Tag Archives: Educational Games

Fun Family Chess from Brain Blox {Review}

I remember playing Chess with my dad when I was just a girl but I’ve forgotten a lot of how to play, so I was very pleased to be given the opportunity to review Fun Family Chess from Brain Blox because now I can re-fresh my own knowledge and help my special needs boys learn this game as well!

While uou certainly can play chess in the standard way with this set, it has been formatted in such a way that anyone, whether they are trying to re-learn the game for themselves or they want to help someone with absolutely no knowledge of how to play to learn.

Fun Family Chess comes with a very sturdy, well made wood box, which is both the chess board and storage for all of the components.


One of the things I really like is that there are pictures of the different pieces right on the board, so that we know exactly what goes where.

Inside, the other parts of the game are packaged very nicely in the velvet lined inner halves.

You can see that the light and dark pieces each have their own soft (and now I notice, covered Shiloh’s hair) velvet bags, and nestled in with them you can also see a full color instruction book, reference cards, and the chess die. The wood box/game board closes with two metal clasps to keep everything neatly together.


Each person will roll the chess die during their turn, and it will show them which piece to move. The player then checks the color coded reference card to find out how that piece is allowed to move. Here is a short video from the Brain Blox company which explains the moves each piece can make in chess:

Not only is the storage box/chess board good solid wood, the pieces are as well, plus they are coated on the bottom with felt to keep them from scratching the board.


A couple of my boys have cognitive issues and have difficulty when it comes to strategy, so this is a very good way for them to learn this game. Here is just one of their games in progress:

They are enjoying learning the game of chess in a no pressure way. They do not have to already know how each piece moves in order to be able to play, because the whole idea is learning while playing. With the die and the reference cards, they can check how each piece moves each time it is their turn. Eventually, they will have the pieces and their moves memorized, and won’t need to refer to the cards anymore! It really is as the box itself says:

“Earth’s Most Dandy and Delightful, Refreshingly Refined, Easy-Peasy Way To Learn Chess!”  

Please click on the banner just below to read the fair and honest thoughts of 56 other Review Crew Members!

Fun Family Chess {Brain Blox Reviews}


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Filed under Brain Blox, home education, homeschool products, homeschooling, Homeschooling Chess, Learn Chess the Easy way

Out Of The Box Games: T. O. S. Review

As my final crew review for this year, I really could not have asked for a better one. 🙂 Never fear, I will be returning to the crew after the new year, with more great products to tell you about. Meanwhile, I’ll still be around, letting you in on “My Journeys”!

Up until recently, I had never even heard of Out Of The Box Games.

However, since we got rid of all of our board games when we left Michigan, I had promised to rebuild our collection here in New Mexico. My goal has been to rebuild as much as possible with educational games, so when given the chance to review the game Snake Oil, from Out Of The box Games, I really wanted to do this one, and I am very glad I did, too!

I want to tell you something we learned from this game . . . Snake Oil, and Snake Oil salesmen really existed! During the 1860’s, Chinese laborers working on the Transcontinental Railroad would, after hard, physical labor, rub sore muscles with an ointment made from water snake oil. They shared the ancient Chinese remedy with their American workers. Products containing water snake oil are still in use today by some herbalists. Eventually, snake oil was commercialized, and in the early 1900’s, a sample of Clark Stanley’s Snake Oil Liniment was tested by the U.S. government, at which time it was discovered to contain no snake oil at all. Because swindlers had been using it and making false claims, the phrase “snake oil salesman” was born. Today, we might refer to politicians, used car salesmen, etc . . . as “snake oil salesmen”.

The Snake Oil game was developed by Jeff Ochs, who came up with the concept for Snake Oil in 2008 while on an airplane flight. He and his colleagues were reading a catalog to pass the time, and noticed a recurring theme, that many of the product names consisted of two random nouns. They began playing with random noun combinations to create new products, and entertained themselves for the rest of the flight. You can find out more about the creation of the Snake Oil Game by reading here.

I like to have games that are easy and quick to learn. Snake Oil definitely fits the bill. It is truly a right out of the box game! I also like to have games that we can all play together, and this one fits that bill, as well. It is recommended for age 10 and up, but even my boys who actually function at much lower than age ten were able to play right along with the rest of us, although the smaller of our twins, who does function much younger, needed a little help. The Game Snake Oil sells for $19.99

Everything needed comes right in the box. There is no need for score keeping, there are no dice, or anything like that. The contents of the box are a plastic tray which holds 336 word cards, and 28 double-sided customer cards, which allows for 56 different customers. Playing is quick and easy. Each player takes six word cards, and the players select one person to begin by being the first customer. That person draws a customer card, looks at both sides, and decides which customer he or she wants to be, for example, the card I just randomly took from the box has Prison Guard on one side, and Fashion Model on the other. Once the customer chooses who to be, the other players quickly choose two noun cards from their hands to create a product, and take turns “pitching” their products to the customer. It can get fairly hilarious, especially when a player has to go with word cards (nouns) that really have nothing to do with the customer’s chosen persona. 🙂 The customer chooses which product he or she likes best, and that “salesman” gets the customer card. At the end of the game, the player with the most customer cards is the winner.

One small warning, we did come across a few noun cards that we preferred not to use. You can easily remove them and still have a ton, or, if the reverse side is something you are OK with, maybe use double-sided tape to put them together with other nouns you don’t want to use. I didn’t think of that, until I took a look at my scrapbooking stuff, lol!

Here is a quick little video showing how Snake Oil is played:

There are variations on the game, as well, such as Snake Oil Tournament Play (12 – 24 players) and Snake Oil Live, with which a large group (can we say teen game night, anyone?) can be entertained.

My family is really enjoying this game, and our kids are learning without even being aware, which my regular readers know is something I love!

Please check in with Out Of The Box Games on their various social media:


To see what other crew members thought of this and another version of the game, please click the banner below:

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Filed under educational games, Out Of The Box Games, Snake Oil Game, Snake Oil Salesman

The Presidential Game . . . a T.O.S. Review

OK, so I’ll be honest, back in the beginning of August, when I requested to be chosen as a reviewer for The Presidential Game,

it was primarily because it looked so interesting to ME. I love to follow politics. I have, however, been trying over the years to teach my boys about elections, and several years ago “The Batman” and “The Artist” even did a lapbook about the presidential election (this was before we adopted “Mr. Loquacious” and “The Puzzler”, so we’ll probably do it again during the next big election”).

When the game arrived and I got a good look at it, I got a little nervous, I was at that point unsure if my boys would be able to “get” the concept during game play. I also wondered about the price, and what my husband would think of that. More about that later, however. 🙂

The Presidential Game is a board game, with an online component. The game itself is VERY sturdy and well made! I’ve seen (and had!) a number of board games which were very cheaply made, the fold up boards coming apart, the boxes coming apart. The Presidential Game is going to stand up to a LOT of wear, I think, which is a good thing, because my family is enjoying it very much!

I told you that at first, I was unsure whether my boys would be able to “get” the process of playing this game, because of their various special needs. I guess my friends who keep reassuring me about what home-schooling is doing for them are right though, because it didn’t take very long at all for all four of the boys to start strategizing to try to win the game.

The Presidential Game is intended for players age 11 and up, and for at least two players. We are a family of six, and play it in teams of three players.

This is from the back of the box:

“Think you have what it takes to be America’s next president? The Presidential is a fun and exciting game of strategy where two teams, Democrats and Republicans, battle for control of each state to ultimately gain 270 electoral votes or more. An entertaining and educational family game – it’s great for both students (11+) and adults. Enjoy the thrill of playing to win the most powerful job in the world!”

When your game arrives, it will include the following in the box:

1 20″ x 30″ game board
1 score pad
3 blue dice
3 red dice
80 politics cards (some of these are truly funny, too!)
150 Republican votes (red chips)
150 Democrat votes (blue chips)
1 electoral webmap calculator
Access code for the webmap calculator

Using the interactive webmap calculator was great fun, it helped the boys catch on very quickly to how fast and frequently the lead can change during an election campaign! 🙂

The very first time we set up for play, it took only a few minutes to get started, and the learning curve was slight, much easier than I had thought it would be, as I said above. We played as two teams. My husband, “The Batman” and “The Puzzler” were one team, with “The Artist”, “Mr. Loquacious” and myself being the other.

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We got right into the game, which is played as a series of campaign “weeks”, where each team is either fundraising or campaigning. We decided to alternate. Week one (the first found) we decided both teams would fundraise, and on week two (round two) we would campaign, and so on through the game. In your fundraising round, you must choose which one of four states (California, Texas, New York or Florida) you will be going to in order to raise money. You then get to roll your three dice. Whatever your total roll, one half of that number must remain in the state where you chose to fundraise, so for example, if you roll a 12, then 6 votes (chips) in your color are stacked onto that state. You may, of course, put all 12 on your chosen fundraising state, or you can divide the other half between any other states you like. That’s when strategy begins to kick in, because sometimes you can regain a state your opponents control, or gain a new state.

During campaign rounds, your team chooses and must announce three states in which you will campaign. Your team then rolls your three dice, and must allocate your votes (chips) according to the numbers on each dice. For example, if you roll a 3, a 5 and a 2, you must put 3 votes on one of your chosen states, 5 on another, and 2 on the last of your chosen states, but you get to decide which of your chosen states get what number.

The politics cards are fun! Your team gets to draw a politics card from the deck during your fundraising turn. Most of the cards can be used right away OR held to play later, although some will say “play immediately” on them. You can use only one card during a turn, though, so it won’t help to hold a bunch in order to get extra votes! Here is a politics card that my team drew, and used. I thought it was hilarious, because we are originally from Michigan, and the topic on the card was very much in the news during a political scandal in Detroit only a few years ago. 🙂

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The counts on the board change frequently, as votes (chips) are stacked on states and taken away because the other team gained or re-gained that state.

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As you play, you can keep score of the electoral votes gained by each team either by using the score pad (a lot more work!) or by using the online Electoral WebMap Calculator (a lot more fun!) The online map is visual, and the boys could see immediately how quickly things change and turn around during an election, because at any time during play, states were being won and lost.

This is what the Electoral WebMap looked like when we started the game . . .

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And these shots will show you how quickly things can change during a campaign!

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It really didn’t take very long for any of the boys to pick up on the strategy of the game, and they got very good, very quickly, at figuring out which states to fundraise and campaign in, and how to best allocate votes (chips) in order to either take over a state or at least turn it neutral again, if the opposite team currently controlled it.

“The Batman” and “The Artist” . . .

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“Mr. Loquacious” and “The Puzzler” . . .

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The Presidential Game is available to purchase here for $35.00, which both my husband and I feel is a good price, especially considering the online component.

Our family is truly enjoying this game, and will absolutely put it into the family game night rotation!

To read about what other members of the Schoolhouse Review Crew thought of the Presidential Game, please click the graphic below!


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Filed under current affairs, education, educational games, family, home education, homeschool products, homeschooling, Kids, Politics, Presidential Game, Schoolhouse Review Crew Post, special needs education, TOS Review