For whatever reason I'm not feeling like wrestling with sixty dollar Euro games so let's aim small scale and young with The Secret Door. This simple game has a lot of appealing qualities and could be good fun for a wide range of ages.
The Secret Door plays very much like Concentration. Players begin the game with twelve cardboard tiles with clock pictures on them. They also get twenty four tiles with pictures of various valuables on them, two tiles per item. The tiles with the valuables are turned face down and mixed up. Then three are removed from the group and set aside. The clock tiles are then turned face down and the whole mess of tiles are mixed up. Finally they are all placed onto the game board, still face down.
The object of the game is to guess while tiles were set aside. Players take turns flipping two tiles. If the tiles match they are set aside. If any of the tiles are clocks they are set up at the top of the board. Then the next player takes a turn. When all twelve clocks have been revealed the game is over and the players have to guess, as a group, which valuables were drawn at the start and set aside. The clock element adds a nice time limit to the game, not to mention a bit of drama. Players may wait eagerly to see whether later tile flips reveal a helpful item or a dreaded ticking clock.
The Secret Door is played cooperatively and thus is a perfect game for a gang of children. Imagine one child flips a tile with a ruby on it. You may recall that the other ruby was flipped earlier and where it is. But you give the player a chance to remember, then wait and see if anyone else remembers, then jiggle their memories a bit, and if all else fails just step in and help. There's a lot of opportunity for success and pride in this game and really not much chance of bad feeling of any sort. Players win or lose as a group as well and if they lose then it's just time to try again. Finally, the game does reward logical thinking and strategy so children will have some motivation to try and solve the mystery rather than playing randomly.
The Secret Door is a small press game and may have to be special ordered from Family Pastimes games. Its components are likely to reflect its humble origins so don't expect the sort of fantasmagora that accompanies opening a Days of Wonder game. Nevertheless this is a very solid piece of game design and well suited for a wide variety of ages. Further, it's a cooperative game well suited to younger players who may find competitive play emotionally trying.
Pros: Simple and Fun, some strategy
Cons: kind of bland, but it's for younger kids
Beyond the Basics: Well, it's Concentration, so a pretty basic system