When Dustin McMillan set out to design a dungeon crawler adventure game for kids, he set himself an ambitious brief. His aim was to devise a game that could be played by children as young as 5. Since kids of that age often have a notoriously short attention span, the game needed to hold their interest. That means quick turns so there's little time spent waiting around for the other players. It also meant the game had to be accessible, with suitably chunky components, and should avoid the usual monsters who, for younger kids, might be stuff of nightmares.
That's the background to The Quest Kids from Treasure Falls Games. At Board's Eye View we've been trying out a preview prototype of the game; the game will ultimately be coming to Kickstarter, where, for example, there'll be the option to replace the cardboard standees with articulated plastic figures. Although we're all a little older than the target audience, we've had fun with the game and the kids we've introduced it to have all been suitably enthralled.
The basic premise is the standard one: a group of adventurers set off together to explore an underground cave. They're hoping to find treasures and they'll encounter foes. The art by Apolline Etienne creates an appropriate sense of enchantment and ensures that none of the monsters are overly threatening. There's no killing: you're chasing off the bad guys not sending them to oblivion. The idea is that as you explore the dungeon (flip over the semi-randomly set up face-down tiles), you earn power, magic or wisdom (purple, yellow and red) cards that you need to banish any creatures you encounter. If you flip a tile with a creature and you don't have the cards needed to chase them off, then the creature tile stays on the board and you lose a health card (worth two victory points).
The tiles on the right-hand side of the board are more powerful than those placed out on the left, so your adventurers will need to power up by exploring the left-hand side of the board before venturing into the tougher rooms. Of course, the rewards (victory point values) are greater on the right-hand side; so Quest Kids introduces youngsters to the idea of balancing risk and reward.
A particularly interesting feature of The Quest Kids is the decision to make the game only semi co-operative. It encourages and rewards players for helping each other (handing another player a card they need to chase off a monster); helping another player earns you a valuable 'Kind Kid' card, typically giving you bonus victory points or an extra turn. Kind Kid bonuses notwithstanding though, Quest Kids is a competitive game. There's just one winner at the end and it's the player who racks up the most victory points. Again, then, this a game where the young players need to work out the best balance between co-operation and outright competition.
There's a bit of text on some of the cards but even children who are still emergent readers should cope because the iconography is clear. The components look and feel good: the chunky oversized gems proved a notable hit. The one thing we found the youngest children struggled with was the fiddliness of flipping the tile cards. And if your kids are combining the game with sticky foods, then you'll probably want to sleeve those tile cards (they're a standard 70 x 70 mm size).
If you're playing with slightly older children, The Quest Kids incorporates the option to play as a story-driven campaign game, with added excitement of sealed envelopes and stickers to celebrate success. Think of it as an early introduction to Legacy gaming. :-)
We'll be looking forward eagerly to seeing how The Quest Kids continues to develop in the run up to and during the course of its Kickstarter campaign, and we'll of course add a link to the campaign when that goes live.