Educational Games for Children – Part 2

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Ticket to Ride Europe

Last week we discussed a few principles for playing educational games with children.  Games that will allow them to play increasingly complex and (hopefully for you!) more interesting games as the years go by.

In today’s post, I’m going to provide a long list of recommendations.  These are the games that I’ve had lots of success with, but your mileage may vary!  I’m still surprised when Noah seems disinterested in a game that I think is amazing and ought to be appropriate for his ability.  If your child shows no interest in a game, just leave it and move on to something else.  There are enough great games out there that they don’t need to love everything you love.


These games are roughly in the order in which I would introduce them:

HeroicaHeroica

This is a LEGO game, which means you have to build it out of LEGO before you start.  The game is a simple dungeon crawl, but is a great stepping stone to proper boardgames.

The Adventurers: The Temple of Chac

A light-hearted, push-your-luck game, which recaptures the scene from Indiana Jones where he grabs the treasure from the temple and is being chased by a giant boulder.

The Sorcerer’s Cave

This one is old, but so much fun.  It’s another simple dungeon crawl on large map tiles that rapidly spread out.  Play it on the floor – you need lots of space!

Ticket to Ride: Europe

The classic gateway game.  Who doesn’t love completing routes with trains?!  I prefer the Europe version as it’s a little friendlier.

Dungeon!

Yet another simple dungeon crawl, but the implementation is engaging.  It’s old again, but it’s very cheap: it’s a great bit of fun for the money.

TakenokoTakenoko

Another great gateway Euro.  Grow bamboo shoots and then get the super-cute panda to eat them all!  The basics are simple, but there is plenty of scope for strategy when they get used to it.

Heroscape

This one is every boy’s dream toy.  Like LEGO, you can have a great time building the map before you start.  The game itself is a simple miniatures war game, but it’s hard to find now as it’s out of print.

Splendor

Another classic gateway.  Collect gems and spend them to get cards worth victory points.  Lots more strategy than first appears, but simple enough to play from a young age.

SET

This is a simple, pattern-spotting game that’s remarkably addictive.  You will beat them easily to start with so give them a chance, but with practice they will become very good at it.

King of TokyoKing of Tokyo

Pick a giant monster and attack each other by rolling dice.  What’s not to love?  Just be careful with the player elimination – they need to be mature enough to handle losing.

Love Letter

The original micro card-game, it always surprises me how much kids like this one.  It’s quick and they love the bluffing and guessing aspects of it.

Marvel Legendary

For the ultimate superhero fan.  We spent hours and hours playing this one.  I wouldn’t recommend playing it with more than two players though or the downtime becomes untenable.

7 Wonders

I’ve played this with a wide range of kids who have never played games before and it always goes down well.  They will struggle at first and younger ones might want to play with an adult, but they always want to play it again after the first game.

Hero RealmsHero Realms

There’s quite a bit of text for a deck-builder, but it’s Magic: The Gathering meets deck builders and plays smoothly and quickly.  Much stronger thematically than Star Realms for some reason.

The 7th Continent

Choose-Your-Own-Adventure in a boardgame.  You just can’t go wrong with this – it’s superb!  Don’t try to play it all at once though – it’s long.

Cash ‘n Guns

The perfect party game for kids.  They absolutely love pointing guns at each other (which should worry me really).  It looks like mindless fun, but developing a winning strategy is much harder than it looks.

Agricola: All Creatures Big and Small

This is a superb intro to heavier Euros.  It’s worker placement with farmyard animals and it’s quick.  It’s been a family favourite in our house for years.

Lord of the Rings: The Confrontation

I wasn’t expecting my son to like this one as much as he did, but something about having to out-think your opponent really grabbed him.  This is the short, two-player, Stratego-like Lord of the Rings game and he loves it.

Small WorldSmall World

This is a bit of a bear to teach as there’s a lot to take in initially with all the different races, but once players get the hang of it, it’s a great introduction to war games.

Dominion

Engine Building 101.  Clean (at least the base game is) and perfect for teaching efficiency.  It’s a really good introduction to Euro strategy.

Mechs vs. Minions

Bucketloads of theme and lots of fun.  It’s programmable movement, but it’s co-op, so it doesn’t matter too much when it all goes wrong (which it will!).

Sid Meier’s Civilization

Once they get a taste for empire building, they will love Civilization.  It’s long so I would play it over several sessions, but the decisions involved are fairly straightforward and intuitive.

Tichu

Again, I was surprised that Noah enjoyed this one as much as he did, but it’s one of his favourites.  It’s a ladder-climbing game played in pairs and a classic game all round.

Stone AgeStone Age

This is the perfect game to head into medium-weight Euro territory.  Working out how many resources they get when they roll the dice will be tricky at first, but they will learn so much.

Lord of the Rings: The Card Game

My son is a huge fan of Lord of the Rings.  This is the co-op LCG.  It’s heavy and contains lots of text, but has oh so much theme.  I reckon I’ve logged over 50 hours with Noah on this one.  It’s fantastic!

Myth

My ‘proper’ dungeon crawl of choice.  Kids will love the miniatures and the co-op nature makes it a great family activity.  The card-play is tricky and will develop a strategic mindset.

Star Wars: X-Wing

You can’t really go wrong with Star Wars, but this game is hard to play, which is why it’s much further down this list.  Not because it’s complicated, but because there’s lots of text and it requires a lot of spatial awareness.

One Night Ultimate Werewolf

Kids love social deduction and no game streamlines it better than ONUW.  It will take them a while to figure out how to lie effectively though.  Maybe you shouldn’t play this one with them after all…

EnigmaEnigma

Enigma constructs a game around a series of classic puzzles – it’s very educational.  I wouldn’t expect my son to like it for exactly that reason, but he loves it.  More than me.  It’s weird.

Paperback

Word games will be much harder for kids to play, which is why I’ve put them at the bottom of this list, but they are very educational and Paperback is one of the best.

Codenames

It will take a while for them to be able to act as clue-giver, but if the family are playing, they can join in with the guessing and will really enjoy being involved with what they will perceive as a ‘grown up’ game.

 


That’s actually a small fraction of the games that I’ve played with Noah over the years.  If they can cope with many of the games on this list, it won’t be long before you can move into heavy Euro territory if you so desire.  From there, they will be able to handle just about anything.

Are there any particular games that you’ve had a lot of success playing with Primary school age (5 – 10) children?

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Jonathan Hicks

Jonathan is the director of Maven Games. He blogs and records podcast episodes several times a week. Whenever he isn't doing anything else, he designs games.

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