Game Girl

Beginner's Luck?When Lily started playing the card game Sleeping Queens a few months ago, I discovered that my sweet little girl has a competitive streak. It wasn’t until she tried her hand at Settlers of Catan last month–and won her very first game–that I realized just how good she is at strategy games.

The two of us played that first Settlers game with a simplified set of rules (it’s designed for three players, not two) and I went a little easy on her, but the fact that this five-year-old got the hang of a game rated for ages 12 and up showed me her board game skills. The next night, all three of us played Settlers (using all the rules) and Lily won again! She needed a little help from me placing her first settlements, but otherwise she ran her own strategy. It was an exciting game, too, with a three way tie at nine points each before Lily clinched her victory.

After playing that first game of Settlers, Lily went on a game binge, playing checkers, Trash (a playing card game the girls learned at after-care), and even Rock-Paper-Scissors that same night. Hannah and I dubbed her “Game Girl.” Later that week, she tried her hand at Ticket to Ride. My Facebook post from that night:

“Game Girl Update: The 5yo and I played Ticket to Ride. I won, but only by a few points. I’m pretty sure that in a year or two, she’ll be unbeatable.”

Here’s what I’m thinking: Lily has my mathematical mind and her mother’s… New Jersey spirit. I’m expecting her to mop the floor with Hannah and me on a regular basis for years to come.

Hannah Bisects the BoardNot that Hannah won’t put up a fight, however! She won our second family game of Settlers, bisecting the board with her settlements and roads to win 10 to 7 to 7. She and I have, I think, an even record at Ticket to Ride. And she won her first game of Dominion earlier this week. Her strategy? Playing a bunch of Witch cards. The rationale behind her strategy? The Witch cards remind her of Hermione Granger. (She’s Hermione’s biggest fan after reading the first three Harry Potter books. Guess what costume she went with for Halloween?) All those Witches meant tons of Curses for me, giving Hannah the edge on victory points.

Dominion was one of three games I placed under the Christmas tree for us this year. One of the others is Fluxx, the card game with ever-changing rules that I played years ago before I had kids. Lily has really taken to Fluxx. We’re stuck at home this week since Hannah came down with chicken pox last weekend, so Lily and I have a lot of time on our hands. We’ve played probably ten games of Fluxx in the last couple of days. There’s a lot of reading involved, since each card has a different effect on the game, so it’s a little hard for a kindergartner–but maybe good reading practice, too. The third is Forbidden Island, which is a cooperative game. All the players race around the board trying to collect four special treasures before the rising waters flood the whole island. It’s a ton of fun, and just a bit stressful near the end as the waters start rising.

The Waters Are RisingI picked out Forbidden Island because it received great reviews online, but also because, in spite of her game-playing prowess, Lily doesn’t always take losing well. She’s getting better–we haven’t had a blow up like that night with Sorry! last February in a while–but I figured a cooperative game, where we all get to work together, would be good for family peace. It’s fascinating to see what frustrates her. There was some playing card game she and Hannah learned at after-care that didn’t actually involve any strategy. The entire deck is shuffled and dealt out to the two players at the start of the game, and there are no decisions to be made by players thereafter. (It’s what mathematicians call a deterministic process.) When Lily lost this game a month or two ago, she was really frustrated, I think because she realized on some level that there was nothing she could have done to win. That’s why I think she like games like Settlers–they don’t depend as much on luck as typical American-style board games.

I think we’re done with board games for today. It’s New Year’s Eve, and with Hannah out with chicken pox, we’re staying home and watching The Sound of Music–the Julie Andrews version, which the girls have never seen, not the recent Carrie Underwood version. Tomorrow, I have my fingers crossed that Hannah will feel up for another game of Dominion. I’m up for a rematch… and I’m tired of Lily beating me at Fluxx!

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