Wednesday, October 23, 2019

A kid’s game can just be an activity but it can’t be boring

Okay. I’m sitting down to do something that I really don’t like to do. Bash a children’s game. Because, in so many ways, it’s unfair and too easy to do that. You should not hold a game for someone under eight under the same scrutiny you’d give to a game for an adult. A kid’s game has different requirements but expectations.

But not only did Rivers, Roads and Rails from Ravensburger not work for us, I’m not sure how it would work for almost anyone.

R3 is a tile-laying game made up of 144 tiles that have segments of rivers, roads and railroads. The object of the game is make a continuous line of them with all the edges matching, just like just about any tile-laying game you care to mention.

But part of the problem is that on almost every tile, the paths are straight lines. So you’re building a single line of tiles and either a tile fits or it doesn’t fit on one of the two ends. There’s no room for choices or decisions.

A problem with the game is the rules. At least in the copy we got, the rules are printed on the back of the box and actually contradict themselves. If they were a little longer, they would actually being describing variations and not be contrary. The rules describe the game as cooperative and as competitive. You either all work together with all the tiles available or you compete with your own pools of tiles.

The problem with the game as a cooperative is that it’s really just a boring jigsaw puzzle with a definite picture. There isn’t the joy of discovery you get with an actual jigsaw puzzle. And the problem with the game as a competitive game is the lack of choices. You might have no choices, which is even worse in a kid’s game than having the game play itself with only one choice per turn.

Rivers, Roads and Rails is very pretty. I really liked the art. And I’d have really liked a fun activity, not even necessarily a game, attached to that set. Unfortunately, it just bored all of us.

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