$10.00
I wish more American kids would get a chance to play....
Sue Hemberger

Washington
Dist of Columbia
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I love games. I love kids. But I'm selfish enough to insist that any game I play with a kid must also be fun for me. Given that the kids I'm most likely to play with range in age from 3 to 10, this is something of a challenge. Here are some relatively unsung imports that meet this criterion and that are well worth tracking down. Too bad more of them aren't filling the shelves of your local toy store, but I'm really happy to see them becoming increasingly available in the States through online retailers.

Think of this list as neglected Euros for kids and feel free to add others that you think meet the "fun for adults too" criterion.
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1. Board Game: Alpen Express [Average Rating:6.40 Overall Rank:6757]
Sue Hemberger

Washington
Dist of Columbia
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Very cute Parchisi-esque train game. Accessible to preschoolers. Not boring to adults.

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2. Board Game: The aMAZEing Labyrinth [Average Rating:6.34 Overall Rank:1240]
 
John Gorski
United States
Blairstown
New Jersey
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An interesting game for both adults and kids. And it can hold up to multiple sessions in one evening.
 
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3. Board Game: Castle Knights [Average Rating:6.67 Overall Rank:3014]
Sue Hemberger

Washington
Dist of Columbia
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Burgritter is a new HABA game in which two to four knights struggle to build three towers before the king returns home. The design of the towers is determined by card draw and the players work cooperatively, using a medieval building device that consists of four silken cords with wooden balls on the end, radiating out from what looks suspciously like an elastic ponytail holder.

The challenge is for everyone to pull simultaneously in ways that enable them to get the elastic around a particular block, then to loosen the tension enough to carry the block without dropping it, then to position it and remove the elastic without knocking the tower over.

This is a fun-for-adults-too kids game. One caveat -- like Break the Safe, this is a game where the imperative of cooperation can produce conflict/bossiness. Know your audience!
 
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4. Board Game: Château Roquefort [Average Rating:6.88 Overall Rank:720]
Sue Hemberger

Washington
Dist of Columbia
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Ooh, 3-D Labyrinth with dungeons and very cute mice! Probably not for the youngest kids and not for adults who hate games with a non-trivial memory component, but otherwise it's fun, challenging, and good for a mixed-age group.

You know you're an American when you don't have names that enable you to distinguish among the seven different varieties of cheese you can collect!


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5. Board Game: Chicken Cha Cha Cha [Average Rating:6.65 Overall Rank:1034]
Jim Pulles
Canada
Regina
Saskatchewan
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There's something about the large wooden hens and roosters that make this a great game for kids... and for adults as a party game.

If you have 6 players, you have to play with the "chicken poop" and the ducks from Zicke Zacke Entenkacke.
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6. Board Game: Duck, Duck, Bruce [Average Rating:6.24 Overall Rank:2759]
Sue Hemberger

Washington
Dist of Columbia
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A universal hit for us and a great first real game for the 3-4 year old crowd without seeming too babyish to 7 and 8 year olds (which makes it a nice sib game). And the push-your-luck dynamic provides a nice segue into Can't Stop and Zirkus Flohcati. It also introduces kids to a scoring system where only the highest card of a suit is counted.

No math and no literacy required -- just counting, sorting, and pattern recognition. Because it's a deck of cards and the only required set-up is shuffling, it's great for travel/waiting rooms. A big hit with every Mommy I've showed it to. Like Blink, it's a good choice for kids whose attention spans are still quite short.

I've bought at least 4 copies from Funagain, but I think it's more widely available online now. Translation available on the Geek (and I think Funagain shipped a copy as well). Language-independent components.
 
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7. Board Game: Esels-Rennen [Average Rating:5.47 Overall Rank:9093]
Scott Russell
United States
Clarkston
Michigan
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This was an early favorite and still comes out once in a while. Teaches looking ahead and also doesn't need reading.
We started with face up goal cards to make it simpler to explain.
 
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8. Board Game: Flaschengeist [Average Rating:6.77 Unranked] [Average Rating:6.77 Unranked]
Sue Hemberger

Washington
Dist of Columbia
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Geistertreppe is the name of the basic game, but I love it with the ghost-in-the-bottle extension and with the rule where you can exchange tokens instead of ghosts if you prefer. Truly head-spinning.
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9. Board Game: Flix Mix [Average Rating:6.29 Overall Rank:3109]
Sue Hemberger

Washington
Dist of Columbia
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As in Vitrail, orientation matters and that's an interesting change of pace from other visual discrimination games (like Set or Jungle Speed). Flix Mix is more interactive than Vitrail because you're playing off/making a common board. It's an on-your-feet, prowling kind of game and I don't think we have any other card or board game I could say that of.
 
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10. Board Game: Ghosts! [Average Rating:6.40 Overall Rank:1692]
Sue Hemberger

Washington
Dist of Columbia
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I'd play Geister! over Stratego any day. The bits are kid magnets and the bluffing is fun. This seems to come and go at online retailers in the US -- sometimes I have to order it from Germany, other times I find it here. I've never seen it in a store though.

 
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11. Board Game: The Great Balloon Race [Average Rating:6.19 Overall Rank:4009]
Sue Hemberger

Washington
Dist of Columbia
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It took me forever to track down a copy of Himmelssturmer, but it was worth the wait.

We're suckers for hidden identities race games and I particularly like the overlapping objectives part of this one. Because each player needs to get three different color balloons across the finish line to win, you have to figure out (and not let on) which balloons of yours are needed by other players and then decide whether/when it's safe to leave the work of getting those across to them.
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12. Board Game: Gulo Gulo [Average Rating:6.90 Overall Rank:625]
Bruce Bridges
United States
Los Altos
CA
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I love playing this game with my 3.5 year old. I have never beaten him in the six games we have played. His little dexterous fingers are just too good at picking up just about any egg without knocking over the alarm.
 
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13. Board Game: Jungle Speed [Average Rating:6.65 Overall Rank:745]
Scott Russell
United States
Clarkston
Michigan
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Simple concept, lots of fun as long as no one has long nails...
 
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14. Board Game: Ka-Ching! [Average Rating:6.44 Overall Rank:2263]
Sue Hemberger

Washington
Dist of Columbia
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Very simple two-player game with tough choices. Basically you buy cards at their additive value and re-sell (same-colored pairs only) at their multiplicative value. Player with the most money at the end wins. It's a complete information game where only the bottom card of each column is for sale and the game ends when the board is down to two columns. Limited purchasing power and transactional choices (you may/must buy one (and only one) card *or* sell one (and only one) pair on any give turn) force you to plan ahead and think both offensively and defensively at all times. I've played it with both a 7 year old and a 9 year old and each played well and really enjoyed the game. Takes 30 minutes or less and is very portable (another deck of cards).

Bought this one from Boards & Bits. Language-independent components, translation available here. No literacy required, but does entail simple multiplication -- up to 4x5 -- which could be treated as successive addition.
 
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15. Board Game: Kupferkessel Co. [Average Rating:6.96 Overall Rank:943]
Sue Hemberger

Washington
Dist of Columbia
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This set-collection game (ingredients for potions) with interesting memory and movement components is a fave with the young Harry Potter fan in my life. Plays well with 2 or 3 (though with 3 the bonus for collecting your own color may need to be adjusted if you aren't playing with recipe cards).

Got my copy from Boards & Bits. English translation available on the Geek. Language-independent components. No literacy required, but there is a fair amount of math (multiplying and added) involved in the scoring.
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16. Board Game: Lauras Sternenspiel [Average Rating:6.19 Unranked]
Sue Hemberger

Washington
Dist of Columbia
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This is one of my favorite first games. It's cooperative and tactile. What sets it apart from other grab bag games is that you're using both hands simultaneously to find a pair.
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17. Board Game: Mago Magino [Average Rating:6.18 Overall Rank:5254]
Sue Hemberger

Washington
Dist of Columbia
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Mago Magino has replaced Verflixxt/That's Life as my favorite roll-and-move game for kids. It works well with a mixed age range (4-8) and the prospect of being turned into a frog at any moment keeps everyone engaged regardless of whose turn it is.
 
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18. Board Game: Nacht der Magier [Average Rating:6.74 Overall Rank:1263]
Eric Chantigny
Canada
Gatineau
Quebec
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This game is very fun with about any crowd, be it in the light or in the dark. A must try for everyone from 4 to ...
 
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19. Board Game: On the Dot [Average Rating:6.31 Overall Rank:2777]
Sue Hemberger

Washington
Dist of Columbia
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I read once that the ability to rotate objects in your mind was one that seemed gendered and scientists were trying to figure out whether the differences were attributable to hard-wiring or practice. Well, here's practice, LOL! So far the girls seem to be as good at it as the boy.

A fun, challenging, different game.

www.levalet.com carries it.

 
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20. Board Game: Phoenix [Average Rating:6.42 Overall Rank:1997]
Sue Hemberger

Washington
Dist of Columbia
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Two players race to be the first to reorder their colored pawns so that they match the order of the colored blocks in the center of the board. Pawn movement is controlled by cards (you have five to choose from at any given time) which let you swap pawns (usually at particular distances apart along your own side of the board, but sometimes with your opponent's pawn directly opposite) or move one pawn a specific number of spaces down and then push others forward to fill in the gap. Other cards let you rearrange the colored blocks in the center in specific ways, changing the objective mid-game.

No literacy or numeracy required, but lots of strategizing! Components are language-independent and the multilingual rule book includes English rules. I've played this with the same 7 and 9 year olds who could play Combit. The 7 year old was better than the 9 year old, but I'm guessing she's at about the bottom of the appropriate age range.

Levalet.com has the best price on this one and it has flat-rate shipping to the US and Canada that's so cheap that even if you buy only this game from them, it's still the cheapest way to procure it. But if you're ordering Phoenix from them anyway, might as well pick up...
 
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21. Board Game: Picus [Average Rating:5.79 Overall Rank:7414]
Scott Russell
United States
Clarkston
Michigan
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Here's one we play instead of Set sometimes (ours is the Leonardo version). It can be easily handicapped as well. When someone is a little slower, we let them turn the card over and announce when they've found the first card in the four card chain.
 
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22. Board Game: Piranha [Average Rating:5.88 Overall Rank:7819]
Sue Hemberger

Washington
Dist of Columbia
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A fun, colorful dexterity game that has the potential to create really amazing little sculptures.
 
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23. Board Game: Ribbit [Average Rating:6.78 Overall Rank:1028]
Sue Hemberger

Washington
Dist of Columbia
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What fun! In my opinion, the best hidden identity/bluffing game for kids yet (and we've tried a bunch). This is a turtle race in which players use cards to advance various pawns. When multiple turtles land on the same space, they stack. And any turtle that moves carries those stacked on top with him; those beneath are left behind. The structural ambiguities (is this turtle being moved because it's the player's turtle, because the player's turtle is on top of it, or because the player assumes this turtle doesn't belong to an opponent and can't advance her own marker this turn given the cards currently in her hand) help prevent even little kids from being too obvious about which marker is theirs.

Lots of requests for instant replays on this one. Another good choice for kids with short attention spans -- often plays in about 10 minutes.

Bought my copy from Fair Play. Had to do a translation myself -- currently available here in a forum thread. I've also submitted it as file to be placed under the game's listing. Language-independent components. No literacy or math required -- just counting, color-matching, and thinking vertically as well as horizontally.
 
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24. Board Game: Shazamm! [Average Rating:6.27 Overall Rank:2493]
Sue Hemberger

Washington
Dist of Columbia
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Another one for the Harry Potter crowd. Wizards hurling rebounding curses at each other. Each plays with the same deck of cards (including one dummy card) and there's simultaneous selection of curses, but you're constrained by the cards in your hand at any given moment. Simpler in some ways than Blue Moon (fewer kinds of cards) and shorter (simultaneous rather than sequential play), with more of an emphasis on the interplay of special powers and less on how much force to apply when.

Cards are in French, translation available here. In our experience, no need for pasteup -- players aid is great and cards are numbered/illustrated in ways that make it easy to remember what each does. As already indicated, I bought my copy at levalet.com.
 
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25. Board Game: StarTaxi [Average Rating:6.50 Unranked]
Nello Cozzolino
United Kingdom
London
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Essen 2009 !
 
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