Game Face

Altaic WarriorHave you played Monopoly recently? Like, since you became an adult? It’s a terribly boring game. Once all the properties are purchased, there’s not a bit of strategy to it. Just rolling dice, moving your Scottish terrier token, and paying rent. However, all that rent paying is great arithmetic practice for a first grader, which is why I agreed to play the game with Hannah a few years ago. After a particularly long and boring game, I complained about all this on Facebook. Monopoly: great math practice for the kid, super boring for me. A friend of mine (thanks, Brandy!) directed me to the kids card game Sleeping Queens, which is also great math practice… but not boring. We haven’t played Monopoly since!

Sleeping Queens starts with a dozen whimsical queen cards (Rose Queen, Moon Queen, Pancake Queen, and so on) face down. The goal is to play king cards (Tie-Dye King, Hat King, Puzzle King, and so on) to wake those sleeping queens. Collect enough queens, and you win the game. The king cards are shuffled into a very large draw deck, along with other cards both useful (like knights you can use to steal another player’s queen) and not (number cards with values ranging from 1 to 10). You can always discard a less useful card on your turn to draw another card from the deck, hoping for a king. Here’s where the math comes in: If you can make an addition equation out of a few of your number cards (using, say, a 2, 3, and 5 to make 2 + 3 = 5), you can trade in all of those number cards for an equal number of replacements, increasing your odds of scoring a king.

For a first grader having a hard time with her math facts, Sleeping Queens was great practice. And the game is lively and interesting enough to keep her dad engaged and entertained. Hannah and I played many, many times, and I was glad to introduce her to some game mechanics more interesting than what you typically see in American family board games. (The Germans have always known a better way. Go play Settlers of Catan and see if you ever want to play most American games again!)

This summer, Lily tried her hand at Sleeping Queens. She needed a little help with the arithmetic, especially when the addition requires more than five gingers. But, man, does she get into the game! I think I’ve shared before that with Hannah taking up most of the conversational air time around our house, Lily tends to keep her thoughts to herself. Not when she’s playing Sleeping Queens! There’s a whole other side to her personality that comes out. Something about the game helps her feel empowered, and she takes great delight in playing a king or stealing a queen. She’s competitive to the point of trash talking! Little Lily, who’s usually staring out the car window daydreaming!

Just last week, a different game brought out a similarly different side to Hannah. She had her first soccer game in the Under 10 YMCA division. Hannah hadn’t played soccer in a year, and back then she was more likely to pick daisies and talk with friends than go after the ball. No longer. At the game last week, she was a heat-seeking missile, darting all over the field after the ball. I had never seen her so assertive while playing sports! The poor kid wore herself out pretty quickly. She’s more of a sprinter than a marathoner, and the Under 10 teams play on a much bigger field than the younger kids. She needed some emergency Gatorade early in the game, and by the second half her coach had moved her to a less cardiovascularly challenging defensive position. I’m going to see if she’ll go running with me one day a week to help her build her stamina. Because she’ll need it as hard as she plays this year!

I love seeing my girls come alive like this, whether it’s at the kitchen table playing a card game or on the soccer field. I’m glad to see them find activities that they love, and I’m thankful they feel secure enough to really cut loose. Watching their unique personalities develop is one of the great privileges of being a dad!

For you Sleeping Queens players out there, I thought I would share a version of the game Lily and I came up with that we call “Fishing Queens.” It takes advantage of the fact that the symbols on each number card matches one of the queens. For instance, the 5 has five moons on it, which matches the Moon Queen. The 8 has eight sunflowers on it, so it matches the Sunflower Queen. The Peacock and Rainbow Queens don’t have matching number cards, so they’re not used in this version.

To start the game, each player draws three queens, which are placed face up in front of the player. These queens determine the kinds of number cards the player needs to win. (5s for a Moon Queen, 8s for a Sunflower Queen, and so on.) Then you play Go Fish with the rest of the cards, trying to find matching pairs as one does in Go Fish. (Most cards have more than two copies in the deck. No need to find them all; just match any two.) If you get a pair of numbers that matches one of your queens, you place that pair next to the queen and you’re one step closer to winning. Any other pairs go to the discard pile, but you get to draw an extra card when you make one of these matches. This helps you try to find the numbers you need, and echoes one of the main game mechanics of the original game. Since the kings don’t have matches, any time you have a king, you can discard it to draw three more cards. 

That’s it! The first player to find pairs of number cards that match all three of their queens wins.

Image: “Altaic Warrior,” Shane Gorski, Flickr (CC)

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