Sleeping Queens is probably an evergreen title for Gamewright and boy, I think it is a fantastic game for kids. The card game has successfully blended elements of push your luck, memory and math into an enjoyable activity. The fact that kids are collecting different queens makes the game even more accessible for kids who still daydream of nobility or Disney Princesses.
So, why is the game good for kids? For starters, players try to collect queens from a set of 12 face down cards in the center of the table. These queens are asleep and need to be woken up. Once you wake up a queen, you can place the queen in your tableau. Each queen also has a point value which ranges from 5-20. Collect either 5 woke queens or a total of 50 points worth of queens and you can crown yourself a victor. To wake up and recruit the sleeping damsels, one usually tries to find a king card (yeah, not a very PC game in this day and age). Using king cards is a sure fire way of waking up a queen. Otherwise, you can also use a Knight to steal a queen card from your opponents tableau and this can be countered with a dragon card. In addition, a sleeping potion puts the queen back to sleep and here, the memory element comes back into play since you can put the card back in any slot and if you remember where it is placed, you can either go back and fish for the card or avoid it. The potion can be countered with a wand. Finally, there is also a jester card in the deck. Playing the jester is basically playing Russian roulette. You draw a card from the deck and if there is a numerical value, you start counting around the table until it stops at a person who then gets to wake a queen. While all the queens are plain vanilla except for point values, there are 3 queens with unique requirements. If you wake the Rose queen, you can get flip over another queen. If you have a Dog queen, you can’t collect a Cat queen and vice-versa.
Ultimately, the place where this game shines the most is how it injects Math into the picture. Apart from all these special cards I mentioned, the deck is also populated with cards that have a numerical from 1-9. You can exchange one card or a pair to draw the same amount of cards back. However, if you can form an equation, you get to draw a number of cards based on the complexity of the equation. For example, if you can form a “1+3+4=8” equation with the cards in hand, you get to draw back 4 cards. This simple requirement to draw cards forces kids to learn simple Math. While addition is the most common operation here, there is actually no rule which stipulate you can’t do a division of multiplication with those numbers. Of course, the range is more limited.
The game can be slow if you insist that your child try to form his/her equations. However, it is rewarding to see their faces when they get it right. For adults, Sleeping Queens doesn’t offer anything much but it is also not mind-numbing. I do not mind playing with my 5 year old and my wife as it still affords some simple decision making and some luck. However, this is not a game you can play with adult gamers alone.
5 years 0 months: Daughter started playing Sleeping Queens at 5. At this stage, she can understand all the basic rules of the game and look forward to capturing the different queens. She is excited at capturing certain queens, particularly the Heart queen which is worth the most points (20). Her math skills are improving. We are playing all the cards face up right now and she can certainly spot the equation with some help. At the moment, we tell her to look at the cards and sometimes help her along by pointing out the sum total and asking her to finish the equation. We also make her read out loud the equations. She can perform simple addition in her head but we also ask her to count the pips. She also knows which values are higher or lower so that when she plays knight cards or sleeping potions, she correctly targets her best option. I am never in favor of “letting my child win” but overall, we haven’t had to do much at this stage. Since we are playing with all cards on the table, I do sometimes avoid playing successive negative cards on her, but she can handle “take-that” cards pretty well now. We hope that she can quickly grasp the math so that we can then play with closed hands.
5 years 2 months: We now play with closed hands. After 20+ games, she is is now able to do the equations with ease. We still aren’t sure if she is doing this through memorization of if she truly count. We are thinking of slowly introducing subtraction in the game. I am very please to see that playing this game has really help improve her math skills. I am sure she misses a few and spends a few extra seconds thinking but she is now very competitive in all games. She still struggles with addition up to 40 or 50 points unless prompted. She is grasping some strategies in lieu of performing fun actions such as using knights to steal. This remains her firm favorite.
02/2020: 100+ games later, we still love this game my kid still show no signs of tiring. Adults can still enjoy, though sometimes grudgingly after 20 games in a row.
6 years 1 month: Still going strong, but clearly waning in popularity as other games start to pop up on her radar. Still, this is one, if not the best game out there for kids in the 4-6 age bracket.
Final word: Great! (For family gaming)