September 21, 2011
My children are only six and three, and my wife is not much of a game-player. So until recently, when it came to research on board games of any kind, I was kinda on my own. (Video games, of course, are another story—even the three-year-old loves them already. Scary. But I digress...)
Happily for my continuing attempts to relive my own board game–laden childhood, though, Dash has now reached an age and attention span that allows for options more advanced than Hi Ho Cherry-O. We just introduced him to Clue, for instance, and that was a great success, once I got over my horror that they've changed the rules a bit in the 25-plus years since I played it last. (I'm still trying to find my old version in the attic.)
What's really fun to find, though, is a new game that's simple enough for kids this age, but also smart enough to engage not only kids' minds, but those of the adults who'll inevitably be playing with them. Even better, at least for my family's current needs, is one that's made for just two players, not four-but-you-can-sort-of-play-lamely-with-fewer—and such games are very hard to find.
Quallop, which melds dominoes with a 2-D version of Connect Four to invent a novel strategic challenge of its own, qualifies. The goal is to get four of your shape in a row on the board, horizonally, vertically, or diagonally, before the other player does; the trick is that the game is played with two-sided, domino-style cards—which can be played on top of existing ones (according to specific rules). So your brilliant strategy to get your four-in-a-row going in the lower left corner of the board can be demolished with one card play from your youthful opponent. The strategy is both easy enough for a six-year-old to get his head around, and complex enough to allow for reasonably long games.
As if that weren't enough, the design and packaging are excellent as well—this is a Chronicle Books product, after all: The board folds into a nifty little colorful case that encompasses all the cards and the rule sheet, then holds itself closed thanks to a hidden magnet. Obviously, this makes Quallop a pretty fabulous travel game; I think it's going to be come a stand-by on our trips this fall and winter.
[Photos: Whitney Webster]