Inside the Mind of a 3 Year Old

April 21, 2012

A few nights ago my girls, ages 3 and 5, asked to play a game. They decided to try a new (to us) game: Battle Line. This is a game where you are trying to make your best formation on your side of 9 different flags. Formation strength is loosely based on the best 3-card poker hand (Straight flush, 3 of a kind, etc.) and the best formation wins the flag. For my daughters it was essentially a matching game.

I dealt the cards, explained the rules and off they went. The game was going along well. Both girls happily matching numbers and grinning whenever they got to play an elephant or horse.

The happy generals commanding their troops.

However, as the game went on they hit a snag. They couldn’t match their numbers anymore. I re-explained that they could also match colors or try to get cards in a row (like a 4-5-6). Ellie (age 5) understood and quickly started to match her colors with the rest of her cards. Addy (age 3) just stopped playing. She claimed she couldn’t play any of her cards even after explaining she could match colors. I helped her finish the game by essentially playing the rest of her cards for her. Ellie won 5 flags to 3.

My wife was out at the time so when she got back I was relaying the fun we had playing a game, but Addy didn’t finish. She reminded me of an experiment a few days before that explained everything.

I’m not sure exactly how we got involved, but over the years we’ve gotten invitations for our kids to participate in child psychology/development studies at the University of Minnesota. The kids get compensated with snacks, t-shirts, and other “prizes” in exchange for doing a few simple tasks. I have a science background and my wife an early childhood education background so we were both eager to help and see the results of these studies.

This time Addy had been chosen to help out with a study. The researcher told Addy they were going to play a matching game. Addy was shown cards with colors and shapes on them and asked to sort them by color. Addy flawlessly sorted the cards 3 times. Then the researcher asked her to sort the cards by shape. Instead, Addy again sorted them by color. The researcher said that before she could sort them again they needed to scoot the table over a bit. Addy and the women stood up and adjusted the table and then sat back down. She was asked again to sort by shape and this time she sorted them by shape just fine.

At a certain age the ability to change a pattern is an easy switch for your brain to make. However, in younger children it requires a bit more of a reset for them to change. Just the act of standing up and being distracted by something else for a few seconds was enough for Addy to make that reset. Obviously that change in our brains occurs sometime between the ages of 3 and 5 as Ellie was able to make that transition while Addy could not.

I’m eager to have the girls try Battle Line again and watch their choice pattern over the course of the game. This may help explain her decision making skills in other games. I’ll have to remember this in the future and help Addy to “reset” during the game when she gets stuck.

Another Game Day in Honor of St. Patrick

April 8, 2012

Two years after our first St. Patrick’s game day and party evening, we did it all over again…and it was good. The number of adults playing dropped substantially, but the number of kids on the scene increased dramatically (hmm, funny how that works out). And the beautiful weather outside–78 F on a Saturday in March in Minnesota–definitely meant folks had lots of early spring choices outdoors. But we had a blast regardless.

First up, a four player game of Cuba around 11 AM. My wife and I had never played before, but Rick was happy to teach us. The board was beautiful, there were a lot of wooden playing pieces being grown/produced/shipped/sold, and, unlike some Euro style games where I cannot figure out what the heck is going on, this game clicked after about one turn of play. I love that there is a “legislature” and that I got to spend all game happily making cigars and shipping them to wealthy Americanos. Rick won, I took second place just two points behind him.

Homemade pretzels and board games. Nom nom nom.

Next up, lunch. Feasting took place. Hurray! I put on a green shirt finally to celebrate the day. After lunch, Rick, my wife, and I sat down to play a game that recently arrived on my doorstep, Cosmic Karma. We quickly read through the rules and began playing. After a turn or two of looking up rules interactions, things began to click and we had a good time. While this is not normally my style of game (“roll and move” mechanic) we enjoyed ourselves and it was light enough that we could hold a conversation and play.

Oooh, pretty mandala board. 

Our third game of the day was Hare and Tortoise. Our friends Russ and Lily joined in for this one. This was also brand new (to me, anyway!) and I really liked how the presence of other rabbit racing players near my token limited my choices. You can’t plan too far ahead, but you also have to be aware of who is in what position on the board. And apparently, unlike in the animal kingdom, you get penalized for hoarding because you can’t cross the finish line with too many carrots. (This led to my demise.) Lily cruised to a first place finish while I had to sit on the last space and “munch carrots.”

High five for theme-appropriate snacks!

We finished our afternoon with a few rounds of 7 Wonders and a full table of players. And man, did the dining room table fill up fast with cards! I won the first round with the Colossus of Rhodes (A side), but took last place using the Statue of Zeus in Olympia (A side) in the second game. I always enjoy the good-natured griping that occurs in this game. It’s fun hearing, “Who shuffled the deck?” and the like.

Rick is the most accusatory of the Margineers.

After this, folks arrived for dinner and the games were put away in favor of other pursuits. And while it was a smaller game day than two years ago, we still had a lot of fun and will likely do it again! Thanks to all who came.

C & C: Napoleonics: Combat at Redinha Scenario

April 1, 2012

Just one day after my victory at Bussaco, my brother and I sat down for a third time to play Commands & Colors: Napoleonics. After pouring some fine homebrew, Blockade Runner ESB, into pint glasses, our version of the Combat at Redinha commenced. Once again Mike took the doughty Allied forces, while I played the upstart French.

First let me say that this looks like one of the most balanced scenarios in the base game. Again the Allies have a fun mix of average and specialized units, including the Guards Grenadiers and Grenadiers. The French have fewer units, but I believe that the terrain, including two large stands of trees on their left and right flank, favors them.

Early Battle
With a few games under his belt, Mike was definitely more cautious at the start. He gradually linked his left and center armies, pushing for the stand of trees on the French right, which I quickly vacated. Specifically, I wanted to pull my horse artillery back a bit so it could cover the gap in the hill line in my right-center:

Notice the gap between the hills in the right-center of the board. I'm trying to move my horse artillery to cover that gap.

The action then heated up on my right flank as the British made a hard push and I couldn’t evacuate my line infantry in time (1 banner to the British), though I did chew up the British lights a bit to the point where they were a non-issue the rest of the game. Undaunted, Mike sent in his light cavalry to tangle with my own, resulting in my unit being severely depleted. I then moved them out of the way and gave his troopers a face-ful of canister!

The impetuous British cavalry drive home the attack…
…only to be destroyed by a 1 in 216 roll from General John.

Mid Battle
As the British brought fresh troops forward, I linked the French left and center and waited for the final blow. I realized too late, however, that I had made a critical mistake. In letting the British come to me, I was largely backed up against my side of the field, which meant very little room to maneuver (or is it manoeuvre?). To make things worse, I kept pulling cards for the right section of the battlefield, where very little was going on. The British Guards Grenadiers came forward and pushed my skirmishers out of the woods. I cringed and waited for the final blow to fall…

The British begin their final push.

End of Battle
Once again, it all ended in chaos and carnage. Mike advanced a strong line of British Grenadiers and Portuguese line infantry. They took the hills in the center of the map and stared down on the center of my line. The battle looked like it might be decided by dice alone…that is, until my opponent pulled out his “Fire and Hold” card. With three rolls of the dice, he wiped two of my units from the field and left the remaining three in the center the worse for wear.

The French get peppered by musket fire.

Again, the cards weren’t coming. I feebly fired back and moved over another unit of line infantry, hoping to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. But one more volley from the Allies and it was over:

Alas, the bitter end.

Although I lost by a wide margin (6 to 3), I learned a lot in this scenario about keeping enough room behind you to effectively maneuver and cycle fresh troops and depleted units. This was one of my favorite plays of C&C:N so far, in part because my brother is getting really good at the game!

Stay tuned for more Napoleonics goodness in a few weeks…