Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Sum Swamp

Subject: Math
Category: Addition, subtraction
Ages: 5 and up
# of players: 2 to 4
Time to play: 20 minutes
Mechanics/Game Type: roll and move

Ratings (1 to 5)

Educational Value: 4
Gaming value: 2
Aesthetic value: 5
Price value: 5
Ease of play: 5
Younger adaptability: 5

My comments: This simple game is a great way to practice single-digit addition and subtraction. Kids are really attracted to this game because of the chunky, soft, colorful swamp critter playing pieces, the "unusual" dice, and the colorful board. Two of the dice have integers 1 to 6 while the third die has + and - on it; roll the three, make the equation, and move that many spaces. If you land on a space that says even or odd then you need to roll the appropriate number to continue on; if you land on a number, roll the operation die to see if you go forward or back that many spaces. The first player to the finish line wins. link to this game:

Big Top (also Barnyard Critters)

Subject: Math
Category: Pattern recognition, logic
Ages: 4 and up
# of players: 2 to 8
Time to play: 15 minutes
Mechanics/Game Type: card collection

Ratings (1 to 5)

Educational Value: 5
Gaming value: 3
Aesthetic value: 3
Price value: 5
Ease of play: 5
Younger adaptability: n/a

My comments: A nice twist on matching games, the object is to find what is missing rather than matching what is there. The game uses 5 animals and 5 colors on two types of cards--one type has one animal in one color that are spread out on the playing surface, and the other type has 4 animals in 4 colors that are stacked face down in the middle. You flip the top card and try to figure out which animal and color are missing, and the first player to slap the card with that single animal and color gets to keep it. After flipping all the cards in the deck and collecting all the single animal cards, the player with the most cards wins.

Because the cards have to be analyzed systematically on two different features, the game builds logic skills aw well as pattern recognition. Speed is a factor, which may be a bit frustrating for mixed-age players. It is a good game to start with if the Set (to be reviewed) is too challenging. The deck comes in a hard lidded box rather than the typical flimsy flip-top with colorful animals on them.

For a more challenging variation, switch the decks such that the 4-animal cards are spread out and the single-animal cards are flipped over.

NOTE: be sure to look at the images at Board Game Geek. Barnyard Critters is made by Rio Grande and though still available, it is discontinued (see here at Big Top is made by Gamewright (see here at in a magenta box with an elephant but there is another completely different game of the same name by Advanced Primate Entertainment in a yellow box with a ring master meant for older kids. link to this game:

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Dutch Blitz

Subject: General
Ages: 8 and up
# of players: 2-4
Time to play: 10 min per round, 30+ min full game
Mechanics/Game Type: cards

Ratings (1 to 5)

Educational Value: 4
Gaming value: 5
Aesthetic value: 3
Price value: 5
Ease of play: 5
Younger adaptability: 3

My comments: "A Vonderful Goot Game!" That's what the box says and I agree wholeheartedly. This is a FUN game that is fairly easy to learn/teach for adults and children alike. And although it does require speed, I think if you are willing to slow your pace down a bit, you can play it with younger children who recognize their colors, numbers by sight and understand order.

Dutch Blitz will strengthen pattern recognition as well as manual dexterity. You are always holding cards and manuevering them as you play while watching several key areas for your next move, requiring hand/eye coordination and attentiveness. Interestingly enough, it seems that the fastest player will always win however that has not proven to be the case any of the times I've played it. The winner varies quite a bit.

I gave this game a 3 for aesthetic value because the packaging leaves something to be desired. It comes in a typical card box and although I am very careful when opening and closing the top flap, it is already starting to tear. The cards themselves are lovely though with little Pennsylvania Dutch boys and girls printed on them. link to this game: