We have a rule in this family.
(*Well, to be honest… I have a rule and a 50/50 chance of it being obeyed*)
“Thou shall have one and only one parent sick at any given time. One shall be the number thou shalt have and the number of sick parents will be one. Two shalt thou NOT have. Two is right out.”
I’ll give Evil Genius Inc full credit—we have only had one parent sick at any time over the last month. For almost two weeks, it was me.
And to be fair, it was the spawnlings who ganged up on me. Usually, two kids out of three sick at home at the same time, with late nights played out in a twisted sense of tandem-comforting needs. So I pulled out the only arsenal I have to stop them from attacking me: Cooperative Tabletop Games.
Worked like a charm.
Family Friendly Cooperative Games
When spawnlings are sick, the competitive drive sharpens to the point of snarkiness. A little snark is okay (I consider it healthy) but a lot of snark when you are already really sick… Well, that’s just mean.
Cooperative games are so much better for sick kids. By ‘cooperative games’, I mean the tabletop games where you play with other people and gang-up on the ‘Game’ and not the parents. There is usually a common goal to achieve as a team, and The Game will create a bunch of problems to prevent you.
Cooperative games come in a range of styles and age-groups. Here’s our Top Three:
Orchard (Haba) – 3-6yo
Orchard is a go-to favourite for Zaltu (who just turned 4yo last week), and a happy choice for the older two. It’s not their favourite but they will often suggest playing it with Zaltu and keep her entertained for a solid half-hour or so.
The Aim of the Game is: to collect the fruit from the trees before the Raven steals it all. Each player takes a turn rolling the single six-sided die; there are four colours representing the fruit, plus a picture of a basket and a raven. If the die lands on a colour, you collect a piece of fruit: green/apple; yellow/pear; blue/plum; red/cherry. If it lands on a basket, you collect any two of your choice.
If it lands on the Raven, you have to place a piece of the Raven puzzle in the middle of the board. Everyone is working together to collect all the fruit as a team BEFORE the Raven puzzle is completed.
I also reviewed this game in a bit more detail over at GeekMom. The game is beautiful in its simplicity and intuitive for younger spawnlings. The physical make of the game is equally beautiful with wooden carved pieces for the fruit in the trees, lots of bright bold colours, and cute baskets for collection. It packs away easily, a particularly attractive feature when playing with young spawnlings.
The best part is how willing the older two are to play. Orchard is a fairly quick game to play, so they are willing to set up a game or two with Zaltu before we head over to their preferred choice.
Forbidden Island (GameWright) – 10yo+
We originally had this game on the iPad—and then the iPad died. *insert sad panda face* It was a brilliant cooperative game to play during our campervan travels around New Zealand a couple of years ago. This and our digital copy of Ticket to Ride have both been sorely missed.
And then EG Dad scored a hard copy of Forbidden Island and the spawnlings rejoiced!! Seriously, this game is so popular with Sinister and Nefarious, they were reading the blurb of the game early today…instead of comics. They have already planned out this coming weekend with gameplay time.
The Aim of the Game is: to escape the island with your treasures and ALL members of the team before the waters rise up and swallow the island whole. Once again you are a team, each player having a specific role with specific skills. You might be the pilot, who can transport players all over the island AND off the island when you complete your goals. You might be the diver (Sinister’s favourite), allowing you to move through flooded channels around the island. You might be the engineer, able to save more areas of the island. No matter who you are, you are all working together.
Each player’s turn is followed by The Game’s Turn. That’s right, minions: The Game draws cards and floods various areas of the Island while you are taking turns to explore. The game ends when your team collects all the treasures and escapes, win…or the Island floods, lose.
This is a genuine cooperative game where you have to communicate with the team and work together when planning out your next move. If you run off ahead without your teammates, you will miss the opportunity to capture the treasure or miss the rescue helicopter. This game rewards those who can communicate with others. That’s why it works so well when you’re sick: it forces everyone to slow down and make time for every member of the group.
The age recommendation for this is 10yo but Nefarious has been playing with little guidance since he was 6yo. If you have spawnlings who can read, who can talk through ideas, and who genuinely want to give it a go working with the rest of the family then this game will be fine for you.
Pandemic (Z-Man Games) – 8yo+
Interestingly enough, Pandemic comes with a lower age recommendation and yet I would put it slightly higher on the complexity. Nefarious and Sinister have been playing this with us for a few years, and often require a little guidance. If I were to make suggestions on age: I would be fine with the spawnlings taking Pandemic to school for the Year 5 classes and above; Forbidden Island possibly year 3 or year 4.
Pandemic is really the perfect game for playing when you’re sick. There is nothing more satisfying than knowing you can take a whole continent down on this influenza trip with you. It is also a great lesson for teaching the spawnlings how easy it is for a virus (like influenza) to travel around the world. They have a healthy new respect for the World Health Organisation and vaccinations.
The Aim of the Game is: to spread your team across the world to treat and cure diseases. Like Forbidden Island, each player has a separate role with their own unique skills aiding the team. As you meet up, you can exchange cards to discover cures and set up treatment/research centres. If your team can cure all four diseases, you win! However, once again The Game is out to stop you. For each player’s turn, The Game also has a turn, spreading infections and outbreaks across any country.
It’s a real shock to the mind as you watch the ‘virus tokens’ slowly build up across the board and then suddenly burst into an epidemic. At one point, I was tempted to simply pour a bottle of Panadol all over ‘The World’ and walk away, like some bad-ass pseudo-pharmacist pretending to stop the spread of disease (and really just hoping that sucker will disappear during my next nap).
If it sounds a little similar to Forbidden Island, then you may recognise the same game designer Matt Leacock. He is a game-guru when it comes to designing cooperative games. The difference between Forbidden Island and Pandemic is in the mechanics of the player movements. You are still limited to where you can go and subsequently how much you can do, however, Pandemic has clearer paths to plan with. There is also a greater sense of “big picture” with Pandemic, while Forbidden Island has a more isolated story-line to it. I know of some parents who also use Pandemic as a geography learning-tool. I can definitely see how that works.
The good news is we have survived the Evil Genius Influenza of 2017. The better news is we maintained our sanity and camaraderie, with the help of some nifty tabletop games. All three age groups entertained equally and without electronics and bloodshed—if that’s not an EG Parenting win, I don’t know what is!
Orchard was provided to me for review purposes, both here and on GeekMom. Forbidden Island and Pandemic are our own copies. All games can be purchased through Good Games, both online and in-store. I do not receive any financial benefit or sponsoring from Good Games for this article, though I will not deny that my local store knows me by name and credit card number…