We are fortunate that I am able to telework during the Coronapocalypse but some of our family friends are not so lucky. A few are doubly challenged in that they need to occasionally work AND care for children when school is out and daycares closed. So Mrs. RockyMountainNavy stepped up and is providing daycare for two girls twice a week.
One of the girls is a young kindergartner. As an only child she struggles with social activities. Mrs. RMN believes in the power of boardgames and wants to play more games with her. Our problem is the RMN Navy Boys are, well, boys – and much older. So we have only few children’s games and of the few we have none are, uh, focused on young female players.
This past week Mrs RMN and I stopped by Tuesday Morning and while searching the clearance aisle I found the game Elena of Avalor: Flight of the Jaquins (Wonder Forge, 2017). Looking at the (very) few ratings on BGG I saw a respectable 7.3. The part that really intrigued me was discussion of the three levels of games:
This game offers 3 difficulty levels, each building off of the previous:
Level 1 (Ages 5+): Roll 2 dice and choose your destination. Be the first to collect the 6 different treasures plus 2 additional.
Level 2 (Ages 6+): Be the first to unlock all 4 characters, each of which give you special abilities.
Level 3 (Ages 7+): Earn three different keys by coming treasure, but watch out for Sudden Storm cards that take treasure away from everyone. You can also try to unlock characters, but there are one of each, so get them fast!
What sealed the deal was the price – 40% off of $7.99. We can try almost anything for less than $5, right?
The next time Little Miss A was over I showed her the box. She was immediately intrigued and taken by the box. Of course, she knew who Elena is and the Jaquins. I had no idea about Elena but she proceeded to tell me all about the character. The next time she came over she
asked demanded to play. So we set up Level 1 – Elena’s Treasure Hunt.
Level 1 is a very, very simple roll & move and set collection game. One appeal of the game is the colorful game board and 3-D pieces – enticing and tactile for a youngster. There is very little strategy and a definite first-player advantage. But for a 5 year old it is perfect – take your turn with your colorful character piece, roll two dice then make a simple choice of color, and try to fill out your card first by collecting different colorful tokens.
I let Miss A go first in both games and she won. I had to ‘advise’ her at points about strategy (‘You don’t need another green, but you do need an orange, right?’) but by the end of the second game she was ‘getting it.’ She now proudly calls it her game.
Later in the day I sat down with the older girl, Miss C, and played both Level 2 – Four Friends Adventure and Level 3 – Gabe’s Key Quest. Neither are much harder (each level builds on the core mechanic of the previous one) but each adds increasing degrees of decision space to the game. Miss C preferred Level 2- Four Friends Adventure as she made decisions as to which friend – and extra power – to go after first. Level 3 – Gabe’s Key Quest had maybe too much decision space (at least for Miss C) as you must work a sequence of actions (collect tokens then cash them in) while also making a decision whether or not to go after a single character to add to your powers.
From Mrs RMN’s perspective, the game is a winner for several reasons. First, the components and theme are appealing to the younger players – the visual appeal works and draws the players in. Second, and possibly more importantly, the three levels of play allow her to tailor gameplay to the player. In the case of Miss A, the simplicity of Level 1 is key as it reinforces the basics of play – taking your turn and following a simple set of rules. For Miss C, the simple strategy decisions are what she needs to work on – decisions found in Level 2 and Level 3.
Indeed, the three different levels of play is the most important quality of Elena of Avalor: Flight of the Jaquins. The three levels of play allow one to tailor the game to their desired family gaming experience. In the future I expect that Miss A will play Level 1 many times against somebody, but with a little help she could play Level 2 in a 3-player setting with Miss C and another. Miss C in turn will probably play more Level 2 when going head-to-head against another, and Level 3 when she wants to challenge the older RMN Boys.
Mrs. RMN was so taken by the game she asked me to go back and look for additional copies. I was very lucky and found the last one in the store, but now at a 60% discount or $3.20. A real bargain not only in price but for a decent family game too.
Update – The day after I wrote the first draft of this post Miss A was over again. After she finished her reading lessons she came up the stairs to the loft carrying the game box and set it down next to me as I was teleworking. Although she has played many games with me before, never has she “initiated” a game session. The fact that she brought this game to me and asked to play speaks volumes about its appeal to her.