Teaching Strategy with Board Games

It seems since Christmas that my kids have been on an extreme board game binge. The fact that they received 10 or so new entries into our board game collection may have had some impact on this. It seems not a night goes by where at least 2 games are not played. And while I am very happy to play games with my kids, I have noticed that their use of strategy leaves something to be desired. I assume it is like that for all kids and this is why I am taking this opportunity to teach them the finer points of strategy, well, at least my older two. Trying to teach my 4 year old strategy would be like trying to herd cats.

So this experiment started with Clue Junior, which is basically a version of Clue that has been made kids friendly. Instead of trying to solve a murder, players are tasked with trying to figure out who stole what dessert while drinking what drink at what time. To do this, character tokens traverse the board based on the die roll of the active player. The goal is to try to position a character token to certain spots on the boards which will let you look under a character token to find out who at the dessert and what time it was done or look under furniture tokens to see what drink was imbibed during the eating. Now, this was their favorite game for a while but they were just no good at it. My wife or I would always win by a mile. Then I started teaching them how to use their turn not solely for gain but also for blocking since all of the game pieces are movable. This opened up a new strategy for them and they actually started winning games (when they could keep their item tracking straight).

After this I started using Ticket to Ride for further instruction because: 1) it’s my wife’s favorite game and 2) since it was her favorite, the kids really wanted to learn it as well. This experiment went poorly to start with. The kids were doing well just to complete their initial route cards, let alone develop a winning strategy. Things looked bleak for a while until I decided to let the girls play as a team. It seems sharing strategy between the two of them worked well, with one more bringing a more objective style of play and the other bringing a “gotcha” style of blocking play. This balance has seemed to work well and even though they have not won a game, they have been in contention, which is a far cry from where they started.

My next experiment will be Kingdom Builder. This game requires a little more abstract strategy than the others do and may actually lean more towards individual play since the strategy to win can be much different between players due to the games random set up and scoring mechanism. We have of course played other board games, from Eye Found It to Monopoly Jr to Crazy 8s and War, but I feel the strategy behind those games is minimal compared to others in my collection. I also may play Forbidden Island with them soon since it is a cooperative game. I may be surprised at the solutions they come up with to beat the island.

I will obviously have reviews of each of these games up soon and I may do an interview-like review with my kids to better give their opinions on the games we play. Let me know in the comments if you’d like to see that.

Anyways, until next time, have fun!




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