by F.

I’ve been playing this game a bit lately and I have to say it’s quite fun.

It sounds deadly boring. Essentially, you are given a number line and a bunch of marbles. You role some dice (2 negative numbers, 2 positive numbers) and using the four basic operations try to generate numbers on the number line. You get extra points for runs of a few marbles. Your “opponent,” of course, is doing the same thing, so he or she can try to interfere with your runs.

What’s fun about it is that it requires some elementary mathematical creativity. There are a whole lot of ways to get the desired number, usually. Or, looked at another way, there are a whole lot of numbers you can generate from your dice throw and the four basic operations. This gives a glimpse of the fun of mathematics, in my view, rather than the tedious algorithmic approach that’s taught in many schools. (Give the algorithmic task to your silicon slave, the computer. It won’t complain.)

The design is not going to win any awards. It’s ugly. It looks “educational,” which will be the kiss of death for any child with design sense. But, all in all, this is a good game. It won a Mensa best game award a few years ago, which shocks me a little because one of their criteria is “aesthetics.” I guess it’s other virtues swamped the aesthetics score, because it can’t have gotten higher than about -20.

Variations on the game include using polyhedral dice. So, for instance, you could use a d4 for exponents, a d20 for positive numbers, a d8 for negatives, and so on and on and on. By adding elements, you can get some pretty complex equations. But as in all things, start easy (4 d6s, 2 positive, 2 negative) and gradually work up.

You can also play this game solitaire, which is surprisingly addictive. (At least for a while.)

Buy it here.