Expanders ~ SimplyFun – A Review

Whether it is an official Family Game Night or just an afternoon of fun and relaxation, everyone in our home loves a good game. If I can sneak in a bit of learning during game time that is a huge bonus. SimplyFun, a company that believes in the power of play, sent the game Expanders to review. Who could resist the opportunity to play instead of doing math?


Expanders is designed for ages seven and up. Basic addition fact knowledge is necessary in order to play. Depending on skill level, age, and mastery of addition, you can change the level of play difficulty.

The game board is a frame that allows you to put in numbered slats. For two players, two blank slats are placed in the board. For three to four players, all slats that fill the board are numbered. To increase the difficulty, you place the higher numbered side of the slats face up. Each player has colored tokens to mark her progress on the board.

Play is very simple. You begin by placing tokens on the numbers in the first line on your side of the board. You may either place tokens on two numbers that are the same such as 4 and 4. The other option is to complete a reverse addition. You could place a token on the number “5” and then tokens on numbers “4” and “1”. You must verbalize the reverse addition as you play your tokens.

You are not limited to two addends. Playing “9” and then “6”, “2” and “1” is an excellent way to make a move. Why? Because the goal is to deplete your token stash before the other players. There is a challenging twist to the game. You can only play on numbers that allow your tokens to touch previously played tokens. This creates a bit of creative thinking at times to see a workable move.

This is where strategy comes into play. While you are playing your tokens, you also want to block your opponents. How better to use up your tokens first? What appears to be a simple game can be quite the challenge.

Our Thoughts on Expanders

We are always up for a good game! I love finding games that allow for a wide range of ages and skill. Expanders was perfect for this. Since it is for ages seven and up, six of my  nine children would be able to play. Reinforcement of math facts and a bit of strategic thinking was a bonus.

It has been mainly my 11, 9, and 7 year old daughters who have enjoyed playing Expanders. After a brief reading and discussing of the rules, they were ready to play. It was very easy to set up and jump right into playing. I loved how simple it was to begin playing and how quickly even my seven year old picked up on the need for strategy. It only took one time of my blocking a player or two out of options for them to pay a bit more attention to token placement.

Expanders doesn’t take long to play. We found that fifteen to twenty minutes was generally adequate for a round. While I did incorporate playing Expanders as “math”, my girls often ask to play it for fun. Who am I to say no to fun and learning?

If your family enjoys playing games or you like to add fun learning into your school days, Expanders is definitely one to add to the mix. It would also work well in a classroom setting whether traditional or perhaps a homeschool co-op.

Other Crew Members reviewed Expanders as well as another game, Shape Whiz. Check out a review or two. You might need to add an item to that homeschool planning list.

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Family Game Night with Snake Oil – A Review

We love having family game nights. Big bowl of popcorn, a yummy drink, and a great game make for a fun game night. I am always on the look out for new games to add to our game stash. One of the most challenging aspects is finding a game that allows for several players. This is why I didn’t hesitate to review Snake Oil from Out of the Box Games. I’ll tell you now that it was a hit!

Out of the Box Games offers a wide selection of games. From fun party games to games that require strategy, there is bound to be a game that you will enjoy. One of the “party” games from Out of the Box is Snake Oil (Available for $19.99). As soon as I read a bit about this game, I hoped it would offer some hilarious game time.

Snake Oil may take your mind back to the Old West when those slick and sneaky salesman had a concoction that would be the miracle cure for all your ailments. No matter how skeptical you might be, that Snake Oil Salesman knew just how to seal the deal. In Snake Oil you get the chance to be that Snake Oil Salesman or the hard to sell Customer.

Basic Game Play:

There are two types of cards: Customer and Word Cards. Each player gets to draw six Word Cards. Each player gets the opportunity to be the Customer and the other players are the Snake Oil Salesmen. The round is over when everyone has a chance to be the Customer.

When it is your turn to be the Customer, you draw a Customer Card. Then the other players select two Word Cards to create the perfect item for you! Each player gives a sales pitch on his item. Once everyone has given their pitches, the Customer picks the one she felt was the best item for her. The player who has won over the most Customers wins the round! Easy but oh, so fun!

Snake Oil is recommended for ages 10 – Adult

and allows for 3 – 10 players.

Our youngest player was 8 and we had 7 players.

Our Experience with Snake Oil

As soon as Snake Oil arrived my family was ready to play! The rules of the game are very simple and straight-forward so we all jumped right into it with no problems. It might have taken about three minutes for the laughter to start.

How can you not laugh when someone is trying to convince the “Couch Potato” how much he needs the “Water Elephant”? Or a “Mouth Garden”?

It was really great to see how the children all had different approaches to selling their items. Improvement in sales skills comes quickly. A couple of the younger players weren’t quite sure how to make a convincing sales pitch but they are getting better with each round we play. I love seeing those brains working.

But Snake Oil offers much more than just a fun, family game night. When you are playing Snake Oil your children are engaging in a few different types of learning. In a round of Snake Oil, you need to think quickly and creatively. Imagination gets a workout as you have to decide why a soldier would really benefit from camera socks. That is after you imagine what camera socks would actually look like and be used for!

Your children will also get to learn much about sales and marketing. After playing Snake Oil, discussion on how real companies market and sale items from toothpaste to a new car is great. Those companies know who they are selling to and know how to spin their products to make the sale. Game play for Snake Oil is a more basic and fun version of this.

Final Thoughts on Snake Oil

One cautionary note for families with children on the younger side of the recommended age. As we played, we did use our discretion on pulling a few cards out of play. Word cards such as “desire” just to avoid an awkward match. We also passed on Customer Cards such as “vampire” and “zombie”.  Pulling these cards did not inhibit play at all! There are over 300 Word Cards and almost 30 Customer cards, there are still plenty of play.

This gets a double thumbs up from The Tribe!  We have enjoyed it immensely and it makes a great game for a large family. If you are looking for a new game for family game night or a gift for a family this holiday season, take a look at Snake Oil. But only if you like to laugh!

Other Crew Members have the opportunity to review Snake Oil or Snake Oil Party Potion. Check them out!

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Chess House ~ A Review

There is no secret about my family’s love of games. We are not picky; we love them all.  Board games, card games, serious games and hilarious games are stacked on the shelf and we are always looking for more. While some of my children are familiar with the game of chess, we all have room to better our understanding and skill.  I was excited to review the Starter Chess Learning Kit from Chess House.

What is the Starter Chess Learning Kit?

The Starter Chess Learning Kit is suitable for all ages and comes with the following items:

  • A sturdy canvas bag that holds the complete kit.
  • Elliot’s Chess School DVD 1 – Pawn Level introduces the basics of chess
  • Game Pieces – Plastic pieces measuring regulation size.
  • Vinyl Game Board – 20″ x 20″ board that easily rolls out and lays flat. Backing is non-slip.

How Does it Work?

As soon as your Starter Chess Learning Kit arrives, your family can immediately begin enjoying chess. You want to begin by watching the Elliot’s Chess School DVD. The DVD covers ten topics that walk you through the basics of chess. The ten topics are:

  • Intro to Chess
  • Pawns
  • Rooks
  • Bishops –
  • Queen
  • King
  • Knights
  • Castling
  • Pawn Shields
  • Development

Elliot does an excellent job of engaging his audience and instructing you on each topic. Using a physical game board in front of him, as well as a computer animated screen, Elliot walks you step by step with each piece of the chess board. Not only will you learn what each piece can do but also what makes that piece special. Those little pawns? They are so very important. Don’t underestimate those little guys!

Each video segment is concise and lasting about 10 minutes each. Varying age levels can all benefit from watching the video segments. In our home children from age seven to thirteen watched the Elliot DVD. All of those children were able to understand and implement what they learned. The DVD is really well done- simple but effective.

Learning doesn’t end with just watching one of the video topics. A booklet is included with the DVD that gives exercises to put into practice what you learned. This is a fun way to immediately allow your children (or you) to get some hands on reinforcement. There are two or three exercises given for each level.

For example, after watching the first topic, Intro to Chess, there are two exercises to show what you know. The first exercise is a race to set up the board. Each player tries to be the first to set up all their pieces correctly. The second exercise is a bit more challenging. Each piece is given a point value. A number is called out and the players combine pieces to create that number. Not only do they have to know their pieces but quick thinking and math is involved as well!

In Topic Seven, Knights come into play.  After watching the purpose and use of knights, it is time to put the Knight against the pawns. One player has one Knight against the other players eight Pawns. Or you can play Knights and Pawns. Each player has two Knights and eight Pawns. Who can capture the opponent’s Pawns? Who can get the most points? The third option at this point is to play the first full game – all pieces are now in play!

What Did We Think?

We had two different levels of chess players in our home. Older children knew the pieces and how they could move on the board. Playing a bit on the computer or with a friend occasionally was all the experience they had. Understanding the nuances of each piece and how to use them strategically was their weakness. Then we have my younger children; mainly the seven and ten year old. They only knew a few pieces and had little to no playing experience.

All of the children benefited from watching Elliot’s Chess School DVD 1. They all learned different things and chess is now constantly in play around the house. Everyone was eager to watch the DVD and “play” the exercises. There have been a few tense moments when game play gets close toward the end but much is being learned. Slowly but surely the younger children are becoming more of a challenge to beat.

I know this has happened at your house. Children are in the middle of a game and someone accidentally hits the table and the game pieces go flying. With the vinyl game board with no-slip backing there is no worry over the pieces being shifted. The canvas bag for game storage is great. It makes it very easy to take the chess board with you wherever you go. Lose a piece? Toddler decides to play with the pieces and one disappears into the Land of the Unknown? No worries! Replacement pieces can be purchased easily at Chess House.com.

The Starter Chess Learning Kit definitely gets a Tribal Thumbs Up. Easy to use, effective and fun – what more could you ask for? It provides everything you need to give your child a solid foundation in the game of chess. We are looking forward to many years of enjoying and sharpening our chess playing skills.

Pricing and Purchasing Information

Starter Chess Learning Kit is available from Chess House.com for only $39.95. This is a reasonable price for a complete learning kit.

Once you have completed Elliot’s Chess School DVD 1, there are other levels available to continue building your game skills. Chess House also has a wide selection of chess related products from game clocks to books.

Other Crew members were able to review the Starter Chess Learning Kit. Stop by and see what other are saying!