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Review of Gangs Jr., a tabletop wargame designed for kids

Gangs Jr. was my first foray into playing wargame style tabletop RPgs, and it actually worked really well as an introduction for myself, in addition to being a lot of fun for my kid.  We ran a very fun water balloon fight across a map covered in blocks and toys, and loved the simplified system for getting both a newcomer and a little one into a new type of gaming.

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Gangs Jr. was mad for all ages (requires counting to 6)

Gangs Jr. is designed to be mechanically accessible to all-ages and only requires minimal counting.  The pass/fail criteria tracks the same number across all dice, and can even be simplified into coin flips for kids who are still learning to count.

The subject matter is based around a fighting-focused mechanic, but the author does list some amazing alternative suggestions.  When I played with my 3 year old, we ran a water balloon fight with the “down and out” criteria being that the character got too cold and wet to continue and needed to go get a towel to dry off.

This was definitely playable with my kid, and we had a fun time working across a 3d playing field, managing cover strategies, and soaking each other’s characters!

Gangs Jr. set in a divided city but with flexible options

Gangs Jr. is set as a faction-divided war game based on Gangs of the Undercity, however, like I mentioned in the intro, we were able to use the suggestions in the game to be a friendly water balloon fight at a birthday party instead.  You can modify the setting to be anything that you want in order to tailor to your kid’s interests while still playing it out as a war-styled game.  Maybe you want to keep the original gangs theme or you can switch it up to a water balloon fight, paintball, super soakers, laser tag, etc.  The artwork and discussion is based around the original gangs theme, but it’s flexible enough to work with lots of different settings and makes good alternative recommendations.

Your fleet of characters in Gangs Jr.  

In Gangs Jr., you control multiple characters across a game field.  These characters are called gangers, and they belong to gangs or factions that you pick at the beginning of the game.  The gangers each have different ranks and strengths that you can use to strategize with as you play.  

Wargame mechanics in Gangs Jr.

Roles and Attributes

When spec-ing out your characters, you can assign them the role of either a brawler or a gunner, determining if they are going to operate primarily as a melee or ranged character.  After that, you spec the stat block with brawn, speed, melee, or ranged in order to determine their strength and speed or how many dice to roll when an attack is made.

The numbers here don’t go too high (in quick mode, the highest stat is a seven), so it was reasonable for my kid to count and be able to track the numbers.  I did help with the reading bits since my kid is only three and can’t read yet, but it was still easy to keep track of with only a few stats to look at.

Quick Play, Beginners, and Veterans Modes

I very much appreciated that Gangs Jr. includes three main modes of play – Quick Play, Beginners, and Veterans.  As a first timer to wargaming and first timer introducing the mechanics to my kid, it was great to jump into Quick Play mode on our first game to get some of the basics down.  After that, we did a second game using the Beginner mode, and I think it went way better than if we had skipped trying out Quick Play.

Being able to try out the super parsed down/semi-prepped version first gave us both some confidence in trying out a new type of game where we set more up on our own.

Activities and Coloring Breaks

Gangs Jr. breaks prep up into activities for kids to add their flair.  They get to pick and color their factions and flag and spec out all their gang members.  I liked that these were broken into activities versus saying prep or set up because even just posing it to kids as an activity or part of the play makes it a bit more fun and easy to get into.

The coloring sheets maybe aren’t a key mechanic in terms of how the game plays out, but they are key in terms of playing with kids.  Gangs Jr. comes with coloring pages, which I find REALLY help my kid to take a fidget break or release a little bit of creativity when needed.  We set the coloring sheets next to the game, and let my kid color when it’s necessary – the game goes so much more smoothly.

What did my kid think about Gangs Jr.?

My kid loved having multiple characters to move around on the map!  We made terrain using different types of building blocks and some old containers that I let him play with and had this whole map together for hiding in and climbing around.

our city map made with blocks and containers for playing Gangs Jr.

We made pieces out of sticky notes with stickers of either dinosaurs or animals on them to help my kid track each character, and it worked out really well… after we watched a video showing that some cats like getting wet (there was a bit of an break needed when my kid’s character with the cat sticker got landed with a water balloon and he wanted to make sure the cat wasn’t going to melt).

We played a couple games, and my kid enjoyed finding ways to hide characters around the blocks or having characters pop out of a corner to surprise mine with a water balloon.  From my side, it was cool seeing him exercising so much spatial reasoning and really enjoying it.

Overall thoughts on Gangs Jr.

The system works really well for kids or beginners, as is evidenced by my being able to jump in as a first timer.  I liked the alternative suggestions for the scenario (i.e. water balloon fights, sparing, etc), the activities breakdown, and the coloring sheets for helping the game style connect with kids more.

This was great for helping my child exercise spatial reasoning and strategy skills, and it was also just a fun time together!

Where to find a copy of Gangs Jr.

Stay tuned here for more news and release info on Gangs Jr!

Check out Koala Bear Swamp’s blog and games here!

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