Tag: homeschool

Gameschooling with Blue Orange games!

Gameschooling with Blue Orange games!

We love hearing and reading about our games being used for a purpose that goes beyond playing and having fun! Over the years we have observed teachers and therapists using many of our games as educational tools and we thrive in knowing that with good mechanics and quality components our games are very versatile. We invited Juliet Smith, a mother and gamescooling supporter, on our blog to talk about how she uses our games for gameschooling. She selected our classic Tell Tale and our original Once Upon a Castle to illustrate her passion. We invite you to visit her blog through the links below for more game reviews!

Hello! My name is Juliet Smith, Julie for short. I am 27 years old and married, and we have two beautiful children. I am here today to talk to you about Gameschooling. Let’s start with what that is. Gameschooling is simply using board and card games in a way that utilizes the various academic and social/emotional benefits that they have to offer. Research shows that children learn and retain information best through play. Let me give you an example of Gameschooling in action.

Tell Tale is a great story-telling game. It is fun and the children really enjoy playing it. I typically pass a number of cards to each child and myself, and we take turns adding one of our picture cards to the center of the table, continuing the story that we are creating together. It is usually silly and there is much laughter and excitement involved. We also enjoy switching it up by taking turns telling our own individual stories using all of our cards.

Now, take a step back and look at this with me for a moment. Tell Tale, in and of itself, is wonderful for language arts! It gets you noticing details, listening, connecting ideas together, and sharing them with others. What you will see is a group of people practicing public speaking skills, working together, using their imaginations, opening up the avenue for great conversations, lowering walls, and breaking past mental blocks.

Want to take it a step further? Have the child retell the story you have all just finished creating together. Have them write it down in a special notebook. End the story with a cliffhanger and have them finish the story in that notebook and then share it with you. Turn it into an art project and create your own cards to add to the deck. Act out the story. The possibilities are endless.

Let’s look at another game: Once Upon A Castle. Is this an “educational game”? No. Does it have great educational value? Absolutely! Once Upon A Castle covers the subjects of math and art. It is a strategic game where you are trying to gain the most points. You roll the dice to gain materials, which are then used to construct bits of your castle. How you spend these materials is where the strategy really comes into play. The bits you construct earn you points. You keep track of all this on your player board and your score sheet.

The game end scoring in Once Upon A Castle (and many others) is a wonderful opportunity to practice mental math skills. To utilize this opportunity, do not use a calculator. Let me say that again, Do NOT use a calculator to add up your score. As an adult playing games with kids and following this simple rule for their sakes, my own mental math has improved significantly. It feels good to not have to pull out my phone and open my calculator app all the time. It feels good to get faster at performing the calculations in my head. It’s a skill that requires practice and frequent use.

The greatest value, from a Gameschooling standpoint, in Once Upon A Castle is this: the opportunity to experiment with and gain confidence in your artistic abilities. This is not a requirement to play the game. Your score has nothing to do with your artistic ability. The beauty lies in the open, unspoken, invitation to be artistic.

A child may start by just tracing or coloring pieces of their castle. This may then lead to adding a little bit of creative design to their walls or towers. As they grow in confidence, they will begin applying more and more artistic touches and may eventually want to use the backside of the score sheet for complete artistic freedom in designing their own castles. To allow for this growth, it is best not to rush the game. Don’t pass the dice until you are done (or almost done) adding a piece to your castle.

There are so many great games out there now, each with its own hidden (or not so hidden) benefits. I have created a website to tell you about them, reveal their benefits, and share any rule changes I have found helpful. The games are organized by grade and subject. It is https://www.juliesgameschool.com.

Disclaimer: I do not make any money off this website. Instead, I put time and money into it. Why? Because I believe in the power of Gameschooling, and it doesn’t stop at the academic subjects. Please enjoy it, share it with others, and reach out to me any time.

Do you want to talk more about Gameschooling? Want to try some of these great games for yourself? Julie’s Game School with have a booth in the exhibit hall at the Rocky Mountain Homeschool Conference this summer (June 2021). I would love to see you there and share more with you. Until then, please check out the posts I have written about these Blue Orange Games:

Tell Tale: https://www.juliesgameschool.com/post/tell-tale

Keekee the Rocking Monkey: https://www.juliesgameschool.com/post/keekee-the-rocking-monkey

Piece of Pie: https://www.juliesgameschool.com/post/piece-of-pie

Once Upon A Castle: https://www.juliesgameschool.com/post/once-upon-a-castle

Dr. Eureka: https://www.juliesgameschool.com/post/dr-eureka

TopiCubes: https://www.juliesgameschool.com/post/topi-cubes

Interview with David Wexler, Inventor of Fish Club

Interview with David Wexler, Inventor of Fish Club

Toy Fair in New York

David Wexler is a toy inventor, film director and also happens to be the son of the inventor of Connect 4! He is the inventor of the award winning strategy game Fish Club, released by Blue Orange this year where two families of fish go head to head for the best spot in the aquarium. 

Here is our conversation:

Nicole: What interested you in the game industry and how did you get started? 

David: I grew up in and around the toy industry.  My father Howard, inventor of Connect 4, had an office in the apartment building where we lived. I would often head downstairs to his office, a converted apartment that was like Santa’s Workshop.  I was close with the artists, model makers and seamstresses that worked there, and loved setting up my own area where I could draw, work with clay, and paint.  A lot of that creativity seeped in, probably subconsciously, throughout my childhood.

When I graduated college with a degree in Communication Arts with an emphasis on film, I immediately began making movies, commercials, and television shows.  Soon I realized that a paper script was no different than a paper (or cardboard) model of a board game, and trying to sell both were equally as daunting!  The skill set was very similar for me, and I realized I could create a niche in the “entertainment” business – noticing that lines were being blurred between toys, games, film, and television.

Nicole: How did you come up with the idea of Fish Club?  What was your process of creating Fish club and how long did it take?

David: I came up with the idea for Fish Club some time in 2017.  I was clearing out a storage facility, and unearthed some clear, plastic “tanks” that my father and I had used for various projects in development years prior.  In my office I keep an area of assorted parts and tools (dice, pawns, etc.).  Things to create games.  I kept staring at this thing that looked like a tank, and immediately thought of a fish tank, or an aquarium.  I always keep foam core on hand and began to create shapes – I thought about fish, and buoys, and scuba divers – things you would find in a tank.  For my first model I used plastic rings (meant to look like life preservers), they were just on hand.

The very first Fish Club prototype

The very first Fish Club prototype

The idea would be to gather a group of your life preservers before your opponent as these various sea creatures got in the way. In the second model I decided to swap out fish for life preservers, and after play testing it a bunch it became clear that a curved bottom would add a nice randomizing sea floor to the game – giving it a bit of unpredictable action.  I called it Fishy Tank – it became Fish Club through the development process with Blue Orange.  Fish Club, from the first day I built the original prototype, felt like a special game.  It played clean, I loved the characters, it had great replayability.  I pictured it on shelves early on in the process – when that happens, you know you have something special.

Nicole: What makes Fish Club a unique game?

David: I think what makes Fish Club unique is that very young children, who might not even totally understand the gameplay, can enjoy dropping the characters and watching them bounce around their tank.  There is also a satisfying aspect that if you cannot cluster together five fish, there can still be a winner – the one who has the largest cluster.  This is a good way to prevent too many “ties,” which are ultimately unsatisfying.  I love that Fish Club looks like an aquarium when you are done playing!  No need to store it (I always hated putting games away in boxes!).  Just leave it on your shelf, it looks like you have a new pet.

Fish Club is a 2 player strategy game for 5 & up. The goal is to be the first to group 5 to win.

Nicole: What inspires you to invent?

David: The first seed of an idea, and my first drawing, as I begin to plan out the game – that’s the best part.  Selling it, and having it do well, that’s the cherry on top, but it’s such a tough industry.  If you don’t love the creating, you’re in trouble – there is a A LOT of rejection.  What inspires me to invent is coming up with a story (in this case, two families of fish, going head to head, to fight for a new spot in the aquarium).  I am a storyteller as a filmmaker, and that has translated naturally into working in the toy industry – even if the game doesn’t have great characters like Fish Club (currently we even have a Fish Club comic that is released weekly), I try to come up with a backstory (even if it’s just in my mind) for abstract strategy games.

Nicole: What advice would you give to new game creators?

David: It’s very important to love every aspect of the process.  As I mentioned, the turn down rate is about 90 (if not 95%)!  You need to have thick skin, and not take anything personally.  Every successful concept or sale I’ve had was a NO before it was a YES.  It takes a lot of perseverance and knowing that having a great product is only part of the battle.  Timing, good design, and knowing the marketplace is just as important.

Nicole: What was your favorite game growing up and why?

David: I was lucky to be surrounded by a ton of wonderful games and toys growing up.  Some of my favorite toys were products that my father invented that never even made it to market!  I have wonderful memories of play testing new creations with my brother, family, and friends, all the time.

Nicole: Do you have any new game projects coming up?

David: It’s important to ALWAYS have new games and projects on deck and in development.  I am constantly creating, pitching, and selling.  In Spring 2021 I am releasing a line of six games for a wonderful company called Galison.  The line is called Wexler Studios – three dice games, two card games, and a game called Paper Gravity.  All of them are sold in beautifully designed tins.  I am very excited about this line.

Fish Club has won several awards this year including The Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Gold Seal Award, the Mom’s Choice Gold Seal Award and the Creative Child Magazine 2020 Game of the Year Award in the Strategy category. Fish Club is also a finalist for the prestigious TOTY  2021 Award (Toy of the Year) in the Game category. You can vote for Fish Club here: https://toyawards.org/toyaward/custom/GameToy.aspx…

Follow our social media pages to keep updated on Fish Club!