The case against Candy Land

Ed Note: Boingboing's current guest blogger Steven Johnson is the author of six books, most recently The Invention Of Air: A Story of Science, Faith, Revolution and the Birth Of America, for which he is currently on book tour. He's also the co-founder of the hyperlocal community site

Anyone with children over a certain age will tell you that one of the best things about being a parent is how much time you get to spend playing games with your kids. In my case--I have three boys, aged 2 to 7--the experience has always had a split-screen quality to it: half belonging to the 21st century, the other belonging to my childhood in the mid-seventies. We spend a ton of time together playing Little Big Planet on the PS3--or more accurately, we spend a ton of time with me marveling at their skills at Little Big Planet and woefully attempting to keep up with them. But there’s also the parallel track, where I get to revisit the games that I played as a child. Just last week it was Battleship. Before that it was Sorry, Bingo, Go Fish, Candy Land, and so on.

There’s a consistent theme to all these old-school game introductions: almost without exception, I have been mortified by the pathetic game that I’ve excitedly brought to the kids. Not because they’re made out of cardboard and plastic, instead of 1080p HDMI graphics. (My boys still spend just as many happy hours with Lego as they do the PS3.) What’s irritating about the games is that they are exercises in sheer randomness. It’s not that they fail to sharpen any useful skills; it’s that they make it literally impossible for a player to acquire any skills at all.

Take Battleship. I spend thirty minutes setting up the game, explaining the dual grids and how one represents their fleet, and the other represents their opponents’. I have to explain the pegs, and the x/y coordinates of the grid, and the placement of the ships themselves. And then when we’re finally ready to go, I explain how the actual game is played.

“So pick a random point on the grid,” I explain, “and see if he’s got a ship there.”

“Nothing? Okay, now you pick a random point on the grid.”

“Nothing? Okay, let’s do it again…”

I hadn’t thought about this until I actually played the game again last week, but there is absolutely nothing about the initial exploratory sequence of Battleship that requires anything resembling a genuine decision. It is a roulette wheel. A random number generator could easily stay competitive for the first half. But even when some red pegs appear on the board, the decision tree is still a joke: “Now select a co-ordinate that’s next to the red peg.” That’s pretty much it. Yes, at the very end, you might adjust your picks based on your knowledge of which ships you’ve sunk. But for the most part, it’s about as mentally challenging as playing Bingo.

And Battleship might as well be Battleship Potemkin compared to something like Candy Land, which was fiendishly designed to prevent the player from ever having to make a single decision while playing the game. You pick a card from a shuffled deck, and follow the instructions. That’s it.

I realize that games of pure chance have a long history, but that doesn’t make them any less moronic. (And it goes without saying that Checkers, Chess, Go, and other strategy games are great tests of decision-making.) I take this as another example of how much more mentally challenging kids’ culture has become in recent years. The digital generation doesn’t seem to have much of an appetite for games structured around total randomness. My older boys have been playing Super Mario Galaxy for the Wii since they were four and six, and there is more decision making in ten seconds of that game than there is in ten hours of Candy Land or Sorry.

Just as a thought experiment: Imagine what the manual for Super Mario would read like were it structured like Candy Land:

To explore Super Mario Galaxy, just hit the “action” button. At that point the game will randomly determine what action you have selected, and whether it was successful. When the action is over, hit the button again to see what’s next!
You think that game would have been a runaway hit? Even dressed up with accelerometers and adorable graphics? Of course not. But that’s what most of us who grew up before videogames accepted as normal when we were five. I’m not big into the “moral message” interpretation of pop culture, but plenty of critics of digital games are, so just for the record: what sort of message does Candy Land send to our kids? (And I’m not just talking about all the implicit advertisements for cane sugar products.) It says you are powerless, that your destiny is entirely determined by the luck of the draw, that the only chance you have of winning the game lies in following the rules, and accepting the cards as they come. Who wants to grow up in that kind of universe?


  1. That’s really good. I was playing Sorry with my kids this weekend and thought the same thing. Success is totally dependent the ordering of the cards. No skill necessary. Maybe games like Monopoly would be a little better. But, I can’t wait until they’re old enough to play Catan.

  2. There are many other better boardgames out there than the “classics”. The problem is that you can’t buy them at Walmart, so most people don’t even know that they exist.

    I suggest going to the website where they talk about and review many board games, from lowly Candy Land to the latest hotness Agricola.

    If you are looking for a simple game with a ton of strategy I recommend checking out Ticket To Ride, ever sine I played it I have been hooked.

  3. As an preschool/kindergarten teacher, I have to respectfully disagree that there is no skill involved in Candy Land or similar non-strategic games. Many children that I work with have difficulty with the concept of taking turns, following a set of pre-determined instructions (i.e., not just getting to make all the decisions however they want), and focusing on something that is not flashing colors and lights. These are all essential skills for success in school, as archaic as they may seem. Every child is different, but for some, these games to help improve school-readiness skills.

  4. Yeah, the same thing has been bugging me as well recently. Maybe it’s that computer games have taught us to expect more than simple chance from games. It’d be interesting, I think, to make a list of non-computer games which get the kids thinking but which aren’t quite as dry as Chess or Go. Connect 4, perhaps? Card games? Boggle?

  5. My recommendation? Visit and see what your alternatives might be that both you AND your kids will enjoy. I have a 3 and just-turned-8 year old. Look around for any of the several “geeklist” threads about playing games with kids for some really good recommendations.

    My younger child enjoys Go Away Monster and Hisss! right now. The former is a random draw of a puzzle piece and if it’s a monster you throw it across the room and scream “GO AWAY MONSTER” which for a 3-year-old is pefect. The latter is a connect the pieces game to make the longest snake.

    Hisss! —
    Go Away Monster —

    My older child really, REALLY enjoys Arkham Horror because it’s a cooperative game where all the players play against the game and have to work together to win. He’s also a fan of Memoir ’44 and Ticket to Ride. Memoir is a WWII game with nearly unlimited scenarios, played with a deck of cards and lots of army men. TtR is a railroad building game which like most classics is simple to learn and takes a lifetime to master. All of these games are really adult games that have themes that appealed to him.

    Arkham Horror —
    Memoir ’44 —
    Ticket to Ride —

  6. I disagree with the assesment of Battleship; I had thought that until I met a friend who is a master of the game. He showed me a pattern by which you could most efficiently “scan” the play area for ships. It certainly isn’t random and takes a very mathematically oriented mind to take into account the size of the ships you’re looking for and how far apart you shots should be to find a ship in the most efficient manner. (He started with a cross pattern that worked on finding the aircraft carrier, he tightened the cross as you searched for smaller ships.)

    He didn’t win every time faced with a random search pattern, but he did win greater than 50%. Unfortunately, once you discover the most efficient search pattern, it doesn’t have much to teach you anymore, but it is a valuable lesson in organizing your thoughts into an algorithm.

  7. My boy is 6 and we play quite a few games with him. Alhambra & Carcassonne are his two favourites of ours (he’s just started Catan, but it’s too long for him really – simillarly Ticket to Ride requires to much poring over the board at the moment!!)

    But there are also quite a few decent games aimed at kids. Rat-a-tat-cat is excellent fun as is Landlock.

    As #2 said – people don’t know these games are out there if they’re not in the supermarket :-(

  8. I’m sorry you cannot see the teachings of deductive reasoning impllicit in playing Battleship, because those are sorely lacking in todays education generally.

    I had plumbers over today and they looked everywhere the leak was not, until I found where the leak was, for them.

    I listened to the news, and every question could be boiled down to “Could you state the obvious for us?”

  9. Good read!

    One group of my friends is into strategy board games (Catan, Caylus, and Railroad Tycoon being some of our faves). We often discuss how random a lot of those ‘classic’ games are. I’ve also never understoond Risk or Monopoly’s popularity with older players.

    And don’t get me started on The Game of Life Star Wars Edition …


  10. I get your point, but Candyland is a game designed to do nothing more than teach very small children to recognize and identify color.

    It does that pretty well. If you were playing it past that learning point (age 2 or 3), that says more about you than the game…

  11. “You think that game would have been a runaway hit? Even dressed up with accelerometers and adorable graphics? Of course not.”

    Ummm…actually, isn’t that the popular Mario Party series?

  12. When I was a kid (age 7 in 1972) my friends and I were dismissive of any games like Sorry or Candyland as “race games” in which a random roll of the dice or other random device determined the winner, usually the first one to the finish line. There were a bunch of lousy games then and a bunch of good ones too.

  13. You’ve got a point here, but I think that you’re missing the point about what Candy Land is for.

    I have three boys, one who’s about to turn 4 and two that are 19 months old. I hadn’t remembered Candy Land at all.

    What Candy Land is good for is giving really little kids–by which I mean those around 2 or a bit younger–an idea of what a board/tabletop game _is_. That is, it introduces them to some basic concepts: drawing cards, moving tokens on a board in response to inputs, taking turns, and the existence of a goal state that you want to reach. A 20-month-old can handle this, but might get lost with something even as comparatively complex as checkers or tic-tac-toe.

    As a side benefit, it also gives such kids the sense that they’re doing “the same thing” as the parents that are playing Settlers of Catan, which can be helpful.

    I completely agree that Candy Land and its ilk are not particularly interesting, and certainly not challenging, to anyone above about 3. And although I don’t remember playing Sorry, I certainly remember the futility of Battleship. (And let’s not forget War, the silliest card game of all time when in its purest form.)

    Now that you’ve brought this up…I think I’ll start my oldest on tic-tac-toe and similar this week; should be a slam dunk. :)

  14. Candy Land is not without value for young children. By playing Candy Land kids learn the conventions of playing a structured game with others. They learn to take turns, draw cards, move game pieces and follow the rules. Admittedly these are very simple lessons, but keep in mind this is a game designed for preschoolers.

    Games that rely heavily on randomness are fun for kids because they allow younger inexperienced players to ‘win’ even when playing against their parents or older siblings.

    Perhaps that doesn’t teach a very valuable moral lesson, but games should be fun, and it’s no fun to be the one who always loses.

  15. Candyland is the absolute worst. Sorry is a little better, because you have 4 game pieces, and during parts of the game have to decide which piece to move. But both are lame.

    kinross_19, we just got Ticket To Ride for Christmas, and I have to agree that it’s a really good board game. It took 2 games before our first grader understood the rules and the map, our 4th grader understood it right away. It’s a blast to play with the whole family now. Lots of different strategies to use.

  16. This is a fair critique against a lot of board games (I remember having a “Land of the Lost” board game when I was a kid that was just a “spin and move” exercise in boredom. I noticed they later re-tooled it for a “Buck Rogers in the 23rd Century” board game– almost the exact same board but with new art), but I think (and you seem to agree) Battleship has a small modicum of skill involved (very small)– mostly in finding weird ways to spread out your fleet to confuse the other side. We used put them all around the edges, or cluster them all right in the middle except for one PT boat.

    Of course that gets old fast.

  17. Don’t lump Sorry in with Candyland. The alternate rulesets included with the game give it a healthy amount of strategy.

  18. I like the old school “Snakes and Ladders” the Brit version where the bad children slide down a snake and corporal punishment is meted out.

    For a great kids – and adult -game is Set – from Set Enterprises.
    Simple yet surprisingly challenging…
    My niece can beat me senseless at the game….
    and it is surprising how hard adults have to struggle to play.

  19. I’ve a 4.5 year old who has, at last, grown tired of Candyland and Chutes and Ladders. Terrible games, terribly gameplay. Lately, we’ve been doing a pencil and paper game — I’m not sure it has a name — a game where each side gets N number of ships, drawn as smallish circles or triangles or whatever. To move or shoot, you put one finger on the top of the pencil and push and lean it back until it flicks across the page. The end of the line being where you move, or the first thing it intersects being the thing you shoot. Great fun, particularly because he likes to make up new rules on the fly.

  20. Seconded on the Ticket to Ride recommendation. It’s a highly entertaining game with better-than-average strategy requirements, but is still simple enough for fairly young kids.

    If you get the version set in North America, you can also use it as a launching point for discussions about (a) geography and (b) not being able to believe everything you read, since a lot of the cities are in the wrong place! At least in the set I’ve played with.

  21. Doh! This (finally) explains why I always hated most board games. I always thought it was just because I didn’t have the patience for taking turns…

  22. Yay!!

    Ticket To Ride is probably still a little advanced for the Candyland/Chutes and Ladders age group. Maybe Gulo Gulo would be a better choice. Gulo Gulo develops dexterity skills and actually gives a slight advantage to players with smaller hands. Ticket To Ride is certainly a great choice for the Battleship age group. Carcassonne (the basic game) is another.

    I have to say that much as I (mostly) agree with the writer, Candyland and Chutes and Ladders (I lump those games together in terms of skills) fills a good niche for very young kids. They learn their colors and numbers, they acquire spatial skills and they learn about some of the basic concepts involved in many boardgames (moving pieces, moving toward a goal, etc.) I’m not sure that much more should be expected when introducing boardgames at a very young age.

    Of course, they have to move on from Candyland, and that’s where American games start to fail. While I believe there is a bit more involved in Battleship than Steven does (you can reduce your decision tree pretty significantly as the game progresses based on your knowledge of the remaining ships) and I disagree with Roland that there is no skill involved in Sorry! (very little in the basic game maybe, but have you tried playing with a hand of cards?) I have do have to agree with general sentiment that American boardgames for younger kids in general rely too much on random chance and not enough on skill development.

    But random chance serves its purpose for introducing kids to boardgames. Random chance levels the playing field. It allows lesser skilled players to win and this can be very encouraging for younger players.

    Go to and do some research. I guarantee you’ll find some great games for any age group that require some real skill. And not just the completely abstract games mentioned by Steven (Chess, checkers, etc,) but games with themes that kids will find engaging: Ticket to Ride, Carcassonne, Lost Cities, Zooloretto, Niagara, Loopin’ Louie, Apples to Apples, Settlers of Catan, Hoity Toity. There are TONS of great ones out there.

  23. Here’s the case for Candyland: that it does precisely the opposite of what you claim. Namely, that it does teach a skill.

    In my experience it’s just about the best game out there for teaching very young children how to take turns. That’s pretty much it, for sure, but you’ve got to have that skill if you’re ever going to move on to games that teach you anything more — or that have outcomes requiring anything more than luck.

    The window of value doesn’t last long, but it’s real nonetheless, I’d argue. For a short while, at the age of three, four and even five, mastering turn-tacking is a genuine challenge.

    Come to think of it, Candyland also helps with color recognition and early number sense (counting one versus two spaces etc.). Plus there’s no barrier to kids who can’t read and the manual dexterity required to play is fairly basic — so it allows young kids to play with forbearing older siblings, which is wonderful for parents of multiple kids.

    I absolutely share your dislike for the promotion of nutrition-free foods in the game, though. I’d love to find a game with the same graceful color-based simplicity set in a more health-positive environment. But let’s knock it for the right reasons and celebrate it for what it does well.

  24. Also, speaking of kids board games: in 3d grade, my teacher had all of us read a book of our choice and then design and produce a board game based on that. A great art and reading project I’d recommend to any teacher out there. They all were very much the spin-and-move or draw-and-move variety, but creating a Battlestar Galactica (this was 1979, after all) game based on the Glen Larson novelization of it was one of the things I remember best in all of elementary school. The board I made is long since lost, but my I would kill to see it again.

  25. By the way, Sorry! Sliders is a new dexterity game from Parker Brothers that totally kicks ass.

    And as long as I’m mentioning dexterity games, get your kids a crokinole set. It will cost a bit of money, but it’s definitely worth it.

  26. Candyland is meant to teach 3-year-olds how to take turns; that’s all. As far as it goes, there are worse ways to do it. (To keep from clawing our own eyes out, I admit we always played the variation where you draw 2 cards and pick which one to play, which can be surprisingly challenging for a 3-yo.)

    But put it in context – it’s from a time when kids were expected to get out, understand, and play their own games without parental intervention. When my daughter was that age and had friends over, they played Candyland and Hi-Ho Cherry-o, because she could explain those rules to another kid and they could play successfully. When we play games with her, we play RPGs (Faery’s Tale), card games, dominoes, mancala, Cheapass games – stuff it helps to have an adult around for. (Ok, she can play simple domino games with her friends, but we play Mexican Train which is a bit more complicated.)

    The Smurf Game is surprisingly complicated; I wouldn’t call it “good”, but it is an early-80’s kids’ game with some strategy to it. (So complicated that my original copy was near-mint when I got it out for my kid; when I was little, trying to figure out all the rules was too much effort, so we played marble people instead.)

  27. On dexterity games, I’d highly recommend Pitchcar, a racing game where you flick a wooden car around the track. It’s expensive, but high quality components, and can be played effectively (and probably without any handicap) with anyone over the age of four.

  28. Yeah sorry, I have to disagree here. Playing the “stupid board games” eventually opened me up to playing the more complex ones that I now enjoy so often as a 35 year old adult. Board games often WON’T give you any life lesson… but enjoyment factor and entertainment is key. Start playing something besides the games they sell at Wal Mart and possibly you’ll see some strategy emerge. Hobby gamers are some of the most intelligent and quick thinking people on the planet. When we stop telling our kids playing Magic The Gathering is something “dorks” do, but yet you whip out Uno without an issue… you’re only teaching them that they’ll be made fun of if they play anything but the easy stuff.

    Ticket To Ride, Carcassone, Catan, Hey That’s My Fish, Hare and Tortoise, Zooloretto, Apples To Apples, Dominion…

  29. it’s very important for small children to learn that no matter how much they want a single blue square card odds are they wont get it… this is teaching them the valuable ‘gambling is a bad idea’ lesson.

  30. People still play roulette which has zero strategy, as adults. Just stick to the super classics like Chess, checkers, go, backgammon and dominoes if you want your kids to grow up with a well functioning brain.

  31. This has been a big conversation in the boardgame industry, and is one reason why “German-style” (ie European) boardgames have been taking over.

    The other reason is they have so many of them– compare the anime onslaught; Japan simply had so much content ready-to-go for the US market.

    New Euro-style games are flooding the market; there’s no reason to stick with 19th Century-style games of chance. Might I recommend Puerto Rico?

    There’s even a sarcastic sequel to Candy Land: Run for your Life, Candyman! Or just poke around for lots of great new games.

    Also, shameless plug/disclaimer: check out the lineup for Bucephalus Games. It includes a little game I co-created called Oh My God! There’s An Axe In My Head, which has a deliberately-planned healthy mix of randomness, skill and backstabbing, and is coming out later this year.

    Suffice to say, the unplanned randomness of design is a legacy of 19th Century-and-earlier folk design. New boardgames are less and less like that.

  32. Sure, for a six-year-old, Candy Land is sort of mystifyingly simplistic. But I have a three-year-old, and he adores it. Figuring out how to move his piece two blues, whose turn is next, what happens when you get “stuck on licorice”… these are challenges when you’re three. More importantly, the game teaches you how to be a good sport and a gracious loser – excellent skills for any future games, board or video.

    Candy Land may not be a great game, but it’s certainly a great FIRST game.

  33. Battleship doesn’t deserve to be lumped in with these other games. Even Redmonkey above sells it a little short. Battleship was my first exposure to strategic thinking and protecting against contingencies, determining the path to success by analyzing failure, knowing your opponent, spatial awareness, efficiency, and statistics. We didn’t know these concepts by name while growing up, but even at ages of 5 to 7 we were applying all of them (younger is a bad idea due to small part sizes and lack of interest). The game very quickly taught you that randomly guessing was the fool’s strategy, but so was starting at A1 and then moving to A2 and so on. Placement of your ships at the beginning of the game was just as important. If your opponent knew you liked to put your ships in the edges, then you might not put them there…but they might know you know they know…. Or experimenting with space-filling patterns that didn’t take too many shots but still caught most ships (except that pesky destroyer).

    Of course we also liked a game that is similar in a lot of ways: Stratego, which adds the element that targeted pieces might be able to fight back…so choose your fights wisely.

  34. The only value in Candyland was in tricking my kids to eat veggies (land on Green, eat a bean, etc.) But our whole family loves Apples to Apples, a word-association card game, which can be hysterical if you play it with a sense of the absurd. Risk, on the other hand, always ends in tears.

  35. While there is definitely a lack of skill involved in a lot of kids’ games, they are nonetheless useful. Battleship, for instance, teaches the use of coordinates to find things on a map. More importantly, all of the various kids’ games of chance teach the incredibly useful and necessary skill of playing games according to established rules and then winning or losing gracefully. The best part about these games is that adults can play with 3 year-olds and never “throw” the game, as would typically happen with a true game of skill.

  36. This may not translate well for non-UK readers, but: two commercial games which I loved as a child and which my daughter loves too:

    1) Pathfinder. (Build a maze; find your opponent first in *his* maze, blindfold.) No longer commercially available, but I re-created it with paper and pencil.

    2) Downfall. (drop your counters through shared rotors first.) Not only is this still available, it’s better — you get a spare, different rotor.

    Both of these are tactical, easy, and fun.

  37. For the under 3 set, Candyland teaches social interaction, counting and a bit of imagination.

    I think there are a number of developmental ages that different concepts need to be emphasized. The level of decision making for a 2 year old is much different than the kind needed for a 5 year old.

    It definitely has no merit after about age 2.5.

  38. I’ll agree with you 100% on the old table top boardgames being not as decision or skill based. However, because of exactly all of the points you make in your post, boards games (even more so card games like Hearts or Euchre) do facilitate other very necessary and waning skills.

    1. Patience. Having to wait one’s turn.

    2. Conversation. The cadence of these games actually encourages dialog and bonding around things other than the games themselves.

    3. Bridging generations. The simple, base and historically relatable, create opportunities for grandparents, parents, and children to all play on a level playing field.

    Just a few thoughts.

  39. I remember that when we played as kids, my brother and I decided to modify the game slightly. We added a card that was one of those special cards that took you to a specific place—the castle at the end. Talk about randomness. If that card happened to come into play, the person drawing it automatically won! It seemed as reasonable as the rest of the game. It was probably a benefit in that it ended the game so we could get on to something better!

  40. I have a friend who still uses Candy Land — not to play, but to make decisions. If you play two pieces, it works pretty well as an extended coin flip.

  41. I am a four year old who could not agree more. I have been playing Candy Land for years, and have grown thoroughly sick of this “game.” It’s no wonder the U.S. is falling behind in the world! We’re run by a generation who thought it was entertaining to move their little plastic figure over the rainbow path and through the Peppermint Forest. My younger brother still thinks it’s fun, but what does he know, he’s only twenty months old.

    I must, however, challenge the Battleship analysis. In my view, Battleship is a far superior game. For one thing, there are the ships. I like cars and trains and trucks, but what I really like are ships. Big boats, little boats, I like them all (mostly the big ones.) You don’t see any boats in Candy Land, not one. Believe me, I’ve looked.

    Also, you get to sink your opponent’s boats! My brother is so stupid, I sink his every time and he never gets mine. It’s true, I lie when he happens to babble a correct coordinate. Just in case he’s keeping track in that big baby head of his, I move my ship when my mom takes him to change his diaper. But I tell you, there is nothing more satisfying to my four-year-old intellect than the sinking of my brother’s boat. It just makes me feel like I DID something today, you know?

    Anyway, I agree. Do you have any candy?

  42. I will incessantly pound and slap any nerd who assumes that my years spent as an expert at Hungry Hungry Hippos did NOTHING for my cognitive skills and socialization.

  43. There’s a whole world of strategic board games out there to play with your kids. Try Carcassonne. Just as easy to explain as Battleship, but it requires real strategic decision making. And you get the tactile and social experience that comes with good board games.

  44. re#5 redmonkey My first encounter with computers late 70’s, early 80s) was a contest held by Lawrence Institute of Technology (now Lawrence Technological University) near Detroit was competition in which contestants wrote Battleship-playing bots.

    As mentioned, the first part of the game is somewhat random, but what made the difference between a winner and an also-ran was what did the program do in response to a positive result.

    This article helps to inform my heretofore unexamined reluctance to play such “roll and move” games now that I have grandkids. I hadn’t really thought about what the games did for/to the kids, I just knew it was crushingly boring to me.

  45. What’s really sad is not so much that young children learn to play board games using Candyland, but that Hasbro and toy retailers graduates them to Monopoly, Risk, Clue, etc. Games that have strong brands but are only slightly more complex and relying nearly as much on luck, while they have other games that are much more interesting and suffer simply for being less well known. Acquire, for instance, is a much more nuanced take on finance and investment than Monopoly, and even has the fun of handling fat stacks of imaginary cash, but is virtually unknown compared to monopoly and usually cannot be found in a store. Meanwhile there are hundreds of flavors of monopoly, all just theme-hacks of a game that is more a cultural artifact of the great depression than an interesting pass-time.

  46. We went on vacation with my sister and her 5-year-old son, and we brought along Dude, Where’s My Fish, a game my wife and I like to play. Up to this point, it had basically only been Candyland for him, and we were afraid that he might find it confusing, since Fish involves deciding which of your pieces to move, and moving them to leave your future options open (each move shrinks the game board).

    He loved it, and picked up the rules real fast. He wasn’t interested in figuring out who had won, but he liked following the rules and moving the pieces.

    Yamara above suggested Puerto Rico for kids. I might also suggest San Juan, a simplified version of Puerto Rico played almost entirely with cards. Since the cards in your hand represent what you build, and your currency to build it with, it requires constant trade-off decisions and future planning. We plan on playing it with our son when he’s a bit older. (He’s a week old, so we’re still working on teaching him the old “Eating and Pooping Game.”)


  47. Candyland is brutally simplistic and requires no thinking.

    On the other hand, for my three year old daughter it taught taking turns, colors, storytelling (we had things happen that explained moving) and being a good winner/loser.

    These are not strategic things she learned, but they are valuable lessons nonetheless. I can’t wait for her to grow to play more complex games (she does some on the computer) but at the least she is learning something playing candyland.

    I just wish I didn’t have to play with her!

  48. All board games taught me not to play with my brother, who always cheated. Even at Scrabble.

    The only games I would play with him were 3-D chess and backgammon, which I usually won.

  49. So according to Steven Johnson (and virtually all the commenters here), a “good” game is one that teaches X to children and/or is interesting to adults. Excuse me, but the good=educational is just as flabby as good=”a positive message.” Don’t equate side effects (that Super Mario Galaxy encourages decision making) with value.

    Sure, your too-old children don’t like age-inappropriate games. Shocker! Neither do mine. My 6-year-old likes Catan and Carcassonne: aren’t I the great dad? But my 6-year-old also likes to play War with face cards, and has become recently enamored with Solitare (with real cards, not that escape-from-the-corporacy computer thing). The real treat, so far as he’s concerned, is to play 52-card-pickup. I kid you not.

    Kids enjoy stuff that makes parents want to claw their eyes out because kids are still developing, growing, immature little sacks of meat and we are all evolved and developed. What thrills them bores us. The point of Candyland, then, isn’t to teach ’em anything, but to give them something they enjoy.

    Because (some) little kids enjoy it. It’s *supposed* to be contentless pap: it’s called CANDYland. It lets kids brains take a vacation because sometimes they, just like you, want to veg out for a while. You watch “Biggest Loser” or something and they play Candyland. The game persists because it is fun (for 2 year olds), not because it is somehow valuable.

  50. When I was a little girl I was in an extended care program after school and there were very few things to do there. Some of the other little girls and I played Candyland as a sort of weird role-playing game. We had a complete script. We must have been really really bored, but my point is that if you encourage your kids to think they usually will no matter what games they play.

  51. If the game is skill driven, and you have two kids of different abilities, the older kid always wins. Go play 5 games of chess with a Grandmaster and tell me how much fun it was. The only thing worse would be if the person who crushed you every time was your older sister who would be going on and on about how badly she beat you on the whole 5 hour drive to the beach…

    You need some games that boil down to luck in order to allow kids of very different abilities to play together and have a somewhat equal chance of winning. That makes it fun.

  52. Indeed, Candy Land is meant to train kids to play games. For children that are ready to move past the completely deterministic rules published with Candy Land, parents can create and insert new rules. Some basic game mechanics that can be added include:

    [1] playing with a discard pile face up so that players can choose between a known card or a random card

    [2] allowing players to keep a hand of cards (three or four) from which they choose the best card to play

    [3] have players keep their next card face up in front of them and allow players to steal it for their own use

    I have been a big fan of Wizards of the Coast’s “start simple and add rules” method for teaching Magic the Gathering. I think the same can be done with any game, including Candy Land.

  53. I agree that these games don’t teach children anything and I’ve personally always hated Candy Land. But that doesn’t mean young kids don’t love it. Rather than being a detriment, winning is completely random, so for young ones, the sheer unpredictability and the fact that can get lucky and beat a grown up is the fun factor. Obviously as they become more skillful, this game quickly gets tedious. But for a beginner, learning to take turns, learning to move around the board, learning not to throw a tantrum when you lose, and learning that once in a while, you can beat a grown up, is pretty cool.

  54. Agree that Candyland is worthless. I thought the same thing 24 years ago when I introduced it to my first son who now works at Apple.

    However, Battleship teaches a variety of skills. If you’re playing randomly, you’ll lose to someone who thinks before making a guess. There are strategies to use based on which ships have yet to be found and what the exposed parts of the board show. It also can introduces kid to x/y notation (if you introduce it that way instead of Bingo notation). X/y notation alone is worth the price of admission as they’ll see it later on in algebra class.

    The key thing about children’s games is to remember that they’re for children so the lessons they teach should be simple enough for the child to figure out without the parent pointing it out. As a parent, it’s tough to see that what’s trivial to us can be hard the first time around. If a child never learns that there are better strategies than guessing at Battleship then they either didn’t play enough games or they’re not very good pattern spotters. If it’s the later, they can always grow up and write dismissive articles on Boing Boing.

  55. Well, there /is/ a strategy in grid games like Battleship, but it’s not much more than the “7 guesses” sort of strategy, where you break the problem space into smaller chunks.

    So, while I agree with your observations (I’ve noticed these “classic” games of yore are pretty much a dead-end — there is a reason we stopped playing them when we were 8) there is a strategy better than random for grid games like this.

    That is, a clever human should always do better than a pseudo-random guess by a (say) a computer — even if the computer program was then smart enough to try and find the rest of the ship once it scored a hit.

    I can recommend a really great game that offers a lot of fun for even young kids, and can grow with them: Set. It teaches basic set theory without hitting you over the head, and can be modified for various skill levels so it grows as the kids do. Highly recommended.

    Tile-placing games like Carcassonne are lots of fun for school-age kids, too, especially the simpler ones like The Castle and The City.

  56. Clue and Stratego are both excellent, unddrated classics and are widely available.

    Both are relatively easy to learn but can be much more complex depending on the intelligence of the players. Both can involve deep strategizing and both depend on the player’s ability to remember everything that is going on.

    I never understood why every kid in college owned a copy of Monopoly, but no one had Clue. Even with all the “serious” board games available, I still play it regularly.

    And Stratego is almost like chess and poker had a baby.

    I would also suggest Rummikub for young kids (not so young they eat the pieces though).

  57. Well it looks like every parent here fails at parenting. Not a single one of you have taught your children Calvinball yet? It is history’s greatest game.

  58. -Any- game is a good game if it engages children to interact with parents or other children. You can tell a lot about kids by the way they respond to various game elements, especially how they respond to LOSING the game. If a kid loses a game and then immediately wants to play it again, I think that’s the sign of a good game, a good kid, or hopefully both.
    That being said, it’s also important for parents to understand what it is a kid can gain from playing a game. If your kid is stagnating in that which they get from their games, it’s time for something more complex.
    Last note: my 6-year old niece loves playing the sandbox build-whatever-you-want area of the PC game “World Of Goo”, but didn’t like the game levels themselves. Maybe next Christmas I can get her to try it again.

  59. A good article. Thank you.

    It made me think that games with an element of randomness have value, if only because life it pretty random.

  60. Kinda flogging a dead horse at this point, but, yes, there are some simple and more complex strategies for Battleship that increase your chances for winning. There are at least two I can think of that your typical curious child can deduce fairly quickly.

    The personal interaction aspect is an essential skill, as is the whole tactile meatworld experience of setting up and putting away (neatly) the game. Drop your kid some hints about reading someone’s tells, and they’ll have something else to develop as they play Stratego or Battleship.

    Regarding Snakes and Ladders, one can read up on Leela and discover a purported kundalini subtext to this children’s game –


  61. I loved Battleship as a wee lass. When I began, it was pretty much pure chance, but I slowly realized that people tend to make similar choices about where to place battleships. I’ve forgotten most of the rules I’d figured out, but I often won the game with my early puzzling over behavioral psychology.

    A game like that, which may seem random, can lead you to a better understanding of personal methods of problem-solving. Some people use mathematical algorithms to win Battleship; I use a better understanding of how people prefer to play.

  62. Candyland and others of its ilk were designed for very young children. They give the illusion of game play by moving pieces about a colorful board and spinning things. Any child capable of any discrimination quickly bores with any game that requires no thought from the players. In an electronic version of such a game, all of the busy-ness of the play is handled by the game itself, leaving the player with nothing to do but watch.

    The first time I played a computer version of Monopoly I quickly saw that once you remove the extraneous setting up and moving and exchanging cards and deeds and money, there is not much game left. Yet what is left is the actual game. At least in Monopoly there is SOME game left, but not much.

  63. Boardgames! Sheesh. Better get your kids onto WoW soon or they won’t get into any of the good guilds and it will be PUGs for life. ;)

  64. Why do games need to have a lesson? What ever happened to fun for the sake of having fun? If I child can have fun and learn something at the same time, that’s a great perk, but we need to remember to let children just be kids…and maybe let them outside without a helmet every once in a while.

  65. And you know what else sucks, is all that nap time. Coloring books bore me. I hate doing things just because someone bigger than me tells me to.

    Sure glad I’m not 3 anymore!

  66. Grew up playing all the “old” games mentioned above, and being a huge game lover of all types, have continued adding Catan, etc. types to the collection to play w/ friends and son (now 9).

    The one thing that I’m surprised didn’t get mentioned here (yet) is the idea of inventing new games with your kids. My son internalized the mechanics of many videogames at an early age, and so started to propose Lego games where “this ship gets to move and shoot on its turn and does 2 hits of damage; the regular Lego guys have 5 health and the Jedi’s have 10…” etc.

    We’ve also invented a number of drawing and story games that we play, and have, since, played with others.

    One, “My Team, Your Team:”

    ended up hitting enough of a funny-bone that a couple pro artists picked it up as the basis of an ongoing game played on their blog:

    So… whatever games you decide to play with your kids, make sure you also give them a chance to invent and/or modify their own.

  67. It says you are powerless, that your destiny is entirely determined by the luck of the draw, that the only chance you have of winning the game lies in following the rules, and accepting the cards as they come. Who wants to grow up in that kind of universe?

    If that’s the way the universe is, then it doesn’t matter what we want.

  68. If people are enjoying themselves, who cares if its educational or not. Must everything have some sort of purpose aside from having fun?

  69. (referencing comment #1) what about games like settlers of catan? there’s plenty of decision making, but if the dice don’t roll your way you’ve got an incredibly difficult, if not impossible path to winning. usually you’re relegated to playing spoiler for others.
    i like the message of “even the greatest plans can be torpedoed by bad luck.”

  70. You should check out some the new games out there now. Several designers have really stepped it up in recent years, and the independent/boutique board game sector is, frankly, off the hook as of right now.

    I think it is a great idea to peel the kids away from the PS3 and show them more vigorous modes of entertainment. You’re just not using the right games for this task :)

  71. Board games are great, but cards are also an important part of gaming. The first thing I thought when reading this was remembering the jealousy I experienced when I discovered my girlfriend of the time had been taught contract bridge by her parents from a young age (and the two younger sisters joined in as well). Bridge! What a game! 52 cards is all you need.

    For something that’s deceptively intricate, but dead easy and loads of fun, Killer Bunnies. Everytime.

  72. Started skipping a while ago, but one of the benefits of Candyland was that the beginning game-player is not at a disadvantage relative to older, more sophisticated players. A beginning chess player can anticipate being trounced by experienced players; a beginning Candyland player has exactly the same chance as her parent.

  73. Candyland is mostly designed to show the basic concepts behind games: winning, losing, counting spaces, going forward, back, etc. It can also teach valuable social skills such as good sportsmanship!

    Battleship, Sorry!, and the like actually do contain more “roll of the dice” strategy than you give them credit for. My dad and I often played Battleship, and deciding where to put the ships when setting up was important. I once tried bunching them all together in the corner, which I quickly learned was a Pearl Harbor sized mistake. That was the fastest game of Battleship ever. My sister and I played Sorry! a lot as kids, and Sorry! involves some real strategy: should you focus on just one piece, or should you move all as a group?

    Yes, the games contain an element of random chance, but I can’t think of a single board game that DOESN’T! Monopoly has dice, chance and a big Go to Jail space, Scrabble has a bag of random letters, Risk uses a card system for bonus army dudes. But you try to teach a two year old how to play these games and you’re not gonna get very far. Candyland provides the foundations for rules, social skills and basic counting, something all games rely on.

    I tried to teach a two year old how to play Wii Sports, a game that involves very little randomness, and a high amount of required skill: I ended up with drool on my Wiimote and little else. But Chutes & Ladders we had a blast with.

  74. RE: macegr

    Don’t mean to sell Battleship short, I actually really loved that game as a kid and look forward to playing it with my kids when their old enough.

    Also re:ascendingPig

    Totally right, I’m just terrible at figuring out what someone might do; thus my lessons were all mathematical from that game.

  75. I think I figured out the random lameness of candyland pretty early on. It took me a bit longer to figure out the random lameness of D&D. =)

    The Germans have done a great job in the last few decades of creating games which have just enough rules to make them strategically interesting. It is the golden age of board games over there right now. My childhood in the states was, alas, not the golden age.

    As a tangent, it seems to me that lots of gambling games are structured around decisions which really don’t make much difference, letting people feel like they are actually doing something strategic when they’re not.

  76. “Learning to interact with other people in a social situation is also a skill.”


    “Learning to accept a hierarchical social order wherein some arbitrary other person decides that you will perform a pointless, meaningless task and predicates social interaction as a forced veneer on this task is also a skill.”

    Just not a skill I prefer to undertake.

  77. Scrabble. For younger kids who may be put off by competing against parents’ larger vocabulary, the game can also be played cooperatively, with the challenge being to build the best words/scores together.

  78. Candyland also teaches about fatalism, and the futility of struggling against the forces that shape our lives.

  79. It’s good to see some Battleship defenders – search patterns matter. A better pencil-and-paper game no one’s mentioned yet is Dots and Boxes. Definitely don’t write this one off as trivial. Elwyn R. Berlekamp’s book on the game proves it’s not. Reading the first 10 pages of this book will provide you with a trick that will help you win many more games, until your opponents understand it. That said, the first few moves are pretty random to most of us.

    Candyland, Chutes and Ladders, Hi-Ho Cherrio, War, and similar are indeed pure luck, meant to teach kids how to take turns and how to act if they win or lose. But, if you’re stuck with these, try thinking up variants. For example, we made Chutes and Ladders survivable by allowing an optional second spin/roll. Don’t like the first result? Roll again. This teaches very basic probability (you’ll certainly roll again if you get a bad chute, but “advanced players” will learn to roll again if they missed a good ladder). It also makes the game much faster.

    I’d echo the advice of many others here: boardgamegeek. Use their advanced game searcher form and put in say “4” for the minimum age and say “6” to “10” for the average ratings. Search, then sort by ratings. If I could raise my kids all over again, “Chicken Cha Cha Cha” would be on my bookshelf.

    And, yes, in my book “Sorry!” is one of the worst games ever made, just edging out the board game “Life”. Even with “strategy”, Sorry is a game I usually give up caring about and just hope will end. Still, some people love it.

  80. Candyland is a beginner game for 3-4 year old non-readers that teaches taking turns. You graduate to hi ho cherry-o where they need to be able to count to 3, and chutes and ladders where they need to count to 6. Someone already mentioned the xy coordinates of battleship. Move on to Monopoly, Life or Stratego for more challenge. My kids also loved Uno from a very young age. Checkers turned out to be more frustrating than chess for them, because the pieces all looked the same, it was hard for them to strategize. All of these games require human interaction and socialization, unlike many video games.

  81. My daughter recognized it as a Kobayashi Maru scenario, and so would secretly stack the deck before we played. For some, no such thing as luck.

  82. Seems to me you’re over thinking this a tad. I was just playing Candyland and Chutes & Ladders with my not-quite-3-1/2 year old this weekend. While it’s random and fairly frustrating at times, learning social skills and reinforcing his already prodigious color and counting skills is a good thing. These seem to be as geared toward learning how to play a board game if not being much of a good game by themselves.

    If a 7 year old still gets a kick out of CL or C&L, I’d be a little more concerned.

  83. A little age perspective, please…

    If I saw my 7 year old daughter seriously reading “See Spot Run,” I would get concerned. If I saw my 4 year old nephew doing the same thing, I’d be impressed. Games come in similar levels.

    Candyland is useful in teaching kids how to play a boardgame. The rules are simple, don’t require reading or much counting, and…did I say it’s simple? It’s great for a 2 year old, but a 6 year old should get bored with it. It teaches the mechanics of playing a game. A simple skill, yes, but bear in mind that it’s geared towards kids that can barely count.

    Go Fish is only simple with a small number of players. Bump it up to 5 or 6 with a couple of decks of cards, and it becomes a memory exercise.

    Sorry is a little more complicated; should I go ahead and move this piece or hold out for a 4? Should I take the 11, or is there somebody I should swap with instead. (If you don’t know the rules of Sorry, just accept that those are choices you have to make). Sure, it’s not chess, but it takes a little more thought. It gives them a little control. 2 year olds couldn’t handle it, but a 4 or 5 year old can. Much older than that, and it’s too simple to be fun.

    Battleship. My kids loved this game, and it was great in teaching them about maps. Latitude and longitude are just like the letters and numbers on a battleship grid. Again, a young kids game.

    Now that my kids are older (6 & 7), they play even more complicated games. They break out Candyland and Sorry every now and then, but they generally won’t even finish the first game before they make up their own rules (and then it can get to be a lot of fun). But those aren’t our staples.

    My daughter loves mancala, my son is nuts for backgammon, they both love Clue, and we have marathon Monopoly & Risk sessions, games that last days (PROTIP: digital camera are great for this; take a shot of the board and you’re set).

    You wouldn’t encourage your 3rd grader to read “See Spot Run,” but that doesn’t mean the book is pointless. It’s still pretty good for your average kindergartener. Your kid has simply outgrown it’s usefulness. And that’s kind of the whole point.

  84. Great recommendations here. The meta-recommend for is a decent start but it’s not kid-oriented at all — its focus is on adult hobby gamers.

    I recommend KidGameRatings.Com. They break things down by age group. Their recommendations are very good and also age-appropriate.

  85. Huh.

    I played Candy Land for years in grade-school Speech Therapy.

    No wonder my stutter only cleared up when i turned 18 and took charge of my own life. The fix was in.

  86. Sorry, but I have to disagree about Sorry. There are lots of interesting strategic decisions to make in Sorry, even including a requirement that you know the probability of various cards. You can greatly increase your changes of winning by knowing that in some cases it’s advantageous to move backwards, by knowing the odds that putting your pawn in a particular spot will make it easier for your opponent to land on you, and so on. There’s even a decision rule about whether or not you should move into the “safe” zone – in some positions there is no card that will take you into the “home” circle, so you definitely don’t want to land there if you can avoid it.

  87. “It says you are powerless, that your destiny is entirely determined by the luck of the draw, that the only chance you have of winning the game lies in following the rules, and accepting the cards as they come. Who wants to grow up in that kind of universe?”

    Is Candyland really a complete model of the universe? Do kids really think that? I highly doubt it. The importance of chance in the world might be an important lesson, though.

    As an answer to who wants to grow up in that kind of universe, an anecdote. I was the better thinker between my sister and me, so we’d always alternate what games we played. I always wanted to play Clue, Stratego and Axis & Allies (best boardgame ever); she always wanted to play Life and its ilk. When it came to card games it was the same – I liked poker or Hearts, she preferred the ones where less strategy was involved. And I swear to this day that she would win far more than I would at games of chance. And at least it taught me how to deal with the randomness that is in the universe in at least a somewhat healthy way, although I remain convinced to this day that chance and luck are against me.

    Your final analysis seems a little melodramatic to me, though.

  88. Games of great apparent simplicity (traveling salesman) are NP-Complete. A sufficiently “simple/complex” game would be much more engaging for all involved while not giving the older children & adults an appreciable advantage.

  89. Battleship? Pure chance?

    Maybe if you roll dice to decide where to place your ships, and to determine your search pattern. But play a few games and you start experimenting with where to put your ships in relation to each other; you develop strategies for searching the grid methodically. You might start to pick up trends in the way your opponent places her ships or searches for yours, if you play the same person repeatedly – then take advantage of those trends to have some accurate early guesses, or to put your ships where you’re pretty sure she just won’t look.

    Many American games have a big chunk of Pure Chance in them, but there’s also a ton of strategy involved: the lessons involved are often about taking advantage of circumstances, and husbanding your resources for their best use.

    If you want an awesome game from the seventies, pick up Cosmic Encounter. This ultra-simple game of galactic conquest combines chance and strategy and whimsey; it’s just recently had a lovely new edition released. Arguably, its ‘every player gets to break one rule of the game’ mechanism is a precursor to games like Magic: The Gathering, which are all about cards breaking and reshaping the rules.

  90. I got my sister’s family a copy of Settlers of Catan last Christmas. My nieces are 9 and 11 (or maybe 10 and 12 . . . sorry kids), an age where commercial American boardgames start to show their utter lameness.

    I just hope they open the damn box and try it.

  91. I designed games at Milton Bradley ten years ago and had the pleasure of siitting next to the folks who designed Lucky Ducks, Hungry Hungry Hippos, and Simon (rock stars in my opinion).
    Anyway, a few notes on Candyland in particular.
    Candyland is a child’s first game, where kids use colors to play instead of a spinner (very difficult for that age) or a die (impossible for that age).
    It also evens the playing field for adults and lil kids (with the “send you back to the swamp cards and such) where kids can beat their folks for once.
    For whatever reason (family, genepool, personality) Some kids don’t know how to have fun! and need structure to do it.
    and learning to take turns and to lose and win in my opinion is just as important as ABzzzz’s . Games are awesome for this.
    Sure, there could be a few more actual choices/risks to be made
    for fun, but most games with that age group almost need to “play dumb” as they last 10 min. if you’re lucky.
    Candyland is a primer game, and you shouldn’t be playing it after the age of 3 without the addition of punching in the arm, pixie stiks, drugs, sex, or drinking as rewards/risks.

    If you’re going to slag a classic game, slag P.Brothers’ Monopoly, a game so bad that folks have added their own “catch up feature” called Free Parking to the rules, which makes the game horribly loooong.

  92. There is something to be said for wholly random (board) games. For people of all ages (even young children), games are often stress relief, a chance to turn the mind off from making decisions. Much like watching a movie, the anticipation of ‘what comes next’ serves as entertainment… in the case of board games, the ‘what comes next’ is paced by your actions, increasing the level of involvement.

    My favorite games when I was young were the sports card games that would come in cereal boxes… completely random, but engrossing due to the unknown outcome.

  93. As many have pointed out, Candyland isn’t supposed to be a challenging or thoughtful game, it’s supposed to be a child’s first game. I believe it even has words to that effect on the box. Not only does it introduce very young children to the concept of taking turns, it’s also designed to give a three-year-old a chance to win in an honest match against his older siblings or parents (just try that with chess).

    A better analogy to the “Super Mario Galaxy” game would be if there was a video game created for toddlers where the player is supposed to hit a specific button on the controller when queued, or hit the same button a specific number of times. It’s not about making decisions, it’s about learning how to play by predetermined rules.

  94. The answer, as so many have suggested is looking to the modern board games (or designer games) that use more complex mechanics and rich themes to deliver more engaging game play. As part of a grant from the Verizon Foundation, the American Library Association is looking at gaming and literacy. The goal is to include games of many varieties as another type of resource libraries can provide for intellectual stimulation and general recreation.

    I work at a school library system that has developed a collection of modern board games for use in school libraries. All of these games are matched to classroom instructional standards for social studies, math, science, art, or other areas. We place a high priority on authentic game experiences that demand higher level thinking skills. Though play and fun are certainly a critical outcome, being a school library we are very excited about the many possibilities available for fun that also address learning outcomes.

    You can read more about our program or see the games with their curriculum connections on our site at

  95. Excellent words. I, for a while, have been under the impression that the “message” of most video games is a powerful and necessary one: keep trying.

    A locked door is not a stopper: look for a key. Or an axe. There is always a way, and it may be something not immediately apparent. Keep trying different things in different combinations.

    I think the generations growing up on video games will kick the Candyland kids’ asses.

  96. My 6 y.o. son received Battleship for Christmas this year and he loves it. We I get nothing he yells, “A miss, a miss straight into the abyss.”
    Children don’t read messages into board games adults do. Candy Land isn’t about selling sugar laden goodies or teaching kids that life is just a luck of the draw, it’s about learning to IDENTIFY COLORS. Sorry and other games of roll the dice move your piece are about learning to COUNT.
    The main point of these children’s games is to learn how to win and lose, how to interact socially.

  97. Most of the comments I would have made by now (Candyland just teaches very young kids how to play games, Battleship does actually have a learnable strategy, the Germans know what they’re doing, it’s worth learning about how the world has changed in the last 30 years, etc.) have already been made.

    Two things I’d add: look for games by the German publisher Haba; they publish games for kids that are clever, beautifully made, and often extremely fun. Tier auf Tier and Dancing Eggs are particularlky good.

    Also: Sorry! becomes a whole lot more interesting if you play with a hand of three cards instead of just drawing and playing.

  98. You know how, when something happens by chance, and it’s good, some jerks like to take credit?

    It’s vexing to watch adults attribute blame or credit for totally illogical reasons. It’s also pretty annoying when kids do it.

  99. When first imported from India and rethemed in Victorian England, Snakes and Ladders was supposed to be about learning to handle fate. The road to heaven was full of pitfalls, and you’re going to learn to deal with it, young man… And yes, it’s horribly painful to play. There are better ways of learning to take turns and match colors.

    And, as many others have said, there are a huge number of truly wonderful kids boardgames out there now that manage to be fun, interactive, and provide meaningful decisions even for very young kids. They’re just not well-known in the US.

    This thread on boardgamegeek is full of wonderful ideas:

  100. To explore Super Mario Galaxy, just hit the “action” button. At that point the game will randomly determine what action you have selected, and whether it was successful. When the action is over, hit the button again to see what’s next!

    …That one’s actually called “Super Mario Party”.

  101. I think it’s pretty obvious from the nature of the comments above there are clearly two strongly held mindsets here. I absolutely fall into the camp that is appreciating the value of play and the social dynamics the kids are developing. And to the other camp, don’t worry, your kids are learning how to make decisions, to strategize, to negotiate, through the many other inputs they are receiving day in and day out.

  102. Ahh… games. My family is particularly fond of them. I’m in my thirties and I still play them every time I visit my parents, often for hours at a time.

    Lately our favorite has been Apples to Apples (mentioned above), which can vary wildly and spark a lot of interesting conversation. It can even get slightly “risque” (as my mom would put it), if you let your mind go there. You can mess with the rules a lot, too (like doing the opposite of what you normally do) to keep it interesting. We also play lots of different card games – one of which involves a board and teams and poker chips that my grandfather made. I’m sure there’s a commercial version of it that he copied, but I have no idea what it is.

    My thoughts on other classic games, for no particular reason:

    Monopoly = suck. Maybe the lesson is that being greedy doesn’t always pay, but it seems to invariably end in someone flipping up the board in disgust and storming out of the room.

    Diplomacy = nuts. My friends and I used to play this intense game in high school for hours and hours. Lots of backstabbing/arguing, etc. It teaches you that you can’t rule the world without evilly manipulating your friends.

    Clue = OK. I enjoyed it enough as a kid. One of the IT guys here at my office claims he has developed a complex system of data collection which enables him to win every time no matter what. Talk about taking the fun out of it…

    Stratego = AWESOME. I loved this as a kid. I think I started to bore my dad to death making him play it all the time, but I couldn’t get enough. My imagination used to run wild while I played it – I would think I was actually at war.

    Trivial pursuit = strange. Usually really entertaining for annoying know-it-all types and frustrating for everyone else.

    Set = seems really cool. I have it, but haven’t yet tricked anyone into playing it with me. But the deceiving simplicity of it is intriguing to me.

    Dominoes = BEST GAME EVAR. I don’t know what it is, but I could play it forever and never get bored. A surprising amount of strategy can be involved (and math!), and you can really learn how to read and guess ahead of your opponents if you are good with numbers. Fun, fun fun.

  103. I have a three-year-old who got bored with Candy Land and Chutes and Ladders pretty quickly, but can’t quite get most simple strategy games yet. (He received Trouble for xmas and can’t figure out the choices – and thinks sending people back to home is just mean.) Those early games are important steps, though, just in understanding the basics. I felt the same way as Steven until I realized that the concepts of a goal, and turns, and movement limitations need to be learned somewhere.

    If the adults in the house love Carcassone, try Rivers Roads and Rails. Ours loves it, but right now just sees it as fun building as a family not a competitive game. The other Ravensburger games are great too: just search Amazon.

  104. Has anyone watched “Deal or No Deal”? Day after day contestants go onto the show and make a big deal out of selecting a case number and it is purely random. They act as though there is skill involved in their selections, but there isn’t.

    Knowing when to stop of when to continue is slightly skill based I guess, but even then, the logic is pretty straight forward, and the reward or failure of continuing is once again: randomness.

  105. Myself and a friend of mine have been developing a handful of card games, aim to get them out there fairly soon… Anyhow it’s always been one of the tougher parts of the process, answering the question “how do we make this into a game, rather than a random series of events?”

    It’s hard for me to comprehend how many popular games are little more than just a random series of events…

  106. If Candyland and other old-school board games are just exercises in chance and futility with no opportunity for learning, then why does nearly everyone who played as a youth remember them so fondly? Surely we’re missing something here…

  107. Are there seriously comments here knocking “Candyland” for promoting unhealthy eating?

    Generations of kids have grown up playing Candyland and most have turned out to be fairly healthy. Every action in ones life does not have to be based upon some Berkeley/Marin idea of a progressive utopia with Michael Pollan and Morgan Spurlock as co-emperors.

  108. It’s been said at least once up there, but Candyland is at least good for helping kids learn colors. I have a 4-year-old brother-in-law (yes, you read that right) who is a touch slower developmentally than my husband was at that age, and Candyland has helped him sharpen his colors up right quick. And it does help him with the taking turns thing, which is important when the kid’s a bit spoiled.

  109. Many of the gamewright games are awesome for all ages. A card game called Moose in the House is especially fun – no reading required, but critical thinking. Should I take my turn to put a moose in someone else’s room, or should I use it to put a door on my own?

  110. I never had the plastic boardgame, but here’s what battleships taught me, or trained me in (and my sister). I’d say it’s definitely one of the better, more thoughtful pen-n-paper games.

    – Using grids and grid coordinates.
    – Drawing grids.
    – Finding flat slate stones to scratch a grid onto (in Wales, there’s always plenty of slate, especially in mining towns).
    – Agreeing on the grid size (requires judgement of how long you want the game to be, and negotiation).
    – Agreeing on the fleet (requires judgement of how crowded you want the board to be, and again, negotiation).
    – Placing my fleet based on what I know of the game (don’t place ships together, or someone
    – Placing my fleet based on what I know of my opponent’s prior strategies.
    – Using initials for the ships: we laughed when we realised that althought we’d just picked the letters “A, B, C, D”, we had unconsciously started calling them Aircraft carrier, Battleship, Cruiser, Destroyer.
    – Trusting your opponent not to change the positions.

    Compare this range or activities, processes and skills to hangman, where all I learned was what a vowel was, and to suggest letters in the order eaioutnshrdl (vowels with e first, then “tan’s hurdle”). A game with no strategy whatever.

    Compare it to noughts and crosses (tic tac toe) – that’s trivial.

    Compare it to dots-and-boxes. That has some depth, but most of the real depth is beyond the computational ability of most people.

    I can’t speak for the plasticky boardgame, but Battleships has earned its place as the best of the paper-and-pen games. You can play it in a car, on a hillside, pretty much anywhere two flat surfaces can be hidden from each other.

  111. Why is the author hung up on pitting contemporary videogames against boardgames from 1930? For the “Candy Land” preschool market, I’d put “Max” up against any videogame.

  112. My daughter went through a period where she had to learn what was meant by “your turn.” Candy Land was good for her then.

    Beyond that, contrary to what several earlier commenter remarked, there is more to Monopoly than mere chance. The strategies are fairly rudimentary, but if you wheel and deal with other players, you can actually exercise some skill.

  113. I’ve also got a 3 yr old at home and Candyland is a fine game to get into the spirit of following the rules. I think perhaps the whole point is to figure out how boring the game is, like snatching the pebble, it shows it’s time to move on to a more interesting game. If there were any decision to be made while playing then it would be harder to work on the basics of following the rules and taking turns.

    Battleship requires a little more strategic thinking in laying out your ships. Again, it’s boring for an adult, but part of the reason is that we’ve played it enough to fully understand why it’s boring — so we’re ready to move on to more interesting games.

    Monopoly is only boring if you play with boring people. Side deals are everything to an interesting Monopoly game…

    The decision tree for roulette is less complicated than battleship, but adults still seem to like playing it, same with blackjack or craps. Even with poker, the game itself doesn’t require all that much strategic thinking.. it’s just a framework for social interaction.

  114. In addition to some of the skills mentioned above, I’d like to point out that random games also impart the very important (to that age set) skill of not freaking out every time you lose. Once you get it into kids’ heads that it’s just the luck of the draw whether they win or lose, and they start to get a few losing without crying incidents under their belt, that makes it easier for them to step up to games that have a bit more choice involved, where they might be a bit more responsible if they lose, but still since they have the experience of losing they might not get as upset about it. Sportsmanship is a real, and important, skill.

  115. When we were kids our family used to play a lot of card and table games- at Christmas we would buy the “hosting” family a new board game, and after dinner we would learn how to play it. Our favourites were “Up the Creek” (you build up card-based war canoes, stocking them with pelts, witch doctors, warriors… very un PC these days, but a gas to play), and “Masterpiece” (an artwork auction game that sounds boring but actually combined elements of luck, negotiation, budgeting… brilliant).

  116. If Battleship is so mindless, firing at which spaces below will give you the best odds of hitting the sole surviving ship? Let’s say it’s a two-spacer (submarine?). Assume the grid below represents the whole board. The x’s have already been fired at, and the o’s haven’t. Assume random ship placement by your opponent. There are no partially damaged ships.


  117. Mmm…candyland.

    Since when does child’s play always have to be about education & learning and pattern recognition and and and…? I bet your kids are all completely overscheduled and hate you for it. No – I KNOW your kids are overscheduled and hate you for it.

    Relax and slow down and enjoy each other’s company…these are the virtues games teach.

  118. Candyland is to Modern board games
    Galaxian is to Modern video games.

    If I wanted to share video games from my youth with your kids, we’d play games like Galaxian, Pac Man, and Asteroids. These games are highly repetitive and reward little more than hand-eye coordination.

    Just as the video game market has moved well beyond these games (except for retro game packages), modern board games have also moved well beyond games like Candyland (even for children).

    People continue to purchase these retro games from their childhood so the publishers continue to market them.

    There are many other better game choices, even for children. The Haba game line, for example, have a variety of interesting games for very young children and up that are much better than Candyland and Sorry.

    I’ve been doing a video blog for 3 years where I teach you how to play modern board games. You can see it over at

  119. If a game is completely random, you’d expect players who understand the game to win at roughly the same rate. But of course, if you’ve ever been shut in the cabin playing Battleship with your nephew whose two-and-a-half years older, you’ll quickly realize that there is more to the game than meets the eye. Your cousin has learnt, for example, to watch your arm as you place your ships, so he automatically has a proximity advantage. He has figured out that you glance away nervously during a near-miss and that when you respond quickly there are no ships in the vicinity. He knows that if that if your ship placement strategy failed last game; you will deploy your ships in the exact opposite configuration during your next game. And before the week is up, you learn that your nephew is a conniving bastard. Games are educational like that. Not sure about Candyland though.

  120. @ScottNicholson

    Have you actually played Galaxian recently? I love retro arcade games. I’ve got a home built MAME cabinet and although life gets in the way I fire it up regularly.

    The main thing you notice about the classic arcade games is just how great the gameplay is, how refined the skill curve needed to keep achieving higher levels is, and just what a blast these games are to play.

    To equate this to some simple board game and dismiss it flippantly is sheer blasphemy.

    I demand satisfaction. A dual, sir!

  121. Let me enthusiastically support the game SET; just a deck of cards to be dealt out in a 3×4 layout from which everybody tries to find a set of 3 according to a single rule.

    Two great things about it: (a) no waiting for turns (OK, this makes it the opposite of the civilized Candy Land model, but even grownups can enjoy a game where there’s no waiting for your time to come again); (b) once kids understand what they need to do (and they seem able to do this at about 4 or 5), they can and often do beat the pants off their elders, who are often slower and less mentally flexible.

  122. Second the Set recommend, and for your kids, I’d also go with Settlers of Catan.

    You know, for a really old-school time that actually has strategy in it if you think about it for a minute: Connect Four.

    (Sorry if this game has already been mentioned…I haven’t read every single post here).

    Anyway, you’d be surprised how deep the gameplay can get when you just cross tic-tac-toe with gravity. First you start setting up victories where you just get 4 in a row. Then you start setting up victories where your opponent’s block gives you 4 in a row. Then you start setting up victories where your opponent’s block of your setting up a condition where their block would mean you win, then you win. And so on…all the while _defending_ against your opponent doing the same thing.


  123. Try playing sorry with a hand of four or five cards. instead of draw and do what you’re told, draw and play back to five cards.

    Sorry is fun again and kids make decisions.

  124. SET is indeed a great game. As is Apples to Apples. I’d also suggest checkers, mancala, and Connect Four as readily available games suitable for kids. And Scrabble and Boggle as they get older.

    Most of the games you guys are saying are so great – Catan, Puerto Rico, etc – are all on a very similar model. I’ve learned that, at least for playing with adults, I dislike every last one of those games, because of the playstyle they encourage – and for some reason, these games are held up as the main class of good games by the board-game-dork community these days.

  125. At lot of comments here are defending Candyland on the basis that “it teaches kids to take turns.”

    I think this is flawed reasoning. What you are really saying to the child is “you need to sit and do nothing while everyone else gets to play, then the game comes back to you and it’s your turn.”

    This is a flaw. Good games require you to be an active participant all the time. Good games don’t ignore every player at the table bar one.

    Focus on playing the good games with your kids. I didn’t notice this mentioned yet, but Kelbazar Junior is a good one.

    Candyland is a flawed game that teaches kids the ‘skills’ they need to play other flawed games. Sitting quietly, doing nothing, is not a ‘skill’ merely a convenience for others. Games where doing nothing is what you will spend the most time doing are not worth your money or effort. Kids don’t get bored with these games because they “don’t know how to take turns” they get bored because those games are boring!

    You’re better off spending your time playing games with your kids that involve the kids completely.

  126. Starting about age 9 or so (this was back in the mid 80’s) my friends and I simply created our own boardgames. This usually included insanely large maps and weeks spent building intricate pieces out of clay.

    Most of the games could be said to be built on top of the basic gameplay of Axis and Allies (which we loved) only much much more complicated (probably needlessly so). Our rulebooks would become insanely long as we’d constantly have to amend the rules to fix flaws in the gameplay that became evident as time went on (or to limit the prowess of a player who became too much better than the rest of us).

    Every few months we’d create a new one based on whatever theme caught our interest (spaceships, medieval times, wizards/dragons, etc.) We did this for years and years.

    It was great fun and provided all of us with years of treasured memories, but it was probably just an anomaly based on the interests of a certain tight group of friends and probably not something a parent could force upon their children. In fact, our parents never understood what the heck we were doing, never played with us, and for the most part, just let us do our own thing being thankful we weren’t creating havoc somewhere else (although god knows how many pounds of clay got worked into our parent’s rugs over the years).

  127. I teach 4th grade. On Friday I taught my students how to play Battleship. I spent no more than five minutes on the rules. They took it from there. Of course, we played on graph paper.

    While the game is not the most challenging game ever created, it is a good tool for teaching coordinate geometry.

    Self discovery of patterns and how to attack are valuable skills. This is all part of the learning process.

  128. I had a friend in college who was slow to talk. In fact, she was four years old and had never spoken. Her worried mother took her to a child therapist who specialized in children with speech problems. He took out a game of Candyland and they played a bit. By the end of the game, she was talking just fine. She says that she never had any need to speak until she played Candyland. Her mother, she says, was the perfect mother, ready to anticipate her needs, having perfected her skills with her two older daughters. She and at least the one sister of hers that I met swear by this story, and knowing my friend it has the ring of truth. I’m not saying that Candyland taught her to talk. She already knew that, but Candyland did provide her with a context for speech.

    When I first starting learning about computers in high school, I studied assembly language and machine code and learned to work with the deterministic structure of code execution which is at the heart of programming. It didn’t take me long to recognize what I was learning about computers and computation, and that I had seen it before. I remembered following the rules of Candyland with its standardized responses to the cards and the simple structure of the board. Anyone who has studied Turing machines knows what I mean.

  129. I never tried computer games as a child, but as an adult, I haven’t ever found any that were interesting for more than a very short while. And they don’t have the tactile or social virtues of otherwise negligible board games like Candyland. When little kids and older people play simple board games, the little kids enjoy moving the pieces around, and the older people enjoy being with the kids.

    I remember being excited about so-called problem solving computer games like Myst, only to discover that there is actually no cognitive problem solving involved. There doesn’t seem to be anything to figure out, no particular background knowledge or problem solving skills that will help you win. All you do is wander through one Mysty environment after another clicking little virtual buttons trying every possible pattern until the little virtual door opens or whatever. As far as more fast-paced computer games are concerned, I suppose they teach some hand-eye coordination, but that’s just not very interesting to me. Parlor games and board games are much more fun.

    Computer games seem to teach the player how to waste copious amounts of time pushing a button like a rat in a Skinner box.

  130. @Lolarusa

    Yes I tried to learn to play the Cajon, but the technique was difficult to master and I didn’t have the time, so I stopped the lessons.

    I guess that means percussion instruments offer very little to music.

  131. @Takuan

    Hmmm. All that repetitious banging. And like I said, I tried it and didn’t get into it so I doubt there’s really anything of value there.

  132. I would have to agree with the person who suggested that the OP is sort of missing the point with many of these early-childhood games. The lessons to be taught aren’t necessarily limited to the board, but are relevant to social skills. Rejoicing in a sporting manner to success, consoling others at failure, learning to control one’s emotions through success or failure, learning to share by taking turns, practicing reading, learning to follow rules….There are many important lessons in these games which (presumably) most adult players already have internalized and thus might overlook.

    Comparing those lessons to the lessons taught by video games, which often require response skills attuned to that of the programmer, is, most certainly, comparing apples to oranges.

    The issue the OP faces is that he’s thinking that his children are little people, with reasoning skills similar to his. They’re not, and…they’re not.

    That may be why he remembers those games so fondly–because he actually was doing a great deal of reasoning while he played. It just didn’t have much to do with the game.

  133. A few months ago I wrote a blog article entitled Teaching kids about money: toss Monopoly, tune into Project Runway, Survivor, log on to MMORPGs. It pains me to say this but the games that best reflect our socio-economic reality today are … reality TV shows and virtual online role playing games (MMORPGs). Both genres require people to behave cooperatively to compete and win. To win you have to build relationships to influence and persuade (not force) others to cooperate with you. This is a theme in Project Runway (my favorite reality show) as well as in virtual worlds like War Craft and Second Life (learned this from my kids). Online gamers who reach leader status in virtual worlds actually include their virtual leadership roles in their real-world resumes because of the value it carries in the tech world!

    Nancy Dailey, Ph.D.
    Dr. Nancy: what I tell my kids about money

  134. Good article. I never really enjoyed games like Chutes and Ladders and Monopoly because they seemed to be little more than futile exercises in randomness.

  135. “…the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favour to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all.”

  136. There is something interesting about playing Parcheesi with my children (now ages 10 and 12, but we’ve been playing this for a few years).

    There is “chance” using dice but there is also the elements of choice (you can choose to move any one of your four pieces with varying consequences) and social interaction (if you land on a square occupied by another’s piece you can send them back to the beginning).

    One person can appear to be winning but quickly find themselves losing all because of the interaction between players. With children, the hubris being close to the win is often followed by humility when someone sends your piece back to the beginning.

    Dare I say that Parcheesi is a good representation of life? A regular soap opera in our house. ;-)

  137. Agreed with your assessment with a caveat. I actually played Candy Land with my four year old daughter last night and yes the lack of any real skill was very apparent to me.

    What I did get to teach my daughter while playing the game was good sportsmanship. I was able to show my daughter how to congratulate a winner when losing and how to thank the loser for playing when you win. The game itself is a tad bit moronic (understatement) but the idea of playing for fun and enjoying the competition regardless of the outcome is what I hope my daughter learned.

    In the world of computers and engineering, I find a subset of people who have never played group sports in their life and are often lacking any real sportsmanship-esque skills. Their entire sporting life has been a mano a mano experience. Even when surrounded by friends they cannot make personal sacrifices for the benefit of the team or whole. In observing this phenomena over the years with various software groups, the common background of these types were that they never competed in a real team environment. Everything was for personal glory or promotion. Not to say that any of the old-school games you mentioned above build teamwork, but the new-school games almost completely promote self over team and individual over group.

  138. This post succumbs to the bad logic of right-wing video game critics, who think that playing violent video games makes you violent. Do you seriously think that playing a game that lacks problem solving means you can’t solve problems? Does all play have to consist of some sort of “training” to make us into superhumans? I know that when I get into a pillow fight with my kids, I am not nervously assessing their aim and sense of balance and worrying about how they will translate the experience into real-world skills. I’m having fun.

  139. Yay for SET! My 12 and 15 year olds now regularly pound me.

    There are plenty of games that a parent won’t get bored playing with a kid, that only need two people (Clue and Catan and Apples to Apples fail here), and that the kid has a chance of winning.

    For little ones (no reading needed):

    Second the rec for Rat-a-tat Cat. It’s a form of poker with adorable rat and feline graphics for the preschool set. And older; my kids STILL like playing it.

    Any memory game. Ravensberger had a nice Madeline one, but you can also find ones tied into pop culture. My kids ended up with a Dragon Tales version.

    Blink: a rapid-fire card game: match color, symbol, or number of objects to get rid of the cards in your hand. Like the game “Spit”.

    I Spy: cards with pictures taken from the “I Spy” books. There are clue cards telling you what objects to “spy”.

    Trouble, chinese checkers, checkers, Clue Jr. are classics that make the cut. Also battleship, because you can put your battleship so that one peg is suspended over the letters or numbers, making it unsinkable. This trick works exactly once per player.

    For kids who can read/add:

    Stare: You have 30 seconds to stare at a work of art before being quizzed about it.

    Can’t Stop: best gambling game ever. Secretly teaches probability theory.

    Avoid at all costs: Monopoly Jr. Same mind-numbing deterministic gameplay as Candyland, but for kids who are old enough to be able to make decisions on their own. At least with Candyland, I could stack the deck so that my kid would win at lightning speed.

  140. ROBULUS

    Yes I tried to learn to play the Cajon, but the technique was difficult to master and I didn’t have the time, so I stopped the lessons.

    So you think if I played these games even longer, although they were no fun at all for me, I would eventually discover their value? Like they might teach me to play the drums or something? You may be right, but I prefer a game that’s fun to play. And I’m sure that the best way to learn to play percussion is to play percussion.

  141. Look at Teletubbies. That always annoyed me with the way they would sometimes play a scene, then shout “Again! Again!” and replay it. But kids of a certain age love that, especially watching the same Disney cartoon over and over and over. Teletubbies latched on to something that tiny kids appreciate, and adults or older kids obviously aren’t among the intended audience. Same thing with Candy Land. It’s not so much that it fails as a game. It succeeds with a much younger audience.

  142. @Lolarusa

    You said you didn’t get video games. That’s fine, not everyone enjoys video games. But you then concluded:

    “Computer games seem to teach the player how to waste copious amounts of time pushing a button like a rat in a Skinner box.”

    Thats a blanket dismissal of a rich and diverse form of entertainment that is enjoyed by millions. It’s a silly conclusion, just like saying that because I quit my drumming lessons, there appears to be little value in drumming.

  143. Not all games are an exercise in “decision making.” Candy Land, for example, is an excellent way to teach turn-taking. This clearly valueable skill is one that would challenge a 3 year old.

    For an older child, battleship seems an ideal vehicle for exploring binary searches. And through a 2D space, no less!

    It seems to me that a focus on “decision making” is reductive and really missing the point.

  144. I’m surprised to have to point out that games don’t have to teach anything; they only have to be fun. As a meme, Candyland is a sleek product of evolution; its natural habitat is the four year-old mind.

  145. So the parent or the older kid will always win. Teach them right? It’s a jungle out there, right? Competition as a highest value in the family. Sort of Ayn Rand parenting?

    Sadly, I come from a commie family where playing board games was just fun family time together. My parents bought some chance games so that everyone could win sometimes.

  146. I agree with many of the comments from teachers and other people who state the obvious point that Candyland is a game about how to play a game, designed for the youngest players (many of them pre-verbal). You can’t compare games and their value across developmental stages. It would be the same as comparing a toddler with a school-age child. Of course, in many areas the school age child is more sophisticated and has a broader scope of knowledge. Dissing Candyland is kind of like dissing a toddler. The game isn’t about problem solving, and the random nature of the game’s concept doesn’t really matter. The writer takes for granted problem solving at the most basic social level, like turn-taking, which is second nature to many adults but just as valuable as Super Mario World’s problem solving wizardry.

  147. @Robulus

    That’s a blanket dismissal of a rich and diverse form of entertainment that is enjoyed by millions.

    A point well taken. I am only stating my own preferences here, in reference to the comparison in the post of board games and video games. The suggestion is that video games are a richer experience and teach more complex skills, which hasn’t been my experience.

  148. I understood even as a child that the moves were random occurrences and that the game would be the same with or without me. As I realized this, the only solution seemed to be to cheat, which my father noticed, leading me to become a better cheater. As my father refused to be outdone by his six year old, it escalated into a full scale cheating arms war, both sides becoming more and more devious.
    The only childhood game I still play besides strategy games like risk and stratego is guess who, which I play with my girlfriend and a bottle of whiskey. Physical descriptions are outlawed, and judgments are based on whether the characters might ride a bicycle to work or whether they still speak to their parents.

  149. While Candyland wins for the very simplest of games, a much more mentally stimulating and educational game with an extremly simple rule set is Concentration/Memory.
    It tends not to be as flashy or colourful as some of the other kids games (unless you have a special deck for it), but it teachs takings turns, memory, pateince and concentration.
    Its nearly pure skill, which is double edged when it comes to older sibilings.
    But its good apart from that

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