I really wanted to have this article out by Christmas. Unfortunately it didn’t happen but I feel like it was such an interesting conversation with the Juniors that I really wanted to share.
I’m the eldest of ten children. I say children despite the fact three of us are legally adults because we didn’t really mature. We all just sort of got taller.
But five of my younger siblings and I are lucky enough to meet up every few months for a tabletop gaming session. Recently I started to notice when I’m playing games such as Tiny Epic Defenders with Josh (13years), and Molly (11years) – Emily (6years) comes up with Dixit and asks if we can play this next.
Originally I took this as a sweet little “naw they wanna play with me” or “they like games” but I started to notice Emily always had Dixit. And whenever I would agree to a game suddenly the others would come out of the woodwork.
Over the Christmas period I had a couple readers reach out and ask for game ideas for their children. Everything from stocking stuffers to bigger presents. I gave my suggestions based on my observations and thoughts but why not go to a primary source?
I decided to speak with the Juniors about what games they like and why. And I was a bit surprised at their answers.
By far the top pick was Dixit. Grace (15years), Emily, and Sophie (9years) all sang its praises. Which wasn’t a huge shock in and of itself. What was a surprise was the reason why. What it came down to was that any age can play – from the parents to the youngest of the siblings. When there’s six of the siblings in the house of ages ranging from 27 to 6, it’s hard to find something which genuinely works for everyone without unsatisfying compromise.
Each of players have a realistic chance of winning. Us legally recognised adults don’t even have to go easy or throw the game on purpose. I’ve gone head to head with the 15year old and the 6year old in the same game where we were all pushing to be the first with enough points to win. And I genuinely did not think I was going to emerge victorious (I don’t remember if I did win or not but I’m going to say I did because my pride can’t take that sort of hit today).
Throughout my conversations with the Juniors; the fact you can “use your imagination” kept coming up. They like the freedom to come up with suggestions and ideas. Some of the ideas are hilariously bad. But they’ve always got a reason for it. And this is where the fun comes from everyone. It’s a laugh from start to finish.
Another thing about Dixit which works wonders is how much the kids begin to understand how each other think. And the complex game of trying to use this information to win begins. It’s magic to watch happen. The kids actually recognised they don’t argue as much when they play Dixit (which is probably the only selling point the publisher needs on the box for parents everywhere to pick up a copy).
Josh and Molly are frequently seen playing Machi Koro. In particular Brights Lights, Big City. Josh explained this to me as the luck adding a bit of a balancing mechanism and either of them could win. Molly talked about the dice rolling as well, but for her it added a level of excitement.
“It feels like you’re a Mayor who tries to get their city working” Josh was telling me. It reminded me of the time we all sat around making up names for our budding cities and declaring our regional accents and local industries. “Goofsville” was filled with Bogans who spoke somewhat like they were from Tangier in America.
Each of the kids had their own individual favourites too.
Grace’s love of Coup and the storytelling she does while being sly and taking out her siblings.
Josh’s love of Hero Realms with the character packs and playing through the cooperative adventure with Dad and I.
I’ll admit Molly’s answers gave me the best chuckle of the lot:
“I like King of Tokyo because it’s never complicated but it’s not stupid dumb easy” and “I like Payday because it’s really long so you get to spend longer with the people you’re playing with”.
Meanwhile Emily like Uno because “It’s colourful and Grace doesn’t like it”. The little turd.
What surprised me the most about this list wasn’t necessarily the games themselves, but their reasons for liking them.
Everyone has a chance to win. This kept getting repeated over and over. When it comes to playing games with kids I always picture playing one sided games they only play because they know they can win. But the mentality of “it’s only fun if I win” dies really quickly because no one will want to play with you. And because it ruins every experience when you don’t win. As much as the kids want a chance to win against whoever they’re playing, they also want a chance for their siblings to win. There’s something sweet about that.
They want to use their imagination. Whether it’s coming up with ideas for Dixit, or telling the stories happening in Machi Koro or Coup, kids just want to use their imagination. It’s a great way to encourage learning and social interaction.
Fun. Games are designed to be fun. And as much as us not-so-grown-ups try to look for the fun in games, kids will quickly tell you if they’re having a good time or not. And when they’re having fun with the same game over and over, it’s a pretty good indication you’ve struck gaming gold.
I think my favourite thing about tabletop gaming with the kids is the quality time we spend together. We all enjoy a good movie or a fun video game. But I feel like Tabletop gaming is when I get to know my siblings better. It’s when we laugh the most.
Honestly, it’s the best thing about gaming.
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