Friday, April 21, 2023

Preschoolers deserve good games too

While recovering from an illness, I decided to learn My First Castle Panic on Board Game Arena. Because, quite frankly, that’s what I was up for.

As I played it, I kept asking myself ‘Is this it? Am I missing something?’ So I played it again. ‘No. I guess that is it’

I’ve played the original Castle Panic but I have virtually no memories of it. Which doesn’t mean it’s bad (I’d probably remember it more if it was terrible) but it does mean it wasn’t my bag. Castle Panic is a tower defense game and so is its baby sibling.

And I’m not sure how you would simplify a tower defense more than My First Castle Panic. There is only one track for the monsters to move on. The only defense the castle has is a wall. And while a special card rebuild the wall, there is no other defensive buffs and no offensive buffs.

The basic gameplay is playing a card that matches the shape and color in a space to knock off the monster on it. So it really comes down to drawing the right cards or the castle falling.

And you might say, dude, it’s a kid’s game. It’s clearly designed for kids who aren’t old enough to read. Don’t you think you’re being kind of harsh here?

A bit but earlier this year, I tried out Baby Dinosaur Rescue (also on BGA) that is also a cooperative game aimed at the pre-literate crowd and I felt it did a much better job. One, while the basic strategy is very obvious, it’s there and kids can implement it. Two, the game isn’t weighted against the players, just bad decisions.

Basically, if you play well with Baby Dinosaur Rescue, you will probably win. And I don’t mind a cooperative being easy if it’s for four-year-olds. If you draw the right cards, you’ll win My First Castle Panic. It seems weighted against the players and player decisions doesn’t seem to affect that. That doesn’t encourage critical thinking and that doesn’t reward its target demographic.

Keep in mind, I think Don’t Spill the Beans is a god game for little ones. Because it helps develop hand-eye coordination and, yes, it does reward good play.

It’s easy to criticize a game for four-year-olds for not being any good for grown ups and it’s intrinsically not fair. But I honestly feel My First Castle Oanic falls short for toddlers as either a game or an activity.

(As a side note, I’ve learned that some designers put games on BGA for play testing and critique, which is why games for toddlers can be found there. That had been confusing me)

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