Three days left as our countdown to the end of the Story Realms Kickstarter continues along with our games giveaway! Today’s topic, fun games that might actually teach you something. Now I’m sure you’ve seen educational games before. These are games where the primary reason for their creation is to help explain a concept or introduce subject matter to students hopefully in a way that is more entertaining than a lecture. Of course, the primary goal is education, not fun, so these games often aren’t exciting enough to convince students to play with them much outside of class. What you may not know is that almost all games, even those designed primarily for fun, have educational value.
These three games are ones the Growing Up Gamers crew have played and enjoyed many times. We play them because they’re fun. It’s that simple. However, as we’ve thought about them more we’ve come to realize that playing them is doing more than providing us with a great time. It’s teaching us something, too.
For those unfamiliar with this incredibly popular game, Dominion is a deck-building game. Players start with their own deck of the same 10 cards. Over the course of play, they “buy” different cards from communal stacks in order to make their deck more powerful so they can acquire the highest point cards and win the game. Dominion teaches a lot about probability, balancing resources, and the value of quality over quantity. If you buy more of the same card, it increases the chances that card will come up when you need it and make your strategy more reliable. If you buy a variety of cards, you may have more options, but you might not be sure of what you can do from turn to turn. Once of the best strategies in Dominion involves “trashing” less useful cards out of your deck so they are gone for good. You can buy gold (the best money card) and just add it to your deck. However, when you really start to “get” Dominion is when you realize that trashing out your starting copper (effectively ridding your deck of some of its money cards) is incredibly helpful because it means you’re more likely to draw into your gold. Playing Dominion is mostly about enjoying the fun of gaining cool new cards and watching them work. However, as you play and improve you are also learning how to keep different resources in balance and the value of refining down to a smaller selection of superior resources instead of a larger selection of less useful ones.
And of course, the giveaway continues....
In the tile-laying game Sunrise City, players build a city with zone tiles, bid for control of those zones, then place building tiles on the city zones to their best advantage. Each round the players use role cards to grant them special abilities in the various game phases. Points earned during play move score tokens up a ten point track. Players score one benchmark token if their score marker overshoots the star at the top of their score track but earn two benchmarks if their token lands on the star by exact count. Thus, Sunrise City is not a race to score the most points; it's a contest to grow the city in a manner that will earn you the right number of points at the right time to maximize your benchmarks. After three rounds, the player with the most benchmarks wins.
Memoir '44Memoir '44 is a brilliant tactical boardgame that puts players in command of armies in World War II. Most games of this type go for an exhaustive simulationist experience, but the simplicity of the system this game uses allows scenarios to play around an hour. The scenarios are based on actual battles of the war and each starts with a brief synopsis of the historical context the battle is happening in. It's hard not to walk away from this game without having learned something, and, if you plan on playing through the scenarios in order it should give a pretty good understanding of how the European theater of the war played out, starting with D-Day. Beyond the base set, it introduces different theaters (like the Pacific), different armies (such as the Russians) and rules that push the theme and the political realities (like the Commissar rules for the Russian army).
Agricola is a worker placement game about subsistence farming. Each turn the game reveals new kinds of actions for the players to consider and the players take turns placing workers, gathering resources, and trying to build the best farm possible. Every so often, you have to use resources to feed your family or face dire consequences. There is a huge variety of different cards that can change the starting set up for each player and this variety keeps Agricola fun for many repeated plays. Agricola has a lot to teach about managing complex systems, planning ahead, and anticipating the actions of others. However, game systems and theory aren’t everything. Where Agricola really succeeds is in teaching the player something about its theme: subsistence farming. There is precious little time to accomplish everything you want to do, and the times you have to feed your family weigh heavily on your considerations of where to spend your resources. To get crops or raise livestock takes investment and time. You have to plant and then the crops will produce…for awhile. Then you must plant again. The day to day, year to year (and turn to turn in the game) struggle of staying ahead drives home the immense difficulties involved in subsistence farming.
And of course, the giveaway continues....
3 Game Salute Games to Brighten Up Your Day!
You play as one of the great monarchs from 17th and early 18th century Europe representing one of the seven top powers of the era: Austria, England, France, Poland, Russia, Spain or Sweden. Your objective is to be recognized as the most prestigious monarch by producing the most admired art and culture, lead the continent in scientific innovations, spread or resist the spread of Catholicism, and attempt military expansion beyond your historical borders. All of this is accomplished by marshaling 134 historical "luminaries": important historical figures covering every relevant domain of human achievement during the period. The luminaries are rated in between one and seven different areas of endeavor: military, politics, religion, ideas, science, art or wealth. Additionally, each luminary has a unique Action, Enhancement or Response based on their real historical achievements to be brought to bear in service of your nation.
Exile Sun combines some of the most compelling strategic mechanics in a way that delivers a streamlined, integrated and fast paced game of competition and conflict. Simplified deck building, hand management, simultaneous hidden worker placement, a card draft, 6 unique player advantages, and a revolutionary zero-luck combat resolution system ensure that playing Exile Sun is like no other game. Private and public card-based objectives give players options for points, but they must choose carefully when allocating their limited resources. The player with the most points accumulated at the end of three game cycles wins.