Board gaming 2021: minis are back, baby!

I strongly back @Mike_Cathcart suggestion of Marvel United. It has hit a sweet spot for family time (future step daughters), non-gamer fiance, and super grizzled gamer. It is crazy simple in mechanics, and yet offers solid tactical and resource based puzzles. It moves really fast and pushes cooperation without alpha gaming. It might be one of Eric Lang’s most subtle and elegant designs. Plus, cute Marvel draws the eyes.

Best start is a core set from Target. Then price and options explode. Best add would be to jump into the now ending X-Men KS (less than 24 hrs) to get at least another core plus stretch goal box for lots of bang per buck. The game excels off more since everything can be played together in combination. Unlike other KS games, expansions get opened and played with United.

As @Shieldwolf suggests, Krosmaster Arena is a good one too. That one broke the ice between me and one of the future step daughters so it has a special place in my heart. Start with Krosmaster Jr or a core 2.0 box off Amazon depending on how complex you want to start/ feels right for your daughter.

Between the two, I think Marvel is the better choice. It has opened the door on game and non game experiences; currently both girls have been asking to watch and rewatch Marvel movies together. You can play Marvel United instantly via TTS if you want to try before buy. I did, and I’m glad I did. I’m in super deep now with after market prices, but it’s been an outstanding sweet spot game option. To me, very worth the bridges it’s built along with keeping me engaged as a gamer.

Edit: if you watch reviews of Marvel United, the core box or core only plays tend to be easy and light. There is lots of headroom as you expand. The core box is designed to be the easiest and most accessible entry point. I also think “light” gets misused instead of elegant. It is approachable, yet offers meat. Again, highly rececammed, especially given your specific situation.

Oh nice. I had seen it around, but don’t think I realized it was the same basic system.

That would probably be a great idea then. And Restoration Games, aka Rob Daviau, aka the original designer for Epic Duels.


I think light is appropriate. It’s a strong design, with few moving parts. You can, I think, have a lot more moving parts and still be elegant, but have a game that I think would better justify the price and space considerations MU does. (Or you could have light and elegant like MU, but a much tighter and less expensive package. The combination meant I’m going to skip it despite having enjoyed trying it on TTS.)

And some licensed characters, like Buffy. Just not Star Wars, so far.

Sure, I’ll expound a bit, but thanks for all these suggestions! I’ll need to YouTube some reviews for some of these, but I’ve already dropped Santorini in my Amazon cart, seems like slam dunk for playing with the kids.

When I mean tactical, I suppose I’m relating to movement and positioning and using abilities that compliment, compound, and ideally, involve attrition and sacrifice. I feel like a lot of the games my wife has picked up involve clever permutations of weighing the odds and accruing points by managing timing and risk, but they don’t have that managing of units and applying them dynamic that I like. Even something like King of Tokyo, which we do all like, which has fun character cutouts and a ‘map’, is about health points and abilities and timing and risk, not positioning and overlapping and reinforcement etc.

Xwing, sure, that would be ok if it wasn’t Star Wars and laser fighting, but literally transplant it into a hot air balloon game where you’re tossing sandbags into your opponents baskets to make you go up and them down to win would be great!

In a way, I’m thinking of Chess, on a modular 3D terrain map, and rather than simple annihilation, objectives for your pieces to achieve, with a cutesy skin over the top of it. Myth TFL Territories, with bunnies rather than zombies. A lot of tactical games I know of are made to make you buy endless expansions and minis, can be sprawling, and are mature in theme…(Batteltech, Xwing, warhammer etc.) all things I don’t want.

I don’t really think dungeon crawlers or exploration games do it, I think my daughter would enjoy the narrative for a while but to entice the wife to play with us it needs to be tight, have obvious win conditions, not a winding grind through rooms, as too often it’s just a slog to see if you’re character lives or dies early. We do like Labyrinth, though!

I’ll look into a lot of these suggestions. My Little Scythe is intriguing, thematically spot on, not sure if it ticks all my boxes but in the end, any good game will do!

I’m impressed. I don’t think many children go for this.

Yes, kidding.

Games my wife has brought to her job as a teacher are Survive, Carcasonne and Splendor. Those have gone over well.

Command and Colours Ancients? A bit of an out there suggestion but I would have thought an 8 year old could pick it up…

I feel this might be why I’m having difficulty finding a modern game that suits my brief, most tactical games are in the historical/scifi/fantasy battle-to-the-death category, where there are multitudes of them (and if it wasn’t for the kids and wife, I’d still be all in there). It seems hard to find that style of gameplay with a more frivolous thematic wrapper, or that use those mechanics for objectives other than direct confrontation.

(I don’t think there’s anything wrong with introducing my daughter to historical battles, she does have a mild curiosity for the subject, just not sure it’s the right investment in time and effort right now.)

How have we ended up recommending Gaslands and Command and Colors in this thread and rejecting ROOT?? It seems made to order.

(Santorini and Unmatched being other good suggestions.)

I didn’t recommend those 2 (I think they aren’t ideal given the whimsy, approachable theme constraints). That’s why the tactical games I recommended had more to do with dealing with minis / tokens on a map for various game mechanics which are kid friendly.

But I’m also one of the people who think Root is wrong for an 8 year old. Although it very much depends on their patience, I guess. How many 8 year olds do you know who would want to be sitting through the rules for 2 or 3 asymmetric faction powers and victory conditions on top of the main game rules? None of my 4 kids would have at that age. And they have all been boardgamers since around that age or younger. That’s very much a question for the parent, I guess. Maybe Root would be good. I would not start my tactical journey with my kid using that one though.

Krosmaster Arena, I heard, is supposed to be a good tactical battle game. I never came around to buy it, but behind the funny chibi figures is a solid game (so I heard in reviews).

My 9 y/o son had no problem with Root and did first-order tactics (how do I use my abilities to gain advantage, and how do I stymie my opponent) right away. (Second order is: how do I anticipate my opponent’s actions and counter them, which I find is where kids lose the plot.) Our problem was we could never get my daughter to play and 2-player Root is weak, even with AI opponents.

Yeah, I don’t necessarily disagree that 8 is early for Root, but an 8 year old isn’t going to be playing a strategically nuanced game of Santorini either. With nearly any of the games that have come up, it’s about easing them in to the kind of thinking required to play. You don’t exactly need to teach someone every aspect of Root for them to play. Let them pick their favorite faction and learn it over repeated games, while being exposed to the factions played by others at the table.

I would recommend a bajillion family friendly eurogames before I recommended Root in this case, but it doesn’t seem like spiff is looking for Incan Gold or Lost Cities or Machi Koro… Any chess-like tactical game is going to challenge an 8 year old. I still think Root might be the most accessible.

I’m kinda glad to see dissenting opinions. Because while Root would not be for my kids, it looks awesome on the table. And very inviting.

My problem with Root as a suggestion is it, to me, seems to fail completely at the type of tactical experience that Spiffy is looking for. And while I agree there are many euro games I would suggest over root for that age, I distinctly feel that it is straying further from the goal.

Mice and Mystics seems like a great fit that was brought up earlier in thread. And in looking there is an aerial tactical game in that world called Tail Feathers. @spiffy maybe check that out, it might be more in line with what you are looking for. It’s not the theorized hot air balloons, but it is birds and mice riding them.

Stuffed Fables is another by the same designer, but I don’t know much about it. However it seems to be in line with tactical game with kid friendly weight and theming.

Tail Feathers does indeed take heavy inspiration from X-Wing. But it’s also kind of a half-finished concept. It works ok and is really fun with great minis, but there are places throughout the rulebook that strongly suggest it’s meant to be a base set for a series of expansions/campaigns… which never happened because Jerry Hawthorne is always chasing new shiny and can’t be bothered to develop old shiny. That said, it could also function pretty well as a way to unleash kids’ creativity. Have them design their own modules. And it integrates with the Mice & Mystics characters.

I don’t know Mice and Mystics, but I love what Hawthorne seems to be trying to do with his storybook series. However, he’s absolutely terrible at the execution stage of his game design, or Plaid Hat is absolutely terrible at development, or some combination thereof. Aftermath, which Hawthorne and Plaid Hat made after Stuffed Fables and Tail Feathers, is an unmitigated disaster in terms of scripting. Brittle, sloppy, poorly documented, and even more poorly supported after its release. Very nearly unplayable, and I don’t say that lightly. I wouldn’t dump a new boardgamer, adult or otherwise, into one of Hawthorne’s games, especially if you want to develop an appreciation for systems, tactics, and rules over lore fluff and cutesy artwork.


I will say, too, that I have Mice & Mystics and tried playing it a couple of times (once with my kids) and found that it’s a great concept and looks beautiful and is even slightly more streamlined than most dungeon crawly games, but it’s still clunky as hell and too slow paced to (in my opinion) keep the attention of a kid.

Voidfall announced today by Mindclash, an upcoming Euroey space 4Xish kind of thing? Art and design by Just Take My Damn Money.

This could be a good one! Turczi usually means a good solo mode at least. :)