A Gnome's Ponderings

I'm a gamer. I love me some games and I like to ramble about games and gaming. So, more than anything else, this blog is a place for me to keep track of my ramblings. If anyone finds this helpful or even (good heavens) insightful, so much the better.

Archive for Gaming with Kids

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Okay, let’s try sneaking gaming into education again

Lowell Kempf
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The dream of all gamer parents is using games as educational tools. Of course, kids being kids, this usually turns out to be a pipe dream but I am still clinging to my copies of 10 Days for dear life

With homeschooling currently a part of our daily lives, trying to find educational games that actually work has become more important. Of course, there’s less time for looking for such games since that’s how the world works.

My next project along those lines is FourSight Word Game. I learned that the publishers were at least temporarily allowing it to be downloaded as a print and play so I downloaded it. The next step is is to actually make it. I’m hoping to do that this weekend.

It is made up of two types of tiles: tiles with three-letter words and tiles with one letter. The actual game is a speed game where you are trying to make four-letter words as fast as you can. Which sounds so much worse when I actually type it out.

But I’m not actually planning on playing by the actual rules with our six-year-old. That would just frustrate him to no end, seeing is how he is still learning to read. Instead, I want to have all the single letters out and available and flip over the three-letter words and explore how he can expand them.

I’m still not expecting him to be into it but I think it’s worth trying.

Originally posted at www.gnomepondering.com
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Thu Mar 26, 2020 9:59 pm
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Abstract game or art project?

Lowell Kempf
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Some board games make good art activities for younger kids. And, at least for me, abstracts are the games that seem to do the best job at it.

Two occurrences in about a week’s span really brought that home for me.

First of all, I learned that our son’s kindergarten teacher uses both Blokus and Blokus Trigon in the classroom. Not as the games but as cooperative activities. I found out about this by our son pulling out my copy of Blokus Trigon and saying that they had a copy at school

The second was when our son decided he wanted to have a board game night with daddy and started pulling out my stack of GIPF games. (TAMSK is stored elsewhere due to its size and I don’t have LYNGK, in case your curious) And gosh darn it, didn’t he find the games interesting to manipulate and make patterns with, ZERTZ and DVONN in particular. He actually paid attention to the rules of DVONN but wasn’t interested in actually playing it

It makes sense that abstracts are good for this kind of play. Games with tiles and chits and cards and such don’t have the same ‘artifact’ appeal. Glass beads and stones and balls and pyramids and such are actual physical objects with all the dimensional and tactile elements that go into being just that.

I am hoping that this eventually turns into actually playing the games

Originally came to visit at www.gnomepondering.com
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Fri Nov 29, 2019 3:44 pm
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Abstracts and kids

Lowell Kempf
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Some board games make good art activities for younger kids. And, at least for me, abstracts are the games that seem to do the best job at it.

Two occurrences in about a week’s span really brought that home for me,

First of all, I learned that our son’s kindergarten teacher uses both Blokus and Blokus Trigon in the classroom. Not as the games but as cooperative activities. I found out about this by our son pulling out my copy of Blokus Trigon and saying that they had a copy at school

The second was when our son decided he wanted to have a board game night with daddy and started pulling out my stack of GIPF games. (TAMSK is stored elsewhere due to its size and I don’t have LYNGK, in case your curious) And gosh darn it, didn’t he find the games interesting to manipulate and make patterns with, ZERTZ and DVONN in particular. He actually paid attention to the rules of DVONN but wasn’t interested in actually playing it

It makes sense that abstracts are good for this kind of play. Games with tiles and chits and cards and such don’t have the same ‘artifact’ appeal. Glass beads and stones and balls and pyramids and such are actual physical objects with all the dimensional and tactile elements that go into being just that.

I am hoping that this eventually turns into actually playing the games

Originally posted at www.gnomepondering.com
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Thu Nov 14, 2019 6:40 pm
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Hisss: not great but great with five-year-olds

Lowell Kempf
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I recently bashed Rivers, Roads and Rails for being a children’s game that really doesn’t work well as either game or an activity for kids to enjoy. The next kids game that I tried out was Hisss, a game that is mechanically similar but worked much better for us.

The short explanation for Hisss is that it’s a tile laying game where you are building snakes. The heads and tails are all either one color or wild but each segment are two colors. Colors need to match when placing tiles, just like in games like Carcassonne. If you complete a snake, you get that snake and its tiles count as points. Most points wins.

There are three things that made Hisss a more enjoyable experience than Rivers, Roads and Rails, most of them being the game being simpler. There are less than half as many tiles. The connections are simpler, one snake segment as opposed to three kinds of possible paths. And the rules are _much_ better written.

In short, Hisss is a lot more accessible for little minds who don’t have that much patience. Hisss takes the concepts of tile laying and makes them manageable for the young. Which isn’t as easy as it sounds. And having a tighter rule set is so much better.

For adults, it’s not a great game. I’m not even going to call it a good game. Hisss is not one of those kids games that adults can get into. However, it is a game that can keep a child engaged until the end. That might be be damning with faint praise but it’s also true.

Originally posted at www.gnomepondering.com
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Mon Nov 11, 2019 9:37 pm
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A five-year-old’s experiences with Go

Lowell Kempf
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I recently took a crack at introducing our five-year to the basics of Go.

And while I have heard Go described as having five rules with one of those rules being that you play it on a board, quite a bit of it didn’t sink in. Go is theoretically simple in theory but it is ridiculously complex to understand in practice.

But it was his idea so I ran with it.

The one thing that he really clicked on was the concept of eyes and that having two eyes makes a group of stones safe. Which, to be fair, is a very important idea.

I wonder if he will ask for Go again and what he will learn if he does.

Originally posted at www.gnomepondering.com
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Thu Nov 7, 2019 2:42 am
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A kid’s game can be just an activity but it can’t be boring

Lowell Kempf
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Okay. I’m sitting down to do something that I really don’t like to do. Bash a children’s game. Because, in so many ways, it’s unfair and too easy to do that. You should not hold a game for someone under eight under the same scrutiny you’d give to a game for an adult. A kid’s game has different requirements but expectations.

But not only did Rivers, Roads and Rails from Ravensburger not work for us, I’m not sure how it would work for almost anyone.

R3 is a tile-laying game made up of 144 tiles that have segments of rivers, roads and railroads. The object of the game is make a continuous line of them with all the edges matching, just like just about any tile-laying game you care to mention.

But part of the problem is that on almost every tile, the paths are straight lines. So you’re building a single line of tiles and either a tile fits or it doesn’t fit on one of the two ends. There’s no room for choices or decisions.

A problem with the game is the rules. At least in the copy we got, the rules are printed on the back of the box and actually contradict themselves. If they were a little longer, they would actually being describing variations and not be contrary. The rules describe the game as cooperative and as competitive. You either all work together with all the tiles available or you compete with your own pools of tiles.

The problem with the game as a cooperative is that it’s really just a boring jigsaw puzzle with a definite picture. There isn’t the joy of discovery you get with an actual jigsaw puzzle. And the problem with the game as a competitive game is the lack of choices. You might have no choices, which is even worse in a kid’s game than having the game play itself with only one choice per turn.

Rivers, Roads and Rails is very pretty. I really liked the art. And I’d have really liked a fun activity, not even necessarily a game, attached to that set. Unfortunately, it just bored all of us.

Originally posted at www.gnomepondering.com
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Wed Oct 23, 2019 8:01 pm
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Toy Factor

Lowell Kempf
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After I finished another game of Pop the Pig with our son, I realized I’ve never actually written about that game.

And to be fair, there’s not much to write about, it’s a game for small children consisting of a plastic pig dressed like a chef. Roll a die to determine what color plastic burger you stuff in his mouth. Every burger has a number on the bottom and you pump his hat that number of times. After about thirty or so pumps, his belt will pop and if you’re that player, you win.

To summarize. Roll a die and do what it tells you. If you’re lucky, you’ll win. The only decision is whether or not to play.

Despite that fact, our five-year-old does like to get it out every once in a while. And at least it’s not Doggie Doo Doo, which has the same number of decisions but is themed around dog poop.

Pop the Pig combines two things that I have seen in a number of little kid games. Toy Factor and No Choices. And clearly, the only reason that it hits the table, at least in our home, is the toy factor.

Toy Factor isn’t great as the solitary virtue of a game but I’ll admit that it can add a lot to a game experience. Connect 4 is a decent little abstract that has a first-player bias but the experience of dropping the checkers, as well as dropping them all out at the end, is what sells it. It’s a game that teaches the basics of abstracts and the tactile experience is a fun one.

The first game that our son really played was Don’t Spill the Beans, which also has plenty of toy factor. There’s a not a lot to the game but it is a dexterity game so there is a skill element to it.

Pop the Pig, I can’t say the same props that I can give either Connect 4 or Don’t Spill the Beans. But he does play it and plays it by the rules so it has that for me.

Originally posted at www.gnomepondering.com
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Wed Oct 2, 2019 8:22 pm
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