Monday, August 14, 2023

Travel Games: Kid Tested, Uncle Approved

Traveling to Tucson with 5 kids, I wanted to be prepared with plenty of offline activities. Here's a handful of games that we brought and how they faired among the kids.

Kariba: Winner! Shira and I walked into Labyrinth Games & Puzzles in DC and said: we need an easy to travel with game that 5 kids--pre-teens to teens--are going to love, what do you got? Without missing a beat, they pointed us to Kariba. And they nailed it. Kariba is fast to learn and fun to play. It requires enough thinking to be engaging, but it's not so intensive that you can't kibbitz about other things while playing. It was a hit.

Bandido: Good, maybe great. Bandido is another compact card game. This one is cooperative and is a "route building game"; a form of game that was new to us. We have yet to beat the game, and so we haven't had the thrill of winning yet. But, that's probably a good thing as we've played this only a few times and it's cooperative so it should be tricky. This game is probably more suitable for older kids who are interested sticking with a challenge. Still, it's compact and clever, so perfect to travel with.

Lucky Doug 12-in-1 STEM Solar Robot Kit: DO NOT BUY. Don't do it. Trust me. Don't buy this. This isn't a game, but I figured building a robot would be a fun way to keep the kids occupied. Alas, this kit is a disaster. We spent the first 30 minutes of the building process unclipping tiny plastic pieces and putting them in tiny plastic bags; all the while imagining that we'd surely lost or damanged one of the tiny plastic pieces. When we finally got to building stage, we found the instructions complex and the pieces impossibly finiky. If you're an adult who likes to build complex puzzles, or a masochist in general, then enjoy. But yeah, this is not a kids toy.

Mate: Clever, unique, and accessible. Mate is card game played with a standard deck of cards that is a sort of distant cousin to chess. Mate, like chess, is a "game of perfect information: both players know the location of all cards from the start." This was a great game to experiment with when I had one on one time with the kids. We didn't play it enough to get out of the awkward learning phase, but I've added it to my offline games repository, so I hope to keep playing it. I love that you get to sharpen the skills involved in chess but in a more portable package.

Snip Snap Snorem: quick, all-ages fun. We didn't play this card game this trip because I'd forgotten about it, but in the past it was a staple. It was especially useful in restuarants when the kids got antsy and we were waiting for our food. I've added this to my offline games list so I'll have it at the ready in the future.

Yu-Gi-Oh!: Kids loved it, I was utterly confused. Early in the trip, J took out his Yu-Gi-Oh! cards and asked if he could teach us to play. We were all psyched to give it a go. Within seconds of him explaining what was going on, I was lost. To my surprise, the other kids were totally tracking. The thing is, it wasn't that J was bad at explaining things; there's just a heap of new concepts that you need to hold in your head at once, and my brain wasn't having it. Consider this how-to play page. It starts off gentle enough, explaining:

The Yu-Gi-Oh! TCG is played in turns that follow a specific order of operations. To begin a duel, the decks are shuffled and each player draws an opening hand of five cards.

OK, fair enough. That makes sense. But then, in the very next set of instructions, it becomes overwhelming:

In this phase, you make most of your non-combat actions. These include the normal summon/set of one monster (in face-up attack position or face-down defense position respectively), any special summons you are allowed, the activation/setting of spells and traps, and changing battle positions of your monsters, including flip-summoning facedown defending monsters into the face-up attack position.

Wait, what? That second sentance contains like 8 different operations you can perform. Mind. Blown.

What I need to do is hire a 10 year old to coach me to success. Just you wait kids, next year I'll be flip-summoning monsters in attack position in no time!

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