As a new, first time Mum, I promised myself that I wouldn't get completely lost in a world of nappies, feeds and sleepless nights, letting my hobbies fall by the wayside entirely. For the first three months of my incredible Daughter's life, I learnt to adapt to my new role as her Mother with very little time for "me". But as I approached the 12 week mark, I remembered my promise and decided to see if it was possible to get the games back out. With little one having more regular naps and a slightly earlier bedtime, I've begun to discover that my love for games doesn't have to be put on hold while I looked after my baby - I can absolutely do both. Console gaming was my initial choice and I found it fairly simple to incorporate here and there. Was I nap trapped? I made sure to have a controller nearby and the game of my choice set up; a 1 to 2 hour session was completely achievable. I could hear her, see her, care for her and still enjoy the right type of game (Hogwarts Legacy was a dream here - manual saving and short tasks/missions made this the perfect game for me!). I initially thought that physical gaming was too difficult. Whether a single player game, co-op or opposing, I just could not envisage how to achieve my level of pre-baby enjoyment. But I'm here today to say it is absolutely possible. Here is the first of my "reviews" on games you can play with a 3 month old baby in the house. The first game I tried was Carcassonne during nap time. I missed gaming with my Husband; Saturdays used to have 4pm nibbles, a glass of wine and game time. We wanted a semblance of this back and felt Carcassonne’s simple play mechanics would be ideal here and we were right. Sleep deprivation meant that we didn't want anything too complicated and so we chose the basic rules i.e. no farmers, bishops etc. and only included the River expansion in our gameplay.
With little one asleep, we began. There is essentially no set up which is fantastic as you can dive straight in. Each time we finish the game, we reshuffle the tiles as we pack away ready for the next session, so it was just a case of removing them from the box in easy to reach piles. A job that can be done one handed if needed. Emptying a bag of meeples onto the table can again be done one handed. Popping the score board on the table is easy enough and scoring is simple throughout the game and again, can be done by any player or one-handed. We were ready to play in about 3 minutes which let's face it, is brilliant when time is precious!
Baby still sleeping, we started the game as usual. With the basic rules, quite simply it's a case of choosing a tile and placing it on the table, following the rules of the "map". By this I mean road tiles must adjoin to another road, city to city, plain pasture to plain pasture. Now at this point, our little one wakes up. It's my turn next so I simply chose my tile and popped it on the table in front of me but not on the "map" area. This way if we were away from the game for hours, we'd know whose turn it was next and I could return, pick up my tile and continue play. With little one awake but needy, I sat her on my lap with her favourite toy in my hands to play with. She can see me, my Husband, our game, we can talk to her and, as the game has no "secret elements" as such, we can fully involve her in what we were doing without giving our hand away to the opposition. I quickly realise I can't reach the pieces anymore but this really didn't matter. I simply told my Husband which draw pile I wanted to select my next tile from and he flipped it over for me. I consulted the play area and then just instructed him where I wanted it placed and he popped it down for me. If I completed an element, he then added my score to the board for me. It was so simple to do and being such a visual game, there is no opportunity for the person with their hands free to cheat or tweak anything to their advantage! Our little one loved watching us move the tiles, the colours, the little meeples (she tried to grab a couple but 1, she has no aim yet and always misses bless her and 2, I moved her so she couldn't reach my pile and my Husband continued to place them for me as per my eager instructions. I'd like to say here that the only reason I couldn't do the movements myself is because of where I sat my daughter on my lap and the fact that I’m only 5'2''! If I'd angled her differently, I could have easily played one-handed. My Husband and I swapped being the caregiver halfway through the game and he managed to play the game with one hand with only a very small amount of help from me as our play area grew beyond his reach.
After 3 very successful games and my Husband being the overall winner of our session, it was time to pack up. With baby securely in my arms, I managed this on my own, one-handed and in no time at all really. In all honesty, the trickiest part was getting the meeples back in their bags but I mean, these could easily be stored loose in the box, I'm just a bit pernickety about keeping our games tidy!
Carcassonne was a fantastic choice of game from our collection for a first play as new parents. We rediscovered something we love with very little additional effort on our parts and at absolutely no detriment to our daughter. In fact, she cooed her way through the game as we talked to her about what we were doing and showed her the tiles and colours (little gamer in the making? We hope so!). I'd thoroughly recommend Carcassonne to parents of young babies looking to play a game together, or as a game to play with family or friends. With a little support, or just with one hand, the game can be played, paused, set-up and packed away incredibly easily. In fact, we currently have a half-played game on our table as we speak!