Tuesday, September 29, 2015

USAopoly Games (A Schoolhouse Crew Review)

Learning doesn't always have to be from books.  We've discovered that we really enjoy learning through board games.  From reading practice to learning how to be graceful winners and losers, there's plenty to learn from games.  We now have two new games on our shelf, Wonky: The Crazy Cubes Card Game and Tapple: Fast Word Fun for Everyone, both from USAopoly, and have been having a blast with them.  We barely got them out of their packing box, and the little boys were itching to rip open the shrink wrap!

Wonky was the first game we dove into.  It's labeled for ages 8+, but in looking at the instructions, it seemed doable for the younger boys.  It doesn't involve much reading if any (once you know what the symbols on the cards mean).  The hard part is having a steady hand.  There are official rules for who goes first, but when one person is always the youngest, there is only one correct method for brothers to establish primacy.

Rock-paper-scissors, of course.

Jude and Damien picked this up very quickly.  They thought it was hysterical.  I think they were as excited to watch the towers fall as they were to build them up.  Jude had a marginally better strategy than Damien - he knew that it was smarter to put bigger blocks on the bottom. However, he hadn't really caught on to what makes Wonky so hard.  The blocks aren't square on all sides.  Some are convex; some sides are oblique. The trick is choosing which side will either benefit you or put the tower off balance just enough that your opponent knocks things over.

Damien decided he liked this game better than any other that we had, and he wanted to teach Grammy and Poppy how to play.  One evening, we went down to their house, box in hand, to play.  He had my parents laughing - he was dealing cards like a sharp.

At the start of play, each person is dealt seven cards.  My mother suggested maybe we play a round "hands down."  Damien was adamant - "No, Grammy.  You hold your cards up, so nobody sees them."  He had quite a mittful, as my own grandmother would say, but managed both play and hold up his hand.

After a few rounds to let Grammy and Poppy learn the rules, we got a little more serious.  I admit, we almost had two or three separate games going.  The grownups were pretty much going easy on Damien.  Between ourselves, it was game on.  My dad and I had several skip-reverse sequences going to try to trip the other up, and we'd purposely put a hard block on top.  My mother couldn't stop laughing at us.

Yep, it fell over.  Draw your penalty, Poppy!  I was impressed how well Damien had picked up on and remember the rules, even between only playing a few times and after just learning about four new games total.  I needed to refer to the rule card to keep them straight, but he knew what was what.

My mother, on the other hand, started out with some mad building skills.

In the end, though...wonky sides and gravity won.

 I think Wonky has become Damien's new favorite game.  Yes, the bigger folks were better at it, but it was still definitely fun for him.

Not to be left out of the fun, the big kids descended on Tapple.  For this one, players draw a category card, and then need to name things in the category that begin with letters on the round.  The trick is to do it quickly -- you only have ten seconds before the game buzzes and you're out.  This game is also for players 8 and up, and definitely was more fun with the bigger set.  It was a good phonics practice for Jude, but Damien didn't grasp the "starts with this letter" idea.  Jude didn't like the timer portion - it made him nervous to where he focused so much on it that he lost his turn.  When he played, we played it untimed; with the bigger ones, we turned on the timer.

It does require batteries -- like the rest of the toy universe, it runs on AAs. Celia ran to the drawer for both a screwdriver and batteries.

We had a lot of fun with this one as well.  You think, "This can't be that hard." You'd be surprised how your brain freezes up...or how minds think alike and you're ransacking your brain because somebody else "took" your word.

Celia and Matthew seemed to like this one best.  They're pretty competitive with each other (in a good way), so they enjoyed trying to pick the categories each felt was hardest for the other one.

This round, he stumped her.

Don't feel bad for her.  She got him good the next round.  Each got plenty of practice being gracious winners and losers.

We really enjoyed both of these games.  They were a great break from regular book learning, but still "educational enough" to not feel like we were wasting school time on games.  I see these staying popular in our house. Mimie (Neal's mom) is coming for a weekend, and usually plays board games with the kids.  Damien and Celia are already planning out their game line up!

Click the banner below to read other crew reviews of these USAopoly games, or follow USAOpoly on social media:

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 USAopoly Review

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