For day 14 of #blogmas 2020.
Yet another article I originally wrote for Board Game Crate.
Quite a few titles now come with a Junior version of the same. Is this just a money-grabbing ploy to get us to purchase a watered-down version of a game we already own, or is there a place in our gaming collections for them?
In my experience, regardless of the game being played (or any activity for that matter), children need adult supervision. As a parent, I find myself playing the part of referee with the added bonus of being included in the game. My roles include ensuring that turns are taken fairly, the rules are followed accurately and the playing pieces aren’t hidden in socks or bulldozed by a toy duck. At the game’s conclusion I also comfort the one who doesn’t win while re-educating the victor on the finer points of being a good sport and limiting the victory dance to less than a minute. To those ends, I find myself just as busy with the Junior versions as I do with the standard versions and find myself wondering why bother with the Junior.
Well, the first and most vital benefit of the Junior is that they are often quite a bit shorter so my time in purgatory is lessened somewhat. The pieces are generally larger and brightly-coloured and are easy to locate and retrieve from pockets and under the furniture making it more likely that there’s a complete game ready for next time. Also, the better-designed games also give a good rebalancing of play so that I don’t always win – whereas the standard versions that require more experience/strategy or skill can slew the games in my favour. In some cases, the Junior version is actually quite different from the original giving me a different gaming experience, but not one I’d necessarily share with an adult group of gamers.
However, most standard games can be adapted to accommodate younger (or inexperienced) players. Most of us have forgone particular rules or game aspects when introducing a game to a novice of any age for the first time and many games even have ‘Family’ or ‘Beginner’ rules included. Also, many games on my shelf have very enticing covers and I’m often asked if they could play that with me. Some games get a flat-out ‘No,’ as an answer but, as my children get older, more and more games are given a go (successfully) and none of them have a Junior version (or they do and I don’t have it). As the kids get older still, I fear that the Junior games will get left on the shelf time and time again until they’re relegated to the loft, or given away.
Like most children’s toys, the Junior editions can be great for the age groups they’re aimed at, but have limited staying power and do little different than the main games (with a little bit of rule tweaking). Of course, there are exceptions to this and if you have one of those gems, treasure it.