One list to geek them all: Ultra-simple variants you use when your little children want to play one of your games
José Luis V.
Spain
Alcobendas
Madrid
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I have two sons, 2 ½ years and 4 months old. The first one likes to play board games with me and I enjoy it too. He has got many puzzles and some kids games such as 'The kids of Catan' or 'Chicken Cha Cha Cha', but he is always looking at the upper shelf and asking me to play with him one of my games. Obviously, he is too young, but I started thinking about what games could I 'play' with him just without spoiling the components. Fortunately he never tries to eat the little pieces so we started playing simple variants of some of my board games, and he enjoys it a lot. I also enjoy teaching him and watching him as he learns some gaming concepts like numbers, colours, counting, taking turns, placing and orienting tiles, capturing pieces, etc.

Some of these variants are so simple that only consist in playing with the components rather than playing the game itself, but remember that my son is only two. Variants of these variants and not so simple variants are welcome (I’m sure we’ll use them in the future), just indicate the age of the children you play them with.

If you know of a variant that has already been posted in the game section, just add the link.
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1. Board Game: Ingenious [Average Rating:0.00 Unranked]
José Luis V.
Spain
Alcobendas
Madrid
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Take turns drawing and placing tiles. If possible you must place your tile touching already placed tiles of the same colors. The game ends when the supply runs out. No winner.
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2. Board Game: Ricochet Robots [Average Rating:0.00 Unranked] [Average Rating:0.00 Unranked]
José Luis V.
Spain
Alcobendas
Madrid
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Turn up an objective tile, find it on the board and place the robot of the same color on the correspondent drawing. The first doing so gets the tile. When the supply runs out the winner is the player with more tiles.
To handicap adults you can count up to some number of seconds before watching the tile and starting your search. My son always beats me if I give him a 2 or 3 seconds advantage.
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3. Board Game: Hey, That's My Fish! [Average Rating:0.00 Unranked]
José Luis V.
Spain
Alcobendas
Madrid
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Penguins can only move to an adjacent tile.
I must play this trying not to block him, so this should be renamed as 'Hey, Let’s go fishing'.
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4. Board Game: ZÈRTZ [Average Rating:0.00 Unranked] [Average Rating:0.00 Unranked]
José Luis V.
Spain
Alcobendas
Madrid
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Take turns placing balls or, if possible, capturing balls jumping over them. No winner.
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5. Board Game: Blokus [Average Rating:0.00 Unranked]
José Luis V.
Spain
Alcobendas
Madrid
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Just place pieces taking turns. No winner.
I want him to put them touching only at the corners, but he doesn’t like it, he prefers placing them without leaving gaps.
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6. Board Game: Carcassonne [Average Rating:0.00 Unranked] [Average Rating:0.00 Unranked]
José Luis V.
Spain
Alcobendas
Madrid
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Just take turns placing tiles with matching sides, like a puzzle. No winner.
My son likes to place red (he plays with red) meeples on them just for fun (he loves to claim castles).
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7. Board Game: Wallenstein (first edition) [Average Rating:0.00 Unranked]
Ben .
United Kingdom
Unspecified
Surrey
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Adam(aged 3 and a bit)'s favourite "daddy game" of the moment.

Set-up:
- Place board on table
- Place cube tower on board

On your turn:
1. Take a number of cubes from the supply.
2. Adam counts these cubes.
3. Guess how many cubes will emerge from the tower.
4. Drop cubes into tower
5. Adam counts how many cubes come out.
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8. Board Game: Shogi [Average Rating:0.00 Unranked]
Callan Bond
United States
San Diego
California
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My wife explained a variant of Shogi she used to play with her dad in Japan when she was young. It's basically like 'pick up sticks', except you take all the shogi pieces in the wooden box it comes with, tip it upside down on the center of the board, and leave them in a heap. Then, using one finger, you remove the pieces one by one. If you can hear any of the surrounding jumble of pieces slip or move as a result of your action, your turn is over and it's the other player's turn. The person with the most pieces at the end wins.

I have an 8 month old girl at home now, and am looking forward to playing this variant with her in a few years (before teaching her real shogi and finally getting someone to play with!)
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9. Board Game: Blink [Average Rating:0.00 Unranked]
Dan Rivera
United States
Fountain
Colorado
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seperate the cards by giving your kid 2 for every 3 you get or if there younger 1 for every two you get. Then play as the normal game. This works incredibly well since you as the adult can play at full speed and make an honest attempt at winning at the same time it lets the kid have just as realistic a chance. Also it alows you to "up" the dificulty level for your kid as they get better.

I play with my 6 year old all the time at first it was 2 to 1 now its got to the point now where its almost even I give myself perhaps 5 or 6 more cards then her and the race is on.
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10. Board Game: Catan [Average Rating:0.00 Unranked] [Average Rating:0.00 Unranked]
Keith S.
United States
Dallas/Fort Worth
Texas
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Play without dice, Knights, the Robber, Longest Road or Largest Army. On each turn, everyone gets one resource from each hex they're next to (no maximum). Play until everyone's built all their stuff, no winners. Definitely keep this away from kids still putting stuff in their mouths.
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11. Board Game: Acquire [Average Rating:0.00 Unranked]
JB Lawton
United States
Dublin
Ohio
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Acquire offers a number of kid variants. For the REALLY young, just learning numbers and letters, the tiles and board make a great matching game. (Draw a tile and find where it goes on the board.)

For older kids, play Acquire without stocks or money: Two connected tiles make a hotel/corporation. If there's a merger, then the bigger hotel/corporation wins. Eleven tiles make a hotel/corporation safe. See which one ends up being the biggest. (Lots of opportunities for kids to practice their counting with this version.)
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12. Board Game: Qwirkle [Average Rating:0.00 Unranked]
Gregor McNish
Australia
Melbourne
VIC
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Play with my 4 and 2 year old. Take turns drawing tiles, place them matching other tiles wrt colour or shape. 4 yr old gets it, 2 year old doesn't, but enjoys himself anyway.

Also, build towers and knock them over.

I have come to appreciate games with indestructible bits.
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13. Board Game: Blokus 3D [Average Rating:0.00 Unranked] [Average Rating:0.00 Unranked]
Gertrude McFuzz

New York
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This is an even bigger hit than Blokus for my 4 y.o. (he prefers clay to drawing too - he's just a 3D kid).

We usually take 2 colors each, and just take turns placing the pieces legally, with no winning conditions. But we just started using the more complex cards (the pyramid and the steps) and working cooperatively to fill it in correctly. It becomes a 3-D puzzle.
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14. Board Game: Time Blocks [Average Rating:0.00 Unranked]
Gertrude McFuzz

New York
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This is not an appropriate game for a 2.5 y.o, but it is working really well for my 4 y.o:

This was a thrift find which we use as a cooperative puzzle. While you are meant to arrange the blocks into the structures depicted on the cards in under a minute, we forgo the timer and work together.

The images are very challenging for 4 y.o. to read, since there are large, medium, and small shapes that look very similar on the drawings. The structures are also very finely balanced, so it is really important to figure out what needs to be built first. It also takes a fair amount of dexterity to balance the blocks as indicated. I think this is a really great activity for pre-readers who love to build things.
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15. Board Game: Hey, That's My Fish! [Average Rating:0.00 Unranked]
Lo Ma
United States
California
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Hey, That's My Fish! is an okay abstract game that doesn't really grab me much, but I made a variant ruleset so I can play it with my 2-1/2 year old, and he loves it so much and gets so excited, I really enjoy playing it with him.

laugh

It's a 2-player variant - you would need more penguins or equally cool penguin substitutes to play with more people. You put all the tiles in a bag. Each turn, players take one tile from the bag, and for every fish on your tile, you put a penguin on it - so if your tile has 3 fish, you put 3 penguins on it. If the tile has 1 fish, you get to put 1 penguin on it, etc. You do this until you run out of penguins, and whoever has the most penguins wins the game. So your kid has to be able to count and identify up to 3 objects, be able to take turns, and understand a very simple rule set. Makes a great game for the really really young ones... My boy wants to play it over and over and over and over and over and over again...

zombie
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16. Board Game: Magic Realm [Average Rating:0.00 Unranked]
Julian Anstey
Wales
Barry
Vale of Glamorgan
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My 5 year old was attracted to the map tiles. We played a simple treasure hunt game as follows. He gave it two thumbs up, but then I did let him win.

Place the Borderlands as a starter tile, and put 1 treasure/coin/counter in each clearing (I used coins from Der Schwarze Pirat). Take it in turns to draw a tile and place it touching an existing tile such that all tile edges match roads and non-roads, and at least one clearing leads back to the Borderlands. Place 1 coin on any one such clearing, player's choice. On the last tile that a player places, put the player's token instead of a coin.

On your turn, move as follows: Roll two dice. If any part of your move is in a mountain / cave clearing or along any secret passage or hidden path, use the lower value, otherwise you can take the higher value. It is allowed to take the higher value, but waste pips to avoid going into a mountain or cave. It is also allowed to change direction during a turn. If you land on or move through a clearing with a coin, take the coin.

The person who collects the most coins wins.
 
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