on Jun 2, 2016
Well, it’s summer time. Another school year has come and gone, and already there are kids running amuck everywhere enjoying the seasonal freedom. But after the joy of liberation from early mornings, uniforms, homework and school functions wears off in the long days before the next school year begins, boredom inevitably sets in. What do you do between vacations, camps, beach visits, festivals, cook-outs and so forth? My children are younger and are easier to entertain, but what about older, harder-to-please middle grade aged kids? Are we grown folks going to leave these truants to their own devices?
I asked our stable of Review Corner writers to produce a list of suggested games for preteen to teenage kids. This is a demographic that I think is sometimes underrepresented and underserved by the hobby gaming community. The assumption is that kids of this age are too busy worried about the opposite sex, video games, whatever is on their phones, and other distractions to care about tabletop gaming. But this is also the age a lot of game players come into the hobby and develop a life-long interest in it.
And it is, to my estimation, a very positive thing for youth of all ages to be involved in. It promotes healthy face to face social interaction and thoughtful activity. It’s a way to be engaged without technology and many of the themes and subject matters covered in the hobby are instantly appealing to this age group.
So here it is, The Review Corner’s Summer Boredom Busters 2016.
I’m going to lead us off with an unlikely pick. This is a not-very-accessible, really quite complicated worker placement game with dense rules and tons of content. It’s pretty daunting, and it requires a couple of plays to really dig into its depths. But it is also the kind of game that could, for some kids, become the “game of the summer” among groups of friends. It supports up to five players (six with the expansion) and it is ideal for an evening or long afternoon.
The setting should be immediately appealing to anyone interested in Harry Potter or any of the other genre YA books that have come out over the past few years as well as to fans of anime and manga. It’s a magical university embroiled in the politics of succession with numerous characters and factions involved. The gameplay is highly interactive with lots of fine detail and intrigue. The illustrations are great and the backstory is rich; both capture the imagination and make Argent University come to life.
For high school aged kids or bright and attentive middle schoolers, I think this game is worth a shot.
RRRAAAWWWWWRRRRRR. That's the sound of players trying to figure out who goes first in King of Tokyo. It's a game of giant monsters, mechs, and aliens smashing their way through Tokyo. In this game however, you get to be the monsters. It's a breeze to hop into and will be familiar to any family who has played Yahtzee. The inclusion of power cards and some unique symbols on the thick chunky dice mix up that familiar formula. There are two ways to win, another feature that makes it great for families. While I have no problem charging ahead and trying to eliminate my opponents, players who are more comfortable playing peacefully can pursue a points-based victory.
As summer arrives and kids run around looking for things to do, King of Tokyo becomes a fantastic choice for a rainy (or sunny) day. It's simple enough that young kids can teach each other. Parents won't necessarily need to oversee the carnage, though they're just as likely to want to play. It's hard not to have fun jumping into a giant robotic pink bunny and smashing each other across the board.
Summer time is here, and that means one important thing: blockbuster super hero films! But after weeks of buildup and anticipation, the heroic action only lasts about 120 minutes and leaves you hungry for more. Sure, there are always comic books and cartoons, but the Legendary: Marvel Deck Building Game is even better.
With some of the most iconic Marvel comic book and film heroes at your disposal, players work together to take on some of the biggest, baddest villains in the history of the Marvel universe. You’ll foil evil schemes from bank robberies to absconding with powerful cosmic artifacts, building up your team’s repertoire of super powers round by round until you defeat your nemesis or fall trying.
Every combination of heroes, villains, and schemes provides a new play experience and makes sure that even the base game alone doesn’t get boring too quickly. With Marvel’s Civil War film releasing only a few weeks ago, the Legendary Civil War Expansion adds even more of that summer release feel—and replayability options—to the experience.
Role playing games and summer are a perfect union. RPG’s reward you best when dedicating time to them, and with the onset of school break you have plenty of that. Although just because you have that extra time, you don’t want to spend it learning a complicated system or finding one to play from amongst the dizzying array on the shelves. Dragon Age doesn’t waste your time. It pulls in new players with an ease that will have their Grey Wardens pathfinding through Thedas in no time at all.
The core book is easy to read and understand for both players and GMs, whether casual or veteran. Character creation is streamlined, even somewhat modular. Game play is based on a simple system: roll 3d6 and modify it by an applicable stat against a target difficulty. Plus the titular dragon die creates opportunities to enact epic moves. And while dice rolling is fun, Dragon Age emphasizes cinematic story-telling over min/maxing stats. During summer break, that’s great for exercising the old brain without having to crunch numbers – because you shouldn’t have to do math when you’re out of school, anyway.
Wiz-War is the bee's knees- it’s a great game for kids who already enjoy CCGs, and in fact it is a game that has had a tremendous influence on that format. It is one of the games that inspired Richard Garfield to design Magic: The Gathering. It has the fantastic engagement of head-to-head bashing combined with a white knuckled race for treasure. With a simple structure and an endless deck of spells, Tom Jolly brings the excitement in spades. The real magic happens the first time you see a mage trapped behind a manifested wall eat his way out and then transform into a wolf to take a chunk out of their opponent's soft belly. It's vicious, malicious, and tons of fun.
Growing up during the meteoric rise of Magic: The Gathering, I'm intimately familiar with the concept of a "backpack game” - a portable, quick-playing game you can toss into your book bag and take out whenever you and your buddies need to kill some time. When it comes to backpack games, Boss Monster nails it. Small in both size and price but large in gameplay, Boss Monster puts you in the role of a devious end-boss in a pixelated side-scroller. While Freddy Fazbear and blockheaded Steve aren't present, Boss Monster's callbacks to video games both old and new are sure to resonate with gamers of any age.
Even though it's a card game, Boss Monster offers an experience that's different from your average deck-dueler like Magic or Netrunner. Instead of summoning beasties, you're building rooms in your dungeon, trying to create killer combos of traps and monsters. At the same time, you need to pay attention to the heroes queuing up in town and make sure your dungeon has the loot to attract them. This push-pull gives the game a depth that transcends its simple ruleset, and you'll be busy figuring out tricks and combos all summer long.
WWE Superstar Showdown is one of the best examples of using the pro wrestling setting to deliver pile-driving action to (or through) the tabletop. In its most basic form, two players square off in the ring, each playing as one of six WWE Superstars. Through a series of double-guessing, tactical gameplay, and fun card combos, players bounce off the ropes, jump off the corners, and pound each other with sweet moves. It's a thoroughly fun game, and a surprisingly well-designed one. It has plenty of the goofy stuff you'd expect from this kind of game, but it actually gets better as you grow more experienced. You learn how to play most effectively as Big Show or John Cena, and why they might be vulnerable against the likes of Roman Reigns and Big E.
WWE Superstar Showdown is at its best in a two-player form, but for those who don't mind a little bit of spectating, the tag team mode is a lot of fun too. The players divide into teams, with two wrestlers actually in the match and the others on the sides. Those outside of the ring can tag in if things start going south, and they can even mess with their opponents by grabbing them from outside of the ring. There are a lot of different scenarios, both short and long. You can chain them together into whatever kind of game you like, making this one of those games you can pick up quickly and dig into for the whole summer. It's so good that it's actually enjoyable for people who don't even like WWE.
Newfangled LCGs are great, but there's no other game that smells like summer quite like the granddaddy of the collectible card game: Magic: The Gathering. Many a hot and sweltering summer afternoon has been spent by middle-schoolers locked in mortal combat in the twisted planes of the MTG world, whether it's at the one shady picnic table at the park or in the nice, air-conditioned local game shop. It's perfect for investing time in, dropping a few bucks on a booster here or there as you earn money doing chores or mowing lawns, and bragging to your buddies when you pull the exact rare you need to perfect your annoying blue control deck.
There's no better way to quickly get into the game with a buddy than the nicely balanced and highly replayable Duel Decks. Split the cost with a friend and you've got your summer afternoons set. Stick with the decks you have, buy another set of decks if another friend or two wants to join, or start tweaking to your heart's content. Just remember, you can stop at any time...
Once the kids get out of school, parents sometimes have trouble finding things to do with them, and worse, in this era of internet-connected, iPhone worshipping Snapchat junkies, it's hard to really connect with them. I've, personally, found that playing card games can be a perfect fit, because it's spending time with them, and it's keeping their little head-mounted hamsters from seizing up by having them think and analyze things, without such a large time chunk that they become bored or overcome with distraction.
Beasty Bar pairs easy to understand rules with outrageous and fun artwork. It's simple enough that a child of perhaps seven can easily understand it, but it's also very tactical-minded, so adults can have fun instead of taking one for the team and pretending to have fun. Essentially, you play a card, then draw a card on your turn, which seems very simple, but there's a lot more to the game than that; what you play, and when, and how the card you played interacts with other players' cards...that's where the game is. I highly recommend this one. It’s just a great, fun, not-too-hard game with broad appeal.
The summer break from school means long empty days. And way better way to spend them than gaming? One of the best ways to game around in the summer time is with Android: Netrunner. When you've got nothing competing for your time, you can sit down and make some fantastic decks. You pore over every card, identifying possible combinations to bring to bear on an opponent. You consider possible countermeasures that might strike at you, and figure out ways around them.
Once built, you simply take a deck or two and toss them in your bag on the way to your friend's place. There, you can have game after game of Netrunner awesomeness. Highly asymmetrical and competitive, you'll be completely engaged in every play. The hours fly by as you bypass ice, damage runners, and try to expose or complete the corporation's nefarious agendas. And if you play the Runner, it makes you want to try again immediately as the Corporation and vice versa. As the lazy summer days approach, it's a great game to hack into.