Saturday, August 14, 2010

Clue Treasure Hunts for kids

This past winter, at the suggestion of David Saff, I started creating "treasure hunts" for my kids, partially as an activity to enhance reading vocabulary, but mostly for fun. The hunts take the form of a bunch of index cards on which I write a clue, like so:

The kids read the clue and go to wherever it says, and find another clue:


Finally, at the end of the hunt they find a "treasure", which for us is just a poker chip which they then put in their treasure bag which acts as a log of all the hunts they've done. A white poker chip is at the end of a short 5-clue hunt, a red at the end of a 8-clue hunt, a blue at the end of a 12-clue hunt and a gold chip at the end of a 18-clue hunt. At this point I've got a stack of 50+ clues which are more or less complete composable into new hunts, meaning that it's easy to set-up a new hunt by hiding clues relatively quickly and soon the kids are off to the races. These treasure hunts have been a rousing success, with some of the clues getting a star on them, indicating they are suitable for reading by my son, who's not quite reading age yet. I highly recommend these hunts to any parent with children around age 5 or 6.

As they got better at the basic hunts, I added more complex clues, including fill-in-the-blank clues and dictionary clues. The fill-in-the-blank clues look like this:
So, under the couch they might find the word "behind" and on the red chair they might find the phrase "the TV", and the next instruction would be found behind the TV. For dictionary clues, they would be given a dictionary of nonsense words at the beginning of the hunt and the clue would be of the form "Look flurb the siddy boff." and they'd have to decode the clue with the dictionary.

So, for Genevieve's 6th birthday party, I decided to have an elaborate multi-stage treasure hunt. The goal of the hunt was to rescue/find 4 fairies hidden around the yard. But, in order to find the fairies, you needed to follow clues on treasure hunts, like the ones I described. But, in order to get the first clue for each treasure hunt, the kids needed to "buy" the clue with treasures. In order to get the treasures, they had to go on "Quests" and complete "Challenges" which were essentially various little backyard birthday party games. A kid would complete a Quest and they'd get treasure, like "1 silver ring and 2 red hearts" and another would complete a Challenge and get "2 gold coins and a blue gem", etc. Then to buy the clues they'd have some large combination price like "1 blue gem, 5 gold coins, 1 silver ring, 5 red hearts", like so:

Buying a clue

During the course of the individual fairy treasure hunts, some of the individual clues, rather than specifying a location, would say "Bring 1 gold coin, 1 blue gem and 1 silver ring to the Royal Court." (The Royal Court was the grownups) meaning they'd have to see if they had enough resources or they'd do more challenges/quests.

As the party approached and I explained the plan to family & friends, I got a lot of raised eyebrows expressing skepticism as to whether the whole thing was a bit complex for 6-year-olds. The party came and it was an outstanding success; the kids understood it without difficulty and had an absolute blast. I highly recommend it.

Friday, January 1, 2010

2009 Games Summary

I managed to hit the one-game-per-day threshold just barely this year. Gaming with the kids has continued to progress, and that's allowed us to start hosting more gaming. Hopefully, lots more in 2010. There's still lots of good gaming at lunch at work, though my personal amount of play has gone down a bit. Race and Dominion dominated again, and overall another good year of gaming.

My kids are great gamers. My 5-year-old now plays real games, and is beginning to learn some actual tactics, and my 3-year-old finally has enough patience for an extended (ie 20 minute) game. Non-kids' games successfully played with kids include: Quoridor, Twixt, Zig Zag, Chess, Pitch Car, Pingvinas, Blokus Trigon, Dvonn, and a variety of others, focused on abstracts.

Overall Stats
  • 365 Games Played
    • 44% at home (family & guests)
    • 15% at work
    • 22% regular gaming group
    • 12% "events" (eg, Unity Games)
    • 7% other friends' homes
  • 192 different Titles
  • 141 days with at least one game played
  • 54 new-to-me games played
  • Gamed with 162 different people
  • 33 new games or expansions acquired
Top Games
  • 44 games of Race for the Galaxy
  • 43 games of Dominion
  • 9 games of Electronic Catchphrase
  • 8 games of Connect Four
  • 7 games of Viva Topo!
  • 6 games of Loopin' Louie
  • 5 games of Quoridor
  • 5 games of The Adventurers
  • 5 games of Go Away Monster!

New Games
The kids' game success of the year was clearly Viva Topo! which I picked up at Danger Planet when they had their store closing clearance. It's a nice push your luck race game, which is a mechanic that works well with kids.

Among the adult games, only the expansions for Race and Dominion really stand out. Three Commandments, The Adventurers, Ghost Stories and At the Gates of Loyang were all very good, but none are breakout hits.

Ten Years of Games

I have been tracking the games I play now for 10 years. I tracked games some in '97, '98 and '99, but didn't start keeping really good records until 2000. In this past decade, I played:
  • 4480 games: 1.2 games/day
  • 1060 titles: 2 new titles/week
  • 1267 different days: 2.4 days/week
  • with 977 different people: 8 new people/month
Top People
Of the top ten people (by number of games played) my wife and daughter are #1 and #10. Of the remaining eight, two (FR & ET) are folks I game with every month, two are people I've gamed with many times a year for the entire decade (RS & SD) and four are four are people who I gamed with a lot and then they moved away.

Top Games
The following 30 games got 20 or more plays in the decade:

100+: Electronic Catchphrase, Race for the Galaxy, Crokinole
50+: Dominion, Call My Bluff, Speed
40+: Battle Line, 6 nimmt!, Geister, Spin Ball, Can't Stop
30+: For Sale, Zirkus Flohcati, Apples to Apples, Light Speed, Loopin' Louie, Trans America, Knockabout
20+: Pente, Ra, Carcassonne, Puerto Rico, Go Away Monster!, Blue Moon, Hick Hack in Gacklewack, Werewolf, Heroscape, Flinke Pinke, San Juan, Princes of Florence

A few games that didn't make the 20 plays threshold, but deserve mention from this decade, for me: Descent, Traumfabrik, Vinci, Fiese Freunde Fette Feten, RoboRally, Power Grid, Schnaeppchen Jagd, Goa, Battlestations, Medici, Fresh Fish & Medina.

Every Year
Only four games got played every year of the decade, because well, a lot of great games came out during the past decade. Those four are Igel Argern, Can't Stop, 6 nimmt! and Ra. A bunch of games managed to hit 9/10 years though: Medici, Knockabout, Crokinole, Basari, Battle Line, Call my Bluff, Lord of the Rings, For Sale, Zirkus Flohcati, Speed, Electronic Catchphrase & Apples to Apples.

Year-by-year breakdown
Year    Games   New     Diff    Ses     Ppl
1997 ~30
1998 ~100
1999 ~150 63
2000 301 112 141 126 129
2001 712 172 266 175 165
2002 650 161 279 163 241
2003 552 128 272 129 180
2004 470 80 212 112 216
2005 429 92 208 124 236
2006 365 84 205 83 216
2007 256 73 153 78 170
2008 370 66 168 140 159
2009 365 54 192 141 162