One of the fab things about having another life as an accidental games shop owner is we get to play loads of games ‘for work’. It’s obviously not possible for each of us to have played every single game on our shelves, but between the team of five who work on the shop floor, we do have a fair amount covered, which means we can give genuine advice to the people who shop with us.
Since we have a ready made testing panel in our house, it falls to us to road test the kids’ games that come into the shop. This is something of a relief for me as my brain just does not work well enough these days for most of the grownup stuff (I live in hope that my marbles will one day return but as time goes by that is looking increasingly unlikely, ho hum).
Though we primarily play for fun, the kids learn a lot from game playing. Turn taking, negotiation, losing gracefully, thinking ahead, and if we’re playing a co-operative game, teamwork – all skills which will stand them in good stead in later life. Because I think they learn so much from board games already, I never really seek out ‘educational’ games for them. They love playing as things are and I don’t really want to spoil their or my experience by trying to bundle something in which is ‘good for them’.
So when I had a call from games designer Matthew Tidbury of Thinknoodle, telling me about a game suitable for age 8 and above that he had created to support his kids’ maths skills, I was initially slightly reticent. But then he started talking about a game featuring a city overtaken by zombies, and that sounded like a whole lot more fun. Ok I said – I’d love to trial the Zombie game in the shop, and maybe we’ll look at the Maths one at a later point? At which point Matt kindly said to me ‘ummm, sorry, you’ve misunderstood a bit – the Maths game is the Zombie game, at which point I got a bit flustered and pretended that I had totally not got the wrong end of the stick, and he politely let me pretend, before offering to send a copy to the shop to try out.
The game happened to arrive on a day when my daughter was on a sleepover and my youngest was poorly, so we played it first off with the eight year old. It was refreshingly easy to set up and start playing – there is an instruction video available but the booklet that comes with the game is so well set out that you can easily manage without it.
Once set up, the game is centred around a band of zombies advancing on a city – with a small bunch of heroes fighting them off, and (hopefully) destroying them before they make it over the fence. To get rid of a zombie, you use the three very dangerous weapons at your disposal – yep, these three dangerous weapons right here. Scary, aren’t they!
On your turn, you must use the dice to get rid of as many zombies as you can, by using the numbers on the dice in any combination to create a number matching that shown in the red circle on the bottom right of the Zombie cards.
So, if you throw a 2, a 3 and a 6, you can kill off a zombie in the following ways…
This is the bit where a strange thing happens…yep, everyone gets very, very excited about, er, Maths! It was quite a revelation watching my eight year old bubbling over with different ways to try the numbers to kill off the most zombies possible, coming up with combinations that (whisper it) his father and I hadn’t seen. And it’s not just my boy – the exact same scenario was repeated with a whole bunch of children when we played at a family games event in the shop the next day…and the beauty of it was the kids didn’t even really realise that they were practically doing Maths homework!
Once everyone has grasped the basics of the game as above, you can have all sorts of fun by using optional special abilities and power ups, combining the two zombie decks to include extra-mean ones, and using the advanced rules which mix the game up a bit – in short, there’s enough going on here for the kids to want to play it over and over again, and crucially, for the adults to enjoy it too.
Despite my reservations about ‘educational’ games, this is a game I’ve already bought for my kids to have at home – considering we already have a demo copy we could borrow from the shop, this says quite a lot about how frequently they want to play it! I’ve also been lucky enough to secure a free copy from Thinknoodle to give away here on the blog – entry is via the Rafflecopter below so why not try your luck – and see how much fun Maths can be!
**Disclosure – I’m a co-owner of Rules of Play; we were sent a City of Zombies free of charge for the shop to try out; Thinknoodle also supplied me with a copy to give away here on the blog. I have not received any payment for this post, and as always, this post reflects my honest opinion**