Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Know What it Takes to be the President? Play The Presidential Game - A TOS Review Crew Review

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I have always been fascinated with history and politics. I don't know why. Maybe in my mind they go together a little bit. Maybe it's because my dad was a big history buff. Maybe it's because many major historical events happened when I was a youngster - the Bicentennial, the race to the moon and the first men on the moon, Watergate, etc. Whatever the case is, I love everything about history and politics. My wife moans when a new presidential election cycle begins. I am pretty much glued to the TV watching debates, speeches, campaign coverage and cheering for my favorite candidate.

Because of my fascination with politics and the presidential election, when I found out that we would be receiving The Presidential Game to review, I was thrilled. 

When you play The Presidential Game you actually learn what it takes to become the president of the United States. Oh, okay, you don't have to make any stump speeches or shake hands and kiss babies, but you do learn a lot about the electoral votes and why they are so important. You also learn the strategies and reasons why some states are so important to candidates while other states are rarely visited by the hopeful future presidents.

The game is amazingly simple but also requires an amazing amount of strategy and thinking. The Presidential Game requires two players or two teams who take on the role of either the Democratic candidate (blue) or the Republican candidate (red). Each candidate has a set of 150 chips and three dice that are either blue or red depending on which party they represent. The game also contains 80 political cards, 40 "Write Your Own" political cards, a game board, a Score Pad and an Electoral Webmap Calculator Access Code that you can use to access an online Calculator that will help you keep score for the game. 

I'll tell you ahead of time that our internet is broken at our house, so we tried to access the Webmap Calculator on my phone but we couldn't get it to work. Therefore we just used our heads and the scorepad. You will find out later how useful the online Webmap Calculator could be and how much easier the gameplay is with it.

Each candidate rolls one die to decide who goes first and then the game begins. The game lasts for 30 weeks (or as many as you decide if you want to play a shorter game). A week is really one round of turns and a 30 week game lasts about an hour.

Before a turn begins the player must state if he is going to campaign or fundraise. If he chooses to campaign he must say which three states he is going to campaign in. We'll discuss this option first. Once the states are declared, the player rolls all three dice and then decides where his chips are to go. If he rolled a 6, 4 and 2 and declared Tennessee, Indiana and Pennsylvania then he decides which die corresponds with which state and places (or removes) chips from that state. For example, he can place 6 chips on Pennsylvania, 4 on Indiana and 2 on Tennessee if he chooses. Or he can put the 6 on Indiana, the 4 on Tennessee and the 2 on Pennsylvania. You get the picture. If he already has chips on one of those states he simply adds more chips to what is already there. If his opponent has chips on that state, he deducts the amount of chips that correspond with what is on that states die. For example, if the Republicans had 4 chips on Indiana and the Democrats rolled a 6 and allocated those points to Indiana then the 4 Republican chips would be removed and 2 Democratic chips would be added. That would mean that the Republicans just lost the lead in that state and the Democrats took over the lead. I know that this sounds a little confusing but the directions explain it a lot better and it really isn't that difficult.

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If you choose to Fundraise in a state you can only choose to Fundraise in California, Texas, New York or Florida. Those are the states that have the most electoral votes out of all 50 states. When a player declares which state he is going to Fundraise in and rolls the dice, half of the total of all three dice must be places on that state. For example, if the player declares Florida and rolls three dice that total 16, 8 chips must be places on Florida. The remaining chips can be places on any other state or states that he chooses (Florida included). Again, if his opponent has chips on a state that he chooses then chips will be removed and added accordingly. Fundraising is where the "Politics Cards" take place as well. At the end of a Fundraising turn, the player that Fundraised picks a Politics Card. The Politics Cards are fun! They may say something like this. "You declare that you are Mormon. Add four chips to Utah". Or, "The opposing candidate wears loafers to a Western party in Montana. Add four chips to Montana". Occasionally a card may be a negative and you may have to remove chips, but usual they are positive and you add chips. Unless a card says to play immediately, you can play these cards during any one of your turns.

So you see, chips are being removed and added all of the time. And the score changes all of the time. After each turn a player adds up the electoral votes for each state that he leads in. Usually you just add (if you take over a state) or subtract (if you lose a state) but that requires you to remember closely which states you just campaigned in and which ones you won or took over. Many times John Allen and I would get so involved in the game that we would lose track and have to physically count all of our states instead of just adding or subtracting. That is where the online Electoral WebMap Calculator would have come in handy. It remembers all of those things and adds and subtracts for you. The confusion about keeping score was the only downfall when we played, but the game is so much fun that we easily overlooked it.

After 30 weeks (or rounds) of play, the game ends and whoever has 270 or more electoral votes is the winner of the election. During the whole game John Allen and I were constantly taking states (especially the big ones) from each other and trying to stategize (is that a word) to gain enough electoral votes to win the game. The Presidential Game really is a lot of fun!

So how much is this great game that is for players from the age 11+ to adults? You can order it for just $35 by clicking here or on any one of the hilighted links above. It is well worth it. We love it and, even as we speak, have the game set up ready to continue (we played late into the evening) when I finish this review!

As usual many of the other TOS Review Crew members reviewed this game and you can find what they had to say by clicking on the banner below. Happy Game Playing!

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Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Time4Learning - A Schoolhouse Review Crew Review


I have a confession to make. My laptop has been on the blink for a couple of months and I have been out of the loop as far as writing posts. Thankfully, I have been able to review Time4Learning before, so I do have some experience with this wonderful program and can write an educated review.

Time4Learning is a computer based program where a child is given his own login and password. After the child logs in, he is able to choose between four subjects - Language Arts, Math, Science and Social Sutdies. Some grade levels offer a few more choices but those are the core areas. After a child has completed his work, he is rewarded with some games on the "playground" that he can play.

There are several things that I really like about this program, but one of the things that I like the best is the fact that there are options for a parent to control almost everything that you can think of. Here are some of the parental controls that I liked the best. 

  • I know for Joshua and Jacob - our two children that are on the autism spectrum - making choices can be difficult. If there are too many selections they will become confused and frustrated. Time4Learning allows a parent to limit the selections and even choose what their child is going to learn each day. 
  • Another really great feature for parents who have children with short attention spans is that the parent can choose how long each lesson will last. Now that is really cool! If you know that your child can only handle 10 minutes of math then you can set the lesson to be only 10 minutes long! That really alleviates frustrating temper tantrums from having to complete a lesson that is too long and the child has lost interest.
  • Still another fantastic feature, especially for parents who have children like mine, is that for each subject you can choose one grade level above or below what you signed your child up for. Joshua's academic levels are all over the board. I would say that his reading skills are above grade level and his geography levels are off the chart. His math levels are way below what they should be. With Time4Learning you can choose between three levels for each of the subjects that you child is working on. You just have to be knowledgeable enough about you child's academic level to choose his average grade level when you first sign up.
  • Another wonderful feature is that the parent can view what the child has chosen each day (if they haven't already selected it for him) and how the child has progressed in each area. The "Parent Administration Section" is very detailed and allows you to view a lot.
  • Last, but certainly not least, as far as parental control is that a parent does have some control over the reward games section as well.
I think this would be an appropriate time to mention that Time4Learning is not a faith-based program. Some of the things can have a bit of a worldly approach to them. Although the creators have done a very good job in trying to make the program non-offensive to all users, there still may be some things that you may object to. I mention that here because in our experience there were a couple of reward games that we didn't particularly like. That was a couple of years ago, however, so those games may not be available anymore.

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Another plus for parents who keep track of state standards is that Time4Learning  keeps up with those things as well and has a whole section for your state. You can even pick activities that will teach your child the things that they are expected to know in your state according to your state's standards. We don't pay attention to state standards that much, but I know for some parents it is important - especially in states where the homeschool laws require you to keep track of those type of things.

The lower level programs are done with good quality animation where the subject is explained with animated videos and then the child works on that particular subject. The older levels, however, require more reading which may be a draw back for some parents.

Finally, another great feature is that a parent can print out worksheets for extra practice if they so desire. I know that many times I have felt like one of my children need more practice but I really didn't want them sitting in front of a the computer any longer. Printed out worksheets are a fantastic option to have.

I really like the price as well. Time4Learning is just $19.95 for the first student in the family and $14.95 for each additional student per month for the prek-8th grade programs. The high-school cost is just $30 per month. You can find out more by clicking here or on any one of the hi-lighted links above.

Many other members of the TOS Review Crew reviewed Time 4 Learning and you can see what they had to say by clicking on the banner below.

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