Are you on Board the Strategy Train?

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

12 comments:

we took Blokus for ur nephews in India and they love it! I'd also suggest Battleship for small boys...

Mansi said...
October 9, 2008 at 7:48:00 AM GMT+2  

Mansi, what fun!

I believe Battleship is a guessing game. I am focusing on pure strategy games in this article and so I picked three of our favorite games. This ties in loosely with my series of articles on giftedness. I'd like to restrict the scope of this post to pure strategy games rather than a list of recommendations for great board games for kids. If you have any suggestions for pure strategy games and your experience with them, that would really add value to this post.

Manisha said...
October 9, 2008 at 9:08:00 AM GMT+2  

Exactly what I'm looking for. Thanks, Manisha. Will check at the stores here in Vizag/Hyd/Bangalore and if I don't find them here, I have my sis or bro (they live in US) get them for Nehal.:)

He just started learning chess and is beginning to enjoy it.

sailaja said...
October 9, 2008 at 2:16:00 PM GMT+2  

Another good strategy game for kids is Othello.

Mamatha

Anonymous said...
October 9, 2008 at 2:57:00 PM GMT+2  

I can remember like it was yesterday the hours spent paying Connect Four!!
Great post!

Tartelette said...
October 9, 2008 at 7:36:00 PM GMT+2  

Yah! Makes being shut up in our winter-boxes a bit more fun... Connect Four, hot tea, hot cocoa, crackers with cream cheese and dollops of pickle...what more could be wanted? But my gosh, don't rush it! :-(

pelicilicano said...
October 9, 2008 at 8:10:00 PM GMT+2  

Sailu, if he likes chess, he will enjoy Stratego. There are many more pure strategy games and I picked three of our current favorites.

Mamatha, Othello or Reversi is another great pure strategy game. Thank you for mentioning it!

Helen, it is tons of fun! Connect Four is like tic tac toe in a vertical grid. The change in the visual-spatial area makes it a challenge for some kids but most catch on very quickly.

ciliness, the mercury's been reading at 38F at morning bus stop time. Brrrr! But the days are warm at 70F with lots of sunshine.

Manisha said...
October 9, 2008 at 8:37:00 PM GMT+2  

Another pure strategy board game is the railroad game 'Ticket to Ride'. There is an expansion pack for the basic game, and a European version available.

It's my son's favorite.

coreolis said...
October 11, 2008 at 7:01:00 PM GMT+2  

i use to unplug the tv from the cable box and say - oh - the tv's not working now...and they had no choice but to do something else! i also set a time limit on video games - we also bought a small trampoline for the boys - gets the energy out!! luckily we live in the southern california desert so most days they could go outside for a while anyway..you know there are coats and hats to wear! so they could run with the dogs! and oh how many cames of chutes and ladders did we play! as they got older we would play monopoly -and not put it away for days! except you had to watch that little one who would take money! :^)
just a couple of suggestions

sarita said...
October 14, 2008 at 4:49:00 PM GMT+2  

coreolis, that sounds like an interesting game! Thank you!

Sarita, being able to play outside all year round is a definite plus! As I have mentioned in my post, Chutes and Ladders is a chance or luck game with no strategy involved. Monopoly is also not a pure strategy game. I am looking at pure strategy games in this article where there is no element of chance, luck or randomness. The outcome of the game is based entirely on each player's moves.

Manisha said...
October 15, 2008 at 2:57:00 AM GMT+2  

boy..i think as you said the ultimate is chess..or checkers for younger kiddos.

sarita said...
October 15, 2008 at 3:06:00 AM GMT+2  

I'm on borad with you. Connect four, kaleidoscope, jenga, scrabble & monopoly too have given us plenty of fun-filled hours.

October 16, 2008 at 7:27:00 AM GMT+2  

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