Good board games are not bored games
Now that I am retired, I have the time to move forward by looking back. Many parts of insightofcaring.com are resources I created when I taught at Kansas State University. Although like me, grey around the edges, the information I am bringing forward remains relevant for families today. In my old WonderWise Parent website I talked about the relevance of board games for bringing families together in positive ways. Associating the idea of caring with board games may seem odd to you. Traditionally, board games have been associated only with competition. No problem with that. I recall playing a game of Risk when I was a graduate student at Purdue for more than 24 hours straight with Betsy and our friend John Bond. I don’t recall who won the game (probably Betsy). I have learned not to play Monopoly with her because she is an awesome and intelligent competitor. How many times can I lose before giving up?
I even created my own noncommercial cooperative board game, A Week with Mary and Julep published at Kansas State University. The idea of the game is to help Mary with her anger management. Poor Mary. She has her hands full with Julep, her six-year-old who is full of mischief. Mary really needs help to keep herself from blowing her top or doing the wrong thing with her daughter. In this cooperative game, two to four players (twelve years and up) play cards from their hands to help Mary manage the anger she feels.
Over the last ten years or so there has been a resurgence in cooperative games. All players have to work together to succeed or face failure as a team. You care about others at the table because you either win or lose together. These games are designed to be very difficult to win. For example, in Flash Point: Fire Rescue your gaming groups has to work together to save victims of a fire. In Castle Panic your group has to work together to defend a castle from marauders. The recent Freedom: The Underground Railroad you have to work together to build up the strength of the Abolitionist movement and move slaves to freedom in Canada. The game involves strategy that includes notable historical figures and pivotal events. You can read about a variety of these challenging cooperative games at the BoardGameGeek, the best source of reviews and general information about quality board and card games.
Using cooperative games with children is great because your purpose is to help each other succeed. Forbidden Island and Forbidden Desert are great games to play with ten year olds and older. With cooperative games, there is no shame in losing, no likelihood of upturned game boards and bits off the table. No sulking after a loss. Instead, there are high-fives after winning and hugs after losing.
Nothing wrong with competitive games, though, with the right group and attitude. Parents can help their children learn to be both gracious losers as well as good winners. My suggested rules for Family Game Night:
* Stay friendly even if you are losing * Help someone who makes a mistake * Rules can be changed only if everyone agrees * Accept lots of mistakes by everyone the first time a game is played * Loud laughter is encouraged but not mean words * Play fair at all times
You can read more about this at my Games FAQ at the WonderWise Parent. I have quite a few great competitive games. You can see more than 150 of the competitive and cooperative games in my collection by looking at my profile, Greybear, at the Geek.