Robots + Turtles + Lasers + Learning = Perfect!
In just a short while, Robot Turtles has become my son's favorite board game. That's saying quite a lot, as our collection of games runs across the tops of half a dozen bookcases and stretches almost to the ceiling.
Since I won’t be explaining how to play Robot Turtles, I wonder if some of my comments below might make more sense after skimming through the rule book: [...]
SETUP (2 out of 5)
This was my least favorite part of the whole experience (in fact, the only part that wasn’t overwhelmingly positive). I’d stop just short of calling the setup a negative experience, but it was definitely less than ideal. I suppose I should take most of the blame (?) since there was a note in the box suggesting a grown up spend some time (I estimate you’ll need about 15 minutes) learning how to play before bringing a youngster into the mix to actually play. But the excitement of opening a new box and “Hey, we’re gonna play Robot Turtles!” was too much for my son not to hang around while I learned the rules. After a while of hanging around and “Why aren’t we playing yet?” he began to lose interest. Of course, 10 seconds into our first official game and he had forgotten all about the waiting.
FIRST THOUGHTS (5 out of 5)
After a few rounds, we were hooked. As a parent considering what’s happening in my son’s brain while he plays, I was super excited that he was learning the basics of programming in a hands-on, screen-free environment. As a kid looking to have a blast, my son was literally jumping around the room with excitement as we learned the ropes, solved our first few challenges, and created our own challenges to solve (more on this in a minute)
CHARM (5 out of 5)
Robots are great. Robot turtles? Even better. Throw lasers in the mix, and you’re golden. I don’t know how much of this was carefully crafted scheming, or if the inventor of Robot Turtles just happened upon a great combination of images and imagination. Whatever the case, my son loves everything about the game. And any game that requires players (adults, especially) to make funny robot noises earns extra points in my book.
EDUCATIONAL VALUE (5 out of 5)
"Teach Your Kids to Code Before They Learn To Read. It’s the first board game for little programmers!” Yep and yep. But for me, it’s more than that. Or, I should say, those statements pack quite a punch. Cause and effect, learning from mistakes, short and long term planning, communication, problem solving… These are all fantastic things for a kid to engage in, and Robot Turtles has them in spades. And lasers! Everything is always better with lasers.
Since my son is only four and we’ve yet to tap into the more complex features and options of the game (Function Frog, for one), the thing I’m most excited about from what I’ve observed while playing is that in taking turns as the Robot Mover (and map designer), my son has an opportunity to use (and thereby further develop) his creativity. The board is a blank slate, and after a few moments he’s set up an adventure for me to guide my turtle through. I look forward to watching his creativity blossom as we continue to play this year and on into the future.
REPLAYABILITY (6 out of 5)
To me, this is where Robot Turtles really shines. The game has a series of "unlockables" designed to gradually increase the complexity of the game as players are ready. The game starts out rather basic, which was perfect for my four year old. Within a few rounds, he was chomping at the bit to learn what new cards and pieces would do. Over the course of that first few evenings, we brought in one, then two, then three of the unlockables. The difficulty ramped up nicely, and continued to hold my son’s interest, while also providing a within-reach set of challenges. However, we’ve really only scratched the surface. The combination of unlockables and alternative game modes means Robot Turtles will continue to grow in complexity as my kiddos grow in stature and ability.
Oh, and speaking of replayability, I just stumbled across the Galapagos Rules ([...]) for adults and older kids and realize the game has even more potential for expansion than I originally thought.
If I could, I’d give the game 42 stars out of 42. (Especially since ThinkFun has some videos in the works to make that first-time setup process a little easier.)
Well done, Dan Shapiro! And nice addition to an already outstanding lineup, ThinkFun.
In case it helps anyone take my comments with an appropriate grain of salt, here's some background: I'm a father of four (4yo, 3yo, and 18mo twins), a JH/HS math teacher, I've purchased just about everything ever released by ThinkFun (games, apps, you name it), and I've never written an OnlineShopDealer review before.
UPDATE: AGE RANGE
Prior to writing this review, all of my Robot Turtles experience had been with my four year old. OnlineShopDealer and ThinkFun list the age range as 4+, but the box I have (possibly from the KickStarter printing?) says 3+. I tried teaching my three year old this afternoon. He’s a bright little guy and typically enjoys games, though he isn’t quite as focused as my four year old (he’s 17 months younger, so that makes sense). He has no problem playing a few rounds of other games (Zingo, Connect 4, an extremely modified version of Monopoly), but this experience was a frustrating mess. I don’t think he’s ready for it, and to save us from further anguish I plan on waiting about 6 months before giving it another go with him.
Computational Thinking Games Shows Education is Evolving
If the practice of medicine is constantly evolving, why wouldn't practice of education be doing that as well? Of course it does and learning how to program (which exercises computational thinking) is at the forefront of this movement. Why would anything with the word "comput" in there be desirable? Especially since all we want is to keep kids from being too dependent on a screen? My theory is that at this point, families have enough comfort and competence with technology that they aren't necessarily wowed by the newest tech available. Technological advances aren't always appreciated by everyone- some changes seem rather superficial. This inspires more to become makers themselves.
I think this is why Robot Turtles is such a fun and successful game. We are using basic forms of human communication and play to learn something that can become very complex. We are sure to appreciate Robot Turtles or any other kid-friendly programming method better as both parents and children are better versed in technology. However, one major advantage is that this game is so very easy for the grown-ups. What I mean is that so many of the lessons that games teach kids including strategy building, troubleshooting, moving more efficiently is intuitively taught via the play in the Robot Turtles Game game. For other games, grown-ups must be cheerleaders, teachers, rule-givers, manners minders, and sometimes this gives us grown-ups a headache. I readily admit this even though I test games professionally. It's just the darn truth.
But this game really puts kids in the driver's seat and believe me, the adults will be relieved and know that just you doing what you are instructed to do (no grey areas) is going to be not just an awesome learning experience for your child but also wildly entertaining and engaging too - all without tremendous effort from the grownups. You can't say that about most games for 4 year olds - an age when board games are still kind of challenging and if it is not, then it is usually horrendously boring for the grown-ups. I fall asleep from some preK games but that's definitely impossible with this game! Robot Turtles creates a new game play experience for little ones and grown-ups alike. You will love it!
p.s. you can go to ThinkFun's website and make this experience more communal by sharing your "Adventure Quest" It's easy to use. It's a nice way to visually demonstrate on screen too.
Note to reader: I test games professionally and was blessed with the Kickstarter edition of Robot Turtles from its new publisher, ThinkFun. Hence you will not see verified purchase listed under my name but I can verify here that I am AVID AMAZON shopper. If you only knew.... And I am so incredibly grateful that they helped facilitate this review and I will be keeping this game forever and ever and ever. Please do know that I never promise reviews in exchange for compensation.
Educational AND fun!
We were lucky for a chance to try out Robot Turtles for our family and it was definitely an experience. As usual with any game, the most annoying part is the setup process. I mean hey, who wants the setup and cleanup duty right?! So my husband, 6 year old daughter, and myself all decided we'd play the game together once we got the boring set up out the way. We read the easy to follow instructions and it didn't take long to catch on. The first game simply teaches moving. The turtle can go forward, left, and right. The next game adds ice walls. The walls cannot be moved. The fun part is the addition of the "laser" card. This command can melt the tower. Then the turtle can move past the wall. The next addition was a stone wall. This wall cannot be moved or destroyed. You must travel around it. (This is a good obstacle to use a function to go around.) Finally, you can add crates Crates can be pushed. As you play the game, you can set the board up as you like, You can mix and match all of the different obstacles. This is when the game gets exciting and competitive.
As a parent I was excited not only my daughter, but my husband and myself, were learning the basics of programming in a hands-on, screen-free environment. As a blogger I know the ill effects of looking into a computer screen all can have on the eyes. While that is my bad habit, I don't want to pass that along to my children. As a kid looking to have a blast, my daughter, Sophia, was literally jumping around the room with excitement as we learned the ropes, solved our first few challenges, and created our own challenges to solve. Cause and effect, learning from mistakes, short and long term planning, communication, problem solving… These are all fantastic things for a kid to engage in, and Robot Turtles has them all covered in their game.
Since my daughter is only six and we’ve yet to tap into the more complex features and options of the game, the thing I’m most excited about from what I’ve observed while playing is that in taking turns as the Robot Mover, my daughter has an opportunity to use (and thereby further develop) her creativity. The board is a blank slate, and after a few moments she’s set up an adventure for me to guide my turtle through. I look forward to watching his creativity blossom as we continue to play this year and on into the future.
To me, Robot Turtles really stands out in the fact that you can play it over and over and it's not exactly the same old boring thing. The game has a series of "unlockables" designed to gradually increase the complexity of the game as players are ready. The game starts out rather basic, which was perfect for my six year old. Within a few rounds, she was chomping at the bit to learn what new cards and pieces would do. Over the course of that a few game nights, we gradually brought in one, then two, then three of the unlockables. The difficulty ramped up nicely, and continued to hold Sophia's interest, while also providing a within-reach set of challenges. However, we’ve really only scratched the surface. The combination of unlockables and alternative game modes means Robot Turtles will continue to grow in complexity as my kiddos grow in stature and ability. We are very pleased with this game and recommend it to other families.
This is a great game for learning the basics of computer programming for young children.
We received a copy of Robot Turtles from Thinkfun to test. The game concept sounded like an awesome opportunity to teach children the basic principles of programming in a fun and tangible way.
The first hurdle was the directions. They take a little while to digest. So, I would suggest letting the little ones play a little while as you read them. They are easy to follow and understand.
The game requires the child to play cards that contain directions for moving their frog. The parent's job is to move the frogs as per the card's direction. The point of the game is to teach a child how to string together directions to control the movement of their frog. This will teach them the programming directions that tell a computer what to do. Ultimately, the child will learn to use "function cards" which is a card that represents a complete set or string of directions.
The first game simply teaches moving. The turtle can go forward, left, and right. During this game, my 8 year old stated he was "bored". (His mind change when we added the first obstacle.) However, my 6 yr old loved it.
The next game adds ice walls. The walls cannot be moved. The fun part is the addition of the "laser" card. This command can melt the tower. Then the turtle can move past the wall. At this point, my 8 yr old got engaged.
The next addition was a stone wall. This wall connot be moved or destroyed. You must travel around it. (This is a good obstacle to use a function to go around.)
Finally, you can add crates Crates can be pushed
As you play the game, you can set the board up as you like, You can mix and match all of the different obstacles. This is when the game gets exciting and competitive.
The game is created so all children can win. However, our family gets a "little competitive" on board games. (even the little guys) SO, we added a "family game rule". Each turtle master and mover work together to get to their gem. All teams play at the same time, racing to get to their gem.
The game continues to grow: Thinkfun has created an extension for the game. It is called Adventure Quest. This is an expansion set that gives you more gems and new quests. It also includes "frog favorite" cards. There are special cards that act as a preset function for the child. This is to assist them in becoming more comfortable with the use of function groups.
The best part is that the game continues to grow. Once your child(ren) get comfortable with all of the pieces and how the move and work throughout the game, and after they feel comfortable working through the quests, they can create their own quests. You can create your own family Quest and upload the board design on the Thinkfun website and share it with other families. The other uploaded Quests are available for you to try at home with your family.
This is a great board game that continuously improves reasoning and strategy skills. It uses a very simplistic and fun way to introduce the basics of computer programming to children. The game continues to grow in difficulty until your child(ren) become comfortable enough to create their own Turtle Quests to share with other families.
We are very pleased with this game and recommend it to other families. Currently, we are working on our own Adventure Quests and will be sharing them in the near future on the Thinkfun website.
Great Game For All Ages
I got this game from Thinkfun to review and I have to say I am glad I got it.
I know little about computers and less about programming. I do however love teaching my girls through play and so this game seemed like a great idea.
The game play is very simple. Each game needs a "computer" which so far has ben me, and a few "programers" the kids. After you have the players, it is time to set up the board. You can chose to go simple for young programmers or more complex for more advanced players. Once the board is all set up it is time to play.
The child has to select a card and give it to the parent to move around the board. Very simple as the cards can go up, down, right left, or laser. In addition, just like real life, if a child makes a mistake, they can fix it by playing the bug card. If this is not simple and fun enough, the computer parent gets to make silly sounds with each move. It can get really fun and the kids laugh at the silliness of it. This game is like a mixture of silly and learning. The winner of the game is the child who gets to his colored gem first.
The first time I played this game was real fun. I started to play when my 2 year old nephew joined in. I gave him a pile of cards and he was actually playing. We had a very simple set up with just the gems in the center and the children moving around the board. It was simple and they were learning all about directions.
After my little nephew left, we added some simple obstacles. Another great feature about this game is that you can always change the set up. The instructions come with a few basics and there is more on Thinkfun's website. My girls also love getting creative and seeing what they can come up with.
The Robot Turtle's Game is a lot of fun. Not only did my girls have a lot of fun playing, but when my 2 year old nephew joined, he was able to do some basic moves as well. These are the games I like Fun and Educational.
Highly recommend as a great family game
Fun game!!! My kids love it (although admittedly we do alter the "rules" a bit for the three year old, but the six year old has caught on quickly). We still haven't gotten to the Adventure Quests pack we received, but all in due time. I think this is a great game for all ages, and I love how they've made it not just appear either gender neutral, or more stereotypically masculine. It's got the kind of images that all kids will love, between the lasers, flowers, jewels, etc. Definitely added to the appeal for my three year old who is a girl who loves pink.
We liked it so much
Originally got this game through Kickstarter and my 4 year old loves playing it. She quickly learned the game play and moved on to some of the more advanced steps. We liked it so much, we bought two more copies when it first came out through ThinkFun to give as gifts.
My son is going to take over the world
We are always looking for activities that take my five year old's eyes away from screens so it is ironic that he loves playing a game designed to teach kids how to use a screen. Seriously, coding is clearly the new must learn in school and I can't believe that it is possible to teach kids so young, but when you include 'making funny noises" in the instructions then of course it's possible.
Thanks for a great learning game!
ThinkFun sent our children's museum the Robot Turtles game for free so that we could see what our preschool visitors think of it! We had an opportunity to play the game with some children visiting on a field trip and they thought the game was a lot of fun. It is great when the adults get involved too and make it hilarious by adding silly turtle noises. What a great way to get kids and grown ups playing and learning together. I could tell that the little ones were thinking hard about how to reach their goal in the game - and they didn't even realize that they were learning.
Engaging and teaches programming to my 4 year old!
I never bother to write reviews but I'm making an exception for this game. We just got it after a friend recommended it (we both do a lot of programming for our jobs and this game teaches programming skills). My 4 year old daughter loves it. Not only is she learning but she's more engaged by this game than by any other game she's played. I could see the gears turning as she thought through her moves - and she doesn't want to stop playing. I hope the inventor follows up with more games that are this clever!