Sleeping Queens is a great little game by Gamewright. It’s one of the first of the more complex games we bought for N that he started playing while he was still 3. At its core it’s a simple card draw game but the artwork is gorgeous and makes it very easy to explain the game to younger kids as part of a narrative.
How to play:
The queens are all asleep in the centre, if you draw a king to your hand of 5 they can go and wake a queen and bring her back to your castle. You need 5 queens (for 2-3 players or less for more players) to win the game.
But look out, players can use a knight to try to steal one of your queens or use a potion to put her back in the sleeping pile. So use your Dragon if you have one (complete with Dragon roar) to stop that knight or a magic wand (‘ting’) to stop that potion. I found using the noises made it more interactive and N loves being able to triumphantly pull a card from his hand as he roared a stop to our attacks.
The official age is 8 and up, mostly because there is some maths involved but we play with simplified rules.
In the original game you have to put down a number of cards from your hand before you can draw from the central pile. This can be single cards, pairs or cards in a maths equation (for example cards 2,3 and 5 to accompany the equation 2+3=5). At the time N was not able to do basic maths so we stuck to matching pairs, threes or four of a kind. Even if number recognition is not great, the pictures on the cards are clear enough to see matches of three cats or 6 ladybirds for example.
The second change we made was to who won. Each queen card has a points value printed on it. In the original game the winner was the first to five queens or a total score of 50. This means there’s more incentive to steal particular queens from certain players for their higher value. Now N is older (5 years) we have started to play to these original rules as it’s great for maths practice! But with younger children it’s simplest to ignore the scores and stick to waking 4 or 5 queens.
There are some additional rules – not having the cat and dog queens together; finding the Rose queen wakes you a second queen – which add an extra layer of excitement that moves the game beyond simple card drawing. There’s also a Jester card that adds a further element of chance to who gets to wake a queen.
What we like about this game:
This is a relatively quick game to play (10 minutes depending on how many players) and being a card game it’s also portable.
Importantly, there is enough chance in the game through drawing cards and turning queens over to make it both equal and enjoyable for adults and kids to play together. It also plays well with kids of mixed ages.
But there is also the beginning of strategic thinking – who’s queens should you steal? do you put the Rose queen back to sleep and risk someone else turning it over before you? – that make this a great starter game to get young kids thinking about which cards to use and when. This makes it a perfect little gateway game to introduce kids to the basic principles behind hand based card games.
Finally, I just have to mention that the game itself was designed by a 6 year old girl. I love this! It’s a great little fact to inspire kids to become game inventors themselves and get those creative juices going. On top of that the artwork is beautifully bright and quirky. Sleeping Queens is a family favourite in this house and I’m pretty sure we will be playing it for a good few years to come.