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How to Win Games Against Your Children.

Defeating your children in a game may not always be a difficult task, but there is a right way to do it. I play games with my children quite a bit, and the outcome is the same most of the time. But, they keep coming back to play. I hope I have instilled in them a desire to play, regardless the outcome. There are a few things I’ve learned (through failure) about what it takes to win the right way.

Ask Lots of Questions

When I’m playing games with the kids, I ask them questions like, “Why do you think I made that move?” It helps them to think through your strategy, and maybe even help them with theirs. There are many ways to play most games the “right” way. Lead them with your questions toward one of those ways. The same goes for their “wrong” moves. Ask them, “What were your thoughts when you made that move?” Sometimes, they just do it because the rules allow it. Questioning helps the transition from learning to play and learning to win.

Answer Their Questions

As their gaming knowledge grows, they will ask questions. They will want to know about which move is best. They will want help on making decisions. Always offer help when it makes sense. Don’t let them rely on your help totally, but help them enough so they can gain confidence. Confidence in one’s own decisions goes beyond gaming, but it can start there.

Show Them Your Strategy…and Have Them Copy It

After the game, talk to them about your strategy. Show them how you did well, and how you didn’t. Give them a goal for their next game. By giving them goals, you help them to craft their strategy. For the pictured game, Scythe, my oldest child likes to wander around the board triggering the encounters. While that’s fun, it’s hard to win that way. I try to encourage her to still wander the board, but to get a basic economy running. It may take several games, but she’ll figure it out.

Then she’ll start beating me.

How to Lose Well to Your Children

A few days ago, I had the chance to play A Feast for Odin twice. I played once with my friend, and another time with him and my wife. After a full day of gaming, my daughter came to me with Quadropolis, wanting to play it again. My friend and my oldest daughter joined us as well. Much to our surprise, my middle daughter won. She is 9. Quadropolis has easy-entry rules, but a deeper strategy than you might think. She played a great game. She strategized well and even marked her board to show her future moves. It excited me to see it.

How do you lose to your children? I’ve learned a few things as my winning percentage is shrinking.

Lose with Grace

Even against children, the most competitive among us will still find difficulty losing. It may be frustrating. We might want to take it out on them. We may even become a rules general, trying to find loopholes. However it plays out, parents have to be careful here. Losing with grace to your children will teach them more than when you win.

Highlight Their Great Play

I let her know throughout the game of her good choices. I praised her (as did my friend) for planning her strategy on her player board. She made efficient use of her resources. She played a good game. I hope that by strengthening her good decision making, it will help her beyond the gaming table. One day I won’t be there to pat her back or coach her. This is a great way to build her confidence.

Ask Them What You Did Wrong

Something funny here – she didn’t wait for my prompting! She immediately told me what I might have done to score more. It wasn’t in a bragging way, but in an instructive way, like she’s heard me do with her. Her instruction encouraged me because it was correct and helpful. I lose a lot, so I don’t think I need a pick-me-up, but one day, someone will. I hope she’ll be there to listen, and if appropriate, offer her help.

My children beat me more and more at games. As my loss column grows, I hope their ability to lose well grows as well.

Things I Read This Week: 1/8-1/14/2017

I read a lot of articles about board games this week, and a few others. Here is a sampling of the best things I read this week:

“Twilight Struggle – Digital Version”

Here, Neil Shuck at Meeples and Miniatures reviews the digital version of Twilight Struggle. It has been a Top 5 game at for years. Now, I have no excuse not to play it.

How Is Ministry Made More Difficult by Being in the Bible Belt?

A short video featuring Matt Chandler, the pastor of Village Church in Ft. Worth, Tx. The title of the video says it all.

A Feast for Odin (Game Review by Chris Wray)

A much more thorough review than my own. It confirms the greatness of this game to me. I read this review and many like it, but this one was particularly helpful.

Board Game Raises Over 10 Million!

An article by a non-gaming site about the popular game, Kingdom Death: Monster 1.5. Not my type of game, but it’s great that our hobby is gaining publicity

Family Games: Games that Fit in Your Pocket

All games I had never heard of from a Roman Catholic perspective. A few of those I’ll have to look into.


How to Play vs. How to Win

Another game we received for Christmas this year is Quadropolis. Quadropolis is a city-building game. Players score points for the best placement of their buildings. The rules are simples. The strategy is deep, but not complicated. That combination made it a great game to teach my middle daughter. She loved the art and thought it was a game she might like. She actually came to me wanting to play.

I read the rules and decided that it also falls in the middle of the “How to play vs. How to win” continuum. This continuum exists in all games. Some games have a low entry point for rules, but the strategy is too deep for a new player. Others have complicated rules but have mechanics that keep every player in the game. Quadropolis fell in a happy place that made it easy for her to learn, and easy for her to score well after a few plays.

The continuum I mentioned – How to Play vs How to win – exists for every game. Part of teaching a game, as well as learning, is deciding which is more important.

When “How to Play” is Important

The more complicated the rules are for a game, the more I tend to lean this way. A great example of this is Seasons. Seasons has an easy mechanic and rules set, but the strategic component of the game is deep. Devote the first several plays to learning the system and understanding card interactions. After a while and after you’ve learned several of the card types, you can play a better game. A better example for families is Stone Age.  It features a simple ruleset set, but a good player will always beat bad ones. Learning the game takes several sessions to learn the rules and tactics.

When “How to Win” is Important

After you’ve mastered the rules, this comes into play. Several games allow you to do this, maybe even into the first game. We usually refer to these games as “gateway” games because they are new-player friendly.  Gateway games have mechanics that keep all players around the same point value. The best example here is Settlers of Catan. It is a popular game and it is finding its way into more and more households. The point spread is always close and the social aspects of the game allow most players to be in the hunt for victory.

When teaching a game, it’s important to consider this continuum. Some may see this as a false dichotomy, and perhaps it is. Yet, I always explain to players at the beginning that learning the rules well leads to better play. Sometimes, it may take a while to learn the rules. As the teacher, don’t be afraid to coach the players at your table – especially your family. This is part of the joy of gaming with them. Coaching, by definition, exhibits the transition of learning to play vs. learning to win.

Games that Make You Say “Wow!” – A Feast for Odin

For Christmas, my mom surprised me by gifting me “A Feast for Odin” by Uwe Rosenberg. It is a game I had in my view for a while, but the price and clear complexity of the game scared me away. Since Christmas, I have played the game 5 times, with one of those being a 4-player session. After five times, I can say it is in my top two games ever played.

There are several things that make Odin a great game. While it is not for the “casual gamer,” it blurs the line of what board game complexity is in a way I haven’t seen before. It makes itself accessible with a strong theme and fun mechanics. What I like most is the “Wow” factor that is hard to categorize. Several games leave you sitting back and thinking, “Man, that was satisfying.” Almost like good food or drink, you just walk away thinking, “I want more of that.” My experience with Odin led me to write about those same experiences with other games. Sometimes a game just makes you say, “Wow!” So, from time to time, I’ll do that. I’d love for others to share the feeling I have.

For Odin, there are a few factors that stand out:

The Viking Theme


The feast is set!


Vikings are a theme that many designers might stay away from. The gaming word has released several games about Vikings in recent years. I think Rosenberg nailed the theme. He integrated exploration, ship building, hunting, pillaging, and feasting all into one experience. The integration of theme always improves the euro-game experience. This game’s interaction between theme and gameplay proves this point well.

The “Tetris” Mechanic


Conquered Greenland with an axe and some cloth!


The fact that you have to fit all your loot onto a board makes the mechanic interesting. There are infinite arrangements and many correct choices. This makes the mechanic better than many I’ve played. Your given tiles, which could be peas, milk, a chalice, or some whale meat. Then you’re asked to fit them into an area full of negative points and bonuses. I enjoy every placement until the last one. After five games, I find I love this tile-laying puzzle to be my favorite part.

The Story Factor


An epic game.


After the game, my friends sit around and talk about feeding our Vikings coins, salted meat and milk.  We talk about converting sheep into jewelry. I know that sounds odd, but it’s these stories that make the game fun. Anytime I’ve talking about a game several days later, that is a good game. Rosenberg’s games have always had that effect on our group more than others. We speak of the stress of Agricola – and we speak of it with affection. This game provides a packet of stories you can walk away with and tell. Any experience in life that gives you that is something to hang onto.

Things I Read This Week: 1/1/2017-1/7/2017

I read a wide variety of things this week. I mixed in some weather, with some politics, and of course games. Here are five articles I think you might enjoy:

The Top Ten Weather Events of 2016

I love to read the blog by Jeff Masters as he gives a great global perspective on the weather. Sadly our planet’s weather has been politicized with topics like global warming.

9 Things You Should Know About J. R. R. Tolkien

Great read from the Gospel Coalition about Tolkien. I’m a giant fan of Tolkien’s and love most of his work. This information was fascinating.

Top 10 Most Innovative Kickstarter Strategies of 2016

Here is another one from Stonemaier Games. Great ideas in moving forward with my future game design.

A Feast for Odin Review

This one is from Board Gamers Anonymous. I read several other reviews of this game since it’s one of my newest. It’s a great game, and I love to read the perspective of others concerning games I consider to be great.

How to Brainstorm Ideas (for Boardgames)

This one is good for would-be game designers. It’s always good to be thinking, and this article gives helpful tips for that task.


What Age Should They Start Playing?

Though I’ve been gaming my whole life, I’ve only been gaming with my family since 2011. Then I started buying designer board games, and it opened my eyes to a new genre of gaming. They’ve hooked me ever since.

In 2011, my oldest child was 6 and the youngest was 1. My 6-year old was just beginning to wonder about games. We started to include her in different games, as a bystander or a helper. As her interest grew, I bought a few games that I thought she might like. We tried Zooloretto and Ticket to Ride at first. Both worked well. With Ticket to Ride, I even had her watch a how-to video then teach us the game. She was, and still is a game.

Along the way, we’ve learned a few things. Below are games that should help any gaming family welcome their new gamers.

Ages 0-3

There isn’t much to do here. A game like Qwirkle is great because the pieces are nigh-indestructible. The game is about matching shapes and colors. These are skills a toddler should be learning and wanting to do. Another great game for this age would be Animal Upon Animal. Again, great pieces for kids and stacking is a great developmental skill.

Ages 4-6

For this age, ask them to help you in your games. They can assist in counting pieces and be the “banker.” These are great jobs for them, as they’ll be paying attention (maybe?) to the game and learning it as you go. Zooloretto and Ticket to Ride were both great introductions for this age. Remember, when they are young, just learning the mechanics is important. Learning how to win is something different. (A topic coming to this blog soon)

Ages 7-9

Starting at this age, you can begin to introduce some social games into the fray. Settlers of Catan is a great game for this level with the increased strategy and social aspects. Our kids started playing Small World at this age as well. They even played with each other, without us. It was hard letting them play my games without me, but I bought them for us to play. Another idea is King of Tokyo, if they can withstand the combative aspects.

Ages 10-12

More complex games like Stone Age and Dominion work well for this age. Dixit is another one that children can play younger than this, but at this age, they’ll start to “get it.” At this age, depending on the child, the sky’s the limit. One child will grasp a game that another will not. It depends on their learning style and how they best process information.

If you’re beginning this process with older children, start out on a lower rung of the ladder. Every game mentioned remains fun at any age. Have them start with the easier to learn games. Then move to the more strategic types as interested, and ability allows.

Board gaming is a great hobby for any family. I hope this guide gives you a path forward in starting this hobby with your family.