Last week, the jury of the German Spiel des Jahres (“game of the year”) prize announced their choice of best Children’s Game of 2016. Out of the three nominated games, the jury picked Marco Teubner’s My First Stone Age as their favorite. Thanks to our local library, which is always quick in buying nominated games, my family had the chance to find out whether My First Stone Age will also turn out to be one of our favorites.
Indeed, the first impression was favorable. Do you know the moment when you open a new board game and just need a few minutes of quiet to orient yourself and to get a first idea of how to set things up? While at the same time your kids incessantly ask questions about the game, completely reshuffle the game materials you just had brought into some tentative order, and get more and more worked up about wanting to start the game NOW? Here, the instructions of My First Stone Age help you with a short story that introduces the setting and at the same time guides you and your kids through the fields on the game board. Everybody gets acquainted with the game and the kids settle down a bit, at least enough to listen to the rules that follow.
Luckily, the rules are well presented and can be explained quickly to your eager kids. Each player wants to build huts; the first player to build her third hut wins. In order to build a hut, you need to collect certain raw materials. There are mammoth teeth, berries, clay vases, hand axes, and fish. At any point of time in the game, three “hut cards” are shown, each card displaying which resources (two to three) are required for that particular hut. You collect resource on resource fields and you can exchange them on the “marketplace” field. Finally, when you reach the village square and have the necessary resources for one of the available huts, you return the resources to the board and build that hut by taking the hut card, thus displaying a new hut card with new resource requirements.
One question remains: how do you reach the respective fields on the board? In the game, there are 14 action cards: eight representing the fields on the board (five resource fields, the market place, the village square, and a field where you can collect a dog as joker to reduce the number of resources required for building a hut), and six representing the numbers from one to six. At the beginning of a game, these cards are shuffled and then placed face down on the table around the board. Each turn, you pick a card, turn it over, and either go to the indicated field or, if a number is shown, advance the number of steps shown by the die. The cards stay turned over and thus cannot be picked again, until a player enters the village square. Then, all open cards are turned over again and the player shuffles the cards around a bit by exchanging two cards of her liking.
This combination of memory and strategic elements is a clever trick Marco Teubner uses to balance out the capabilities of parents and kids. Remember how your kids seem to be able to recall the location of face-down cards in Memory and similar games without apparent effort, while you struggle to keep track of more than three cards at a time? So, you may be the strategy buff with surefire tactics to collect exactly the required resources for your huts, but your kids know how to get the stuff they want buy picking the right card when it is their turn.
Will My First Stone Age turn into one of our favorites? After just a few games, our GeekMom had declared that this is a game to be bought once we have to return it to the library… so it looks like we will be playing many more times during the summer, and I am very much looking forward to it!