I could list lots of games that our family loves -- card games, board games, etc. I'm always on the lookout for new games for our family to play, and a few years ago I found a fabulous one on a clearance rack at Barnes and Noble.
I'll admit that it didn't look all that impressive in the box, especially when it had a bright 75% off sticker on the front cover. At first glance, it looks like a variation of so many other board games -- move your token around the board while collecting something, winner is the one that finishes either first or with the greatest number of somethings. Zooreka is much more than a simple travel along the path game.
The first thing we realized was that players had to pay attention throughout the game. In our family, we often have players wander off (mentally, if not physically) when another players gets a turn. In Zooreka, we're all still playing, even when it's not our turn. The difference is in the circle in the middle of the game board.
Each person has a colored token to select which element they think the die is going to land on. On each player's turn, he or she rolls two dice -- one with numbers and one with things needed for a zoo.
If my colored chip in the center wheel matches the item on the die, then I get a card to add to my collection. As long as I'm paying attention, I can claim a card even when I wasn't the person rolling.
Throughout the game, there are other opportunities for players to participate when it's not their turn. Here are some of the activity spaces on the board:
For Team-Up, everyone gets a turn to roll the picture die and get extra cards. If a player lands on Lucky Day, they get a turn to use the extra purple chip on the center wheel. Having the Lucky Day chip means a much greater chance to get cards.
The object of the game is to collect enough cards to build a zoo. It's not as easy as just amassing a stack of cards. The cards work somewhat as a money system with certain cards worth more than others.
When a player collects enough cards to purchase four habitats at the Trading Post, the game is over. (And, in our family, the winner cleans up.)
As we played such a relatively simple game, I realized that we were all having fun and at the same time learning math concepts. The Trading Post system mimics our money system in terms of trading in one token (coin or card) for some of another token. Just like I can trade three bananas for a paw print, I can trade five pennies for a nickel. It's a easy concept, but one that often requires a bit of practice.
The game also allows us to explore basic probability and statistics ideas. The zoo elements die is set up so that there are three banana pictures, two paw prints, and only one palm tree. If I place my colored chip on a palm tree, I'm not likely to win as many cards. On the other hand, a palm tree is worth six bananas at the trading post. Will I do better to collect more bananas (which are rolled most frequently) or will I do better to collect more palm trees (which are worth the most)? Different members of our family try different strategies, often switching several times during a single game. We've yet to come to a consensus on the best strategy.
It's been at least five years since I picked up our Zooreka game on a clearance rack, and we still haven't gotten tired of it. In fact, it was one of only a handful of board games that we brought with us when we moved and knew that most of our things would be in storage for a few months.
Many of the other Schoolhouse Review Crew bloggers are talking about "Toys, Games, and Puzzles" today. Be sure to visit the crew blog or click on some of the links below to find out what everyone's busy making. Also, be sure to take a few minutes and enter into the huge Teaching Creatively Blog Hop Giveaway -- there's over $1000 worth of prizes up for grabs!