I remember the year I got Battling Tops. Ostensibly a game, but more of a toy, really. My favorite kind. And although, because it was my Christmas gift, I got as many turns as I wanted, all the adults, brothers and cousins, aunts and uncles, rather took it over that holiday. It was loud and silly, and winning was as much chance as skill. Rivaled Ker-Plunk. Connect Four served the same purpose several years later.
Most of the time, I had no one to play a game with, so this kind of game could be simply played solo. Balance and fine motor skills, observation. Like stacking blocks, with refinement. Spirograph fit all this, not even pretending to be a game. Much better than dolls, which could be dressed, and undressed, and that was about it. (Except when I could get a rope and swing them around in an extreme amusement park scenario.)
There was one, no name I can remember, with colored wooden balls, and a spinner, simple elimination process. I was happy enough just rolling the balls around the board, with it's dimpled holes for them. Remarkably sturdy spinner to send them flying. Sometimes my brother would play with me, at least I remember him doing so once.
I often asked for games when pressed for gift suggestions. I had the idea that this was a reasonable request, price wise. My mother often wondered at me why, when I rarely brought the games out with the few other children in the neighborhood. But they were rough, competitive, and always had to go first. Not fun to have a game with. So, I could play with these by myself most days, and when we had a crowd over for holidays, I could get the adults to join me - to the extent of enjoying each other's company, and I was just another player. They tended to either let me go first, or at least take turns fairly, handicapping me when I was very little.
Games had much more appeal than cards, the bread and butter activity for gatherings among my kith. When I was too small to hold a hand well, I was roped in to learn, which could be frustrating and tiring. I would, eventually, get pretty good at Euchre and 500, and there was another called Pedro that got played for a while. But a card game had too rigid a structure for me as a kid. Once started, I had to finish the game. I'd get bored, or feel imposed upon, and I was never skilled at throwing a game, to end it quickly, undetected. Anyway, I knew I'd be yelled at all the way home, for pouting, or for being rude.
When I got into my late teens, the brothers and cousins were scattered, the best older players couldn't play anymore, and the ones left were very slow. A game with my father, granny, my mother and I was a special kind of torture. My mother was very good, very fast, as was I. But her mother was in her late 80's, my father was a lousy player at best, and both of them were quite touchy. Oh, yes, that was fun.
Beat all the joy out of it, poisoned the sense of accomplishment. I would enjoy a good four handed card game, but I'm back to where I started, with no one to play with. I do know a couple of good solitaire variations.
I still love a game with good "toy value," especially if magnets are involved.