The Tao of Gaming

Boardgames and lesser pursuits

What should a Kid’s Game teach?

Beyond a certain point, games only teach things about that game. For all of it’s intellectual appearance, a chess master just evaluating a position and calculates a search tree. Which isn’t to say that those skills are wasted …. being able to look ahead and say “If I Do X, then my opponent will do Y” and go through several ply of moves … that’s a huge skill for kids.

But does it translate to anything? In real life, you don’t get such solid answers as chess provides. Perhaps Bridge is a better training, since you can make the correct play and still wind up losing. That’s not a bad lesson. Is Dominion a good game? Less rote than chess, but you have to analyze a board and come up with a plan. Perhaps a bit too much luck, but again, them’s the breaks.

Which is a roundabout method of saying that the youngest Taoling asked to learn Dominion. He didn’t do horribly (although I nudge him towards a reasonable setup), and he earned a tie in one of the games. (Like many new players, he was infatuated by too many actions).

Anyway, for the most part this is just us playing a game, but in looking at it I’m not sure it’s less useful than Chess. If nothing else he’ll learn how to shuffle. Eventually.


Written by taogaming

January 23, 2011 at 9:43 pm

Posted in Ramblings

Tagged with ,

4 Responses

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  1. Greyson (age 8) now has about 10 games each of Dominion and Thunderstone under his belt. You failed to mention the key thing that a child can learn that has tremendous lifetime value:

    Be Ready On Your Turn!

    Every time he would get to his turn and didn’t know how much gold he had, or wasn’t ready to pick Village/Dungeon, we’d nag, nag, nag him. He’s gotten MUCH better. Now, on 90%+ of the turns, he has a plan when it gets to him. And yes, he’s also learned how to shuffle, a bit at least. He’s also gotten much better at not overdoing the actions (as badly) and in Thunderstone is better than me at simply discarding a card rather than buying something from the Village.

    Charles, age 7, has now played 5 games of Thunderstone and has picked up the ‘play quickly’ lesson even faster. He usually lets me shuffle, but he does some of his own as well, and he does a great job of being ready with his questions (usually how does light work) when his turn comes.

    I think that in life in general, teaching the skill to, under time pressure, think about what action to take when it is your opportunity, is more important than most of Chess’s lessons. That said, the lesson I’ve always taken from Chess is the importance of preparation and studying. A bright person can win early games of Dominion against experienced players, not just via luck, but thanks to creativity and inspiration. That simply doesn’t happen in Chess. Without studying earlier games, theory, tactics, counters, etc., you’ll never beat someone who has. I’ve already pointed that out to the boys as a way of emphasizing the value of practice and preparation.

    Of course, I hate that about Chess, as I have no interest in devoting that kind of time to a single game (see also Bridge).

    Lou W

    January 23, 2011 at 10:12 pm

    • (see also Bridge).

      Another life lesson — three little words can be the difference between praise and scorn.

      Actually, my favorite life lesson from Dominion is that if I now refer to the DMV (etc) as Bureaucrats, Taoling will now hate them and try to retreat via Moat.


      January 23, 2011 at 10:24 pm

  2. A couple of thought:

    1. A game “should” teach what the child is ready to learn at his level of development.

    2. For all ages, playing games teaches us how to have fun. Hopefully, in a socially appropriate manner.


    January 25, 2011 at 12:17 pm

  3. Traditionally you get taught games in order to promote your war-fighting/diplomatic ability.

    Fred Bush

    January 25, 2011 at 10:36 pm

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