Lifehacker had a post a little while ago about advanced game strategies for children’s games: http://lifehacker.com/5898720/a-better-strategy-for-hangman

I thought it was pretty funny, coming up with advanced strategies for children’s games, something a total nerd would do (like me!). Thought I’d share a similar experience, playing Donkey Kong Jr Math with my 9 year old nephew and my cousin-in-law.

If you aren’t familiar with the game, it is 2 player and looks like this:

Each player must climb the ropes, select numbers and operations and get to the center number first. I believe you start with a random number. The first couple of games my nephew beat me as I learned the ropes (pun intended), but I quickly realized a faster strategy: Divide to a low number, then add/subtract so that you can quickly multiply to get close to the final number, finishing off with another add or subtract. Depending on the available numbers and the size of the final number, this may or may not be necessary. For example, 62 is easy to get to with anything around 10 in your box, 10×6=60 then add 2, 11×5=55 add 7. The game adds some complixity by sometimes skimping on certain numbers and sometimes I think even removing certain operations. The game is relatively simple if it lets you do something like “add 4 8”, but is much more fun to play with the ability to only use single digits.

Anyway, just thought it was interesting that advanced strategies exist for children’s games (all except Candyland which is 100% luck). I don’t think I ever realized this as a kid, I would just play the most obvious way, I guess I wasn’t very bright.

Another example is Guess Who, a game in which each player selects a character from about 25, each having different traits (gender, hair color, glasses, eye color, facial hair, hat, etc). Each player has a board with all 25 characters and players take turns asking questions about the other player’s chosen character to eliminate potentials and eventually guess who the other player has. I played with my niece recently and realized, due to the difference in frequency of various traits, there is probably a most efficient search algorithim and a “hardest to single out” character to choose (of course the other person could immediately guess that person).