One of the most common questions I get asked by D6G listeners is “what games would you recommend for kids age X?” We get it so often that we produced an episode featuring 'Games of All Ages,’ but we were thinking mostly of younger kids, perhaps 5-8 year olds.
Recently I received an e-mail from a primary school teacher (Hi Tom!) who wants to start an after school game club for children ages 10-11. What a great way to introduce kids to board games and expose them to what is available beyond Monopoly and Clue!
As I crafted my response to Tom I realized that others share the same question, either because they too are considering starting a group or they simply are looking for good gift/game ideas for the children in their lives. So why not post a list on my blog and share it with others?
I tried to come up with a list which has a good variety of themes, styles, and mechanics. I really can’t imagine a 10 year old girl or boy not enjoying at least one of the games on this list. And since school is involved I tried to sneak in some educational value where possible.
Of course all games teach the basics of following instructions, human interaction, and sportsmanship, so I didn’t worry about education too much.
So here’s the list. It’s not comprehensive by any means, just the games that came to me as I thought about it. And although the idea is games that would appeal to 10-11 year olds I think these would make great ‘gateway games’ for any age….
[In no particular order]
Forbidden Island: Find the treasures and get off the island before it sinks. Often called "Pandemic light" it is a GREAT 4 player co-op game with wonderful components and a nice theme. Affordable (under $20 US) and the co-op nature will appeal to those who may not like competitive games. I've found both adults and 6 year olds who enjoy this game. Oh, it's also a Mensa Select award winner, for those who care about such things.
- Carcassonne: This classic needs to be in EVERY game club collection: Medieval tile placement at its finest. The farmer scoring can be tricky for younger players, but I think ten year olds can handle it.
Snow Tails: A dog sled racing game. A great deal of fun and packs a lot of the strategies normally found in a more complex racing game like Formula D into a fast, fun theme with really cool wooden bits. Players must learn to plan ahead and anticipate their opponents or they’ll end up in a snow bank.
- Infinite City: Just played this for the first time last night. It's a Carcassonne style game but themed like steam punk/Bioshock. The game has great art, simple rules, and even more player interaction than Carcassonne without the complex farmer scoring. And the base game handles 6 players too!
- Settlers of Catan: While not a personal favorite, I'd argue that Settlers is a better Monopoly game than Monopoly. Players learn resource management, bartering, and probabilities as they negotiate with each other for goods while trying to determine the best places to expand in order to maximize dice roll results.
Zooloretto: Possibly my girl's favorite game and one I'd happily play at a table with just adults. The theme is perfect for kids: Build your own zoo full of animals! The great looking components make the game fun, while the euro mechanics keep it simple for younger players. Older players will quickly discover there are some sneaky player interaction elements that give the game some nice depth.
- Founding Fathers: This might be heavy for this age group, but the educational value can't be overstated. A wonderful game with good strategy, Founding Fathers teaches a great deal about the people and events that shaped the US Constitution while you play. With and adult teaching the game I think it could work.
Small World: A conquest/area control game that anyone can learn. Extremely easy to teach, but don't let that fool you. There is some meaty strategy behind the simple rules and whimsical theme featuring marauding hobbits, bivouacking elves, alchemist trolls, and more. Small World is a rare gem as it is a near perfect combination of elegant rules, quality components, brilliant theme, and deep game play that appeals to just about anyone.
Ticket to Ride: A great game to expose anyone to the concept of 'rail building' games. Although the simplest of the genre, Ticket to Ride still brings fun to the table for kids and adults. And as an added bonus, young players might just learn a bit about geography, especially the relative location of major cities, while they place their colorful plastic train cars.
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