Well, maybe not all ages, but children as young as 3 can play Seven Dragons. This card game with beautiful art includes modified rules for preschoolers. It’s not just for kids, though; it’s a great game for parties because it’s easy to learn and involves some strategy without being stressfully competitive. Seven Dragons debuted at the Origins Game Fair two weeks ago, and my six-year-old son Nicholas and I never got tired of it during four days in which we lost count of how many rounds we’d played! It’s a picture-matching game in which each player tries to connect seven pictures of the dragon shown on his secret goal card.
In fact, Seven Dragons is very similar to Aquarius, also made by Looney Labs, also a picture-matching game including special preschooler rules (which Nicholas and I helped develop!). It’s the same game with different art, but Seven Dragons also includes a very interesting card called the Silver Dragon. Aquarius fans can get the same effect with the Aquarius Dragon, a card we were handing out free in the Looney Labs booth. Isn’t that dragon cute? You can see it in action in the Seven Dragons introductory video, which shows exactly how to play Seven Dragons (or Aquarius with Dragon).
Anyway, this is how the Silver Dragon or Aquarius Dragon works: It’s like a wild card that changes who it’s working for as Action cards are played. It starts out wild, but when someone plays an Action (“Trade Goals” “Shuffle Hands” etc.), it changes to the color shown on that Action card. So if you are connecting blue dragons and the Silver Dragon is currently blue, it counts as one of your seven connected dragons . . . but if I play another Action and change the Silver Dragon to red, now it’s working for me! That really makes the game interesting!
Pirate Fluxx also is an easy-to-learn game, lots of fun for anyone able to read the cards. Nicholas, who’s been playing various versions of Fluxx since he was two, was able to play Pirate Fluxx 90% competently, but he had trouble with the Surprise cards (a new feature) because they are played during someone else’s turn, so you need to be able to read all the text on the card to understand when to play each Surprise and what it will do–and if you show it to your mom and have her mutter an explanation to you, the other players might hear it and not be surprised! But kids 8 and up were loving this game in our demos, and so were adults, especially those who are into pirates! Here’s my favorite example of what playing Pirate Fluxx is like: I’ve got Scurvy. It’s a Creeper card that has to be played on the table in front of me as soon as I draw it. You can’t win with Scurvy. But I play the Action card that lets me snarl, “Yarr! That be mine!” in my best pirate accent [which is terrible] and swipe your Limes, which cure my Scurvy into the discard pile. I set Limes in front of me with my other Keeper cards, including The Key. Our current Goal is Key Lime Pie. I win!!
The third new game from Looney Labs also requires reading and requires a little more patience–it’s more complex, and most games last at least half an hour–but everyone age 10 and up, and some younger kids, got the hang of it by the end of their first game. It’s Back to the Future, based on the story of the movie trilogy. Each player is a time traveler trying to bring history (represented by a 24-card Time Line, with two possible events on the two sides of each card) into line with her reality (3 or 4 events listed on her secret ID Card). The other cards offer many different ways to alter history and foil your opponents. It’s similar to Chrononauts but with several different twists. One of the most interesting twists is that, in order to win the game, after matching the Time Line to your reality you must prevent time travel from being invented by flipping the card for the night in 1955 when Doc Brown hit his head and invented the flux capacitor–but there are 5 cards for that night in a little stack that you shuffled before the game, and on 4 of them the flip side says, “Mysterious forces prevent you from changing this event at this time.” You don’t know which one is the card that makes Doc hang the clock without slipping. If your flip is not successful, you have to try to keep the Time Line set your way until you have another opportunity to flip that point in time. That really adds suspense!
I am not an employee of Looney Labs. I promote their games because they’re great games! Looney Labs makes 90% of the games I most like to play, and it is an environmentally responsible company that has great values and a great sense of fun. Over the past decade, I have worked many hours for Looney Labs as a volunteer, although I have been compensated with some free convention badges, hotel stipends, meals, free games, and hugs. I was not asked to write this article.