The holidays are once again upon us, and people are looking for gift ideas. How about a board game? I've compiled a short list of new favorites here, all of which are recommended for both their entertainment and educational value.
First off, for the very youngest game players, we have Animal Scramble. This game is rated for kids age 3 and up, but may be played by gifted children a bit earlier. The game is similar to it's predecessor, Hyper Dash. Hyper Dash involves a handle like game controller, which reads five colored and numbered targets via radio frequency identification. The control module calls out instructions that require the player to run to each target in turn and “tag” it. There are several modes of play for individual or group use. Hyper Dash is recommended for kids age six and up. Animal Scramble is designed to capture the attention of the preschool set. The control module is a giraffe, and the targets (there are four) are a green parrot, a blue elephant, a brown monkey, and an orange tiger. The game may be set to five different ability levels, so the younger players can tag targets based upon animal names only, while older kids can choose a more challenging game in which they have to tag based upon animal attributes: “who has a trunk?”, letters: “M is for monkey”, colors, animal sounds, and animal names. The game may be set up to encourage running, or the targets can be displayed in a closely spaced row so the players must sit in one place.
10 Days in Africa is also available as 10 Days in the USA, Asia, and Europe. This innovative game made the Mensa select list, and has also garnered a slew of other awards. The object of the game is to find your way through Africa by collecting cards that allow you to move from one country to another. It's more challenging than it sounds, but lots of fun too. The Out of the Box company rates it for players aged ten plus, but my eight year old played independently without any trouble. This game is great for promoting critical thinking skills and geography knowledge. There are several small countries such as Djbouti and Lesotho which appear only as faint outlines on the map, as to include them would make the game more complicated.
Backseat Drawing is a real hoot! It is close to Pictionary in concept, but with a significant twist. The artists never know what they are drawing! This game might prove frustrating to younger kids, so I recommend it for age eight and up. Each team has a “director” who instructs the artist in what to draw. His allowable words are limited to increase the challenge level. Objects to be created are listed on cards in a deck which features each word in German, Spanish, and French, in addition to English.
Finally, I recommend Eye Know, which is a betting game based on visual trivia. The game involves cards in four categories: signs and symbols, made objects, natural world, and people and characters. My twelve year old did well with this, but many of the images were unfamiliar to my eight year old. Symbols include the Cadillac emblem, the Cuban flag, and the Linux penguin. Made objects are things like sushi and a typewriter. Examples of natural world cards include a centipede and Old Faithful. The people and character cards had such diverse personages as Imelda Marcos and the Pillsbury Doughboy! The game allows the player to select from a true or false question, a multiple choice, or an open ended question. Each corresponds to a different “pay-off” with the poker chips that serve as game currency. People who love Trivial Pursuit are sure to enjoy this game.