Wild Vikings by HABA is a good starter game to teach young gamers the concept of bidding and delayed gratification. I initially played this with my kid when she was 4+ but it was beyond her. 8 months later, this game is perfect for her as she can now grasp more gaming concepts including bidding, risk reward of going all in.
In Wild Vikings, players roll a dice and perform actions. Four of the die faces show a viking ship of different colors. A red/blue/yellow ship indicates adding a jewel to each ship tile. In this way, jewels slowly accumulate on board different-colored ships. A fifth die face show a card symbol. Here, each player will draw a card from the common deck. Each card has a cartoony viking of a specific color that matches the ship. there is also a wild card that has all three colors. Finally, the last die face shows a symbol of a village. Now, there is a village tile which all the ships are sailing toward in a straight line. Depending on which ship is closest to the village, the ship will land and the jewels will be auctioned off to the highest bidder. During bidding, players do once around bidding with cards that matches the ship color. Winner takes all the gems and only the winner discards all the bidding cards. The now empty ship then goes back to the end of the line.
As mentioned, this game a great for teaching kids the auction and bidding concept. Not all bids are equal, some boats are loaded with gems and kids can be taught to hold back on using their wild cards depending on their hand. Playing with an open hand is fine, but I think the auction here is simple enough for most kids to grasp.
That said, there are some issues with the game that can be solved with a couple of house rules. First, due to die rolls, cards can be hard to come by. We had games where there just weren’t many cards available for bidding. This led to a boom vs. bust cycle of bidding. We rectified that by allowing everyone to draw a card at the conclusion of each auction. That made cards more plentiful. Next, I felt that the once-round bidding really doesn’t promote much strategy. If you have the cards and there are reasonable amount of gems, you just plop everything down. By allowing players to raise their bids, this at least introduces some strategy. My kid can look around the table and decide how many cards she wants to start the bidding with. I also wanted to teach her to remember how or what we bid with in previous rounds. Finally, I thought that the game ended rather anti-climatically. I made the decision to allow one more round of auction for the ship closest to port. This ensured at least that collecting cards still mattered.
Not all the house rules are important, but I felt it enhanced the game somewhat. Wild Vikings, like Katzenbande from HABA really teaches some core Euro game mechanisms for the younger kids. This is what makes HABA a great tool to develop kids into budding gamers. I do think however, this game will grow stale quickly as my kid progresses to slightly more complex games. There is however nothing much for adult gamers here.
Initial impressions: Average (family); Good (kids)
5 years 2 months: My kid can play this game decently well. She understands the rules on the first go around and enjoyed the bidding. She still has trouble with delaying her bids though, especially with wild cards. If the gems are there, she will bid for it. The nuance will come in time but I think for the first few runs, she understands the bidding/auction mechanism well enough.