Boden just turned 10. I’ve had a few successes in the past few of years getting him to level up his gaming. Here’s a quick rundown of the highs and lows.


  1. Fjords
    • strategy, tactics, scoring, area control
    • this was the most notable win for me. We both played the first game unsure of the arc of the game, but we both clicked at the same time and saw the trick to it. “Let’s play again!” are the three words I’ve been waiting to hear since he was born. 🙂
    • we’ve since played this a dozen or so times using all the tiles for the Epic Fjords variant. He’s a purist and dislikes the added rune stones modules from the new version, and I’m happy to agree with him. The core game is simple, elegant, and tactical.
  2. Jaipur
    • cards, tactics, short term / long term risk/reward
    • Here’s another one Boden clicked on… the nuance of when to take the camels and when to run the clock on your opponent. Simple, but with some tactical depth that piques his interest.
  3. Mr. Jack
    • deception, hidden movement, anticipation, deduction
    • I think this was the gateway game for him. Neither of us have been able to succeed as Jack very often and we both seem to have a hard time wrapping our heads around exactly how to manipulate the other with false clues, but it’s great seeing his brain grind and catch me red handed.
  4. Clank! A Deck-building Adventure
    • cards, deck-building, planning movement, risk/reward, point-to-point movement
    • we’ve played this a few times, but my interest is waning. I find it too repetitive and samey from game to game. I thought I might buy them a copy of Clank Legacy, but after playing it with the guys, I’m just not that into Clank anymore. I’ll hold onto it because I don’t hate it, but I’d much rather play other games with the boys.
  5. Tobago
    • reverse deduction, point-to-point movement, risk/reward
    • He beats me handily at this game and I really don’t know what I do wrong. Drives me nuts. Kids love beating their Dad at games.
  6. Akrotiri
    • geo-spacial awareness, planning
    • I taught this to him when we rented a lake house for a week this summer (and he beat me!). Damn kids. He was able to wrap his head around the spatial puzzle pretty quickly and enjoyed it quite a bit.
  7. Taluva
    • logic, strategy, tactics, thinking ahead
    • We played this a bunch over the past few years. It’s a bit abstract and I can usually distract him on one side of the island or block his plans, but he can hold his own pretty well.
  8. Mechs vs. Minions
    • cooperative, programming, story-based campaign
    • I’m super surprised he was able to handle this one. We zipped through most of the campaign in just a few sessions. He programs his mech better than anyone in the game group did. I think this is actually more fun at 2p than 4p. I think he learned a lot about planning ahead with this one.
  9. Kids Chronicles: Quest for the Moon Stones
    • cooperative, choose your own adventure, puzzle solving, observation, memory, deduciton
    • This was our family game night game for a couple weeks. I bought it for Bennett (6 years old now, 5 at the time), hoping it would get him more interested in gaming with me. It was a pretty good experience overall. The boys loved the multimedia app experience and being able to choose which way to go to try to solve the puzzles.

Still Hoping

  1. Carcassonne
    • strategy, scoring, territories, tactics
    • we haven’t made much headway with this yet, but I’m not giving up. We just need enough free time to focus on it with a few repeated plays. Maybe this winter.
  2. Kingdom Builder
    • territories, turn efficiency, long term focus
    • I think we only attempted this once. He’d probably enjoy it more now that he’s older.
  3. Hive
    • strategy, tactics, maneuvers, attach / defend
    • this was one of the first games I “played” with him as a toddler. He liked stacking the tiles and using them like blocks to make castles or trains and stuff. We tried the real game a few times, but it didn’t click enough to maintain his attention. Might try again someday. This is one of those timeless games like chess or checkers… it just works, but you have to be in the mood for it.


  1. Escape: The Curse of the Temple
    • real-time, stress, cooperation
    • This was an experiment. I previously owned this game and sold it because I found it too stressful and disliked teaching it and losing because new players weren’t equipped to make the right choices fast enough. I thought maybe it would be a light-hearted romp with the boys, but Bennett was too young and got confused, Mom and I still found it stressful… and so did Boden. This one’s gonna have to go back up for sale. No real-time games for us!
  2. Forbidden Desert
    • cooperation, point-to-point movement, memory, variable player powers
    • We played this a bunch when they were younger. I dislike how fiddly it is. People love this game, but it bores me quite a bit. The decisions they have to make aren’t really that interesting. I’d rather just teach them Pandemic or Robinson Crusoe.
  3. Rhino Hero: Super Battle
    • dexterity
    • This game bores me to tears. Seems more like an activity than a game, but they both love it. Will keep it for them.
  4. Flick ’em Up!
    • dexterity, strategy
    • I had such high hopes for this game, but it gets in its own way! It takes me 30 minutes just to set up the scenario and read the new rules for what we’re supposed to be doing, every single time we open the box! Try doing that with two impatient kids after you’re the one who said “Wanna play a game with me?” Sure! The best way to play this game is NOT to play through the story (which is sad, because the scenario book is filled with Wild West charm). The best way to play with this game is to let your kids setup their own towns and just start shooting at each other. Even that is frustrating, though, because with little kids playing, it’s going to be a lot easier to lose parts to this game. I decided I’d rather buy them a Crokinole board for Christmas. Crokinole seems to get to the point a helluva lot faster and with a lot less fuss. I sold this and put the money toward a few of the winners listed above. In hindsight, I should have kept it and relaxed about the whole thing. ….We learn as we grow.
  5. Sheriff of Nottingham
    • bluffing, press your luck
    • They both love this game. Boden fell right into the “only tell the truth” strategy and tends to win. I guess I just started getting bored with this. There really isn’t much to it and I’d rather play games with them that combine fun with some sort of skill development. I want them to become more clever without even knowing it’s happening. But if I have to play the sillier games just to keep them interested in playing games, I’ll do it. Keeping it for them.

Some Introspection

A lot of this is just my stream of consciousness, but as I’m writing these comments I’m starting to realize some things about my own preferences and behaviors.

I think it’s important to recalibrate what the goal here is: to get my sons interested in gaming so much that they want to do it on their own without me.

To that end, I have to accept that I will not love every game we play. It’s my job to show them good sportsmanship, taking care of their toys, helping with the cleanup, listening and learning the rules to the game (and playing by them), developing critical thinking skills and strategic minds… I need to remember that there’s more to gain here than me enjoying every game session…

When your kid comes up to you and says “Will you play X with me, Dad?” …you say YES! and you make it the best damn game of X any two people have ever played.

Make the time you spend together better by not trying to achieve all the things every single time.

Optimus Prime invades a small town in the Old West… because why not?