AM on July 9, 2018 [2 favorites]

We started with Hoot Owl Hoot, which is similar in gameplay to Candyland (pick a card with a color, move token to that color) but is a cooperative game that can be played at varying levels of complexity and you can incorporate strategy but it's optional. This avoids the 4yo propensity to melt down hysterically every time they are about to lose.

At 5, Spot It is really fun. Depending on how the kid is doing we sometimes close our eyes and give them a 3 second lead time; if they're kicking our asses we shorten the lead.

At 6 we were playing regular Carcassonne without scoring farms. Also the Pokemon trading card game.

at 7 we are playing Sorry and it is a ton of fun. Kid needs to be able to handle disappointment (that's the point of the game) but it's very good practice for not losing your shit. Our kid who loves word games also loves to play Boggle. Our house rules are: he can make 3 letter words, we cannot. If he gets a 4+ letter word that an adult also gets, only the adult has to scratch it off their list.
posted by telepanda at 8:41 AM on July 9, 2018

We play Sorry, which isn't the best game in the world, but we spice it up by dealing everyone three cards and letting the player choose which one to play (if you can't play any of them you discard your hand and draw three new ones. Your turn is over). With two players it makes the game shorter (because you can plan head, to some extent). With four players it's a blood-bath.
posted by It's Never Lurgi at 9:13 AM on July 9, 2018

Came on to echo "Hoot Owl Hoot" which is great. We've also done ok with a modified version of Charades and Pictionary (don't use actual clues, give the kid something you KNOW they can do).
posted by papergirl at 12:07 PM on July 9, 2018

My brother showed up to Christmas with Sushi Go Party, and the 7yo enjoyed it quite a bit.
posted by telepanda at 2:50 PM on July 9, 2018 [1 favorite]

HABA and Gamewright both publish good kids games that don't drive adults insane. We sell a lot of Rabbit Rally and Dragonwood because they're easy to understand and well priced.
Chutes and Ladders is shit, go for Tsuro or My First Carcassonne instead. The Batman Dice game is very portable, easy to grasp and quick to learn.
posted by fiercekitten at 6:26 PM on July 9, 2018

I started with this list and went from there. After discovering Peacable Kingdom cooperative games, we got Dinosaur Escape for my dinosaur-loving kids. That's been the biggest hit. Spot It! and Hissssss are popular too.
posted by medusa at 7:52 PM on July 9, 2018

We used to play Dier Op Dier. (Dutch for Animal on Animal). It is a stacking/balance game. There is a large wooden alligator and you use that as a platform to balance cute little wooden sheep, hedgehogs, etc ontop of the alligator. There is a single die that you roll to determine which animal to place when it is your turn.

It is a simple game, the pieces are really cute and its quick easy fun. No one gets stressed out over the rules. And kids don't seem to mind if the animal pile gets knocked over (vs say, drawing a bad card in candyland, which can be oddly traumatic for some kids)

Here is a video of gameplay.
posted by ian1977 at 5:26 AM on July 10, 2018 [1 favorite]

IDK on roadmap, but our rule loving kid (loves to create rules, not follow them, natch) picked up Fluxx at 7 and has wanted to play every game ever since.
posted by this-apoptosis at 7:49 PM on July 11, 2018 [2 favorites]

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