My daughter, who is now seven, started playing tabletop and card games with me at age four by taking away my phone while I was playing Settlers of Catan and trying to figure it out. Two years later, I taught her the “official” rules of the game, and about a year ago she beat me for the first time.

My kid loves gaming. She thinks Wil Wheaton is cute, and always wants to watch Tabletop. She constantly asks me to play the games we have in the apartment, and she’s all about playing computer games as well when she earns access to her netbook or my old laptop (the one with Minecraft on it).

She also has her own kind of strategy when she plays. Here are six of the best strategies she uses… for a certain value of “best”, anyway.


6. Tell Everyone What You Have — Last weekend, we were playing Settlers with my mother*. As we started gathering resources, she would organize everything into piles and then say what she had in each one. I’m not sure how this benefited her, but it must have, because she’s not bad at the game. In fact, she isn’t bad at it because…

5. Focus On One Goal — Her goal with Settlers is to purchase and use development cards** to earn bonuses and keep other people from winning. See, with her, she just wants to play until she gets bored or wins, and the longer she can keep the game going, the better. This goal tends to make that happen, especially if the dice go her way. And they often do, which leads her to…

4. Hoard, Hoard, Hoard! — This one applies to every game we play regularly: Settlers, Fluxx, and Ticket to Ride. Watching her try to find a card in the massive deck she collects in front of her is both hilarious and annoying. Especially Ride — she’ll fixate on a certain route to the exclusion of all others (see item 5), collect something like 50 cards, and then eventually play that one route for four points or something. And she’s so happy about it too!


3. Generosity Never Hurt Anyone — Also known as “I don’t know how to haggle”. When we were playing with my mom, my daughter, who loves to trade, kept offering these crazy trades that in no way benefited her. What’s more, sometimes she would trade, just to trade back — I’d ask for rock in exchange for sheep, she’d give me rock and wood, and then the next turn she’d ask my mom if she had any rock. And she wondered why the two of us were doing so well. My mom tried not to take advantage, but I figure that the kid needs to learn somehow, right? At least she’s learning from me, instead of from someone who doesn’t love her.

2. Ask For Help — I was half-asleep on the couch that same day while my mom and my kid were playing Scrabble. My daughter has an enormous vocabulary and is very intelligent, but she hasn’t quite grasped the concept of how crossword games work. Her favorite thing is to make up words with her tile racks and pronounce them. But when she can’t figure out what words to play, she just asks me or my mom what words she should make. It’s how she ended up with 200-plus points when, at her age, I rarely broke 125.


1. “I’m Just Testing” — This is a big one with Tsuro, but it applies to any pattern-matching game. When she gets her cards, she tends to hold them up to the board and see if she’s going to end up in trouble or not. And, I mean, in many pattern-matching games it’s not a super-big deal (especially the way I play Tsuro, which is: just stay the hell out of everybody’s way), but sometimes it can be. It’s also a little annoying.

Bonus Content!

My daughter’s six favorite episodes of Tabletop, in order, are:

6. Small World — She abandoned this one halfway through because the game is really complicated.
5. — Just kidding, she’s only seen five episodes.
4. Alhambra — She thought Dodger was cool and was really thrilled when she won.
3. Settlers of Catan — We love Settlers. It’s one of her favorites.
2. Star Fluxx — We’re big Fluxx players.
1. Ticket to Ride — She just loved when Anne hit the table.

Got an idea for a future “Six of the Best” column? Tweet it to me @listener42.

* She’d never played before and somehow she managed to figure out my strategy and almost beat me before I got a lucky run of dice-rolls.

** For those who haven’t played, development cards allow you to earn extra points, amass extra resources, and attack other players.