Well, the game rules are not overly complicated, but some elements of the game are a bit harder for some kids to grasp, especially at the younger ages. My son happens to be 6 years old, and he picks up on boardgames really well, but I knew dropping the full Leaping Lemmings rules on him right away would be too much to keep his interest.
Hence, this variant. I've played it all the way through twice, and messed with it a little, playing a couple of turns solitaire to check it out, and it works well for what I wanted it to do:
1) Get my son used to the idea of moving "forward" on hexes, which can cause some confusion to kids since they don't face exactly forward.
2) Get my son used to the idea that getting his lemmings eaten is part of the game, and funny to boot!
3) Teach my son about hiding from the Eagles in bushes, and therefore also to teach him about variable movement point costs to enter bush hexes.
4) Teach my son that the goal of the game is to leap the lemmings off of the cliff, which indeed does NOT kill them, and in fact makes them happy to not be eaten by Eagles anymore.
This is a very mechanical variant, and I intentionally made some "poor choices" while teaching him, since without the randomness (see below) of the eagles, the game becomes almost entirely an even match.
Teaching Variant / Younger Children Variant
The goal of the game remains the same: have the lemmings leap off the cliff.
1) No special action cards.
2) No one controlled the Eagles - each turn Ruby moves one section counter-clockwise and Stephen Jr. moves one section clockwise.
3) Each lemming that jumps off a cliff is worth one point each, no matter how much movement it had.
4) No sideways movement, only forward movement.
5) No Pellets.
The nice thing is, this allows the addition of the newer game rules one at a time, as we move along, and will allow them to master each element one at a time.
I recommend re-introducing them, one at a time and until they have gained a decent understanding of the new rule(s), in the following order:
1) Allow the one sideways movement per move.
This one is going to take some time to get used to, and so it is important to give it time to sink in. Also, they will know by this point that the goal is to move forward as much as possible.
2) Start counting Lemmings for full points when they jump.
Once they understand the ability to move sideways once per move, they can try to maximize points gained by jumping off. The game at this point will still be pretty evenly spaced, but the scoring will be higher, so the concept of different points can be established.
3) Introduce the concept of controlling the eagles.
This is going to take some getting used to, but it will be a lot of fun for the kids, because they are going to love eating the parents' lemmings. Guaranteed. I recommend allowing them to "help" the parents move their eagles as well as their own during this phase until you are ready to introduce the next phase, as it will help them to understand both sides of the players' control of the eagles.
4) Introduce the Pellets for end of game scoring only.
At this point, they'll hopefully begin understanding the eagles and how dangerous they can be, so begin using the pellets to help them start making those "tough" decisions.
5) Introduce the 1 and 2 cost Favor Pellet actions.
This will get them used to doing different things on their turn to help prepare them for the Special Action Cards.
6) Introduce Special Action Cards.
This one is going to be a pretty individual undertaking and judgment by the parents on whether to introduce all of them at once, but I personally recommend giving the children certain cards for a couple games at a time so that they can learn what they do and then work through them all this way.
7) Introduce the 3 cost Favor Pellet action.
Obviously dependent upon the full use of the previous step, once they grasp Special Actions significantly, the use of this action is the next obvious choice!
Of course, the game is fine as is, and I'm sure I could have ninja dropped this on my son, but I know that this way he gets to learn the game at his own pace, and I don't feel like I am pressuring him to learn too much at once. He really enjoys himself, and that's all that matters.
I hope others find this useful! I am personally always trying to find ways to bring games to my son's attention without driving him away screaming, but he enjoys this game so much I thought I'd share this one.
Thanks for reading!
What a wonderful Easter gift you offer us, Jacovis. It's my personal philosopny that games are meant to be fiddled with because we all have a little designer in us ... as long as everyone is on board with the fiddling when you asctually sit down to play. And any simple variant that brings the young on board is Aok with me. Thank you for sharing.
Great idea Jacovis - well done sir!
Wow thanks guys. Getting approval from the designers makes me feel a lot better about this I really enjoy both of your game designs, and I like that this one is playable by my whole family. Thanks for creating such a fun game, and for the kind words!
P.S. Looking forward to FAB:Sicily and Lincoln's War.