Games
Games for Kids
Strategy
Name of Game: Dragonland

Origination date: 2002

Number of Players: 2-4

Length of Play: 30-60 minutes

Level of Intellectual Difficulty: Moderate

Bloom’s New Taxonomy Level: Applying, Analyzing

Costa: Level II

Schank’s Cognitive Process: Modeling, Diagnosis, Planning

Dr. Kid Brain Rating (1-5): 3 Stars ★★★

Description: The object of this game is to move through the game board, collecting dragon eggs and gemstones, thus saving the dragons’ treasure from the imminent volcanic eruption. The rules are slightly different for two players, as compared with three or four players, but the differences are negligible. Some egg and gemstone combinations are worth more than other groupings, so middle school kids will need to maximize their points by collecting the right mixture. Not all kids will like this game but those who do will play it many times.

Name of Game: Feudal

Origination date: 1967

Number of Players: 2-6

Length of Play: 60-90 minutes

Level of Intellectual Difficulty: Moderate to High

Bloom’s New Taxonomy Level: Analyzing, Evaluating

Costa: Level II and III

Schank’s Cognitive Process: Modeling, Diagnosis, Planning

Dr. Kid Brain Rating (1-5): 4 Stars ★★★★

Description: Feudal is a game middle school kids have probably never heard of, mostly because it isn’t played much anymore, other than by older aunts and uncles or grandpa’s and grandma’s who remember playing the game in the late 1960’s or 1970’s. Feudal essentially is chess with playing pieces on a pegboard involving castles, mountains, rough terrains, kings, princes, dukes, knights, sergeants, pikemen, squires, and archers. The object of the game is to—you guessed it—storm the opponent’s castle and kill their king. The set-up to the game is simple and the rules quickly learned so middle school kids won’t have to study the rule book for an hour like they have to do with complicated board games. If your kids like playing chess and checkers there is a good chance they will enjoy playing Feudal. You’ll have trouble locating the game because it isn’t manufactured anymore, so you’ll have to find it online or in the used game section at major gaming stores. It’s now considered a “collectible” by some individuals so you may have to pay upwards of $50 to get your hands on this game. Others will ask for more, but if you are patient, you will find a decent copy for somewhere in the $20-$40 range.

Name of Game: Forbidden Island

Origination date: 2010

Number of Players: 2-4

Length of Play: 10-60 minutes

Level of Intellectual Difficulty: High

Bloom’s New Taxonomy Level: Analyzing, Evaluating

Costa: Level II and III

Schank’s Cognitive Process: Teamwork, Negotiation

Dr. Kid Brain Rating (1-5): 5 Stars ★★★★

Description: Forbidden Island is very different from many other games on the market, in that middle school kids must cooperatively work together to capture the treasure—the earth stone, the statue of the wind, the crystal of fire, and the ocean’s chalice—before the rising flood waters drown everyone on the island. If players compete against one another, they are doomed to failure because it is impossible to win the game without teamwork. Each player has a unique talent in the game and they must work together in restoring flooded tiles and capturing treasure pieces before being airlifted off the island to safety and victory. Forbidden Island can be a very fast game for kids because of the random luck (or lack of) involved in holding the flood waters back.

Name of Game: HeroQuest

Origination date: 1989

Number of Players: 2-5

Length of Play: 60-120 minutes

Level of Intellectual Difficulty: Moderate

Bloom’s New Taxonomy Level: Analyzing, Evaluating

Costa: Level II

Schank’s Cognitive Process: Influence, Teamwork

Dr. Kid Brain Rating (1-5): 5 Stars ★★★★

Description: HeroQuest is the kind of game which was designed for middle school kids who love thinking about killing monsters in the dungeon, saving the princess, and working together to eliminate the evil which is festering throughout the kingdom. The object of this game is to survive the dungeon controlled by the evil Zargon—who is one of the players—and make it out alive. The players adopt one of four avatars—an elf, wizard, dwarf, or barbarian and must cooperate and work together in order to survive the corridors and rooms they are exploring. Of course, any player can wander off by themselves in search of loot, but they will quickly meet their demise in the hands of an assortment of monsters—goblins, skeletons, zombies, orcs, fimirs, mummies, chaos warriors, and gargoyles. This is a very fun game when played with friends—even more so when the role of the evil Zargon is held by someone with an active imagination and flair for the dramatic. However, not all middle school kids will like this game—but if you have kids with an imagination that likes to roam over the possibilities of the impossible, HeroQuest may be exactly for what they are searching. Numerous additional expansions for this game are available.

Name of Game: Lord of the Rings

Origination date: 2000

Number of Players: 2-5

Length of Play: 60-90 minutes

Level of Intellectual Difficulty: High

Bloom’s New Taxonomy Level: Applying, Analyzing

Costa: Level III

Schank’s Cognitive Process: Influence, Teamwork

Dr. Kid Brain Rating (1-5): 4 Stars ★★★★

Description: The object of the game is to prevent the evil Dark Lord Sauron from acquiring the ring—yes, it’s that Ring—and consequently winning the game. Each player begins as a lowly hobbit, traveling with other adventuring hobbits. The game follows the books and movies in that the drama begins in Bag end and ultimately concludes in Mordor. This is a cooperative game and discussion among teammates is encouraged to survive the pitfalls and obstacles they encounter along the way. This is what makes this game so compelling—the players must work together to survive. The Lord of the Rings can be intimidating at first glance because there are three game boards, evil tiles, activity tiles, tokens, feature cards, character cards, and hobbit cards, among the materials included in the box. But after a bit of study on the rules of the game, middle school kids will be ready to assemble their friends and begin the arduous journey to Mordor. Multiple versions of this game are available for purchase. Middle School kids who dislike fantasy-themed games which require long playing times, will not like this game. However, if they do, it could be a big hit.

Name of Game: Mancala

Origination date: Sixth Century

Number of Players: 2

Length of Play: 15 minutes

Level of Intellectual Difficulty: Low to Moderate

Bloom’s New Taxonomy Level: Applying, Analyzing

Costa: Level I and II

Schank’s Cognitive Process: Experimentation, Evaluation

Dr. Kid Brain Rating (1-5): 4 Stars ★★★★

Description: Mancala is a relatively inexpensive game because it involves only a simple wooden playing board and small stones. The game can be quickly learned and just as quickly played. Don’t be surprised if several middle school kids end up playing six or seven games of Mancala in about an hour. There is very little set-up time so Mancala is great time filler when there isn’t enough time to play a longer game. The object of the game in Mancala is to move stones around the game board and collect more stones than your competitor. Sound easy? It is. Although be warned—two very good players can easily turn this game into a thirty minute slugfest. Mancala is not a very good “car game” however, because middle school kids are sometimes not very good at keeping track of the small stones which are required to play the game. But don’t’ worry, you’ll find the stones when you vacuum out the backseat of your car. You’re certain to hear them rattling up the sides of the vacuum cleaner as they get sucked into the bag. If you are looking for a simple and fast game for middle school kids, but still want them to think, and don’t have a lot of money to spend, Mancala is a good choice.

Name of Game: Mine Shift

Origination date: 2011

Number of Players: 2

Length of Play: 15-30 minutes

Level of Intellectual Difficulty: Moderate to High

Bloom’s New Taxonomy Level: Analyzing, Evaluating

Costa: Level II and III

Schank’s Cognitive Process: Modeling, Experimentation, Diagnosis, Planning

Dr. Kid Brain Rating (1-5): 5 Stars ★★★★

Description: When it’s raining heavily outside or its game day at the local school and you don’t want middle school minds to turn to fudge playing mindless video games or watching television or playing low-level intellectual games, Mine Shift is a great game for several players The object of the game in Mine Shift is to move your four jewels from one corner of the board to the other, while delaying your opponent’s movement by rotating the walls of the mine to suit your purposes. Of course, your opponent can also rotate walls, thus thwarting your goals. This game relies heavily on spatial reasoning skills but can be played in a remarkably short period of time. The rules are simple but this is not a simple game because following a predictable pattern again and again will not necessarily eventually cause any players to eventually emerge as a winner. The actions of the adversary can have a profound effect upon any players own strategy. This game is short and sweet but will make middle school kids think. And how can that be bad?

Name of Game: Number Rings

Origination date: 2002

Number of Players: 2-4

Length of Play: 15-30 minutes

Level of Intellectual Difficulty: Moderate

Bloom’s New Taxonomy Level: Applying, Analyzing

Costa: Level II and III

Schank’s Cognitive Process: Prediction, Planning, Causation

Dr. Kid Brain Rating (1-5): 4 Stars ★★★★

Description: If you have been searching for a fun math game and find your choices to be rather paltry, give Number Rings a chance. This is a very good game and one you can easily play along with middle school kids. Number Rings is similar to Yahtzee in that players roll dice and then use them in various combinations to complete their number rings on the playing board. The first person to complete their assigned quadrant wins the game. Number Rings differs from Yahtzee in that middle school kids can irritate their opponent by blocking them and placing their colored number ring in their quadrant, thus temporarily foiling their plans to win the game. For this reason, I like this game better than Yahtzee. It adds a more intellectual dimension which is lacking in Yahtzee. As a bonus, players can determine, before the game begins, to use the dice to create additional math problems, such as subtraction problems, division problems, or even problems with exponential powers. This is another reason why this is a better game, from an intellectual standpoint, than Yahtzee.

Name of Game: Quoridor

Origination date: 1997

Number of Players: 2-4

Length of Play: 15 minutes

Level of Intellectual Difficulty: Moderate to High

Bloom’s New Taxonomy Level: Analyzing, Evaluating

Costa: Level II and III

Schank’s Cognitive Process: Evaluation, Planning, Judgment

Dr. Kid Brain Rating (1-5): 4 Stars ★★★★

Description: Quoridor is a deceptive game. The rules are very simple and game play appears to be just as easy. The only problem is that Quoridor can be as much of a mental challenge as other games which have far more complex rules and game action. Each middle schooler begins the game with a pawn and ten “gates,” which really are simple pieces of straight wood. Pawns can move one space either vertically or horizontally on a checkers-type game board. The object of the game is to be the first one to move their pawn from one side of the board to the other, while throwing up roadblocks with your “gates” to slow down the opposition. This is a very good game to help improve kids improve their spatial skills while also forcing them to use some of their higher order thinking skills. The play of the game can be very fast or slow, depending on the speed of problem-solving of those playing the game.

Name of Game: Risk

Origination date: 1959

Number of Players: 2-6

Length of Play: 2-4 hours

Level of Intellectual Difficulty: Moderate

Bloom’s New Taxonomy Level: Applying, Analyzing

Costa: Level II

Schank’s Cognitive Process: Diagnosis, Planning

Dr. Kid Brain Rating (1-5): 3 Stars ★★★

Description: Risk has been around for a long time and has been a strategist’s dream game for many a rainy afternoon. The object of the game is for middle school kids to build enough armies and control enough countries so they may annihilate their opponents and rule the world. Risk can last a long time, especially several players are deliberate and hesitate over every possible move. The game designers say a game can be played in just under two hours but I’ve never been involved in a game which has lasted under two hours. It is a fun in a grueling sort of way and the slower-pace of the game may be useful and an antidote for middle school kids who are used to lots of fast-paced video games.

Name of Game: Stratego

Origination date: 1947

Number of Players: 2

Length of Play: 30-60 minutes

Level of Intellectual Difficulty: Moderate

Bloom’s New Taxonomy Level: Analyzing, Evaluating

Costa: Level II

Schank’s Cognitive Process: Diagnosis, Planning, Causation

Dr. Kid Brain Rating (1-5): 4 Stars ★★★★

Description: Stratego is a perfect game for middle school kids who love head-to-head strategic battle games. The object of the game is for kids to capture their enemy’s flag while avoiding having their own playing pieces being blown to bits by enemy bombs or having their high-ranking and powerful Marshall assassinated by the enemy spy they had ignored as it lurked around the center of the playing board. Think of Stratego as a more colorful and modern variation on the ancient game of Chess. (Chess is, though, the more intellectually challenging game.) There are many varieties of this game on the marketplace and you may have some difficulty finding the original. There are newer and better variations of this game, but that hasn’t stopped many parents and teachers from trying to indoctrinate their middle school child on the wonders of the original Stratego they grew up playing.

Name of Game: Talisman

Origination date: 1983

Number of Players: 2-6

Length of Play: 60-120 minutes

Level of Intellectual Difficulty: High

Bloom’s New Taxonomy Level: Analyzing, Evaluating

Costa: Level II

Schank’s Cognitive Process: Modeling, Diagnosis, Judgment

Dr. Kid Brain Rating (1-5): 5 Stars ★★★★

Description: If your middle school kid(s) loves fantasy and adventure games, they most likely will be enthralled with Talisman. The object of the game is to travel the board until reaching the Crown of Command. Once there, the kid will cast spells to eliminate their opponents from the game. Of course, along their path to the Crown of Command, their character must navigate rivers, cities, avoid being turned into a toad, collect goals and lives, and survive attacks by animals, dragons, monsters, spirits, and the other players in the adventure. This will be a long game so expect several hours to lapse before someone emerges as the winner. Kids will either love this game or think Talisman is “stupid” because the setting and characters are right out of a high fantasy story line. Recently, there has been renewed interest in this game and additional expandable sets are available.

Name of Game: The Hobbit

Origination date: 2001

Number of Players: 2-6

Length of Play: 30-45 minutes

Level of Intellectual Difficulty: Moderate

Bloom’s New Taxonomy Level: Applying

Costa: Level II

Schank’s Cognitive Process: Prediction, Planning

Dr. Kid Brain Rating (1-5): 3 Stars ★★★

Description: The object of this game is to accumulate adventure points and jewels, defeat the dragon Smaug, and become King under the Mountain. During the journey kids will travel on a circular game board which includes the Misty Mountains, the Carrock, Mirkwood, Long Lake, the Edge of the Wild, and the Desolation of Smaug, all places from the original book by J.R.R. Tolkien on which the game is based. This game is not as difficult as a similar game, The Lord of the Rings so if you want to introduce middle school kids to a traditional strategic game board involving a spin-off of the work of J.R.R. Tolkien, this may be the best place to start. The Hobbit, however, does not have the cooperative aspect of The Lord of the Rings game. In The Hobbit game, it’s pretty much every hobbit for themselves. Kids who like the fantasy aspect of gaming will enjoy this game.

Name of Game: Tic-Tac-Ku

Origination date: 2008

Number of Players: 2-4

Length of Play: 15-45 minutes

Level of Intellectual Difficulty: High

Bloom’s New Taxonomy Level: Evaluating, Creating

Costa: Level II and III

Schank’s Cognitive Process: Prediction, Experimentation

Dr. Kid Brain Rating (1-5): 5 Stars ★★★★

Description: After playing Tic-Tac-Ku you may never want to go back to playing regular Tic-Tac-Toe again. The object of the game in Tic-Tac-Ku—in head-to-head competition—is to be the first player to capture five of the nine playing zones on the board. Each playing zone is a gridded nine space (3 x 3) area. The twist in this game is that after the first player places their wooden marble in any of the nine playing zones, the next player is limited in their choice as to where they can place their own wooden marble. If the first player puts their marble in an upper row on the 3 x 3 grid, the next player must place their marble anywhere in one of the upper playing zones on the larger 9 x 9 grid board. Sound confusing? It’s not, once you get the hang of the game. Play continues in this fashion until a winner in a zone emerges by lining up three marbles in a row. Then the winning marble is marked so everyone knows who “won” that zone. This process continues until one of the players wins five out of the nine zones. Tic-Tac-Ku is a wonderful game for spatial reasoning while trying to outwit your opponent. This is not your grandfather’s Tic-Tac-Toe. This version is far more challenging.

Name of Game: Ticket to Ride

Origination date: 2004

Number of Players: 2-5

Length of Play: 30-60 minutes

Level of Intellectual Difficulty: Moderate

Bloom’s New Taxonomy Level: Analyzing

Costa: Level II and III

Schank’s Cognitive Process: Modeling, Experimentation, Planning

Dr. Kid Brain Rating (1-5): 4 Stars ★★★★

Description: Ticket to Ride is known as a “gateway game” in the board game industry. A “gateway game” is a relatively easy way to be introduced to the sometimes confusing world of strategic empire building games. Ticket to Ride, at first glance, can appear complicated but it’s really not. The game designers have done a good job of making a very attractive game board with cards and playing pieces. The object of the game in Ticket to Ride is to accumulate more points than your enemies through building a railroad empire across early America. In addition, each kid has a secret destination ticket which they must complete before the end of the game. Kids also win points by having the longest continuous route between cities. Of course, your opponents can steal railroad lines from you if you aren’t paying attention. This game can easily be played by family members of all ages and won’t take an entire afternoon or evening.

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