160 – Conflict – The Family Gamers Podcast

Episode 160: Conflict

We’re here to talk about games and conflict this week. Do your kids handle conflict well? (skip to the topic)

But first, what we’ve been playing this week!

What We’ve Been Playing

We sorted out all the kids’ LEGO and found the Klutz LEGO Chain Reactions kit. Very cool and something to look into if you’ve got kids interested in making working machines.

Carpool Karaoke Game – we’re not big karaoke people, but this was surprisingly fun. Let your inhibitions go! The game does assume that you’ve got a pretty decent knowledge of pop music and pop culture.

Cartographers: A Roll Player Tale – a different take on roll-and-write (or flip-and-write)

Potion Explosion with the kids (our review). Fun to watch the marbles clink together, fill up your potions, and pretend to drink them.

Kemet – “a dudes-on-a-map area control game” from Matagot. Giant D4s!

Welcome To… Your Perfect Home. Solo is OK, but multi-player is better. A chill puzzley flip-and-write.

Noxford (again)

Get the MacGuffin (0ur review)

Ingenious (our review) – a classic from Renier Knizia.

Anitra is still spending time waiting around at bus stops. Hex Roller (our review) and Palm Island (0ur review) have been helpful.

We can’t say enough good about ShipShape from Rob Daviau and Calliope Games. Bid for large pieces to go in your “hold”, picturing cannons, gold, and contraband, each with a different mode of scoring. We’ll have a full review soon, but don’t wait!

Panic Island – at only 2 minutes, we’re getting in a lot of plays. Trying hard to win enough games to open up the “locked” cards.

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs: A Gemstone Mining Game – one of the inspirations for our theme on “conflict” this week. Read our review to find out why we didn’t have a great time with this game.

Piratatak – the game we bought at Just Games in Rochester. Mostly luck, but with strategic press-your-luck decisions and the ability to “buy” pieces from other players.


After episode 158, our older kids DID bring a game to school to play during lunch…. it was Piratatak! Perfect for a very short lunch break (our kids get about 20 minutes).

We got some comments on our episode on storytelling. A great newer example: EXIT: The House of Riddles, which we recently played with the kids. It really pulled us in, and there was a definite emphasis on working as a team.

Check out the pictures of Nick and his daughter Izzy playing Raptor – and eating the scientists!


Boston FIG is coming! Let us know if you’ll be there – we’d love to meet you!



Asher helps Anitra explain this beautiful abstract game for two players.

See more pictures and information at the SNAP review page for SHOBU.


Huntress upgrade card: Savage II and Hunt

A short conversation about conflict this week. How much is too much? Maybe that’s the wrong question. Maybe it’s more about the kind of conflict and its intensity.

Expected vs. Unexpected Conflict

Our kids have no problems with games where conflict is expected, where attacking each other is the core of the game. Examples: Dice Throne, Magic: The Gathering. These can result in sportsmanship (bad winner/ sore loser) issues, but the conflict itself is not the problem.

On the other hand, unexpected, indirect conflict (blocking a move, fighting over scarce resources) can be a lot harder to deal with.

We decide that “expected” conflict is generally okay. Expected conflict has clear paths on how to recover. For example, Dirty Pig has a lot of take-that elements. But you know that you’ll try to get your pigs dirty (or protect them with barns) and your opponents will try to clean them and burn your barns down.

Intentions and Recovery

Snow White Action cards: "This Isn't Mine", "Not Mine Either"
forcing negative effects

Conversely, the main point in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs: A Gemstone Mining Game is solitary: to collect the best gems that you can. And yet, most of the cards you play have a take-that effect: taking away valuable gems or forcing someone to take a bad “obsidian” gem. This is a lot less welcome, since the core idea of the game seems to be pressing your luck to get the best gems.

In contrast, engine-building games such as Splendor or Century: Spice Road (we mention Century: Golem Edition) have a different kind of conflict. If you build the “better” engine, you may win the race to a desirable card first, frustrating another player’s plans.

Sometimes the anticipation of something negative happening (such as the appearance of a monster in Cartographer) can diminish the knee-jerk reaction to conflict against another player.

Perhaps the key is how easy it is to recover when your plans have been frustrated? Of course, the more mature a player is, the easier it will be for them to put their initial frustration aside, reassess the situation and determine how to move forward.

We also notice in games with take-that or blocking, that it’s harder to deal with in games with more players. Sometimes it can just appear that a game is unfair when a player is simply getting unlucky die rolls or card combinations. Attack games that encourage ganging up on a leader (ie. “The Munchkin Effect”) also discourage players.

In Conclusion

Certain kinds of conflict may be more problematic. Indirect conflict can be harder to deal with, but there’s nothing inherently negative about it, and the best family games mitigate this effect. Direct conflict, surprisingly, is almost never an issue for our kids. Take-that can be a problem, or not, depending on how the rest of the game is structured.

It’s the situations that make conflict feel unfair that really become a problem. That’s what we keep running into with our kids, even though we addressed this in our Sportsmanship episode three years ago! These games become a learning opportunity. “Even if it feels unfair, we’re going to keep playing with a good attitude. If everybody is playing the game with good intentions, it’s not personal.”

Board games actually give us a safe space to learn how to deal with conflict, which can carry over to real life!

Anitra found a BoardGameGeek thread with suggestions on ways to introduce conflict, but remember: it’s good to have kids that want to be nice!

Cooperative games “introduce your kids to the idea that things are not always going to go your way, and sometimes you’ll lose more than you win; but that doesn’t mean life is unfair.”


Do you welcome conflict? Or try to avoid it?

Please let us know. All our contact information is below.

Much thanks to our Twitter friend “mouseydew” for this show topic!

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