I remember my first exposure to Pokémon trading card game in the 1990’s when I first became a Cub Scout den leader. I was curious what the boys in my den were so interested in about these cards. The new game reminded me of the same excitement I had in getting a long coveted Star Wars or Baseball trading card. The big difference between my childhood experience and these boys was that they could play a battle game with theirs. Pokémon was a great gateway to getting these kids interested in playing other games in our den and it was always present in the many years I was a leader. I got enough Chess boards so we could have mini tournaments, though we never kept track of the scores and who was winning. I liked teaching them Chess because it helped them learn how to make decisions and see the consequences of those decisions, good or bad. The boys loved playing each other and I think that is what made it fun, letting them play how they wanted to. Scouting is having fun with a purpose in teaching something anyways. This can be applied to other groups too.
As the first group of boys got older and moved up, new boys came into the group, they were not as interested in playing chess so I found an old game called Steeple Chess by
Alex Randolph and Ravensberger. It is basically Parcheesi in Chess form. You have 4 pawns that you move along a track with a six sided die that has each of the six chess pieces on the sides. When you roll, the piece that shows is how you can move each of your pawns through the race course to the end. You can capture your opponent’s pieces and send them back to the beginning. For the 15 plus years I was a Cub Scout leader every group of boys loved this game. It was nothing like they had at home and easy to learn and win. It still had an element of randomness, so even if you were really behind, things could turn around quickly and you could still win.
I think the key to getting kids interested in playing new games is showing them how easy it is to play and find ways to make it fun for them. Winning and losing can be a part of the fun. I introduced the boys to Apples to Apples too, and that became a favorite where everyone could play as well. We would all talk about the different words that were selected and even try to convince the judge why we had the best word to fit the topic. Some of the boys enjoyed the word play more than other games we played so it made it nice to switch when their interests in certain games would wain.
Games like Smash Up, that would definitely attract Pokemon fans, would be favorites of my older scouts Scouts as well. My son and daughter introduced me to to it and we enjoyed many nights battling with Zombie Pirates and other themes as they got each new expansions. I liked it because it is a deck building game that required some strategy to play, and they just wanted to play together as a family. I miss those days now because they are no longer at home very much. The Cub Scout ages eight, nine and ten would enjoy Munchkin where the rules are easy and the play is simple by opening a door fight the monster and loot the room. Keeping the game simple and not playing too many expansions at first is important to making it more fun for these players too.
I enjoy the way games bring people together. The important thing is the connections that we make while playing. Drawing us closer in our relationships because of the shared experiences we have and making memories that can last a lifetime because of a great game we played.