Welcome to the Little Gamers Guild!

I am thrilled to present my new blog linky for sharing experiences of playing tabletop games with our children, called the Little Gamers Guild. I have long thought, and said, that tabletop games are brilliant way to have fun as a family (even on the rainiest of days!) and are a fantastic educational tool. Please share your tabletop game related posts at the bottom of this page. To kick things off, I’ve created a list of our top ten favourite tabletop games to play with younger children. The linky will run on a monthly basis so look out for next month’s too! I’ll be creating a monthly round up of the best posts.

Little Gamers Guild Badge

With Pip quickly moving on to tabletop games intended for 6 years old and beyond, I thought now would be a good time to look back at all of the games for younger children that she’s enjoyed for the last few years, before they’re forgotten forever! I hope this list inspires you to try out some tabletop games with your little people.

(The list isn’t in any particular order, mostly because neither myself nor my daughter are any good at picking favourites!)

1. Skunk Bingo – For ages 3 and up, this game is great for developing social and memory skills. I particularly like the cute artwork and using the log as a mechanic.

2. Feed the Woozle – For ages 3-6 with 3 different levels of difficulty, this game is great for parties or just for a more active play. We always end up in fits of giggles over this one.

3. Create Your Own Fairytale Spinner Game – For ages 5 and up, this game is all about creativity and imagination. As a family who love telling stories and playing games, for us this is just a brilliant mixture of the two.

4. Snug as a Bug in a Rug – Like Feed the Woozle, this game is for 3-6 years and has 3 difficulty levels. I really like the original concept of this game and it’s great for learning to recognise shapes and colours and for counting, as well as some basic logical thinking.

5. Hoot Owl Hoot! – For ages 4 and up, this game is incredibly cute and we found it’s a really nice one to play when little friends are visiting. Be warned, there can be a bit of upset if the game is lost but luckily it’s quite short so you’ll probably have time for another go.

6. Elephant’s Trunk – For ages 4 and up, this is a really fun game to play as a family and it’s easy to transport as everything fits into the four tins, or ‘suitcases’, making this a good game to take on holiday. I really like the concept and design of this one.

7. My First Carcassonne – For ages 4 and up, this is a good choice for those parents who already love tabletop games and want to introduce their children to the medium. Our daughter saw us playing the grown up version of Carcassonne and wanted to join in but it was just a bit too complicated so this was a great solution for us. It’s a fun one even for the grown ups to play and we often get this out when family are visiting.

8. Race to the Treasure – For ages 5 and up, this game has a good original concept and introduces the idea of map coordinates to children. Being a cooperative game, it’s a great one to play as a family, working together to defeat the ogre (who we named Bogden, incidentally!).

9. Build a Robot – For ages 5 and up, this game did need a tiny bit of tweaking in it’s mechanic (see my review for more details) but it’s a great game, especially for little people that love robots. Like most eBoo products, the artwork is really nice.

10. Tell Me a Story – For ages 3 and up, this set of story cards is really multi-use so while it can be used as a tabletop game, it can also be used simply as a resource for learning about narrative and storytelling. We have two sets and we’ve been using them for years now.

Here’s the Little Gamers Guild Badge to pop on your blog:

Little Gamers Guild
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Game Review: Timeline Inventions

A short review today for a short game called Timeline by Asmodee. There are a few different versions, some which I’d like to try, but right now we just have the Inventions version.

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The concept of this game is simple; you try to place your cards in the correct place within the timeline and the person to place all of their cards first is the winner. However, it can be pretty tricky to work out where some of the cards should go. There is a nice learning element to this game as you discover when important inventions occurred throughout human history. Although she’s a little young for it at the moment, I think the Timeline series will be great fun for Pip in the future, as well as a great learning tool. This would also make a great game for playing with company, definitely something to think about with Christmas (yes, I said the C word but it is November now!) only a couple of months away.

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The game comes in a rather lovely looking tin – it’s always a bonus when a game looks nice on the shelf! The cards are really well illustrated too and overall I really like the look of the game.

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As short games go, I really like this one and I hope to try out more of the Timeline series soon!

Spooky Game Review: Elder Sign

With Halloween tomorrow, I thought I’d share a review of the spookiest board game in our collection, Elder Sign by Fantasy Flight Games. This game is inspired by the works of HP Lovecraft, particularly the Cthulhu mythology he created. (If you’re unfamiliar with this author, here’s a handy Wikipedia link!) The game is a cooperative for 1 – 8 players, where you play various characters in a museum, trying to prevent an ancient monster, an Elder One, from awakening and destroying the Earth. Along the way, you go on different adventures and fight all manner of scary monsters.

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The aim of the game is to collect 14 elder sign tokens before the doom track is filled with twelve tokens. You get elder sign tokens by completing adventure cards and you achieve this through rolling the right dice and also using various special items and skills.

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Husband and I really enjoy this one. While to an extent, the roll of the dice is a matter of luck, there are elements of skill too. You have to pick the adventure that most suits your character skills and the items you currently hold and also which would give you the rewards that would most benefit you. Like all of the cooperative games we’ve tried, I really like the element of working together and sharing information with each other.

Elder Sign Collage

The game mechanic works really well and there are always points in the game where there’s some genuine tension created, partly created by the clock slowly turning towards midnight every four turns, when some terrible mishap might befall your characters!

The game is very aesthetically appealing with rich illustrations throughout and a real creepy atmosphere created by the descriptions on each adventure card. There’s plenty of replay value, with lots of different characters to play and lots of different Elder Ones to attempt to defeat!

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As someone who has read a very limited amount of Lovecraft’s work, I really think this game would appeal to anyone, regardless of being a fan of the author or not. This is a brilliant game and perfect for a spooky Halloween!

Review: Race to the Treasure

Recently Pip turned five. Amongst her gifts from us (which I will certainly review more of in the coming weeks), was obviously a new board game. It’s another cooperative game from Peaceable Kingdom called Race to the Treasure.

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The basic premise of this game is to build a path across the map, collecting keys on your way, while hoping to avoid the dreaded ogre (which in our house is usually called Ogden). You take it in turns to take a tile from the pile and either lay a piece of path or if it’s an ogre tile, lay it on the ogre track. If you collect enough keys and reach the treasure before the ogre track is full, you’ve won!

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Sounds simple, right? Well, perhaps not as simple as you’d think. The key tiles are laid at the beginning of the game using dice to make random map coordinates (I love this feature). If the keys are very scattered, it can be quite tricky, even for a grown up, to get to them and then to the treasure in time. We’ve played as a family a few times and I think we’ve only narrowly won more games than we’ve lost! I actually like this though. It’s a challenge and teaches Pip that playing a game is fun, regardless of winning or losing. Plus, I think it helps develop some really key skills – problem solving and communication. As we played through a few rounds, Pip began communicating pretty well, suggesting where the paths should go on our turns and calmly asking for help when stuck on her turn rather than going into a meltdown!

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The look of this game is great too, which I’ve really come to expect from Peaceable Kingdom games. I love the whole map concept, it really appeals to my little adventurer – very handy when the weather becomes a bit too miserable for proper outdoor exploring! The game instructions are rather handily on the inside of the box lid, which means you can’t lose them!

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I highly recommend this game as something to do as a family or when friends come to play!

Game Review: Build a Robot

Pip is quite fascinated by robots. She wants to know how they work and what they can do. One day, she wants to build a robot.

So when we were in our local games shop and she happened to have some pocket money to spend, Build a Robot, a puzzle and spinner game by eBoo, instantly caught her eye with it’s appealingly colourful box. On opening the box, the quality of the puzzle pieces is obviously apparent and are just as appealing as the exterior. Since Pip is a fan of puzzles, we really liked combining this into a game. I also really liked that the instructions are written on the inside of the box lid – no chance of losing them, plus it’s a nice environmentally friendly feature.

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On playing it, we did encounter an issue with the game mechanic. The idea is that each player spins a spinner on their turn, the numbers on the spinner match numbers on robot parts and you gradually build up your robot. The first player with a completed robot is the winner. However, you need to spin for a Tool piece first. If you go through a few turns without getting the tool piece, this can become rather frustrating, especially for a four year old and more particularly if the other players do have the tool piece and perhaps a few robot pieces in place. After a couple of games where Pip seemed to admit defeat after not getting a tool within two turns, we decided to alter the rules a bit. Our house rule is if you land on the ‘Lose a Turn’ section before you get a tool, then it also acts as a ‘tool’ section. This increases your chances of picking up a tool.

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Unfortunately, this doesn’t really fix this problem cropping up further on in the game too. We’ve had games of this where both players need their last piece and the game drags on turn after turn with nobody winning.

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Apart from this little problem, I do think this is actually a good game. It helps with number recognition and the general concept of building a robot is really appealing to children. Most of the time when it’s played, Pip does enjoy it. We all really like making up names and back stories for our robots at the end of the game, as suggested in the rules, adding in a little creativity. Pip also plays with it alone, simply picking out pieces to build lots of different robots. I like this feature since it makes the game something for us to do together but also something for her to do alone when I am, for instance, doing housework.

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Overall, I like this game and would recommend it. I would just also recommend tweaking the rules a bit.

Ticket To Ride For Kids

Husband and I love the board game Ticket to Ride. We own the original USA version, the 10th Anniversary version, the Europe version, plus two additional maps, the USA 1910 expansion and a rather lovely set of Halloween trains. I’ll point out now that I will not be going into the basic game rules or even how brilliant this game is to play in this post so if you want to know any of that stuff, I recommend checking out my previous review of it here.

Pip gets a little bit upset when told that she’s just a little bit young for one of our games, even if the bad news is followed by the offer to play on of the games more suited to her age group. This has been particularly true for Ticket To Ride, a game that’s designed for 8 years and up, I think because the little train carriages and the brightly coloured cards appeal to her.

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After a bit of a think, it occurred to us that there’s really no reason for her to be entirely left out. The game just needed a little tweaking. The only part of the game that she can’t really manage is the tickets, given that her reading skills are very basic at the moment and the place names are mostly not ones she would recognise, given that we were looking at the USA version as it’s much simpler than Europe to begin with, what with having no stations, tunnels or ferry routes.

So, we removed the whole concept of the tickets. Instead, we simply had train cards that we used to make train routes to get points. We also decided not to use the Longest Route bonus just for this first game to keep things really basic. We let her use our special Halloween trains just because they look a bit more exciting than the regular trains but we’re not quite as precious about them as we are about the really detailed sets in our anniversary edition.

Pip loved it. She actually did very well and quickly picked up on the idea that the longer trains got more points. She also tried to link her trains together into one long route so I think we’ll add the longest route bonus back in when we play again.

This simpler version was obviously less challenging and, I will be honest, slightly less enjoyable for us grown ups. However, being able to share our favourite game with Pip and make it some quality family time made it worthwhile.

I think we’ll definitely be playing this again and I’m looking forward to gradually adding it the extra features as Pip’s reading skills develop.

 

Roll for it Review

I am a big advocate of learning through play and, more specifically, through playing tabletop games. I really think there’s such a broad range of skills that can be learnt through this medium, from maths and reading skills, to social skills like sharing, taking turns and working as part of a team.

One game that I play with Pip on most weekdays is Roll For It, a very simple and quick game that’s good for number skills and also for introducing the idea of probability and decision making.

Box Each player is given a set of six dice of one colour. In the middle of the table are placed three cards. On each card is a picture of some dice and a number.

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On each turn, you roll the dice and try to match the dice you’ve rolled to the dice in the picture. If you manage to match all of the dice on one card, you win that card and score the number of points shown on it. First player to reach 40 points is the winner. If you don’t match all of the dice on a card in one turn, you can leave the dice you do have that match on that card until the next turn and try again, as long as another player doesn’t get it first!

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At first, Pip quickly caught on to the basic premise of matching dice but didn’t really get that some cards were easier to win than others – for example, it’s much easier to get 4 dice and win 10 points, than get 6 dice and win 15. So while she was spending multiple turns trying to get six fives, lets say, on her dice, I was scoring more points by going for the easier cards.

After a few games, she gradually picked up on this and now generally makes pretty clever decisions about what card she’ll go for. It’s also helping her to look at adding larger numbers than she’s used to. Generally when we’ve got our whiteboard out and we’re looking at addition sums, I keep the numbers to below ten. But this game needs you to add numbers up to forty. She struggles with this but I think it’s giving a nice, casual and fun introduction to it. It also gives her an aim for her maths skills as we tell her ‘If you keep practicing with your sums, soon you’ll be able to keep your own score’. This seems to really help focus her attention.

This is a great family game, since it’s one we can all play and enjoy together, rather than it being either a bit too simple and boring for adults or a bit too advanced for children. Despite having a recommended minimum age limit of 8, Pip has picked up this game really easily and, aside from us having to keep score for her, she can play it independently.

Thanks for reading!