Wednesday, December 21, 2011

I Don't Think We're in Candyland Anymore

It occurred to me, with the help of a loyal reader's reference to this blog, that I don't talk about games in the mass market.  That mostly has to do with not playing them much, still, for many of us, these are the types of games we grew up playing.  I'm talking Candyland, Monopoly, Clue, Risk, Battleship, Life, and many others in that genre.  Let me state that it is not my intention to shred these games to pieces, but rather to extol their virtues, discuss their shortcomings, and offer some tweaks for a more enjoyable gaming experience, as well as other games that might be in the same vein.

With those guidelines in place, I give you the first in a series aimed to provide a better game based on something you probably played as a child.  I also welcome a suggestion for further games in this series of discussions.

I Don't Think We're in Candyland Anymore OR How to Avoid Plumpy and Hope to See Queen Frostine

Our journey begins in a land of candy with children venturing through the woods to grandmother's house, or, something along those lines.  I admit, I enjoyed Candyland as a young child.  My mom, my sister and I would play but it usually left me wanting more out of the game.  That's when I realized that I wasn't really playing Candyland as much as Candyland was playing itself.

Candyland is little more than a color matching game, and even that is being generous.  You draw a card and move to the next square of that color.  The problem with that mechanic is that the player has absolutely no choice.  Think about how many times you've been squares away from victory only to be sent back to the near start with little to no chance of winning.  Simply put, it doesn't make the game fun for most people over the age of 7.  I won't go as far as saying that this is a horrible game, but we can do better.

How about a simple tweak that forces players to make a choice?  Perhaps draw 2, choose 1 to play, and then either discard the other card, or keep it in hand so the next time you draw one card to make a two card hand, and then choose one to play.  This gives players a little bit of strategic possibilities while maintaining the essence of the game.  For the older gamer, perhaps allow them to play a card on someone else, rather than move their own piece.  I haven't tried either of these suggestions, but I think at least the first has something to it, while the second might be a bit too much of a departure from what the game was intended to do.

In summary, Candyland itself is not a good game for older kids, but it does provide a great learning tool for children to match colors and play a game by the rules.  Eric Summerer of DiceTower fame recently talked about playing this with his son who actually played by the rules for the first time ever.  That itself speaks to the accessibility of Candyland.  It's a fun theme, but ultimately the game falls flat.

If you or your children do enjoy Candyland, give The Adventurers a look.  I'll be reviewing it sometime soon, hopefully January 2012.  It follows the idea of moving along a path, but has a lot of choices to be made by the players.

I hope you enjoyed this discussion on Candyland and how things could be better.  Next week look for Do We Really Need 200 Versions of Monopoly? OR It's Free Parking, not collect $10,000.


  1. Well... chutes and ladders generally has the same/similar concept.

    FURTHERmore, they recently redesigned everything and screwed up the entire board. There is no longer a Queen Frostine... did you know that? Yeah. That's right. It's like... Princess Frostine... for no particular reason. It doesn't even rhyme. Also, there's no Plumpy. Your clever title is, unfortunately no longer relevant here...

    Also, the game was invented by a person in a hospital recovering from polio (no joke)... for children in the hospital to pass time while recovering. Have a heart... it's for the sick children.

  2. I love that you compare Candyland to The Adventurers--I'd never thought of that before, but now I totally see that similarities! I completely agree that Candyland has really boring rules. As a kid, I loved the game so much because of the pretty board and theme, but didn't enjoy playing it, so I turned it into a role-playing game instead where my brother and I would run around the house being Mr. Peppermint and Princess Lollipop trying to defeat Lord Licorice. Much more exciting :)

  3. @Finestra I was not aware of the complete redesign of Candyland, thanks for bringing that up. I'd be interested to learn if they changed any of the gameplay or if the changes were just to the board.

    I'm not condemning the game for what it is, but trying to point out the flaws it has compared to other games.

    I do acknowledge that it has some good points, and passing time in a very simple manner is one thing it does well. It captivates the imagination of children and can make them forget about their problems for a time. My point is that it could be better.