Saturday, July 15, 2017

Forbidden Island Game Review - Great Cooperative Family Game For Learning Strategy


For Christmas 2016, our family purchased a game for the mom component called Forbidden Island.  It has been over 6 months since we started playing it, and it is still the family favorite game.

The basic premise of Forbidden Island is that you and your team-mates have landed on an island that starts to sink, and you and all the team mates have to make it off the island with all the treasures before it is fully submerged to win.

While the rules make total sense now, and are well written, it took us 3 tries (full game plays) to finally get it right.  For example, we were making a mistake about what to do when a part of the island submerges with a player standing on it.  We wrongly played it as, "ooops, you're dead ... we all lose."  This is wrong as the game is clear that you can simply swim to another part.  I guess if we got super awesome at the game, we could make this a "you die" rule to make it more challenging.

The game play actively encourages dialog/table-talk among the players as it unfolds yielding an obvious benefit, then a not so obvious benefit.

Like a real life team, you have to figure out how to work together to pull off the task.  The talking  creates an awesome education opportunity as we discuss the trade-offs, risks, merits, etc. of various approaches during each turn.  After just a few games, I could clearly see the wheels turning in my daughters as they thought through the possible step/game play sequences.  Further, their articulation of why certain approaches may be better has improved too.  This dialog has also another interesting, unexpected, learning opportunity: analysis paralysis.  Our girls can now see so many paths and make so many good arguments for what approach to take as we play that we can simply get too deep into the analysis and be paralyzed.  This has happened a number of times allowing us to discuss the perils of too much too deep and simply not making a choice.

The game is set up such that each player has distinct abilities, which are randomly assigned via player cards, and not all of the abilities are available from game to game.  This particular variable, the
shifting and variance of the ability collection from game to game, helps ensure different approaches to winning are taken each time you play.  This alone gets the girls excited as they wonder which abilities they will get from game to game.

There are so many things that I personally like about the game, such as the names of the island parts (like Bridge of Abandon and Phantom Rock) and the gorgeous/mystical graphic, but I most appreciate is how clever the game flow and rules fit together to create the challenge.  Things get hard at the right times.  Brilliant. Brilliant. Brilliant.

Our 8 year old studying
the rules of Forbidden Island
The game makers suggest ages 10 and up, but our 8 year old does just fine.  Keep in mind, though, she has been playing board strategy games since she was 5.

The difficulty in playing this game is one notch above Monopoly, but two notches below Carcassonne.  Most of our games end in 40 minutes, but could be 20 minutes if we didn't discuss so much! :)

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Aruba, Curacao, and Grand Turk Visit

About to go in the Ocean while on Grand Turk
Freedom is awesome!  We recently used ours and traveled to Aruba, Curacao, and Grand Turk.  As always, we have the girls spend a few months ahead of time building out a knowledge base on the places we will be visiting.  We cover things like location, history, religion, food, currency, government and more.  Each week, each daughter has to do a 10 minute presentation covering some aspect of the upcoming trip.  We've all learned a lot.


Array of some Trip Artifacts
This is a sub-set of the items the girls have produced for this past trip.  You will see an essay, a few maps (including the route taken by our cruise ship, various islands we will pass on the way, latitude lines and longitudinal lines, and the geographic relation to our home state of Florida), and a flag of Grand Turk.

Dy in front of wind swept trees in Aruba



Our Youngest's Talking Point Sheet

For the presentations, we have the girls create powerful intros and closure statements that they have to memorize and deliver to the audience while looking them in the eyes.  For the body of facts, however, we have them create talking point sheets that they can refer to.   We do teach and expect them to deliver the talking points while looking at the audience, not keeping their faces buried behind the paper the entire talk.  A casual glance down is fine.

KJ did great under the water


Thursday, June 15, 2017

Don't Give Allowances .... Pay Them Bounties!


Yesterday, I was sitting in a park and some guy came up to me and gave me $100 for doing nothing!! NOT!  I'm sure if someone offered me $100 in the park, they would want something in return! ;) Anyway ....

Nearly all of the money I've acquired over life has come as a consequence of something I've done.  For a large bulk, that something was working.  So, to help my girls become productive members of society, rather than giving them money in the form of an "Allowance", I pay them for doing extra things.  I'm not talking about doing extra chores, although that sends a good message too, I'm talking about academic pieces of work as well as some Martial Arts/Physical Fitness achievements.  All of these bounties are for activities beyond their normal Academic and Martial Arts expectations, to be done in their free time.

The "Bounty List" can grow over the summer, as the girls are welcome to propose new bounties.  If I like the suggestion, it gets added.  Here is the Bounty List as it stands right now:


  • 6 page, typed, essay highlighting a main theme that runs through the entire Harry Potter Series of books - $20
  • 4 page, typed, essay highlighting a main theme that runs through the entire Star Wars Series of movies - $20
  • 4 page, typed, essay highlighting the Hero's Journey
  • 1 page summary of a book, with a pay out of 1 penny per page of the books length
  • Long Division Problems - 1 cent per digit for each correctly done, and checked, problem (e.g. 8572234 / 324 would be a 10 cent problem)
  • Algebraic Problem Solutions - 1 cent per operator, 1 cent per variable, 1 cent per term (e.g. 3x + 7x - 3 +5 = 15 - 8x would be a 13 cent problem)
  • Poster Presentation - Payout is $2 per hour put into preparation of topic, with bonus possibility
  • Audio Lecture Listened To - Payout is $1 per hour listening to Audio Lecture (audio book, master series, whatever) when they turn in a page of facts covering the audio lecture contents (e.g. listen to a 3 hour show on Greek history, and they turn in a Greek facts sheet covering what they heard, they would get $6)
  • 5000 Front Kicks has a payout of $10 (KJ is currently averaging 100 per day, so in 50 days she will make it)
  • 10 PERFECT push-ups with zero pause time has a pay out of $5
  • 50 Laps Around the Block has a payout of $5 (Dy has done 4 thus far)


The bounty approach has been fantastic in previous summers, so we continue it.  When Dy wants a Slurpee, she knows that all she needs to do is enough long division problems and viola!  Slurpee time!  Or, knock out 10 perfect push-ups (not easy given their builds, gender, and age by the way).

By way of mechanics, I don't pay them per problem as they go. It just isn't practical to give them 8 cents here and there. Rather, they get payouts in intervals of dollars.

Happy Bounty Paying!