Board/Cardgames for kids!
February 9, 2006 9:10 PM   Subscribe

I gotta young teen who, sad to say, isn't a great strategist and so on. Consequently, he gets his ass kicked in most every competitive-style board or card game. Got any recommendations on great cooperative-style games?
posted by five fresh fish to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (24 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I've played Break The Safe a few times, and it was age appropriate and completely cooperative. The table plays against the clock, so everyone plays as a single team.
posted by adamwolf at 9:21 PM on February 9, 2006

Warcraft, the Boardgame has collaberative scenarios if you also buy the expansion.
posted by krisjohn at 9:53 PM on February 9, 2006

Shadows Over Camelot

go to and do an advanced search for "cooperative" as a game mechanic, or even easier, go to the forums and post under "game recommendations" and they will be all over it. Friendly and zealous community.

I believe one of the newer War of the Rings games is cooperative--you are working together, trying to defeat Sauron.

cooperative game list on BGG

There are a number of games that are not purely cooperative, but are less confrontational and don't immediately punish small errors, like Blokus (on sale for 9.99 at some ToysRuS right now) and Ticket to Ride, a monster hit and Spiel Des Jahres, game of the year, in Germany, the nation of board game geeks.

There are also some outdoorsy games that are cooperative in a book series called "the new games" something or another that were somehow affiliated with the whole earth movement.

Also, search the geeklists for "wife games." Not to essentialize anyone, but these games are often less immediately confrontational and/or punishing.

I love the eurogames, but the sad truth is that I am strategically illiterate. I'm learning, however. The group I game with sometimes feels like an Asperger's support group--they are not rollicking beer and pretzel gamers, and their ability to instantly analyze abstract systems is frightening at times. I, on the other hand, am an English major.
posted by craniac at 9:58 PM on February 9, 2006

Crokinole and Pitchcar mini. Dexterity games. Try Car Wars, and give him some big weapons to even things out, or the light version, "wreckage", more of a car combat board game.

thoughthammer stocks pitchcar.

Wings of War is a great card/war game simulating WWI biplanes. Easy to learn. Just give him an extra plane. Or in the chaos of a multi-plane conflict, he/she might fare ok.

A Dog's Life looks stupid, but it's quite fun, plays with six, and each dog has differing abilities, plus an element of luck. I played recently and my five year old kicked my butt. We hadn't figured out yet that the bigger dogs could steal bones from her poodle, Fifi. Long story.

Some games are so much fun that I don't care if I lose.
posted by craniac at 10:05 PM on February 9, 2006

Vanished Planet is cheap on ebay. Cooperative, tough, everyone loses together.
posted by craniac at 10:21 PM on February 9, 2006

Depending on the group involved, plain old Dungeons & Dragons can be a wonderfully cooperative (rather than competitive) gaming experience. Additionally, it's more social than video/computer games, and if he's got his fellow players helping him with tactics, he might pick up a thing or three there.
It's good for reinforcing basic math skills and reading comprehension, too--something a lot of teens need.
posted by scaryblackdeath at 10:33 PM on February 9, 2006

Apologies for answering the question, but if you think he'd be interested in learning some strategy, knightmare chess can be an excellent handicapping tool. Give him more cards or maybe just give yourself no cards at all (depending on how good you are). Then you can teach him basic chess strategy while you're at it.

There are also a lot of board games that while not cooperative, have their outcomes largely determined by luck.
posted by juv3nal at 11:10 PM on February 9, 2006

Simply strategy card game: Blackjack

Easy to play, quick game, and the house / dealer has to follow certain rules. As a player, he has strategy to deal with, and as a dealer, you have instructions to follow. :) Limits the field a bit. I'm not talking card counting or probailities or anything. Just as a basic game.

I was never good at chess, and only mildly good at board games when I was young. I've always been great at computer strategy games though. But I havn't played Chess since MechWarrior 1 came out. Have you tried Warcraft 2 or Starcraft or something? Multiplayer of course, for the co-op.

In D&D and other 'tabletop' games, it's basically a co-op game of the players trying to make somewhat quick group decisions based on a situation the GM has previously made up, and hopefully had plenty of time to figure it out. It's not really strategy, it's more like a game of wit. Can you and your 3 friends get through the maze in 3 hours that it took the GM 6 hours to come up with? Besides, I don't think it's what your looking for.
posted by Phynix at 11:34 PM on February 9, 2006

I don't know why nobody's said it, but Reiner Knizia's Lord Of The Rings is a great coöperative board game! Arkham Horror can also be fun with the right number of people, but it's a little overcomplicated.

The other option is to play some lighter games that either have more of an element of chance or are fun even if you're not winning. I think that The Tricks Trump Game is good in this way - it feels deep but really you can get pretty far playing extraordinarly poorly. :D
posted by aubilenon at 11:40 PM on February 9, 2006

You might consider printing out this mini version of Sun Tzu's Art of War and give it to him to read. At the least, it's a beginner's guide to strategy. Much of it is common sense, other parts are things that seem more obvious after being pointed out.. and some parts are brilliant. While it's probably useless in real war these days, I'm sure that most of it can be applied to strategy games.
posted by helios at 11:52 PM on February 9, 2006

I think art of war and book of five rings type stuff are generally too abstract to actually help with developing gameplay strategies. Developing some basic organization with regard to thinking about which move to make would be more useful than reading.
For instance: knowing the difference between tactics and strategy, identifying and prioritizing strategic goals, considering the advantages and disadvantages of different tactics that could work towards the same strategic goal, inventorying what a changed board state allows you to do which you could not do before/what it prevents you from doing that you could do before (ditto for opponent). imagining your opponent's motivations for a move (what they think the board state after their move allows them to do), imagining an opponents responses to your move (what your opponent might do in response to the board state you leave them with).

incidentally, warcraft 2 and starcraft are ok games, but they're much more about tactics and micromanagement than they are about strategy.
posted by juv3nal at 1:22 AM on February 10, 2006

For all those people trying to suggest ways to teach fff's son strategy, forget it. Some people are natural gamers and some are not. For those people who just don't "get it", my experience is that there is nothing you can teach them to improve.

Reiner Knizia's Lord of the Rings is a good suggestion for a cooperative game. There are also plenty of games out there with minimal skill, but not many that I'd want to play!
posted by salmacis at 2:33 AM on February 10, 2006

posted by Kirth Gerson at 3:16 AM on February 10, 2006

posted by box at 5:15 AM on February 10, 2006

*Confessor nods*

Second salmacis.

You can't even imagine the hell it was for *me* to conquer every scenario in Age of Empires II and its expansion on easy mode.

And I'd still get spanked by first-timers in multi-player mode.
posted by The Confessor at 5:25 AM on February 10, 2006

I'll second Shadows Over Camelot, and Arkham Horror as great games. But aubilenon is correct about Arkham Horror needing the right amount of people to play. Too many and the game becomes simple and boring. Too little and the game is impossible to beat. The right mix seems to be about 3-4.
posted by nulledge at 5:29 AM on February 10, 2006

Depending on what kind of games he likes, Hoopla could be fun. It's definitely not a strategy game; it's more of a creative interpretation-acting-guessing game similar to Cranium but fully cooperative. I've had a lot of fun with it.

(oh, and I third the LoTR game)
posted by artifarce at 7:30 AM on February 10, 2006

I, too, came in to recommend Shadows over Camelot, but I see that craniac and others have beat me too it.

SOC is a great game: the players are knights of the round table, and you work as a team to defeat the ever-advancing forces of evil. One thing that's good about it in your situation is that there is a good deal of strategy involved (the players make decisions about what step evil takes next based on a narrow set of choices, and sometimes there's the devil to pay no matter which choice you make), so you can using as a kind of subtle teaching moment as well as a fun game.

At our house we also play Carcassonne as a cooperative game, with all payers working together to build the best map possible, although we do also count up points at the end.
posted by anastasiav at 8:50 AM on February 10, 2006

Oops, two more notes:

1) if you get Shadows over Camelot, don't play with a Traitor in the game.

2) Betrayal at House on the Hill is another great cooperative game; one that involves (or at least encourages) a bit of role-playing as well, so that can be fun, silly evening.
posted by anastasiav at 8:53 AM on February 10, 2006

Count me in with another suggestion of the Lord of the Rings board game -- if the kid is into fantasy / tolkien then that's an added bonus.

You could also look into Scotland Yard, in which you can have up to five detectives work in collaboration to find another player, Mr. X. Good times to be had there, for sure.
posted by evinrude at 9:39 AM on February 10, 2006

I'm the same way; NO strategic sense whatsoever, but I'm a huge fan of games. I apologize to serious gamers for several heretical things I am about to say.

How about playing more "party" style games, like Balderdash or Taboo or Apples to Apples? You can play competitively, or not keep score and just have fun. These are also kind of nice since you can play as long as you want and stop when you get bored, unlike those Risk- or Monopoly-style ones that drag on and on into grim death.

Other possibilities:
Fluxx (I like to try to NOT win and see how long we can keep playing)
Milles Bornes
Hoopla (another one where you work together against the clock)
Any of the drawing games: I especially like Who What Where.

If you want something less frivolous, I've enjoyed playing Carcassonne and done well enough at it that I could hold my own.
posted by exceptinsects at 12:44 PM on February 10, 2006

I'm a huge fan of the game Compatibility when players might be mismatched.

The idea of the game is that all players have a deck of identical cards. Each card in the deck has a photograph or a symbol on it. The players each have a partner, and the objective is to secretly choose the same cards as the partner according to how much the clue word of the current round is a match for the cards.

When everyone reveals his or her cards, the players move according to how many cards matched their partners'.
posted by landtuna at 1:38 PM on February 10, 2006

TransAmerica is a fairly simple game involving both luck (of the cards) and low-level strategy (how to build your railroad most efficiently on the very finite board). Since other players' railroads can be linked with yours to advance your own agenda, players can choose to work together...or not.
posted by hsoltz at 2:23 PM on February 10, 2006

We've got Carcassonne. He doesn't seem to like it much.

Maybe he's just not a game-player.
posted by five fresh fish at 2:29 PM on February 10, 2006

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