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Simplifying Board Games (jefftk.com)
298 points by luu 11 months ago | hide | past | favorite | 155 comments

I have enjoyed tabletop games less and less as the number of 'things' has increased. There are way too many games that require 15 different piles of things, which is not just physically annoying in terms of setting up and playing, but also such a cognitive overhead in the game.

Somehow even quite deep games like Magic: the Gathering or D&D (or indeed chess) manage their complexity more elegantly, by having fewer concepts iterated many times (although in the case of D&D this is managed by the DM who certainly has a terribly complex job).

For example, Mage Knight in some sense tries to create a simplified version of parts of D&D, but it does it with so many moving parts that I freak out at the thought of event getting it out of the box. Whereas I can play actual D&D with one dice and some words.

> I have enjoyed tabletop games less and less as the number of 'things' has increased.

There are many, many, MANY games exploring the opposite end of the design space. If you want simple, there are designers and publishers working on that.

I mean, there's also Mage Knight, but lots of people love Mage Knight. It's a big hobby! Very few games will appeal to more than a small subset of the fan base.

I don't want to recommend anything as such (I have no idea what you're into!) but games like Azul, Splendour, and Patchwork have been super popular recently, and are very clean, minimalist designs. Or a couple steps up the complexity level, Wingspan.

About 15 years ago I came across "Cheapass Games". They sell you the bare minimum of what you need to play the given game you're buying on the assumption that most people//gamers already have all the dice, play money, and tchotchkes otherwise needed to fill out what's needed to play the game.

Obligatory "I just bought an item, no other affiliation" notation.


I was shocked when playing Tak at the Zoka coffeeshop behind uVillage in Seattle another customer recognized it and said that the inventor lived around the corner.

I really like the game, mainly as the rules are incredibly simple. Also don’t have to keep track of what cards were played and what’s left in the deck.

Hive is another simple rules game that’s really fun to play.

https://cheapass.com/tak/ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hive_(game)

And now they're free to print and play!

So go now, and play "Give me the brain", "Lord of the Fries", "Kill Doctor Lucky", "Spree", and "Unexploded Cow".

On the other hand, skip entirely "Bitin' off Heads", "Devil Bunny", and "The Great Brain Robbery".

"Kill Doctor Lucky" is definitely worth a try. Thematically you might also like "Save Doctor Lucky".

The one I bought and kept is "Witch Trail".

Sticking with RPG as the genre, Pathfinder the card game is much more simplified. Even more simplified would be Roll Player. Even more simplified would be One Deck Dungeon, or Four Against Darkness.

There are so many games out now, the choices are overwhelming.

The focus of the article is primarily around how to simplify existing games and gradually build them back up. Unfortunately many games, like you say, have a very large number of parts, but it's not straightforward to modify gameplay to not require them while still having an interesting and balanced game.

I really wish more board-games had a "low-parts mode" or a "trial" mode where you could experience the gestalt of the game without having to cram all the minutiae. Basically: do what this guy did for his daughter but put it in the rule book.

I collaborated with the designer of the notoriously complex, 23 pound box game Gloomhaven to do exactly this for the upcoming small-box, mass-market oriented Jaws of the Lion. We built a 5 scenario on-ramp tutorial I called Fischer-Price mode.

We included new, simpler, components in the game that are exclusively for this tutorial, have players add mechanics and components and systems one or two at a time. During playtesting we went from about 2+ hours to read and semi-understand the rules enough to play, to playing in about 10-15 minutes.

It can be done, but it can add significant cost (materials, development time) to the game.

Hey this looks cool, glad you mentioned it. Will probably grab it in August when it comes out!

I don't get any royalties, but you should! I got one of the early production copies and I'm two scenarios from finishing the campaign with my wife. It's lots of fun.

So it's fine for 2 players?

Yup! If you're playing with two, I might avoid the Voidwarden. My favorite class, and it's playable with 2 players, but definitely harder with only one ally. All other combinations work very well together at 2 player though

This is kinda how extension packs work.

For example we got Carcassonne recently and it includes an "extension" (Abbots & Farmers). The rules has an additional sheet, so you can play the raw game and pick up the extension later once you've grokked the normal rules.

Settlers of Catan does a similar thing, they have a slightly more basic gameplay in the rules for people starting out.

Carcassonne base game already does it by allowing you to play without farmers.

And 'without farmers' is precisely how I introduce Carcassonne to new people. You have to be pretty good at spatial reasoning to understand farmers and their fields in the game just from someone describing it to you. But most people get it right away (after the first game) when I say, "we'll play one game without farmers, and then look at the finished board so you can see where the fields and their borders are."

Of course, that only works for a game like Carcassonne which plays in 45min or less on the first go and can get down to 20min if you're playing with people who know the (base) game well.

In some ways rule reveals/progression is a defining feature of the "Legacy" style of board games. Generally the focus on such games isn't about rule reveals/progression, because the core idea of Legacy as a style is about board games with permanent changes that last through a story campaign of some sort, but rule reveals/progressions/rule tweaks are key storytelling tools in that style.

Some of the games are notorious for having half-empty rule books that you will eventually fill with stickers for more rules.

One particular well regarded Legacy game for it's slow, careful reveal of rules is Seafall (which is noteworthy for being the first non-licensed Legacy game by the Legacy genre's "father" who built the original Risk Legacy and has contributed to many others like Pandemic Legacy). I've got it on my shelf and have been hoping to find the right group to play it with, so I've mostly tried to avoid spoilers, but the way it was described to me is that it is a full 4X (strategy gaming acronym from videogames for Explore, Expand, Exploit, and Exterminate) that starts with only the rules for Explore and expands out from there. (And it is proper exploration with players encouraged to sharpie their discoveries to the board.)

One game with a version of this mechanic is Fabled Fruit. It's a worker placement/ hand building game. There are 6-10 possible actions you can take each turn: the initial 6 are relatively simple but as the game goes on, old actions get discarded and new ones, often with more complex mechanics, take their place. You're encouraged to keep the game in the new more complex state the next time you play it.

Even the initial state is too complex for young children but it might suit what you're looking for if that's not actually a requirement - I don't think you'd really enjoy playing phase 1 of his Carcassonne adaptation either.

I wonder how much demand there would be for a dedicated board on boardgamegeek for homebrew "rule progressions" like these

My family plays the Harry Potter Battle for Hogwarts game, which is a cooperative deck builder. Part of the enjoyment of it is definitely that there are lot of things happening and a lot to keep track of. Technically a cooperative game like this could be played by one player. But having four players means the others can butt in with "oh and that triggers the horcrux ability" when you forget. The other neat thing about the game is that it's broken into 7 "books", and the rules get more complicated as you progress. It's basically a formalization of the idea that the blogpost here gives, though the starting game is still modestly complicated.

Personally, I find D&D's gotten more and more simplified over the years i've played it. I started with ad&d first edition rules. The DM guide is jam packed full of tables of info for literally every insignificant detail of your world. It's still my favourite edition.

Every edition after streamlined things and took away detail. The biggest changes came when wizards of the coast bought up tsr and the 3rd edition came out. It barely felt like playing the same game. I haven't played the newest editions, but i've read through the player and DM's guide for them, much of the original complexity of ad&d is gone, in its place are systems that seem.complex, but are far more simple to grasp and play using.

Not just the systems, but the general feel and flow of the game seems to be simplified. It was more about being a fantasy adventure simulator before, where as now the purpose seems to be a fantasy hero story game.

Much of the darker grittier aspects of the game were toned down and generally gone through that sanitizing process most niche things go through when they become popular.

I think it's a side effect of the cultural impact. D&D inspired role playing videogames, those inspired MMOs, and MMOs now inspire D&D. Playing 5e feels very much like playing World of Warcraft or something similar.

It's still fun of course -- when I was young we would play D&D with no character sheets and just a few dice -- but I agree some of the spirit is lost. I'm sure there are some custom settings out there with the depth of detail you're looking for.

I usually just designed my own settings and worlds. We tended to play fairly loose with some rules and had a bunch of custom tables and rules and stuff. Honestly, I almost prefer that part of it to the actual playing. An old friend of mine and I years ago actually started working on our own roleplaying system, but we ended up moving away and getting busy with life and stuff so we never really finished it. I think most of it's still sitting in my boxes full of random d&d stuff.

I feel like 5e did a really good job of feeling like it was D&D while streamlining out a lot of the “recreational accounting” that 1e was.

Though I still had to resort to automated character sheets to roll my character because there was shit I just could not figure out how to do from the PHB...

1e was kind of a mess though, remember how Bard was a weird expansion class you could only play after like 20 levels of three other classes instead of “you are a person who has about as much training in music, social engineering, and magic related to those things as anyone else at your level has in whatever they do”?

My 1e/2e groups sure did tinker with the rules to work around shit like that, my GURPS groups mostly went by whatever set of books the campaign was using, and my recent 5e experience after a long time away from RPGs felt like I remember 1/2e being without all the bullshit and confusion that nostalgia elides.

I agree that the trend is for more "things" on the table, but there are still plenty of new games coming out with an eye on simplicity. Give Azul a try -- it's nothing but tiles (20 each of 5 different colors) and a board to help you count. Simple, elegant and deeper than expected

I am a bit of a fan of the games of Carl Chudyk - primarily Glory to Rome, but also Innovation; i haven't really got into Mottainai yet.

His games comprise a deck of cards, and then perhaps a few supporting items like money counters or victory point cards. There are two characteristic things about the cards. Firstly, each card can serve several purposes. In Glory to Rome, it can be a plan for a particular building, raw material for a building, an action somehow related to building (starting a building, adding material, robbing your neighbours), or a member of staff who carries out an action. Secondly, one mode of a card will have some sort of ability on it that modifies the rules, or lets you do different things. In Glory to Rome, if you build the insula (a Roman tower block), you can have three more staff than usual; if you build the scriptorium, you can now complete any building using one card's worth of marble.

The basic idea is fairly simple (but not trivial, because of the multiple uses of a card). But there is enormous emergent complexity. My brain fires on all cylinders while playing it.

This looks like a reasonable explanation of the rules:


As someone who got Innovation for the cheaps off Craigslist I have to highlight the concept that there is enormous complexity to really get the rewards in Carl's games...

It took us 4 tries to REALLY ramp up Innovation to the point where everyone (group of 3) understood how you could combo up and compete against others who fell into certain card combinations. It did get particularly fun at that point even as we would regularly discover new Age 9 and Age 10 cards (with somehow even more absurd mechanics)

It is definitely not a game I would recommend for children though :/

Originally, with Magic: the Gathering the exploration and interpretation of the rules was part of the game itself. At this point, Magic id mostly taught by other people that know the game well and introduce it to new players. I think there is less of a family that has never played and buying a bunch of packs to build decks and play. Magic just isn't setup for that today.

Anecdotally, I tried to find a fun solitaire game to play during lockdown and ended up getting Arkham Horror. After reading a ton of rules and even watching some YouTube videos, I still felt like I never truly understood the game and haven't really played it. I can't image cracking something like Gloomhaven and reading through the rules.

Gloomhaven is actually pretty straightforward. My group played about three games before everything clicked — BUT, those first three games were a ton of fun and still “worked” even though in hindsight we weren’t following all the rules correctly. It does have too many parts, but there’s an app available (gloomhaven helper) which replaces 2/3 of the parts and makes the game very much easier and more fun.

I have thought a lot about this concept of using a smartphone app to replace some physical components of a game, and I'm surprised more games don't do it. On top of being less cumbersome, using your phone would allow for some mechanics that simply aren't feasible (or even possible) with physical parts. The flip side is that you have to "sync" the app state with the state of the physical board, and you need a clever solution that doesn't require doing things twice. (Plus, I'm sure some would argue that having parts of the game be digital would take away from the immersion, though I personally disagree.)

The problem with this is that it's very easy to get stuck with a useless board game if the app doesn't get updated.

If you're selling physical product that needs an app to run, there is no reason for the app not to be Free Software, or distributed in some other friendly way (e.g., Space Alert has a CD-DA disc that plays the scenarios as audio).

I've seen more and more games do that, from XCOM and Space Alert, which mostly use it to provide randomness and a timer to Mansion of Madness, which is mostly facilitating exploration.

Those games work well, but for me, I wouldn't want to play a board game that leans on an app any more than Mansion of Madness; at that point it's a video game, and while I enjoy those, it's not why I play board games!

Anecdotal: The on-ramp to Gloomhaven is quite smooth, compared even to many "simpler" games. It feels like there is an MVP-design of a game initially introduced and then as you play more features and complexity are added.

I highly recommend it, even as a solitaire game. There is a digital version on Steam as well, which approximates the mechanics and gameplay well.

I think I played gloomhaven varying levels of wrong (monotonically decreasing) for the first 15 or so scenarios. The classic "wrong attack modifier deck", "elements only move up 1 when you generate", "Monsters cannot move through each other", "That monster has flying" are a smattering of my misread rules.

Who cares? The game was still fun, now we play more correctly (God knows what I haven't noticed I do wrong yet). I'm a firm believer in playing early, and learning from mistakes / as you go.

The Gloomhaven spin-off Jaws of the Lion also has a much more explicit ramp-up, as well as being a simpler game in general.

Tell me about it, this was my first real boardgame.

In a group with engineers and lawyers, it was bad enough that each session started with "what will we get wrong this time"

yes. mtg has less physical items but they more than make up for it with rules. if you want to have a laugh look up the full official rules.

This is true to an extent (and in basically any pro tournament even the best players in the world can disagree about complex interactions and need a judge). But I've rarely found it matters with beginners - just start with vanilla creatures and simple removal if you're worried, my kids learned the structure of your turn, paying for spells and combat in about 10 minutes. Everything beyond a few keyword abilities is just reading the cards, you don't _really_ need to refer to the rules for the most part. This is in stark contrast to Yu-Gi-Oh, we've found, where you can't just play what's in front of you.

either you have really really smart kids or you maybe are exaggerating a little. I learned mtg as an adult playing with a friend and each and every game we would get into a situation where it wasn’t clear how/when to apply the rules - it wasn’t a big deal and i would usually text a buddy that has been playing since for ever.

to give you and example: it took 2 weeks to figure out that there is a difference between +1/+1 as a result of an instant or sorcery and a +1/+1 counter.

Most of the complexity is to handle a small number of cards that are essentially never used except to prompt rule puzzles. The rules have to be very complex to accommodate when these complex cards redouble their complexity by interacting with each other. Sadly, this doesn't work, because the game rules are complex enough to simulate a Turing machine, and as a result some board states are undecidable!


here are the rules: https://magic.wizards.com/en/game-info/gameplay/rules-and-fo...

I disagree about the complexity being associated with only cards that are never used. the "Spells, Abilities, and Effects" is the thing that makes the rule book grow with every release. they keep introducing abilities and it gets more and more complicated

There are tons of simple, compact, good, usually pretty fast-playing tabletop games around, mostly card games but with some exceptions. Love Letter and Arboretum are rightly famous (in board gamer circles). Hive, as a non-card two-player game. Sushi Go has quite a few "things" but you only choose some of them for a given game.

They do tend not to have a strong melding of theme and mechanics, which I think is how/why theme-heavy games can end up being so complex—tighter theme integration implies, if not requires, more mechanics and bits and bobs.

Ah but I loooooooooove Vlada games with deep, crunchy mechanics and many moving parts.

I also love games that are conceptually simple but require mastery like Chess, Go, and their like.

There is a range and the explosion in popularity of boardgaming in this last decade has been a boon as we've seen such a wide array of games and play styles cater to everyone on the spectrum!

Sure, this is entirely personal taste and I will admit somewhat driven by limited time now I have kids. If we're getting the gang together it's annoying to spend ages setting up, whereas sitting down for an MtG draft is so easy and feels like it has infinite variety.

I actually only play games like Mage Knight solo as I don't know anyone else like me who enjoys that sort of game!

> I have enjoyed tabletop games less and less as the number of 'things' has increased

I feel you! There's a niche of complex boardgames where they try to "simulate" things, like a colony or a submarine or a spaceship or a party of RPG characters, and I think... this is what computers are good for. This is a videogame. Boardgames ought to have a different design space. If there are lots of things to keep track of, that's a bad sign for a boardgame. Some even try to have a computer do the bookkeeping, which in my opinion is just a band-aid over inadequate design.

All in my opinion, of course. And I do love "lite" dungeon romps and "lite" RPG-like boardgames. But adding complexity I think is both a temptation and a mistake.

I have this feeling sometimes too, but I think there is an important aspect of complex board games, in particular strategy games that is missing from computer games. When you play a board game, you are forced to understand the rules (because you are the one executing them) so you are able to more fully consider their implications on strategy. (Of course, the mechanics must be tasteful in addition to complex in order for this to actually be a benefit.) In a computer game, my experience is that it's much easier to revert to playing by feel and lose that effect, and much harder to design a game where the full mechanics are obvious to the players. As a wargamer this is the main reason I prefer playing board wargames, even though they are not able to simulate in nearly as much detail as computer wargames.

I am a wargamer too! Are you familiar with Arty's "Crossfire"? That's a marvelous wargame (the best WWII game in my opinion) with a very basic set of rules. The complexity comes from scenario design and gameplay itself -- the rules are trivial.

Another fellow wargamer here! I’ll second that Crossfire is fantastic. It totally captures the rhythm and feel of what it’s trying to represent, without getting bogged down in irrelevant detail. It’s also one of the only really innovative sets of wargame rules I’ve ever played, most of which are essentially the same mechanics combined in different ways.

Another old set with some great ideas is Loose Files and the American Scramble, for the American Revolution. Originally a magazine article (from the 80s I think?), you can find the pdf floating around online. Three pages of rules, and super tightly focused on what makes the AWI unique. 100% worth a look if you have any interest in the period.

I think you’re right about computer games when it comes to hardcore number-crunching simulation. Computers being better able to portray fog of war is also a huge advantage. But I think tabletop games can do certain things better, especially when it comes to things like command friction. On the tabletop, when an order fails to go through or an unlucky break sees your units dissolve in a rout, you can easily understand what happened and it just becomes part of the story of the game. But in a computer game not having precise control can be very frustrating, like you’re at the mercy of opaque mechanics and the RNG.

Thanks for the recommendation! I'll definitely look for the PDF, because a recommendation from a fellow Crossfire fan carries a lot of weight for me ;)

Hah! Us grognards gotta stick together. Loose Files is definitely a little rough around the edges and shows it’s age: for ex. it mentions that officers can send orders, but what that means is left as an exercise for the reader. But with some common sense adaptations it plays really well.

I have heard excellent things about Crossfire but alas have not had the chance to play it -- hopefully one of these days!

Something that I think goes somewhat in the opposite direction is the Piecepack[0], which tries to maximize the number of games you can play with the minimum components.

"Piecepack is to board games what a Standard Deck of Playing Cards is to card games"

Since it is a common denominator, it enforces some economy in games that are designed for it or adapted to it. I recall a Catan adaptation that had several simplifications in the spirit of the OP.

[0] https://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/2860/piecepack

Loony Pyramids (aka icehouse pyramids) are another attempt at this sort of thing. They're just nestable, stackable pyramids in three shapes and several colors, but people have invented or adapted a hundred or so games for them.

They pair well with piecepack or playing cards.

Gloomhaven is pretty much only playable with a set of organizers in the box, (which lifts the lid by an inch), and frankly it could have been done as an episodic. Fifteen map sections, a dozen monsters, 8 character boxes and half of the obstacles probably covers your first 30 hours playing. With everything in the box day 1, The setup and teardown time is huge, and I estimate it saves us over 20 minutes just having the organizers. But not having a box full of unused stuff also would fix that issue.

Loss of momentum will kill your odds of getting a scenario running.

Munchkin went too far the other way. Do I need deck 3 or 4 next? I can't remember. But at least they sell a big empty box to organize all your sets into. Much easier to stack with the other games.

If you avoid that problem, you then also have to resist 'refreshing' your game look and feel. Otherwise I end up with a base game and expansions that don't match in style, and I am not happy. For instance, I bought a Settlers of Catan addon that barely made it out of the box because it didn't match :/ My friend bought one before the change and we always played with his copy instead.

I call this the computer-human scale of board games. That is, how much of playing this game is doing the work that could be done by a computer, vs. how much is doing human reasoning and actually playing.

As an example, Carcassonne is I'd say 95% human. The computer parts are the physical placing of tiles in aligned fashion and counting score, but those take almost no time and effort, compared to actually playing the game. Mage Knight (or god forbid Relic) score very low on that scale - the computer activities start dominating and there is too little game left.

My cutoff point is basically "this would be more fun to play if implemented as a program". Conversely however, if implemented as a program, such games become very good fun. Even just simulating the pieces in a way that frees you from physical constraints (i.e. Tabletop Simulator implementation with almost no scripting) can make a game like that enjoyable to play.

There are plenty of simple games out there. I'd recommend a trip to a local game store. My friends Chris and Will run It's Your More on Telegraph Ave 51st street in Oakland. I can promise they can find you a board game with a degree of complexity you would like, since available run gamut from extreme simplicity to extreme complexity.

That said, I think complaints about complexity sometimes miss the way elaborate steps can be a sort of calming ritual rather than a part of the game as intellectual strategy and one's preferences there are personal. I personally love the game of Go, a game that probably achieves maximal complexity among face-to-face strategy game but I have seek out other players of this since none of my friends are interested.

Learning all the complexity at once is very, very painful. It is my least favorite thing about playing board games. However, once you play a board game often enough it can become a bit boring without more surface complexity unless you really find pleasure in playing it like it is a full time job. (This is why I don't ever think it is worth it to become great at chess... too much effort for too little reward.)

I think expansions are the sweet spot. Produce a base game, then add complexity with expansions.

M:TG is an interesting example, because these days everything spawns so many tokens or adds so many counters that it's not just the cardboard.

If you want real elegance, look at the core of the old Star Wars Customizable Card Game. Each player has the same number of cards in their deck, and the cards are used to track resources, life totals, and provide randomness to combat in a unified way.

Atop that core, Decipher took an attitude of "which parts of Star Wars should we emulate? How about... ALL OF IT!", so the full rules are pretty gnarly. But it's also one of the last major card games that were developed before M:TG became so entrenched that its conventions shaped how we think of CCGs.

Despite the game being out of print, a dedicated committee of players manage the game: running tournaments, releasing new cards, and keeping the dream alive.


I think it is kind of "to each of their own" :)

I.e. sometimes I am really in the mood of having 40+ little colored cuber in neat stack on my table ... other times I just want to sit around the table and insists that I am not the Mordred/Hitler/Werewolf ... the other guy is :-)

I.m.o. Mage Knight doesn't really attempt a D&D ... more of a simplifies Heroes of Might and Magic ... but then he goes and invents Galaxy Trucker and Code Words :D

I remember meeting Vlaada Chvatil when he was designing the boardgame port of Factorio and some of his friends were kinda dunking on him along the lines of "Nice game, but don't you think it would be better as a strategy on a PC" :-D

Usually use Shut Up and Sit Down as my recommendation engine, because while they can really appreciate a good mechanic, they seem to be most of the time in the theme over complexity camp :-)

I think I've enjoyed card based games more over time for this reason. Lots of variety in game pieces look great on sites like kickstarter, but end up being boring. The modern games from the 90's a d 00's seem to have hit a sweetspot in terms of fun rules and complexity.

I think the complexity is part of the fun, but yeah, I can see how it goes overboard sometimes.

Agricola is a good example. It's basically a resource management game from hell. You've really got to be in the right headspace with the right participants to get into it.

Agricola is also a good example of simplification, as the "family" game is built in (although it's still in the medium-high range even with those rules). Actually I've always thought the base rules are too much, the family game would have been an excellent shipping game and the occupations and minor improvements could have been relegated to an expansion.

Agricola actually got this "right"--did kinda what the article talks about--by introducing a 2-player version that, while still kinda parts-heavy, is much simpler and friendlier. You can explain and understand the rules in about 5 minutes, it's fun, simple without being easy, and very replayable.

If you want a really fun, complex, and good two player game that gets even better when multiplayer, try Star Realms (or Hero Realms for fantasy).

The rules are fairly simple but there are a whole lot of variations and the game is very dynamic.

On the other hand, I'm told that there are actual, physical people out there who like World in Flames (https://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/1499/world-flames) or Rise and Decline of the Third Reich (https://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/1563/rise-and-decline-th...).

I agree, but I also don't think its fair to compare to 2 of the most successful games of all time and expect others to meet their bar. Also, different strokes for different folks and all that.

Mage knight has also one of the most thick books I have ever dealt with.

To me the problems are the "micro rules", those that apply to very specific circumstances and are very hard to remember.

These kind of games get also obliterated by those with a short ruleset but same type of depth.

I'm thinking of Azhul, 7 wonders duel, century. Those 3 are very deep, but the rules are barely a few pages comoared to the 40 pages of mage knight.

Granted that i do like mage knight, committing to it is problematic to say the least. And I have a board game table to keep it out!

If you're looking for simple but deep games, highly recommend most things made by Oink games, especially "Startups".

What broke me was Arkham Horror. Because of the very long setup time, we played less than half a game and decided never to touch it again.

“Traders of Genoa” is one of the few games where the bits are relevant to game play. So often the bits are just window dressing to distract from otherwise uninteresting game concepts.

Have you tried Dixit? It is beautifully made game with very simple rules that lead to a very complex game play. Dixit is the only game that I know in which I think a computer would not be able to beat humans unless it is able to pass the Turing test.

There are tons of games in this "give a careful clue" category, if this is something you enjoy—I really like Codenames, Spyfall, and Deception: Murder in Hong Kong. The great thing is the learning curve for all of these games is virtually non-existent and they play fairly quickly, but it takes several playthroughs to get really good at them, and they are highly dependent on who you play with, so there is plenty of replay value.

Mysterium is another missing from your list. It's easily described as "Dixit but Clue".

I think kickstarter has something to do with this phenomenon. Something with lots of bits and pieces (especially molded miniatures) has more obvious “value” and wow factor in a kickstarter pitch than something simple but elegant.

Clearly there is market for these kinds of games, but I agree. At some point, it just makes sense to make a video game and just let a computer handle the display and fiddly bits. Plenty of games have crossed way past that that line.

D&D with digital assist is actually really good.

A related concern that this brings to mind is the act of teaching complex rulesets to players who are playing for the first time.

It's not unusual for only one person in a group to have taken the time to learn the rules, by reading the rulebook, or more often these days, by watching a video. Then, that person is informally responsible for communicating the rules to the other players, tutorial-style.

For games beyond a certain level of complexity, I have sometimes found this process to be absurd. For example, it might be obvious that the rules are not being followed correctly or consistently. Or more frequently, players are playing their first playthrough haphazardly, with no real understanding of the games mechanics. And no one wants to be a rules lawyer.

These things are normal and the games are meant to be fun, above all else, but at the same time, playing a game incorrectly or with partial knowledge is unfun to me, especially since it's not unusual to only play a game once these days.

I think the suggestion for gamemakers to include graduated tutorial materials, written or video, allowing players to trivially pick up the basics and begin playing immediately is very useful, and will encourage players to come back to the same games more than once.

As a technical writer, I often find board game rules suffer from poor writing. They often present information backwards: they start by telling you every thing about every piece and situation before you really understand the basics of play. This makes it difficult to piece together how to play the game.

I'd much rather see board game instructions written as starting out with a VERY short summary of the game and its objectives (e.g. for Dominion: "in this game, you build a deck of cards that you use to purchase victory points. At the end of the game, the player with the most victory points wins."). Then you can follow that up with set up instructions, a simple explanation of a basic turn, followed by more detailed descriptions of gameplay and ending conditions, and finally close with detailed reference material.

A lot of board instructions also suffer from poor translations. It's a fun meta game my friends and I play where were try to figure out if it's a German creator based on the instructions.

For example "When it is the players turn, the player must immediately draw a card and place it into their hand."

compared to "The player starts their turn by drawing a card."

>A lot of board instructions also suffer from poor translations.

People who haven't tried board game design before underestimate how difficult it is to write the rules they think they're writing - very slight wording differences have MAJOR gameplay implications and will decide games.

Here's just one example of two widely different table interactions which result based on the example you've provided.

>Scenario: Immediacy Matters

>Context: I have just become one point away from victory. I have a card that I can flip over on any player's turn to score 1 point, but my friend is wrapping up their turn, and I'm next. My friend says: "Okay I'm done with my turn", and I now remember I have my hidden flippable one point card, because he said the word "turn".

There are two VERY DIFFERENT endings to this scenario depending on which of the two above rules you've written down.

In the verbiage,

>"The player starts their turn by drawing a card.",

If the game doesn't have any other explicit rules about how a player ENDS their turn, there's an ambiguity in the word "by" - it's not clear whether the action of drawing STARTS my turn, or describes WHAT happens DURING my turn (which ALSO ambiguously may or may not take precedence over my ability to flip that card before I draw a card).

This difference seems small, but it will decide the game, because if the act of drawing STARTS the turn, then by not drawing, my opponent's turn is still going - so I win the game by flipping on their not-finished-until-I-draw turn.

This will become a heated table argument if players are invested in winning, because it becomes a question of designer intent, which will probably dissatisfy everyone because suddenly the game's turned into "guess what the designer meant" and "let's debate the definition of words the author didn't even know were important."

In the former verbiage,

>"When it is the players turn, the player must immediately draw a card "

There's still ambiguity (When did my opponents turn end?), but less:

If everyone agrees my opponent's turn ended when he said it did, and it's my turn, because the rules say IMMEDIATELY draw, IMMEDIATELY implies it's pretty explicitly disallowed for me to do something else before fulfilling the thing I need to immediately do, like flip a card on the table. If the card I draw when doing this subtracts points when drawn, I will not win the game when I flip my card.

Disgustingly verbose rules like the above are the scar tissue from play sessions where these heated arguments took place and the developer decided that being overly wordy is worth avoiding race conditions and being unambiguous.

Wish I could upvote you more than once. Game designers need to be more focused on getting people into the game, and then progressively revealing more complicated mechanics as the game unfolds. I'd rather play a videogame if I'm going to have to read the manual for an hour before my first turn.

I always have to stop people explaining me board game rules and get them to tell me the goal of the game first. If I don't know that I find it very difficult to contextualize the myriad other rules involved.

The 1990s German rulebook to the Settlers of Catan followed the concept you are lining out. The rulebook one an award the Germans have specifically for rulebooks.

Depends on your gaming culture. If you're friends with a lot of people who play games, and you learn games from each other, then it will be very rare to have a game that no one present has ever played before. When I think through the games I play, I remember being taught all of them by other people.

I wonder whether maybe game-makers are usually in this sort of environment, and so don't think as much about the experience of a group of four beginners sitting down to try out a game?

> If you're friends with a lot of people who play games, and you learn games from each other, then it will be very rare to have a game that no one present has ever played before.

Only if you and all of your friends play from a very limited, range of games. In my experience, people like this exclusively play games that are currently or have been recently heavily marketed.

I'm friends with a lot of people who play games, I own a disturbing amount of games, and I sit at a table and play a game that no one at the table has played about weekly during normal times, maybe biweekly now that I'm stuck online. As a person who researches and finds a lot of games, it's very often me who's teaching the game that none of us have played.

In my experience, people who are really into games are constantly playing oddball, older, and obscure games, from the rules.

Before I introduce a new game, I start by watching a video, reading the rulebook, playing a couple of games against myself, and then practicing and refining a script so I can teach it as effectively as possible. It's a lot of work, but I like working out an optimized rules explanation, and if I'm inviting people over to play my new game, then it seems impolite to waste their time.

When I have played new games with people, what I try to do is just launch ourselves into it, play a few rounds haphazardly and maybe sort of by the actual rules, figuring things out as we go, then start over and play the game for real.

It takes a little more time to replay the start of the game, but if people are in the spirit of it, the exploration phase of it can move quickly. You don't have to try to make the right play. Just try something. If there's a thing in the rules that can happen, do it and see what happens, even if you think it's probably not the right way to do it.

To be fair that does not work too well with "event games" (ie events that take so long that you can barely play a round in one day).

Example: Eclipse, which we play whenever we find time and people to spend 7-9 hours for a single game. Just starting to play would not really work here, because you can not easily play multiple games to learn the rules incrementally.

That said, Eclipse is currently my favorite game as it's fairly complex, but the goals are laid out pretty simply: Collect victory points (VP), everything with a golden shield with a number gives you VP.

From there it's mostly about teaching the players about the actions they can perform each turn (of which there are six) and the associated costs. But in the first turns everybody will use a single action (explore) so the learning ramp starts of manageable. The move and the upgrade actions are not relevant before ships where build, complexity builds up over the game.

Also: Complexity arises from having a whole load of researchable technologies and discoveries on the board. But all of those are introduced slowly while the game progresses.

All of this falls out of the window when you play with the alien races which changes the rules for every player ... which is why play all humans whenever we have new players at the table.

Long text ... I just love that game ;-)

My friends and I do this a lot on board game arena - it's nice because you can only make legal moves there (and trying to make an illegal move usually faces you with some context as to why it is illegal), so it's easy to explore part of the game's state space without having to know anything about the rules. Then after some number of rounds we'll read the rules and figure out how things worked that we missed, and then play a real game. It's quite fun.

I have listened to a fair number of people explaining board game rules and I feel quite strongly that most of these explanations present too much information at once. Often someone reads the rules, and then basically tries to present them all at the same time, which leads to people unfamiliar with the game feeling overwhelmed and not processing the information. Later, when playing, you can observe the actual learning happen, once people ask what moves they can make and observe what the other players do.

I think that it is much more efficient to simply drop the first part and go straight into the game. Whenever an action is required, simply tell the person their options and focus on reducing the information as much as possible.

Like, if you were teaching someone to play chess, you could prepare the board and play as white, while your friend plays black. Then move a pawn while explaining the way pawns move. Let your friend move a pawn. Continue until the capturing rules for pawns become relevant. Explain those. Then, one-by-one, introduce the other pieces and their movement over multiple turns, when they can actually move. At some point, a check will happen (or you can make it happen). Now you can go into the check rules, and how a game is won. There is no need to explain everything in the first game either, things like castling, pawn promotions or en passant can be postponed until they become relevant.

Also, there is no need to involve strategy. The focus should be on teaching to play, i.e. take valid game actions, not on how to play well. In addition to being unnecessary information, there is also a lot of fun in figuring things out by yourself.

Usually, for board games the designers thought about the best way to teach the rules and the manual is helpfully structured in that way. So it will first describe how to prepare the game, then the turn structure, then the possible actions, and so on. Often you can start a game parallel to reading the rules, which is handy when no one knows the game.

Simplifying the game, as in the linked article, is also quite useful. There are some good examples of explicitly changing the games to be simpler, but you can also do some more subtle manipulations. For example, in Go (the board game, not the programming language) beginners play with the full rules (which are already simple enough) but on a smaller board, which leads to shorter, less complex games. In Magic: The Gathering, you can teach someone by preconstructing the deck to contain only simple cards. (I have seen some board games incorporate this as well, but there it is usually framed in terms of 'extensions' to the rules.)

I really like OP's approach here but still, find that some kids' specific games are quite good on their own. In particular, Ticket to Ride: First Journey is a great adaptation to the full game.

Another one that nobody believes me about (because it sounds like such a preposterous cash grab) is Super Mario Brothers Monopoly. But the changed some of the fundamentally boring aspects of the game to make it really quick to play and introduced the concept of "hero" characters with unique abilities to it.

The game I've found with the most cross-generational appeal is Kingdomino. I've played it with 3 year olds and teenagers at the same time, and both enjoyed it. They only change we make to the rules for the younger kids is removing the 5x5 restriction on the size of your kingdom.

Our family has also found this to be true for Catan Junior. It's a great game on its own with quite a lot of replay value, so we end up sometimes playing Catan Junior even though everyone has the ability to play Settlers of Catan.

Same experience

I also like this approach. And I've found the opposite way around also works pretty well: kids (say age 4-6+) are perfectly capable of playing the full adult versions of games.

I've found the challenge isn't so much for them to understand the rules as much is it's holding their attention with something not as instantly gratifying as the other entertainment they are used to in apps and video streaming.

Ah, my siblings and I were only allowed an hour of screen time a week when we younger. So that wasn't really an issue. I think an hour a week is a bit extreme, but I definitely intend to put strong limits on my children, especially when they're young.

Keep 'em off the drugs. Board games are excellent for building math intuition.

My oldest kid once mopped the floor with me, 7 games in a row at Love Letter. I didn't throw the games to make him happy, he just plain had a combination of good draws and good play. He was 7 at the time. Kids are amazing.

Indeed, there are also plenty of great board games that are targeted towards kids! Don't need to run simplified Adult games.

The HABA publishing series is always a hit. Rhino Hero working for kids and adults alike.

First Orchard teaches the basics of game mechanics to younger kids.

Set Junior simplifies Set for kiddos.

Ice Cool is a great dexterity game.

The Magic Labyrinth (2009) involves mental mapping and memorization skills.

Looney Quest is a great drawing game as you try to collect coins and avoid the bad stuff.

Not to mention all the Junior games of heavy classics like Ticket to Ride: First Journey, My First Stone Age, etc.

Obviously the downside is they likely will outgrow these simplified versions. So the value of hacking the games you love as an adult is definitely a big plus and lets you save money and work them towards great board games. But on the other hand, why strip out all the pieces when you can play something designed for that age demographic?

Seconding The Magic Labyrinth. The kids really enjoy moving the pieces, and it does takes some memorization to figure out the path.

The saving money and path toward more complex games are the main motivations for me, yup!

The one major improvement is that you're having to buy just the full game instead of 2 variants. The chances are you already have the original full game, and using that to teach a reduced set makes sense if you don't wanna (or can't) buy the smaller set because it will stop being fun in a year once the kid learns the main game.

There is also the fact that some games won't even have reduced sets (Guillotine for eg), or will have it but it will be impossibly hard to get where I live. I can easily get a copy of TTR in India, but finding a copy of TTR:1st Journey is much tougher.

Target (the stores) has been a really interesting force for encouraging board game designers to adapt their games to entry level. TtR: First Journey, Catan Junior, Evolution's base game rebranded and cleaned up to be an entry level game leaving Evolution: Climate the new "base game" for more experienced groups, Captain Sonar Junior. So far it seems that most designers that have accepted Target's challenge have built great adaptations that don't water down their main concepts too much and are great starting points to the deeper games.

The best Monopoly is the one on the NES with a four-score adapter :-)

All the standard rules, no-one can modify them, runs the auctions for you, plays very fast. D-pad and four buttons (counting select and start) so even young kids (or oldsters) with no gaming experience can pick it up fast. I wouldn't ordinarily recommend a video game as a complete replacement for the physical version of a board game, but in the case of Monopoly, yes, definitely, find the simplest video game version you can and use that.

My mom suggested I buy NES Monopoly when I was about 10. I protested at first, but I quickly fell in love and played endlessly.

Monopoly is not a well-designed game to play with people but, surprisingly, amazing and interesting to play against an 8-bit computer.

We've had really good success with Magic Maze Kids - as well as Ticket to Ride: First Journey and Catan Junior (both of which are fantastic). The thing that Magic Maze Kids has going for it is an _absolutely fabulous_ tutorial system that slowly introduces every mechanic of the game.

Other games like Pigasus and Snowman Dice (both by Brain Games I think) have been a hit too.

What ages do you recommend those games for?

I think if you're willing to be VERY flexible with all rules, 2.5 is old enough to play all of the above.

When we play with younger kids we try really hard to emphasize fun and downplay stringent rule following, for better or for worse.

Some games, like snowman dice, are fun just for the sake of it. It's fun to roll the dice and push them around.

I'd say Catan Junior is fine for a 3 year old, but make sure to spend the first few times just familiarizing the rules (i.e. making the connection between getting a resource and spending it by matching up the resources on your resource card).

Ticket to Ride Junior is a little bit harder, but a 3 year old should do ok with help. Again, if you really "take it easy" about the rules a very young child can have a lot of fun with these if for nothing other than the colors and manipulatives/meeples alone.

Magic Maze Kids we did starting at 2.5-3ish and it was fine.

Pigasus, on the other hand, a 2 year old can do and really enjoy. That game is absolutely amazing because it's one of those things that a small child can do better than some adults (like... for real!). Also the sound the pig makes when you squeeze it is incredibly funny to most kids and very rewarding. It's a fun one.

My 3yo daughter can handle Ticket to Ride First Journey, and even now knows some of the city names (we actually have a German edition, since I couldn't find an English one at a sensible price). It plays a bit quicker than the full version, so tends to hold her attention longer.

BoardGameGeek is usually a good resource for this. https://www.boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/125921/catan-junior

I've played Carcassonne with kids who couldn't read yet; it's great! No language dependence whatsoever!

OTOH, I typically teach adults how to play Race for the Galaxy by starting out with a few hands of San Juan... It's a very similar, but much much simpler game.

Super Mario Brothers Monopoly is good, but it's only 4 players, and I have 3 kids... :(

These days there are so many board games out there that if you are looking for a "simplified ______", another game probably already exists and fills that niche reasonably well.

Shout out here to Heroscape, which is my favorite game and is basically a simplified version of a miniature war game. It is an interesting case study for this article too because Heroscape comes with two rulebooks, one for a basic game and another for the advanced game. (Although even the "advanced" game is much simplier than most minature games). Heroscape also introduced complexity over time with its many expansions (primarily new miniatures which each of special powers).

The game was discontinued back in 2010, but still has a community of fans going strong at https://www.heroscapers.com. The forums are great.

One of the first comments mentioned “super mario brothers monopoly” being a well designed game for kids.

I’d like to add that the Star Wars monopoly is also very well designed and has a lot of new features that solve the biggest problems of the game taking too long, of those ahead almost always staying ahead and for the game being boring when itnisnt your turn.

Games finish in under an hour. They have cards that opponents can play during your turn to block or change your moves. Best of all, it’s only possibly for you (as a single player) to win if your side (datk or light) has the most point, making it an interesting semi-team game.

It’s a great game and I’ve played it with many professional game designers who also really like it.

Which version are you referring to? I found several versions on Amazon which appear to have different gameplay.

Would people still play these Monopoly-derivatives, if they were not associated with the Monopoly brand?

But it's good to hear that they seem to be moving 'Monopoly' into a direction of something more playable.

I never bought any of those as I assumed they were the same game of Monopoly but with different pieces and renamed properties. I had no idea about different gameplay.

A few of the games mentioned don't really need simplification. I've been playing Carcassonne with my daughter since she was 3 years old. She can't do the scoring but she understands all the rules and how to earn points. The only thing we simplified originally was just not using Farmers.

We recently got a game called Outfoxed! which says it's for 5+, she picked it up after the first round. The hardest concept for her was moving diagonally and that you aren't allowed to in the game. It's a great game for learning to read names since all of the Foxes have unique and not trivial names to pronounce.

Yes my youngest loves carcassone, we played. He’s 5 now and we also play ttr (first journey and London), catan junior, and he is a big fan of Station Master, which is an odd little game we picked up pre kids. We went through a phase with outfoxed And guess who, but he preferred the rest now.

If the kids like Catan derivatives, you might also want to try Bohnanza.

The recommended age on the box is a hilarious 13+. But I've played it with bright 5 year olds.

See https://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/11/bohnanza

For the past couple of weeks I've been trying to do something like that for DnD. Come up with a system that doesn't have countless intricate rules and tedious arithmetics, but instead focuses on the social/creative aspects of the game, encourages creativity, improvisation, and storytelling. Keeping the rules fun, simple, accessible, yet flexible and powerful. Something you can play with your kids, or introduce to non-gamer friends to have a fun evening or two (but also is capable of supporting longer campaigns if you get into it). You can learn everything you need to play the game by reading a couple of pages, or teach it in 10-15 minutes.

The project is still in the very early stages, basically a draft, but I'd love to know what you think:


(For people who have some good ideas about the rules, or want to contribute ideas for spells, magic items, and adventures - project is open source and available on github: https://github.com/raymestalez/mirage)

> For the past couple of weeks I've been trying to do something like that for DnD. Come up with a system that doesn't have countless intricate rules and tedious arithmetics, but instead focuses on the social/creative aspects of the game, encourages creativity, improvisation, and storytelling.

No shortage of rules-lite RPGs out there, with varying degrees of similarity to D&D. FATE and FUDGE are the two that come to mind, but there are lots of others.

There Is No Spoon, a simple RPG that was big on RPG.net a while back is another good example.

If you want critical feedback for your design and suggestions of other games that share some of your goals, you should peek into the /r/RPGDesign subreddit and The Gauntlet Forums.

An interesting idea in this space is the concept of a "D&D microsystem," which I think seeks to solve some of the problems you mention above.

I run games using a modified version of "Rolling for Shoes" [0] to much success with friends & family as a way to pass the time on long car rides.

[0]: https://rollforshoes.com/

It sounds like you're aiming for something a little more advanced, but I want to mention Amazing Tales [1] just in case you aren't aware of it. It does really well as a "first RPG" for kids, with the focus heavily on the storytelling part of the game.

[1] https://amazing-tales.net/

You should try Hero Kids (https://www.drivethrurpg.com/m/product/106605), sounds a lot like what you’re describing

It might be worth checking out Ryuutama. I own the book, but I've unfortunately never played it. It does look simpler and more role play heavy than D&D.

Check out Amazing Tales for the kids. Very similar to what it sounds like you're describing.

Not a board game, but Shadowrun definitely has a complexity problem. It's set in a cyberpunk future where magic has also reawakened, bringing in Tolkien-esque creatures as well. You can be a hacker, mage, cyber warrior, or just a smooth talker. However, each of those archetypes has different rules, and are essentially their own game. And for the GM, you have to know all of the rules relevant to not only the people playing with you, but any enemies they might run into.

The setting is amazing, but it's dying for a rewrite (and I don't mean Shadowrun Anarchy). There's been some attempts to make a Powered by the Apocalypse version, but none have gained a large amount of traction.

Throwing one million D6 also gets old after a while.

I have been playing Hero Kids[0] with my 4yo son since he was 3.5 and we have a blast every session. the best part of it, is how flexible are the rules and you can relax them as much as you want for smaller kids. I can def see how the approach in the article could make complex games more accesible to kids. As soon as my son is a bit bigger I’ll try this for sure.

[0]: https://www.drivethrurpg.com/m/product/106605

I've found that many games translate easily to 5 year olds by tweaking the rules. Removing hidden information and playing cooperatively works best.

Competition was the I think the biggest barrier for my youngest, she hates losing. Old Maid flips the equation a little because there's only 1 loser and many winners. Carcassonne can be played without keeping track of points, just rules for how you lay tiles. We recently got a game called Outfoxed! where you collectively hunt down a thief, it's great for kids because it exercises memory and deductive reasoning to eliminate suspects, and you have to strategize as a team.

We played pengaloo a lot. Its a matching game. We just work together to find the matching eggs. The kids enjoy the thrill of checking the eggs as well as the cute characters.

Annoyed by the money and harshness of interactions in a game like monopoly with 5-8 year olds we created "Friendopoly". When you land on someones property you are invited to camp on their lawn or sleep in their house or hotel. The railroads are all connected, there are no chance or community chest cards, and it's just a fun time going around the board that is more communal.

Monopoly is an awful game. I'm glad you don't play that.

But also have a look at the modern 'German' style boardgames. They are much better than the bad old American classics like Monopoly.

'Ticket to Ride' and Carcassonne are a good gateway games for example.

This is how I introduced board gaming with my children. There are kids versions of some of the more popular games like Settlers and Carcasonne which can be fun as well. We also play No Thank You, Evil! which is a lot of fun as my kids have wild imaginations and really enjoy playing pretend.

Especially in this pandemic moment it has been a very useful technique to have around.

Of course even in role playing one doesn't require a boxed game to play. A few dice and some cards often suffice. Simplifying Microlite20 [0] and throw in a kid-friendly setting with some problem solving is a great way to pass the time and see how your kids think!

[0] https://microlite20.org

I like it, and having played board games with my (now adolescent) daughter for years, it all rings true to my experience.

One thing I would like to point out is that a lot of software (including applications, languages, frameworks, etc) would benefit from a similar approach. When the tutorial starts out with "install these five things and then set up this environment and take on board these thirty pieces of jargon and now we can do something", it is hindering its own growth. Usually, it was nothing like that when it started, and just added things to make it "easier" (for people who already knew the basics), without realizing that they were cutting off their flow of new users.

I have been trying to get my 4 year old into board games. I grew up on snakes and ladder, ludo and later monopoly. That hasn't piqued my little ones interest at all.

Here is what worked .. my first castle panic .. this was super simple and got her engaged. There was another simple game called kraken attack that had cool looking pieces and got her engaged. Finally, we play a randomish game with the agricola board and kingdomino. Moral of the story is relax, bend the rules, teach simple things like turn taking, post-game clean up, and have fun!

Thanks for the suggestion on My First Castle Panic! Just grabbed it - looks great!

And I couldn't agree more on the "relax, bend the rules" side of things. It's all about fun.

Good luck. Two other suggestions for that age group that we found worked: Animal upon Animal (kinda expensive for the simple pieces you get but it felt so much fun, the wife joined in me and the daughter play!) and S.O.S Dino (gorgeous pieces and educational concept; my kid lost interest for some reason I could not understand; game was super interesting and simple)

Don't forget the classic abstracts, too! Chess, go, etc. You may have a prodigy and never know it otherwise!

Lily got very into chess when she was ~5y, and kept trying to get her 3y sister Anna to play with her. Anna didn't like Chess and wrote about it: https://www.annakaufmanwise.com/chess

Tzaar is a great abstract that my son enjoys!

I really like this, I feel too many games have pieces "for the sake of it".

For fun I've been trying to develop AIs which can play games, mainly so I can then try finding the "minimal viable rules", the simplest version of a game which is still in some sense "interesting".

I wrote some about trying to find the simplest interesting game a few years ago: https://www.jefftk.com/p/simplest-interesting-game

I do simmilar things :-)

I.e. have been playing Carcasone when my was 4y, we just didn't play with the 'farmer' or we played KingDomino, and she just didn't have to adhere to the rule that your kingdom needs to fit 5x5 grid.

I'm using same trick with my 5 years son. In past I've tried kids editions (like ticket to ride first jorney). But they become boring too fast. Plus kid like to play "real" game, not game for small kids.

Slightly off-topic but Love your blog. The pages for your kids, did you build a simple CMS for them to create pages? Or taught them to write static HTML pages? I’m thinking of doing the latter myself.

after all this years - poker and neapolitan[0] cards apart - the most fun and interesting "board" game I played is still Bang![1]

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Italian_playing_cards#Napoleta... [1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bang!_(card_game)

I bought board game simulator recently to play with my friends. Many of the most popular games were just too intimidating to play, this would have really helped us haha

I have found a number of age appropriate games at a local toy store.

The owner is very good at curating them. Sloth in a Hurry is for ages 5+, my daughter loves to play it with us.

There are also games with simple mechanics. I think Century : Spice Road and the various Forbidden Island / Desert games are good examples.

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