Let’s face it, the kids spend a lot more time indoors in the winter. Here’s a great excuse for some cosy, fun screen time – the family way.
With so many computer games around, it’s important to define what qualifies as a board game. A board game involves counters or game pieces that are placed and moved on a marked surface (called a board), according to a set of well-defined rules. Board games are based on luck (like rolling a set of dice), or strategy, or a combination of both.
Traditional board games involved a war between two armies (think chess). Most modern board games are still based on winning points at the cost of your opponent, although some allow players to play co-operatively in order to achieve a common goal. Board game themes range from solving murder mysteries (Cluedo), to building civilisations (Stone Age), or defeating evil forces (The Lord of the Rings board game).
before you begin
Get to know the games your child wants to play. You may want to participate or observe, but remain positively engaged. Find out what their favourite games are and why; which ones are particularly challenging; whether they prefer games with pretty boards, interesting settings, or interesting strategies.
Check the ratings for the games that your children want to play. Most pure board games will have age recommendations only because of the complexity of the game play, but because of the online aspect, it may pay to check any actual age restrictions due to the game’s themes or content.
Online board games are an enjoyable way for the children to connect with their friends, but it’s important for them to understand that, just like with any other social media, they should not post their photos or any personal details. Let them know they can come to you if an online player makes them feel uncomfortable.
Finally, make sure your computer has adequate security such as a firewall, anti-spyware software, and anti-virus programmes.
safety tips for children
- Think before you download anything onto your computer. Programmes that promise to help solve the game puzzles or boost your ranking could be carrying viruses or spyware.
- If another player is making you feel uncomfortable, tell a trusted adult.
- Learn how to block and report cyberbullying and unacceptable behaviour. Keep a record of what
they said, but don’t respond.
- Protect your personal information.
- Never agree to meet people from your gaming world in person.
where to play?
Most strategy board games for ages 7 and up can be played on their own dedicated sites, for example, The Lord of The Rings online game can be found on lotro.com. However, some simpler games can be played on general sites:
- Boardgamearena.com has a polished feel to it and the people on it are friendly. Everybody plays in real time so you don’t have to wait for hours for the other player to make a move. Games you can play there: Dominion, Stone Age, Puerto Rico, Race for the Galaxy, Can’t Stop, Kahuna, Haggis.
- In contrast, if you play on ItsYourTurn.com, you only take one turn at a time. This way you and your opponents don’t have to be online at the same time. You can also invite your family and real-life friends to a game you’re hosting online: this way, you play with people you know. It’s simple to use: No Java, no Flash, no downloads needed. You can play for free or become a paid member. They offer games such as Backgammon, Battleboats, Chess, Checkers, Go, Reversi, and Sabotage.
- Pogo.com is family-friendly and offers a lot of variety. You will have to register as a player, and although it’s free, they will try to convert you into a paid member. The vast gaming catalogue may be worth it, though.
- Games.com allows you to play lots of games, not only board games. You can use the site as a guest without registering.
- Kibagames.com has the ever-popular Candyland online, as well as a multitude of games grouped under headings such as Skill, Puzzle, Sport, Multiplayer. For those of you who don’t mind gender-differentiation, they even have games aimed specifically at girls’ interests.
- Game-oldies.com lets you play retro games in your browser, or at least what the world considers “retro” today.
ages and stages
- Checkers, Candyland, Snakes and Ladders, Monopoly Junior, Scrabble Junior
- In The Settlers of Catan, you use wood, clay, stone, and other commodities to build roads and houses on an island. Your settlements produce resources that you can utilise yourself or trade them with other players. The board is pretty but it allows plenty of scope for imagination. Catan is one of the most popular games in recent history because it can be enjoyed by experienced and new players alike.
- Suburbia is a tile-laying game in which each player can plan, build, and develop a small town into a major metropolis. As your town grows, you’ll have more cash on hand to purchase better and more valuable buildings. As your reputation increases, you’ll gain more and more population. The winner is the player with the largest population. There’s an app you can download to play.
- Risk is a strategic war game. The goal is to conquer the world.
- Lost Cities was originally a card game, but it’s now available to play online. It’s a quick fun game in which players gain points by planning and mounting profitable archaeological expeditions to different parts of the world. Despite its theme, it’s a numbers game, not a geography game.
- Stone Age sounds similar to Catan, but it’s more complex. The players become hunters, collectors, farmers, and tool makers. They trade and expand their village to achieve new levels of civilisation.
- In Dominion, you are a ruler of a small kingdom of rivers and evergreens, and your goal is to expand it. You must race other monarchs to get as much of the unclaimed land as possible, by hiring minions, constructing buildings, sprucing up your castle, and filling your treasury.
- In Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective, you solve mysteries. Trace the evidence, interview suspects, search the newspapers for clues, and analyse your findings to reach a solution. No luck is involved, which may be a plus for some kids. This game is a fun puzzle set in historically-accurate Victorian era. Discover who is responsible for the missing paintings from the National Gallery, who murdered Oswald Mason, and what’s behind the curse of the mummy.
not strictly board games
Many online games for children are not strictly board games, but they are still fun:
3+ • Dominoes
- Tic Tac Toe
7+ • Gin Rummy
- Free Cell
- Mine Sweeper
10+ • Cribbage
- Harry Potter Adventure Games
- Nancy Drew Online Adventure
Yvonne Eve Walus