Monday, September 16, 2013


As much fun as it is to play board games with the whole family, sometimes my 6-year old wants to play games that really challenge him. For these occasions we have a few 2-player strategy games. The easiest to learn was Abalone, a game played with beautiful black and white marbles on a hexagonal board. It was invented in France by Michel Lalet and Laurent Lévi. It quickly won prizes like the 1990 "Mensa Select", or being runner up in the 1989 German "Spiel des Jahres" (Game of the Year). The rules are really simple. Push your opponent's marbles if you have more marbles lined up in a specific direction than him. The first one to push 6 of the opponent's marbles off the board wins. 

Starting position

That sounds like it is easy and boring, but since it is played with 3 axes instead of two, things often take sudden and surprising turns. We usually pretend to command opposing armies. My son calls it attacking my troops when he pushes my marbles, there is retreat, sacrifice, encircling and out-flanking each other, sieges and break throughs. 

It can be hard to keep the troops together

While world class players can drag out a game for hours, playing with kids is a fairly quick experience. We often take the travel version of the game to a restaurant to play a round while waiting for food. Another bonus of the game when playing with younger players is that you can let them take some of your marbles, or let them win, without being obvious about it. But watch it, all of a sudden they will take a marble from you that you didn't actually intend to lose. Don't forget to yell "I've lost my marbles!" on those occasions.

Other ways to start the board:



Geek factor: 4 out of 5

Fun factor: 4 out of 5

What games with geek factor are your kids playing? Leave a comment!

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