Although I have been a wargamer since 1979, it was not until the mid-2000s that I started into family gaming. At the time the youngest RockyMountainNavy spawn was just born and the oldest was 8 years old. We made some great purchases; games that are still favorites like Gulo Gulo or Chicken Cha Cha Cha or The Magic Labyrinth. As the RMN Kids grew up, we (logically) moved away from children’s games.
This year, Mrs. RMN has started tutoring English to young kids. She is also a strong believer in tabletop games as great teaching tools. This means the rest of the RMN family is occasionally called upon to play a game with the youngsters. Currently, there are two main students, a kindergarten and 4th grader. Playing with these kids means we have pulled out the older games listed above but also means we we are on the lookout for new games too.
Invited friends over and hosted a family game night. It was a real success. We had four adults and six kids ranging in age from 1st grade through high school.
First game up was Qwirkle. This was played amongst the adults. Interestingly, this was Mrs. RMN’s first game (though she has watched/helped in many) as well as the intro game for our guest couple. Game took about 45 minutes to play. Verdict: SUCCESS.
For a quick filler before dessert we played Fundomino. Three kids versus guest father. Game went fast with good action right up to the last plays. Playing time: 15 minutes. Verdict: Success.
Another game played was Dragonheart. This was played by the Dads first as a teaching game. Afterward, I stepped out and let some of the kids play against the guest Dad. Verdict: SUCCESS!
While the adults were playing Qwirkle the kids played Magic Labyrinth. This proved very popular; so much so that when the adults were finished the kids challenged guest father to a match. Playing time for a four player game was about 30 minutes. Verdict: SUCCESS!
The night finished up with a large seven-player game of Abandon Ship. All six kids played (the high schooler helped the new younger player) against the two Dads. The game was a good race all the way to the end; I think five of the original seven rats were within reach of the top. As it turned out, one of the youngest players won a close race. All wanted to play again but the hour was getting late. Playing time: 30 minutes. Verdict: RESOUNDING SUCCESS.
This was the first Family Game Night we ever hosted with another family. It was a great time and no TVs or computers were turned on all night. All the kids, big and small, and all the adults had a great time. Even Mrs. RMN joined in a game instead of just being an observer. From the kids perspective it was a blast with interesting games. From the adult perspective it was good friends, conversation, (a wee bit of drinking) and tons of enjoyment playing with the kids. It also helps that our guest family is game friendly (we have introduced them to several games before) and were anxious to play. They left with a list of new games that they will eventually get.
For Christmas 2010 the youngest RockyMountainNavy sailor got The Magic Labyrinth. This is a labyrinth game, but with a twist.
The “grid” or maze is set up using wooden walls inserted into a heavy cardboard frame. Then, the mapboard is placed over the maze and the box spun so that players cannot remember what the maze looks like. The mapboard has various locations for the magic tokens to be placed. One token is randomly drawn and placed on the board. Players then roll a die to see how many spaces they move. The player tokens look like chess pieces but have a magnet through which a ball is attached below the board. If the players move and hit a wall the ball falls away forcing players to go back to their beginning corner and start over again. The first player to collect an agreed number of tokens wins.
This game plays very well as a family game. In the RockyMountainNavy family, the kids (ages 6-15) play well together and there is no real advantage for an older player. The difficulty of the maze can be adjusted by using more or less walls; we find that the recommended intermediate level (18-19 walls) is well balanced for the family.
We actually gave a second copy of this game to the grandparents to have at their house so that the kids can play when they visit. Once we show the grandparents how it plays I am sure they will use it as a filler game in the evenings too!