And then… well… I got side-tracked.
But I still need to go back and finish what I started, so that's on this week's agenda.
* type of competition - direct, indirect, cooperative, or mixed
* luck vs. strategy - how the game balances luck against critical thinking
* playing time - how long it takes to play the game
And now we turn to the final thing you need to know about a game: whether or not all of the players are still in the game at the end. I call this "player elimination."
If you ever played Monopoly, then first, you have my sympathy. Second, you also know about player elimination, which is the game mechanic that sits at the heart of Monopoly and many other mass-market American board games from the big names such as Hasbro, Milton Bradley and Mattel.
Player elimination is a very common and easy way to determine who wins a game. Are you the last player standing? Is everyone else bankrupt, crushed or otherwise reduced to sniveling heaps? Awesome! You win. Congratulations.
But before you get too awfully excited, let's check for one more thing: Is anyone still speaking to you? Did everybody have fun in the game or are you the only one celebrating?
To be clear about this, I have no problem with player elimination in games like chess or checkers. After all, that's what the games are about.
But, putting on my Dad hat for a moment, let's go back to our goals for playing games with the kids because they'll help us properly frame this moment.
So, why are we playing games with the kids? Yes, it's a great way to spend low-stress time with your kids. Absolutely, the right board games build connection and communication. Can anyone in the class come up with another reason?
Yes, in the back? Yes, you. What? Ah ha!! Yes!! That's the answer I was looking for. We're playing games with our kids to build memories for ALL of us, parents and kids alike.
If your family is severely competitive, that's great. Go for it. Knock yourselves out.
But, it can be hard to make warm memories with your kids when someone is crying and somebody else is saying "that's a stupid game," and "you won because you're just lucky."
Do any of those sound familiar? I thought so. I feel your pain.
But is there an alternative to player elimination in games? Indeed there is.
Making sure that all players continue through the end of the game is a common mechanic in German board games. These games, commonly called "Eurogames" or "designer board games," usually engage all players all the way to the end.
Instead of figuring out who won by eliminating the other possibilities, these games use a scoring mechanism of some kind that tracks victory points, money earned or some other measure of success.
Most importantly, though, nobody's crying at the end of the game because their feelings were hurt or because their sibling conspired with Dad to knock them out of the running.
Experiences like those do not make warm memories.
Go back to your goal. If a particular game doesn't support your goal, then it's not the right game for you and your family. It's that simple. Start with your goal, check on the four keys to finding a great game, then make your decision.
And start making warm memories.
Next week, we'll delve further (finally!) into the world of Eurogames as we talk about how designer games work and why they're such tremendous fun to enjoy with your family. Until then, keep on playing!