Thursday, November 13, 2014

Snake Oil Party Potion (A Schoolhouse Crew Review)

Growing up, we played tons of board games, especially during the winter.  We always thought it was a fun way to pass an evening.  We might have a Monopoly game set up for several days until someone finally won.  In hindsight, I see what my mother was doing -- Yahtzee is multiplication and adding, Sorry teaches strategy skills -- "Will this get me ahead...or just annoy my sibling so he picks me off in the next round?" Hey! Wait just a gosh darned minute there, Mother!  You tricked us into believing learning was fun!  You're slick...almost as slick as...well, a snake oil salesman!

Taking a page from my mother's playbook, I tried out my own version of "snake oil" --  Snake Oil Party Potion from Out of the Box Games.  This educational yet fun game is for kids ages 8 and up, but with a little help, younger players (6 to 7 years old) can get in on the game.  (There is also a version of the game, Snake Oil, for older players.)  The goal of the game is to become a "respected" and successful snake oil salesman.

So what exactly is a "Snake Oil Salesman"?  In the mid 1800s, Chinese railroad workers would share a liniment for sore muscles with the European workers.  Until 1909, there were no real laws about medicines and their contents, and many salesmen and their shills would travel the country, tricking people into purchasing their "cure-all."  In 1917, the government tested Stanley's Snake Oil (produced and sold by Clark Stanley) and found...surprise, surprise...that there was no actual snake oil in the bottle!  Since then, "Snake Oil Salesman" has become the term for a slick, smooth huckster who tries to sell you false goods. 

But there's no false goods here! Just old-fashioned fun.  At just $14.99, it's a bargain for this much fun!  In the box are Word Cards and Customer Cards. (A tray for holding the decks of cards is also included, as well as directions.) One player is chosen to be the customer, while the other players are the salesmen.  The "customer" chooses a card to determine their profession.  Some cards to potentially pull include: 

I love how the snakes are dressed as customers. (Though some might argue that the President - or any politician, really - is the snake oil salesman!)

The salesman's goal: convince the customer that he needs the product.  Each salesman takes two word cards, and uses them to create a hypothetical product that the customer can't live without, and then has 30 seconds or less to pitch it and convince the customer to buy it.  Some of the potential combinations are easy sales.

Others are a bit harder... 

While some are downright silly!

If your customer likes your product best, he will give you his card and "buy" your product.  Whoever sells the most products (a new product to each customer) wins!  Each game lasts about 30 minutes, depending on how long you allow each salesman to pitch their product.  It's a perfect filler for that time between dinner and bed!

It's also a great item for using in a regular school.  It's a great way to encourage creative thinking, and because it is short, it can be used as a small group activity or the class divided into teams.  Since it's not an official curriculum, it isn't "Common Core Aligned," but it does provide opportunities to match Common Core Standards and make teaching them fun!

We had a great time playing Snake Oil Party Potion. At first I thought I should feel guilty about tricking the kids into honing "school" skills, but then decided...Nah.  I'm my mother's daughter, after all. 

Check out other reviews of Snake Oil Party Potion and the bigger kid (ages 10+) Snake Oil games by clicking the banner below.

Click to read Crew Reviews

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