Meanwhile, on your kitchen table …
The last time we met, dear readers, we were talking about creating a board game with your ten-ish to twelve-ish year-old kids. This part picks up as if your family has already done a bunch of exploring, started making a game board, and created some characters. If you’re nodding, keep reading. If you missed part one, click here.
Good games have a goal and some restrictions, or rules. They also have challenges, interaction and reversals. To get you started on making a board game with your kids, we basically had to invent a game first. However, consider this just a template. With your own little geniuses on the task, your game will surely come into its own fun fruition.
If you made a board—featuring a pathway made of squares—then the obvious goal is to get to the finish before the other players. But you want to tailor the goal to your chosen slice of history. We’ll keep using the Joan of Arc example from part one. The goal is to lead the French army and drive the English out of France. (Maybe some of your other characters are English, and then their goal is to drive out Miss Arc.) If she gets to the finish first, she succeeds.
A player can only advance by answering a question from a fact card. If the player answers correctly, she rolls a die. She then moves forward the number of squares indicated by the die.
Your kids can make the questions for these cards using all the research on the time period and surroundings they did earlier. The queries can vary, from easy to difficult, and be about anything. “Where did people in the 1400s go to the bathroom?” (Our favorite topic.) “What form of government was used at this time?” “What was the staple of poor people’s diet?” Remember to put the answers on the back of the cards.
Challenges, Interaction and Reversals
We like almost every square to have something on it that changes up the play. It’s an added layer of chance when a player lands. “Answer another question correctly, or move backward three spaces.” “Your horse broke a leg, skip a turn.” “You found a patron, move forward two more spaces.”
This is a good way to add interaction between players too. Try things like, “Switch places with any other player.” Or, “Ask a question of another player. If they answer incorrectly, they move backward one space.” Creating opportunities for collusion and betrayals will make the game more fun. And in this case, more like 1400’s France too.
If you want to add one more incentive to finish first, create some kind of position of power for the winner. Instead of the game ending when the first person wins, players keep going for second place. Meanwhile, the winner gets to choose all the questions, e.g. read them first and pick the hard ones. Or maybe the winner gets to send someone back a square every round. You can gauge how competitive and hotheaded your kids are and invent this last rule accordingly.
In the end, the more research you do and the more questions you write (and the more people who write them), the more surprising your game will be for all players. Your family can have fun learning tons of details about a historical character or period, and then have fun outsmarting each other and beating each other to the finish.