January 31, 2012

Gaming with Kids: Focus

     "My master made me this collar so I could talk, he is very smart----SQUIRREL!"

My kids are very active.  To put such a simple statement in perspective, that's like saying the sun is pretty hot.  Now don't get me wrong, this is generally a good thing.  They stay busy, can entertain themselves, and are highly imaginative; on one occasion turning our house into a model of the Red November for a LARP-like adventure game, replete with numbered rooms and Libby, the house cat, standing in as the Kraken.  Thankfully the house did not catch on fire.  Yet this quality often stands in stark contrast with another characteristic required of many board games: waiting.  Simply stated, I'm not really sure that my kids are designed to sit still.  I once thought that this inability was the direct result of today's barrage of ceaseless entertainment options, namely of the electronic type.  I now doubt that assessment.  Video consoles, computers, iPods, and 19 different Disney channels are not the root cause of this youthful phenomenon, though they certainly compound it.  But to understand the real reason would require a geneticist, psychologist, and soccer mom all in the same room, which only sounds like the opening to a lame joke.

The basic conundrum here is: my kids really want to play board games, but often get bored when it's not their turn.  Sometimes I wonder if my kids have the ability to focus any longer than Doug the dog, on the movie Up, unless their brains are constantly occupied by some busy stimuli - either external or internal.  Even so, they possess an uncanny knack of abruptly switching focus from one activity or mental thought to another, despite having had 100% concentration in the former but a moment previously and regardless whether that former task is complete or not.  Most adults tend to prefer things "tied up" and completed before moving on to the next.  Some, like me, can even be compulsive and anal about such things.  Honestly, I can't remember when I haven't been like that, though my mother assures me to the contrary.

Beyond those designed specifically for children, many board games require a fair amount of focus and patience that can pose a challenge for them.  There are some well-known remedies in the hobby to address, or work around, this issue.  You can play quick, light-weight affairs, even more "filler" type games, designed with simple rules and almost no chrome (we have Mag Blast to fit this bill).  There are many games designed to play in an hour or under (Mission: Red Planet is a nice example in our small collection).  These types are especially handy in developing patience while battling short attention spans.  And still many games that run longer than 60 minutes have short or even simultaneous turn structures which alleviate downtime (we really like how Kingsburg keeps everyone involved nearly the entire game).

You could also resort to a two-player game, if feasible.  If you have more than one child, the desire to include all of your kids so that no one feels left out is certainly worthy and important.  However, it may be advantageous to dividing some game play.  Consider experimenting with the practice of devoting some game time to one child and some equal time to the other.  Even if they're only a couple of years apart and relatively at the same level, there are benefits to one-on-one play in developing game etiquette, not the least of which is focus and patience.  That's not to deny family game sessions when they all really want to play.  There is definitely a place and need for both.  And one dynamic of having multiple kids is that you'll be dealing with as many different interests.  So when one child balks at a title brought to the table for one session, it's a good opportunity to respond, "Well how about I play this with her, and then you and I can play your favorite game next."

However, when engaged in any five-player game with four kids, you're not going to avoid downtime completely.  And while they sit there, waiting for their next turn, with no active, external input to stir their brain activity, they slowly lose focus on the task at hand.  Their imaginations take over and soon they're off in their own world fiddling, fidgeting, talking, singing, and sometimes dancing and climbing on the furniture.  The distraction can be an obstacle to say the least.  To some extent, I have simply learned to live with it as a natural by-product of gaming with kids.  On the other hand, it's only practical to limit such distractions and even constructive for the kids in developing patience.  And so, in addition to employing all other tried and true measures, I have begrudgingly resorted to one other means that I promised never to allow at the game table: personal electronic devices.

There are still rules.  The volume stays down - otherwise they become a distraction themselves.  The devices are to be set aside when one's turn does roll around.  Gameboys and iPods are convenient in that they are compact and have a handy pause button which can be pressed at almost anytime.  When first introducing my kids to the hobby, I was adamant about shelving such toys while gaming.  Indeed, part of the whole purpose of board gaming was to provide an alternative avenue to video games.  Not lost to the irony, now they give my kids something to do while they sit and wait for their next turn in those games that progress a bit slower for their tastes.  Instead of creating a distraction as I first feared, they are actually proving useful, albeit with moderation and limits.  They can occupy the kids during the "waiting game" as they learn to develop a greater sense of gaming focus.  With time and experience (okay, indoctrination doesn't hurt, either), they will grow into it.

However, allowing such deveices may not be the best solution in all cases.  What about you and your family's gaming sessions?  And not to single out children; how does your peer group deal with distractions and lack of focus?  Are iPads and cell phones taboo----SQUIRREL!

January 23, 2012

Board Game Review: Conquest of the Empire

Conquest of the Empire (Eagle Games/Larry Harris and Glenn Drover, 2005)
2-6 players / 10 + / 2-5 hours

"Friends, Romans, Countrymen, lend me your ears.  I come to play this game, not bury it on our shelves.  The evil we do to games by not playing them lives on; their good is oft interred with their components.  Let it not be with Conquest.  The noble Glenn Drover hath told you Conquest was ambitious: if it were so, it was a grievous understatement, and grievously hath Conquest answered it!"

"Um, Dad...what are you talking about?"

"Oh, uh, er...nothing?  Maybe, um, I'll just take a card..."

What You Get:

At first I thought the title, Conquest of the Empire, was simply an ambitious reference to the game's epic nature.  After owning it, however, I now understand it is really an old Latin phrase meaning something like, "box so heavy it requires a pack mule."  The components are both aesthetically pleasing and functionally sturdy (with one unfortunate exception).  There are nearly 400 finely-detailed, plastic miniatures of infantry, cavalry, catapults, triremes, and leaders that stand almost two inches tall.  The catapults even have moving arms!  You also get molded cities (16), fortifications (16), and road segments (20). Rounding out the plastic components is a pile of gold and silver, plastic coins which add a charming, thematic touch.  A large deck of poker-sized, linen-textured cards provide a good deal of fun and random historical flavor.  Modest stacks of quality, cardboard chits keep track of territory, political control, and domestic unrest.  To resolve combat, the game includes twelve very nice custom...wait for it...dice!

The one, bitter-sweet component that accounts for the vast majority of the game's heft is the massive 46" x 36" board.  Wow!  Artistically rendered in a stunning, antique style (with imaginative illustrations), it is quite impressive when sprawled out on your table in all of its imperial glory.  Forget about crowding!  No area is too small for your vast legions marching across the Mediterranean world.  Sadly, there are drawbacks when you make a board the size of a refrigerator.  I mean, I can lay my 4-year old down on this thing.  The first issue is space.  This easily swallows up twice the space of any other game in our collection (except for Attack! Deluxe Expansion, also by Eagle).  Many gamers simply won't have a sufficient table conveniently at hand, but will instead need to make special accommodation or suffer through cramped quarters, or both.  Also, even though it comes in three sections, ours warp quite significantly and the paper surface is already beginning to peel at the folds.  Beyond that, it is just simply difficult to reach from one end to the other.  The kids have to walk around the table, and even I have to stand up frequently for greater reach, to complete turns.  There is no arguing against the overall value, however.

Control the Med.
The Quick Rundown:

Essentially, the Eagle Games version is two-games-in-one!  The first rules set is a minor revision of the classic Milton Bradley GameMaster Series installment designed by Larry Harris of Axis & Allies fame...or infamy.  A quintessential area-control, dudes-on-a-map game, you'll start small in one of the empire's major provinces and slowly build up and expand until the inevitable clash with other powers.  Typically, you will deal with your closest neighbors first in a sort of East-West and/or North-South axis divided by the Black and Mediterranean Seas.  Then the survivors of that go-around will try to finish each other off.  You will roll lots of dice, kill lots of plastic men, and spend lots of time.  You win when you're the last Caesar standing.

The updated reboot contained in the second rules set is a much more sophisticated affair.  You can still roll a lot of dice and still kill a lot of plastic men, but you'll spend a little less time doing it all.  Fighting is less the end goal, but instead just another means to an end, and not always the best one, at that.  Conquest II is all about using action points to achieve area majorities in various provinces which will translate into victory points.  On your turn, you choose two actions of the following possibilities: move land units, engage in land battle, move and/or engage naval units, buy political influence, levy emergency taxes, recruit units, take a conquest card, or pass.  Total game time consists of 4-5 campaign seasons divided into four rounds each (players agree on which length beforehand).  With two actions per round, you only have a precious total of 32-40 for the entire game.  A final major difference in mechanics between the classic and new versions is player elimination - there is none in Conquest II.
It's all about the VP...track.
T for Teens:

Conquest of the Empire is yet another title right there on the cusp of complete family friendliness, yet falls just a wee short.  While the kids really like playing, and understand the straight-forward rules quite well, the game is still challenging for an adult to plow through with younger ones (I'd argue it's better suited, at the least, for ages 13+).  It is an inherent aspect to most war games of this nature.  Instead of concerning myself with personal game play, I focus more on teaching opportunities and on playing up the game's thematic moments to build a fun experience that takes advantage of my children's natural fondness for the genre.  That sure beats putting my head through the wall when one of them buys 15 infantry and holes up in Numidia, again.

Coins - excellent thematic touch.

There are some nice elements to the game.  The classic version holds a personal nostalgia for me as one of the games I cut my teeth on in junior high and high school.  It is straight-forward and has a unique combat system.  Instead of rolling for certain numbers to score hits, you are trying to match symbols on the dice with your units engaged in the fight.  Additionally, you do not roll for every unit present, but rather assign a "front line" that will roll for a particular round.  After one round is resolved, you repeat until final victory or defeat.  This gives an out-numbered defender a puncher's chance, while still giving the advantage to the greater force overall.  Still, it's a brutal slug-fest without much nuance in which the poor get poorer, the rich get richer, and turtling can really drag down the pace.  But for an innocent half-day of fun, there's a simple country, or should I say provincial, charm to it.

Conquest II provides a more subtle game of political conquest, rather than military, which considerably refines game play.  To score points, your Caesar must kiss babies, speak at $1,000/plate banquets, and grease some palms.  Only about a dozen provinces are considered worthy enough to vie for this influence.  You must slip into those choice swing-states with your Caesar, or a general, to scoop up available influence markers, which can be yours for the right price.  The whole mechanic is actually a model of the Chicago political machine where buying influence naturally abstracts the system of job nepotism, union schmoozing, vote buying, and trash collecting.

The mix of available non-military actions is a nice change of pace for kids from other similarly fashioned war games.  The conquest cards offer a good variety of bonuses.  Some are even free, but may require another type of trade-off in exchange for its advantages.  Six of these cards simulate Senate votes on various issues that provide further benefits that you must win by having a majority of senators (gathered from still more cards).  Naval and land movement is very abstracted, but in a good way for this game's purposes.  The ability to levy units and raise additional taxes are necessities to be planned for at just the right time - but be careful, as doing so too much creates chaos in your ranks which can lead to loss of victory points.  All of this needs to be orchestrated with the aim of performing the most important action - buy influence.

Of course, battle can be, shall we say, "Advantageous."

The over-arching political goals seem to soften the core confrontation factor somewhat, but adds another wrinkle in the form of strategic hesitation.  You can buy other players' influence markers if they do not have a military presence in that particular province.  Therefore, you must develop a careful strategy of balancing military and political expenditures.  This design actually tends then to limit the amount of warfare, because even if victorious, combat means attrition, which means less boots on the ground to protect your influence abroad, which means you spend more to raise new troops, which means you have less money to buy influence.  That political influence is the most important component as it translates into victory points.  And money is already a tight commodity in Conquest II.  So as kids are confronted with balancing politics, military, and economics, they sometimes can seize up with indecision.

For adult gamers, especially non-wargamers, the action point mechanic should be attractive in that it reduces downtime and keeps things moving at a nice clip.  It may seem like having a limit of only two actions per round would make for agonizing decisions, but it is not a major issue once familiar with the game.  Battles intermittently stall the pace, but those are fun to watch even if not personally involved.  Also, the game time restriction, in the form of four to five campaign seasons, should ease worries regarding never-ending, heavy-weight bouts that are often associated with the genre.

Okay, I'll Shut-Up Now:

In the end, I give Conquest of the Empire a 7 on the Board Game Geek scale (Good game. Usually willing to play).  Conquest I appeals to the wargamer in me, albeit not as a recurring and favorite title.  Conquest II has a good variety of Euro mechanics mixed in that should bridge a little bit of the gap with non-wargamers, although it will run a bit longer for the average hobbyist.  For your kids, ultimately the title is better suited to teenagers.  Not to completely discourage keeping it away from younger ones, though.  There are certainly universal gaming nuggets presented here in a simple fashion.  Just be prepared.  While the structured action point mechanic helps to shorten the overall game length, downtime between turns is still an issue while children try to decide on the best strategic balance.  Patience will be necessary; which is often not one of Caesar's virtues!

Examples of the Conquest Cards.

January 17, 2012

Board to PC: Kingsburg Java

Graphics are true to the board!
 No, not a specialty blend of coffee from Jamaica!  A Java implementation for your PC of the 2007 dice-allocating, worker placement game by Andrea Chiarvesio and Luca Iennaco and published by Fantasy Flight.  I discovered this free PC version a couple of months ago, so maybe there are some more who are unaware of this little gem's availability.  As for the board game, you can read my review here as to my thoughts on its family friendliness.  In a nutshell, we enjoy this slick and smooth title very much as a light mix of strategy and luck that rewards those who can both plan ahead, as well as react to changing situations.  It is not a terribly deep game, but it does at least run at about the perfect length for its depth, so as to not over-stay its welcome.

Great scans of the building mat and enemy cards.
Thomas Arnold's faithful Java implementation cuts that already attractive length by more than half, making this elegant design too attractive to pass up!  I could get in two games of a lunch hour.  The interface is extremely intuitive.  The windows are all clean and easily manageable with information readily at hand.  Turns are well-scripted and documented to avoid confusion as to what just happened.  And the graphics have got to be literally scanned right from the components out of the box.  It's like playing with the board glued to your monitor without the pieces sliding down!

Scripted windows tell you exactly what is going on.

Game play is true to form, as well.  You can play 2-5 players in any combination of human and computer opponents.  There are three levels of AI, none fantastically brilliant, but certainly adequate for the 15-20 minutes you'll spend in the game.  As an added bonus, Arnold has also included a couple of options from the expansion, To Forge a Realm, namely the soldier tokens for the end-of-year battle and the extra building rows (which helps extend replayability).

Apparently, an iOS application was ported for the iPhone back in 2009 with plans to expand the app to the iPad, as well.  However, the app met with a good deal of criticism for some persistent bugs and its unwieldy interface.  It was never developed for the iPad.  Many thanks and kudos to the original designers for giving permission to develop this version.  While not mobile, Arnold's Java implementation is a superior alternative in function, aesthetics, and cost.  If you like Kingsburg, or have wanted to try it before buying (it is being reprinted), then I highly recommend this PC adaptation.

January 13, 2012

Gaming News: Victory Point Goes Kid-Friendly

There is a hard-working, "small-ish" game company that is meeting a unique niche in the hobby and who are now reaching out into the "kiddie table" territory!  Victory Point Games produces an amazingly diverse line of approachable titles.  Okay, so what's so unique about that?  Well, Victory Point is an independent company that produces all of their games "in-house," rather than contracting them out to a printer - games even come bagged, rather than in the standard cardboard box.  The components are still sturdy and usable, but are decidedly cheaper looking than what the likes of Fantasy Flight, Days of Wonder, Rio Grande, or GMT would produce.  Not that this is a problem, because they do this for good reason.  First of all, it keeps their operating costs low, which they then pass on to us, the consumer, in the form of very attractive prices.  Two, it allows them to create and produce a surprisingly diverse line of titles at a frequency unmatched by many other publishers.  And, finally, it generally keeps their games streamlined, quick, and unencumbered by numerous, fiddly pieces.  This production and gaming style suits a sizable demographic in the hobby who are looking for fun and manageable strategy games without having to pay heavy prices.

Victory Point's array of titles is impressive.  First starting out with hex-and-counter, tactical war games, the company took pride in its philosophy to produce strategy games with succinct rules and lower component counts, making the genre more accessible to those afraid of old Avalon Hill and SPI creations.  Since then, they have branched out with board and card games covering history, politics, role playing, dungeon-crawling, space, mountain climbing, and sports!  Now, they've created a childrens line of titles.  The first title in the Me & the Kids Series attempts to address the age-old question of why the chicken crossed the road in Why?.  Although from the rules, the only thing it actually solves is instead what would happen!  And that appears to be a massive pile-up and/or fried chicken dinners!  In what appears to be sort of a Frogger-clone, 1-5 players must safely and quickly race across and around six lanes of traffic with the aid of cards and dice.  Simple rules and a fun concept put this high on the family-friendly scale.  They have recently announced the second title, King's Critters, which seems to offer a bit more decision-making as players race against each other to retrieve little creatures that a fearsome dragon has stolen from the King's zoo - another light-hearted and kid-friendly concept.

Victory Point Games already has a reputable track record in producing elegant, fun, unique, and low cost strategy titles.  It will probably come as no surprise that I am keenly interested in seeing them apply that experience to the kids genre of the hobby, as well!

January 06, 2012

Game Review: Ulama

Many gamers hate to lose.  Well, just be glad today's titles aren't like this one, because often times it meant losing your head - literally!  Ulama is the modern-day descendant of the ancient Mesoamerican ballgame played by such cultures as the Olmec, Toltec, Maya, and Aztec.  I had an opportunity last week on our Christmas cruise to visit the Maya site of Xunantunich (shoo-nahn-too-nitch) in western Belize.  I did not hear of any board gaming evidence among the Maya, but boy, did they have a viscous sport!  Alas, I did not take any of the kids; it was an eight hour day with half of that on a bus, a lot of climbing and walking at the site, and it included a traditional local meal that my palatably picky children would not have even touched with their fork.  So I'm flying solo on this review.

There are still many holes in our modern understanding of this ancient sport.  Many people today are aware that these societies played a ballgame of some sort and some have even seen images of the massive court at Chichen Itza with its high walls and "basketball-style" loops.  However, the majority of Maya ball courts would be more akin to the public basketball court at the local park, rather than the billion dollar Jerry World in Dallas, Texas (to which the Chichen Itza court might be compared).  In any event, the nature and style of the game not only greatly varied between cultures, but also from site to site within a culture, as well as over time.  Archaeological record estimates the game began circa 1500 BC with the Olmec (the Olympics didn't start until 776 BC).  It was still going strong with the Aztecs 3,000 years later as the Spaniards recorded many accounts of the game with much fascination when they arrived.

The modest, but typical, Xunantunich ball court.
We had a fun and vibrant tour guide on the site - no doubt passionate about its history because, well as a Maya himself, it was his history.  The rules of the game are a bit murky.  Archaeologists are having about as much success in completely understanding the game as Americans do cricket.  From Maya accounts and Spanish records, it is clear the game was not uniform across all of Mesoamerica - which roughly makes up modern-day central Mexico down through Gautamala, Honduras, El Salvador, and Belize.  The size and weight of the ball, the dimensions of the playing area, the clothing and regalia worn, and the equipment included all varied, sometimes significantly.  The famous "goal" loops at Chichen Itza are actually rare and a later addition to the sport.  Chichen Itza also has the largest ball court by a large margin.  Many sites have more than one ball court, some containing dozens of them.  The game appears to have been much more than our contemporary concept of a spectator sport.  Instead, it played a central and symbolic role in religion, politics, and diplomacy.  Like if the United States and Canada played a game of ice hockey for control of the Great Lakes. Bye, bye Chicago!

The average Mayan was 5' 4".
The game in Xunantunich, whose heydey was most of the 1st Century A.D., typically involved two teams of between 2-4 players each.  Players returned a ball back and forth across the court (ala volleyball without a net), but could only use their elbows, knees, or hips - generally the later.  While using your head might have been legal, it was certainly unwise.  Balls typically weighed up to 8 pounds - roughly the weight of a watermelon!  Anywhere between the size of a softball or soccer ball, these were made of sap drained from rubber trees mixed with plant oils which created a hard, yet supper bouncy ball.  Sort of an ancient vulcanization a few millennium before Goodyear did the same with his automobile tires.  Xunantunich's court is longer, yet narrower, than a tennis court and actually a fairly typical field when compared with other sites.  And while it is very tempting to interpret the inclined sides as a sort of stadium seating, archaeologists are not certain of the design's purpose.  One thing is for sure; post-game parking lot traffic was certainly less congested than today.

Our guide seemed to relish in recounting the fate of the losing team: they were sacrificed to the gods!  Not to worry if you were a local, though - the game tended to be rigged in their favor.  Apparently, captives from other cities were brought in and forced to play on the opposing side.  As long as they were winning, the game would not end.  As soon as the local boys got ahead or scored a significant point, officials would call the game and declare them the victors.  The doomed captives were then summarily "cut from the team," you might say, as a spiritual offering.  This no doubt must be the origination of the term "home field advantage!"

January 05, 2012

Gaming with Kids: Losing

Sore losing certainly isn't unique to kids.  Any adult can handle a loss poorly - running the gamut from giving the silent treatment to refusing to play again to throwing a royal temper tantrum that would make any 3-year old proud.  Yet the issue in adult gaming groups will generally be less prevalent and, when it does occur, not as extreme in nature.  In children, sore losing can be a significant obstacle to hurdle in developing as hobby gamers.  Kids just don't always lose gracefully.  Perhaps it is a lack of social experience.  Or maybe it can be chalked up to immature intellectual development.  And there's always the concept that they just haven't mastered controlling the baser emotions that we all feel, but have gradually suppressed in certain contexts when necessary or desirable - you know, like restraining yourself from running a car off the road that just cut you off.  I'm no psychologist.  No matter how much you may stress the fact that, "It's just a game," emotions can still flare.  As a father (and a former child with a horrible game temper), I've tried a few things to help my kids learn to be competitive while taking loses in stride and to enjoy the game as an experience and hobby.  It's not 100% effective in subduing the errant temper, but it has kept them from gouging out each others' eyes or breaking one anothers' necks, so I'll call it a success.
  1. Don't necessarily start with cooperative games.  Yes, that teamwork element is dangling out there like a carrot as a means of introducing your kids to the hobby sans confrontation - ergo sans the sore losing.  They certainly play a nice role in acclimating kids to the hobby.  However, if that is their baptism to gaming, it could inadvertently cement a preference for the genre.  That could sour their taste for other games in a hobby where coop titles are in the decided minority, hence achieving the exact opposite of your original goal.  Instead, think of coop games as either a) an alternative for kids who are simply having too much trouble with losing competitive titles, or b) as a break from those more traditional and numerous games that can sometimes prove stressful.  In that manner, they provide a refreshing change of pace where the focus is solely on family fun.
  2. Engage them in the theme.  I'm not talking about my Ameritrash bias here.  Now, I'm not one to say that you really feel like you're the subject of the game - Mission: Red Planet never makes us believe we're real, Martian-bound astronauts in the Victorian-era.  However, that title's theme does provide a fun atmosphere and creates an engrossing story that can distract your kids from the fact that they are losing - or at least minimize the impact.  Consider passing on pure abstract titles which focus solely on strategy.  Even if weak, take advantage of the game's theme to enhance the narrative.  Which leads to my next tip:
  3. Ham it up.  When kids see you having a good time, the mood will be infectious.  Especially so when they see you making light of your own disastrous situations.  I'll make it a point of declaring how much the dice are out to get me when I roll poorly.  Or I'll react humorously when one of the little twerps derails my plans in any manner!  I've found my kids will even sometimes imitate me now when suffering their own setbacks.  Goofy, silly, and over-the-top are all good.
  4. Help them all equally.  Make sure that if you offer suggestions and advice, that you are consistent.  Nothing seems to exacerbate sore losing like a perception that you're playing favorites!  Also, be up front before you begin and let them know that you'll be offering tips.  You may only want to do this for a new game's first play or two, but you'll be able to judge their desires for assistance beyond that and plan accordingly.
  5. Little details.  Don't overlook some very simple basics that will go a long way in creating an atmosphere conducive to sporting play.  Beyond giving them say on which games you bring to the table, let them pick their color or character or country preferences.  Allow them to go first.  Even let them decide where, and to whom next, they sit.  These sorts of considerations are typically minor for adults, yet are oddly important to children.  This sets the stage positively from the beginning.  Of course, kids being kids, they can sometimes fight over even these smallest of details.  A fair and consistent rotation of sorts has worked in our household.  But sometimes you can't win for losing, as they say.
  6. Make sure your kids aren't tired.  Playing a game late into the night can be problematic.  Capping a long day of sporting events or outdoors activities with an evening game can also pose an issue.  Keep in mind how much homework they may have just completed.  Mentally or physically exhausted kids equals touchy kids.  They become grouchier, more sensitive, and tempers naturally flare more easily.  Okay, so this is an issue for adults, too.  Just keep in mind it is exponentially greater with children!  So be patient and wait for ideal times to play with your kids.  And if a game is longer than average, consider frequent breaks or even splitting game play between two days - it'll alleviate factors that can lead to exhaustion.  And if all else fails:
  7. Threaten to quit!  This is not a means of punishment, but instead a manner of depriving the fire of its oxygen, in a sense.  If your child is having difficulty and acting inappropriately merely because he/she is losing, and is spoiling the game for other players despite your pleas, then it may be necessary to end prematurely.  Unfortunately, this will often be unfair to the other players/siblings.  If possible, you can simply remove just the child who is having issues.  If that is not possible, then quit your current game and start up a different one with the other kids.  It may sound harsh, but sometimes the tough decisions are necessary.  And hopefully such an abrupt measure will reinforce to all the kids that no one likes playing with a sore loser.