Race to the Treasure!: A Great Early Introduction to Strategy Games
Have you ever played a competitive board game like Monopoly with small children? It can be very tricky to juggle the balance of teaching the rules, teaching strategy, and trying to win. And then you get to decide if you should try your hardest to win every time - or let the kids win sometimes so they aren't discouraged. Well the cure for that tricky balancing act is cooperative board games.
If you haven't heard of cooperative board games it basically means everybody wins or everybody loses. I think it's a great way to introduce board games to kids because it puts the emphasis on teamwork, having fun, and learning strategy together.
And when strategy is involved in the game, it can be tremendously useful to be able to lean heavily on suggestions from the adults, because, hey, we're all working together after all. Teamwork, of course, is a very useful skill to develop as well. And it's definitely a great change of pace to watch the kids working together on a goal.
Peaceable Kingdom is the king of cooperative board games for children. We already have many of their games - and we are certainly looking to collect many more. We even put together an article all about Peaceable Kingdom and why we love them so much.
And out of all the games we have, Race to the Treasure! is one of our very favorite family games - and not just from Peaceable Kingdom. It has a soft spot in my heart because our five-year-old was legitimately very scared of it when he was three. Our son was straight terrified of flipping over an ogre card. It was awesome. He asked us to do it. He tried to peek. He tried to change his pick if he peeked an ogre. It was adorable.
The gameplay itself is very simple. Turns consist of drawing cards and revealing either a path card or an ogre card. Path cards are strategically placed down (after consulting with everybody) to first lead to three keys and then to the treasure chest. But the ogre cards lead The Ogre closer to the treasure. You must collect the keys as a team and open the treasure chest before The Ogre gets there to win.
Setting up the game also teaches our kids an unexpected but very useful skill - the coordinate grid. It’s actually the same system you use in chess to name the squares on the chess board. Rows on the board are numbered and columns are given a letter. To make the game different every time, you roll 2 dice at the beginning of the game to place the keys on the board. If you roll A and 6, you have to place a key on the square A6. It’s actually a wonderful spatial and mathematical concept to master.
Race to the Treasure! definitely belongs in that elusive category of games made for kids that parents legitimately enjoy playing too. It's well balanced and has led to a roughly equal win ratio between us and The Ogre. Our five-year-old still enjoys playing, but he's not really scared by The Ogre anymore. Perhaps our little one can take over that role.
Are you a fan of Peaceable Kingdom? What’s your favorite cooperative game? Post below and let us know!