Our Quest: Designing fantasy board games for kids
Updated: Jun 3
The Quest Kids board game funded and is shipping in late-summer 2020! You can pre-order the game by CLICKING HERE.
I love playing board games with my family. I grew up playing cards with my grandma and HeroQuest with my brother. Before my wife and I were outnumbered by kids one of our favorite date nights was a good game of Dominion, Libertalia, Steam Park, or another quality board game. So, now that I am a dad of a five year old, three year old and 2 week old I am not surprised to find that I also love playing board games with my kids.
However, in my opinion the best board games for kids are games that kids can actually play with minimal adult assistance. They are family board games where a child can be transported to a creative world, understand the rules of this new world, make their own decisions and experience the delight when those actions move them closer to their goal. I mean, that's what board games are all about, right?
My goal in developing The Quest Kids board game was to create an exciting, accessible, high-quality fantasy experience for children as young as five years old to enjoy with their families. To create an entry-level experience to one of my favorite board game genres: the dungeon crawler*. My hope is that The Quest Kids is one of the first board games a child plays and that the experience helps foster a curiosity and interest in this wonderful hobby.
*For the non-super nerds a "dungeon crawler" is loosely defined as a board game where a group of fantasy heroes explores a mysterious location (usually a dungeon) in search of treasure and glory. Some of the more popular board games in the dungeon crawler genre include the classic HeroQuest, the current hotness Gloomhaven and The Lord of the Rings: Journeys in Middle-Earth, and other great titles like Descent: Journeys in the Dark and Arcadia Quest.
So, how did I approach developing a non-reading-age kids game in a genre that usually features complex iconography, heavy rule books and more than three-hour play times? In future blog posts I'll explore each of these items in greater detail, but here are five things that I focused on to provide a family board game experience that both young kids and seasoned fantasy nerds could enjoy:
Heroic heroes and fun bad guys. Theme theme theme. In my opinion a game's theme is one of its most important attributes. That is especially true for a fantasy board game and especially especially true for a fantasy board game for kids. Our fantastic artist on this game is Apolline Etienne and she has created a kid-friendly fantasy world full of classic heroes, fun bad guys and mysterious locations.
Quick Adventurous Turns. Nobody likes long turns (especially heroic kids). It was important for the turns to be quick, yet still packed with fun, thematic choices. The main choice in the game is deciding which dungeon tile to explore. Depending on a player's choice they will either find treasure, complete a quest, uncover special powers or encounter a bad guy.
Toys, Treasure and Triumph. I didn't want to over think things with this one. Both kids and parents love fun treasure and scoring points. The Quest Kids features giant, articulating hero figures (more info on these soon), chunky plastic gems (see the picture above) and an easy end game scoring system of counting stars.
Cooperation is Cool. The Quest Kids is a competitive board game (the player with the most stars at the end is the winner). However, the game greatly encourages cooperation between players through its KIND KID CARD system. In fact, the most generous player usually wins the game!
High-Quality Production. Just because I want The Quest Kids to be one of the first board games a child plays, that doesn't mean I want it to be a cheap production. Actually, I want the exact opposite. I'm working with the best in the industry to provide a fantasy board game that kids will love and parents will appreciate. I'd love for the game to be of such high quality that it is capable of either being a prized possession on a child's toy shelf or sitting proudly in an extensive board game collection.
There are a lot of other great board games for kids that offer this type of experience to families. Here's a list of a few of my family's favorite family board games:
MY FIRST CARCASSONNE: a simplified version of the legendary classic. This game is difficult to find at a reasonable price, but if you stumble upon a copy I highly recommend it.
MONZA: a Haba dice-rolling racing game that teaches decision making and does a great job of building tension as you head towards the finish line.
MICE & MYSTICS: this board game from Plaid Hat Games is tremendous. It is a dungeon crawler for older kids. In my opinion it is the perfect next choice after your kids have worn out their copy of The Quest Kids :)
What are the most important elements you consider when picking a family board game? What do you consider to be the best board games for kids? Let me know in the comments below.