This review is for two of the games that can be bought from Home School in the Woods, Á La Carte products. Homeschool in the Woods creates hands-on history unit studies. The games we used are Taxation Frustration! and Westward, Ho! You can find reviews for other products, including more games, timelines, and period newspaper projects, at the Homeschool Review Crew Blog Post.
These products and games are pdf downloads.
Well, if the point of this game is to frustrate kids, then it certainly succeeds. My kids really do not like this game. You draw an item card with a tax and then another card to see if you get to pay the tax on the card or if you have to pay double or triple the tax. Each player starts with the same amount of money, and the last person to still have money wins. My kids were disappointed that this was a purely luck-based game, with no skill or knowledge needed. They were then further disappointed when they ran out of items to draw and no one had run out of money yet. The game states it is for 2-4 players, but when played with 3 and 4 players, no one had run out of money when the item cards were gone. We did manage to run out of money when trying the game with just 2 players.
The directions do not say whether or not you are supposed to keep the items you buy, or if you just discard, shuffle, and re-use the cards. I suppose you could simply do that, but the game is not engaging enough that any of my children were willing to pass their item cards to middle and keep drawing. (In other words, when no-one won, they just wanted to quit.)
This game is much different than Taxation Frustration. My kids seem to love the idea that you have to know something to move forward in the game. In this game, there are trivia questions from the time period of the westward expansion. To earn a roll of the die you have to first answer a question correctly. There is a game board and you take your playing pieces on a trip west, first to player to the destination wins. Before you embark on your journey, you have to roll a supply die, and collect six supply cards. No re-rolls are allowed if you roll a supply you already have.
The start of this game is slow because of the conditions put on both rolling and re-rolling. While some questions are aligned with what I would expect an average middle-schooler to know, others are obscure. Most adults would not be able to answer a majority these questions. We played two hours and had started going back through questions, and still, no one had made it onto the traveling part of the gameboard.
Having said all of that, my kids for some reason really enjoyed the game and were happy to try again. I think they liked the challenge!
The next time we played the kids had better progress with the questions. It took about an hour from the start until we had a winner. There are some frustrating spots on the game board, where a player can keep getting sent back because of sending-back spaces very close to one another. These difficult spaces do not seem to be balanced on the various trails, so basically whoever chose the easiest looking trail was much more likely to win. It was also very difficult to roll for all six supplies. Some of my kids were stuck off of the game board for a long time because they could not roll the last supply needed. I would say our overall opinion was that the gameplay was not smooth. My kids cooperated nicely playing for the review, but it is not a game they want to continue playing.