I have three nephews. One is almost 16 and, right now, wants nothing to do with anyone especially family as that’s just sad, like. The other two are aged 2 (almost 3) and 4. A while back we found a copy of We’re Going On A Bear Hunt: The Bumper Pack, featuring the book, the DVD and a board game based on the story. It’s predictably awful, but the kids love it. They spin the spinner, move the cardboard characters around a track and try to avoid drawing the red cards that mean they miss a go or whatever.
Sensing a captive audience I cracked open Tsuro (a tile-laying game; lots of fun! Look it up) to see if they’d be interested in playing that; I thought the simple mechanics would be manageable for them. They liked the tile laying aspect, but when it came to “flying the dragons around the board” they just wanted to make roaring noises.
So I did some research. I had thought of Carcassonne (for its simplicity of play) when looking for something to play with them but wrote it off as too difficult simply because of the rigid scoring and tactical meeple placement. Luckily, I later found out about My First Carcassonne (previously Kids Of Carcassonne).
The game follows the same basic principles of the original Carcassonne – place a tile, join a road to a road, place a meeple of your colour – but it strips out all that I’d declared too much to take on for a couple of toddlers who had never even played Snakes and Ladders before. Gone is the need to count points, strategically plan your tile placement or judge farmer ratios turns ahead. Instead, you place a tile joining a road to a road (and all tiles have roads on all four sides, so it almost doesn’t matter exactly where you place it; it’ll always fit). Then, when the road is “closed” by ending it with pond or a building, you cover up all the “Kids of Carcassonne” of your colour pictured on the tiles that make up that road with one of your eight meeples. The first player to place all of their meeples on the map is the winner.
Some roads will have more of one colour “kid” than others, but you’ll always give another player a place to put one of their meeples, and this is the only real strategy there is. The longer the road you make the more kids there will be pictured along it (there are kids pictured on all tiles and all tiles can connect to others somehow) and therefore the more of your meeples can be placed.
It seems such an elegant, simple game. Its tiles are twice as large and twice as thick as those in the original Carcassonne game – the meeples are also twice the size and chunkier – so it’s a really tactile game for kids who are too young for the classic gateway game. I’m hoping, since my nephews loved the tile-placement, path-making nature of Tsuro, that they’ll love this too. I can’t wait to play it with them at Christmas. And if they’re okay with this then hopefully we can try them with a couple of more complex games as they get older. Before long I may even have someone who actually wants to play Arkham Horror with me!