Thursday, October 09, 2008
Posted by Manisha Pandit
With the days growing shorter and the increasing chill in the air, children will no longer have the luxury of playing outdoors as much as they used to. The onslaught of fall is often one that sends parents into despair – how will they fight the beast that morphs from TV into video games into the computer, depending on the whims of the child. Moderation, as always, is the key. For the rest of the time, go to your neighborhood store and invest in some classic board games. Not only do board games encourage everything from logical to lateral thinking, they also spell quality time spent with your children.
Chutes and Ladders is an old favorite. As are Sorry!, Scrabble and Monopoly. There is, however, an element of randomness or luck in these games. One or more poor rolls of the dice could mean the difference between winning and losing. In Scrabble and Monopoly, some of this randomness is offset by strategy. Pure strategy games encourage logical thinking and inculcate the ability to anticipate counter-moves and therefore planning ahead. Games that have a high element of strategy but also have an in-built quotient of luck are equally desirable as they bring management of uncertainty into the mix. This article will focus on pure strategy games.
Chess is the ultimate example of a pure strategy game. And just like chess is not for everyone, pure strategy games are not for every child. However, there are a few classic games that fall within this realm that are worth taking a look at.
Connect Four is a great two-player game for the young thinker. The players take turns dropping colored discs into a 7x6 grid. The objective of the game is to be the first to connect four discs of their chosen color in a line that may be horizontal, vertical or diagonal. The other objective is to foil the attempts of the opponent. The online version of this game, played against the computer or with a friend, is also hours of fun.
Blokus is a two to four player game that has shades of the popular computer game, Tetris, except that Blokus is played on a board. This game has consistently won awards since its first release in 2000. The board is a 20x20 square board with game tiles of different shapes in four different colors. Players must begin play in their corner using their color of choice and place additional pieces on the board such that the newest piece touches at least one other piece of the same color only at the corner, never along the side. The objective is multi-fold: place all 21 pieces on the board by garnering as much of the real estate as possible, thereby blocking other players from placing all of their pieces on the board. This game can get very animated and leads to hours of fun. That it is simple to understand makes it a perfect game for younger players. There are many versions of Blokus, including a 3D version, that sharpens critical thinking. And yes, this too, can be played online.
Stratego is a lesser known board game but one that is very popular in my home. It is a two-player war game that involves strategy, bluffing and memory. Each player gets 40 pieces that include army personnel of varying ranks including a spy, mines and a flag. The objective is to protect your own flag while trying to attack the opponent’s flag and taking out as many men as possible in the bargain. It's difficult to describe Stratego in a few sentences when there are entire sites devoted to rules and variations therein, and the different strategies that can be employed. One such site is Ed's Stratego Site. We found Stratego to be an excellent alternative to chess.
These three games have led to hours of play coupled with critical and logical thinking, without losing that essential element of fun. With Christmas not too far away, you may want to consider these games as gifts that will keep your children or grandchildren occupied productively and away from the idiot box. You might enjoy a round or two between yourself and a friend, too!
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This post was written by Manisha of Indian Food Rocks