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Harmony Favorites: Games Worth Acquiring!


The board consists of shiftable cards that make up a scrambled maze in the beginning. The object of the game is for each player to collect as quickly as possible all seven treasures depicted on their individual treasure cards. The treasures are fun things like a ring, an ogre, and a princess. The strategy and visual thinking parts come in when the maze gets moved one row at a time for each turn. Sometimes a shift that helps you makes life difficult for your opponents. We really love playing this game. It is challenging each time because it is a different maze each time. It says for age 8 and up, but I’ve played it with 5 year olds too. There are varying degrees of understanding but I think it is beneficial to anyone who wants to play.

Seven Dragons
I think this is a game that all ages at Talking Stick can enjoy. Seven Dragons plays a bit like dominoes but with several twists. There are also beautiful pictures of dragons and one unfortunate picture of a woman. Basically you have a goal color and place cards next to matching colors with the eventual goal of having a continuous blob of seven cards of your goal color. Action cards can rotate or switch goals and hands. There is a rainbow card that acts as a wild card. The game is very quick to learn and a feeling of satisfaction sets in early. This is another visual thinking and strategy game. I think there is a theme here.

Rubiks Race
The game consists of two sides containing various colored squares that can be shifted around to create different combinations. The goal of the game is to shift squares around until the middle matches the goal pattern that is in its own little shaker. You can do this on your own or you can compete to do it faster with an opponent. It can get pretty fast. Some people take to it right away and others gradually build up their visual and motor skills.

SET is a card game of quick recognition and deduction. Each card contains one of three symbols (squiggles, diamonds, ovals) in varying numbers (one to three), colors (purple, green, red), and degrees of shading (empty, solid, shaded). A dealer arranges 12 cards, face up, and the players scrutinize the images for logical "sets" of three cards linked by combinations of sameness or difference. A set consists of three cards that are in each category (color, shading, shape, number) all the same or all different. You can start out by pulling out the shaded and empty ones to just focus on three categories. Also, this game can be played taking turns or by all going at once. Also see the game Iota which uses similar concepts.

Magic the Gathering
At times dark and disgusting (adults can weed these cards out) and sexist (buxom scantily clad women riding dragons), this game does wonders for the brain. I’ve played it successfully with five year olds even though the recommended starting age is eight. In a game of Magic, two or more players are engaged in battle. A player starts the game with twenty "life points" and loses when he or she is reduced to zero. Players lose life when they are dealt "damage" by being attacked with summoned creatures or when spells or other cards cause them to lose life directly. The cards can be complex and involve keeping many facts in your head at one time. The mechanics of the game are equally complex. There are elements of strategy, luck and fantasy. There are 14,000 cards to choose from. You can buy ready made decks or booster packs. Look out for them at yard sales, you can get a lifetime collection that way.

Apples to Apples
Players are dealt red cards which have a noun printed on them, and the judge (this role rotates) draws a green card on which an adjective is printed and places it for all players to see. Each player then chooses a red card they are holding that they think best matches the green card. The judge then decides which adjective she likes best. So if the green card said “fun” someone might put down, “Birthday Party” or “Elmo”. This game leads to a lot of laughter.

Mouse Trap
I know that there are rules and procedures to this game but very rarely do we use them. The challenge often lies in building the contraption on the board. Adults can facilitate the process by giving the young person time and space to figure it our and only help if the level of frustration is getting high. Then we ask questions like, “I wonder where this piece goes?” or “I wonder what happened when we turn this piece upside down?” When the game is set up, we run a marble through to make sure it works and problem solve if it does not.

This game consists of combining tiles in runs (consecutive numbers in the same color) or sets (groups of the same number). As you play your mind is constantly looking for opportunities to place tiles and win points. It is a very satisfying game. There is also a lot of math in keeping score.

Used more as a material than a game, Blokus consists of plastic shapes made of squares that you can position on the board. They are red, green, blue and yellow and actually quite pleasing to the eye. There are multiple ways you can use this material. At first we just explore the pieces with the young person. Then we might put them together to form shapes and narrate our process: “I’m building a perfect 10 by 10 square with these pieces”. You might ask for assistance. You could build a shape and then build the mirror image. Sometimes we find two of a number of shapes in different colors and then challenge one another to recreate the other’s aggregate shape.

This game consists of some kind of pieces and a wooden board with indentations scooped out. It is an ancient game of counting and strategy. Players try to get as many pieces as possible in the indentation at the end or Mancala. There are a variety of rules since there are variations around the world so it is a good idea to decide on the rules ahead of time.

Quoridor is a fast-moving strategy game in which wooden fences are placed to block the progress of the other player’s pieces as they try to get to the opposite side to win the game, and force a different route upon an opponent. Players use analytical and logistical thinking.