GenCon is fun for gamers of all ages, but now that I have young children, I always have a special place in my heart for games that I can play with one or both of them. Given that my oldest is currently 7, though, this puts some pretty massive restrictions on what I can actually play. It has to be age-appropriate in both content level and rule complexity.
This year saw a number of games that caught my fancy in this regard. The charming Magician’s Kitchen, the enchanting Dixit, and, last but certainly not least, the upcoming game Mice and Mystics, which is available now for online pre-order with a significant discount.
This is a fun little game where you’re playing a magician’s apprentice who is running around, trying to get potions in the cauldrons and then starting a fire. The trick to this game is that there are hidden magnets that cause your piece to drop the potions. For a more detailed description of Magician’s Kitchen, I recommend my review over at the About.com Physics site, where I even proposed some ideas about how you could use this fantasy game to teach some cool scientific ideas to the young ones.
Magician’s Kitchen is designed for up to 4 players, aged 5 to 15. My youngest son (age 2) really gets enjoyment out of making the apprentices drop their potions. The game is available from Amazon.com and other retailers nationwide, with a retail cost of $29.99.
I first learned about this game through the GeekDad blog, but was happy to stumble across it at GenCon as well. I spoke at length to the designer, Jean-Louis Roubira, who explained the concept to me.
You have a deck of cards containing attractive illustrations on them. Each round, one player is designated the storyteller. The storyteller describes one card very briefly, without showing it to the other players. The other players then pick cards from their hands that they feel could also fit that description.
- If no one picked the storyteller’s card, then everyone but the storyteller gets 2 points.
- If everyone picked the storyteller’s card, then everyone but the storyteller gets 2 points.
- Players get 1 point for each person who picked their card.
- In every other case, the storyteller and anyone who picked their card correctly earns 3 points.
You can buy it at Amazon.com or other retailers. Retail price is $34.99 (although, as of this posting, it’s going for a bit over $20 on Amazon.) There are also expansions such as Dixit Journey, to get even more fantastic cards to play with.
Mice and Mystics
I had heard of both Magician’s Kitchen and Dixit prior to GenCon, so really the big pleasant surprise out was Mice and Mystics, a new game from Plaid Hat Games. (It’s easy to find their booth, since they’re the guys wearing the plaid hats.) It’s not released yet, but in discussing games appropriate for kids, I had three separate people suggest that I check it out. So, in the last 15 minutes in the exhibit hall on Friday (the last day my son was going with me), we had a quick walk through the game’s concept.
Mice and Mystics is a combination board game and RPG that has a lot of cool features for introducing kids to storytelling-based gaming. In fact, I was told that the game’s designer was inspired for the game by a storyline that he created for his own kids’ bedtime stories.
In this game, you play the king’s loyal counselors, who have uncovered that his recent declining health is not mere illness, but actually the work of dark sorcery and enemies of the kingdom. Before you can alert the king, however, a powerful sorcerer casts a spell turning all of you into mice. From this unfortunate position, you must battle enemies great and small through a series of adventures to save your king and kingdom.
I didn’t get to play a full game of Mice and Mystics, so can’t provide a complete review yet (but I’ve pre-ordered the game and plan to review it immediately upon arrival). However, one interesting aspect of the game is the way the boards are set up. They progress through the storyline, so in one adventure, as you clear a board of enemies, your entire party may make its way to a grate shown on the map. At that point, you flip the board over, and find that you have dropped into the sewers for the next portion of your adventure.
The adventures are outlined in a story book that comes with the game, which contains several different chapters of adventures. In other words, this isn’t just a board game … it’s a full adventure campaign! There are also plans for future expansions that will provide even more adventures.
For someone who has been looking for a good entry-level roleplaying game for his oldest son, this definitely caught my eye.
You can find out more about Mice and Mystics at the Plaid Hat Games website. They are currently taking pre-orders which, at the time of this writing, are offering a $30 discount on the game! When my pre-order comes in, you can also look here for a full review of the game.
Andrew Zimmerman Jones is a writer of fiction and non-fiction. He has been a finalist in the Writers of the Future contest and received Honorable Mention in the 2011 Writer’s Digest Science Fiction/Fantasy Competition. In addition to being a contributing editor to Black Gate magazine, Andrew is the About.com Physics Guide and author of String Theory For Dummies. You can follow his exploits on Facebook,Twitter, and even Google+.