From the Ion on Up: Elemental Fun with Chemistry Games – Genius Games

Making Learning Fun

Chemistry is the bomb. Literally! In high school chem, there was always that guy or gal or both (teamwork) sitting in the back row of the lab hoping to mix up some chemical combo that went “BOOM.” Or even just a flash/bang. But always something that made you go “WOW.”

I LOVED chemistry in school. Biology was fun; physics—well, that’s a post for another day. But chemistry just made sense. A lot of it is based on math, which was easy for me, but how atoms and molecules bond to create basic building blocks of everything enthralled me. And what fascinates us is what we remember, internalize, and sometimes even excel at.

Without a knowledge of chemistry and how chemicals interact with one another, without awareness of what and how molecules and atoms combine—or don’t—with one another, many of the conveniences in life we take for granted wouldn’t exist. Like cellphones. Baking. Toilet bowl cleaners. Our lives would look very different.

So if the very basic building blocks of things interest you, you’re going to love Genius Games’ chemistry titles.

Periodic: A Game of the Elements

Before you can run, you learn how to walk; before you start mixing stuff together, you need to learn what that stuff is and does. Periodic is a deceptively simple game based on the periodic table of elements: the chemical elements that make up matter in our world. These elements are arranged by two factors: each element’s atomic number, arranged by ascending atomic number, and what’s known as the periodic law, which orders elements with similar properties in the same group or column.

Periodic uses the table of elements as its game board, with player pieces —flasks, cube-shaped markers, energy coins, activity cards and more — for two to five players aged 10 years old and up. Like all Genius Games titles, Periodic is a high-quality production, with excellent artwork, comprehensive instructions, and a booklet laying out the science behind the game and the periodic elements.

Players maneuver across the periodic table to collect elements to score Goal Cards and land on element groups to score points. Players either pay energy to use multiple periodic trends to move across the table or select just one trend and collect all the energy played to that trend!

I say deceptively simple. While the game structure involves moving around the board to complete various goals, winning involves the employment of strategies on multiple levels. Points can be earned by each player reaching his personal goals, blocking or piggy-backing other players’ goals, and wisely using energy. The player with the most points wins, of course. And new strategies can be developed with every new play of the game.

This is truly a great game that makes science fun and will keep kids and grown ups entertained while absorbing basic chemistry principles.

Subatomic: An Atom Building Game

Now that you’ve learned about the periodic elements, learn how to build them from the subatomic level on up. Or play Subatomic as a stand-alone game. Either way, this is another beautifully designed and rendered quality product. Like Periodic, its initial premise is deceptively simple but winning — or even mastery — of the game requires increasingly ingenious strategy maneuvers and decisions.

Subatomic is a deck-building game about building elements from subatomic particles; players learn about particle physics, protons, neutrons, electrons, atoms, ions, elements, helium, lithium, beryllium, boron, energy, famous particle physicists, mass-energy equivalence and more.

Designed for high-school level students — 14 years old and up — each game can take an hour or slightly less, depending on the number of players and sophistication of individual strategies.

Players begin the game with a small deck of quarks and photons, which they use to build protons, neutrons and electrons, and an individual player mat. Each turn, players draw a new hand of cards and decide to either build up their atom to score points or buy stronger cards for their deck.

The first in a series of strategic decisions is whether to build up an entire atom before the other players, which will score them points, or to buy proton, neutron and electron cards. These are added to their personal deck, making it more powerful and allowing them to build atoms even faster in the future.

The game becomes even more interesting (and fun!) when players “adopt” famous scientists like Marie Curie, Niels Bohr, and Albert Einstein. Use of these experts enables players to break the standard rules of the game—turning energy into matter and replicating cards played by other players.

Great for the science classroom or a game night with family and friends, Subatomic is easy to learn but challenging to master. Players must rely on strategic timing and optimizing available resources. It not only covers the basic principles of atomic structure, it does so in a way that is fun and intuitive for everyone.

Ion: A Compound Building Game

Ion is a fast-paced card drafting/set collection game that’s designed for two to seven players aged eight years old and up. Within each 20 to 30 minute game, players select one card — either ions or noble gases — from their personal hand and then pass the remaining hands along to the next player. Card passing happens simultaneously, keeping ALL players engaged and requiring quick decision-making.

Set collections are then made up of neutrally charged ions and or stable noble gases, all based on real compounds from chemistry. Selected cards must be bonded to another ion or set alone to start a new compound. Players score points for neutrally balanced cards; a positive charged Sodium (Na+) bonding with a negatively charge Chloride (Cl-), forming the neutral NaCl compound scores points.

Points are scored for each round and players may gain additional points for building specific compounds listed on the goal cards for that round. After three rounds, the player with the most points wins. And to make things even more interesting, the game includes multiple expansions: a Transition Metals expansion, a Polyatomic Ion expansion and a Radioactive Card expansion.

All the concepts in Ion are what high school chem students learn, and because the science is accurate and realistic, it’s been endorsed by the National Science Teachers Association.

Covalence: A Molecule Building Game

Whether played as a stand-alone game from the rest of the the Genius Games chemistry titles, or after learning all about elements, atomic particles, and ionic bonding from the other games, Covalence is the game in which players start to build the various molecules that make up our environment.

You’ve all seen molecular formulas — elements that bond together to form matter — either in books or films. This game gives you the opportunity to build those formulas without knowing what you’re building. Which is where the fun begins!

Covalence is a cooperative card game where players work together to accurately build a number of mystery organic molecules. One player designated “The Knower,” has knowledge of a set of Secret Molecules. The other players, “The Builders,” must deduce what these secret molecules are based on clues dealt to them by the Knower — who’s kind of the opposite of the dummy in Bridge. Players must cooperatively construct their molecules before the clues run out to win.

The Knower studies the Secret Molecules designated to each Builder and then gives each Builder clue cards that relate to the molecules they’ve been dealt. Each Builder interprets these clues as they arrange and rearrange their individual element tiles — the molecular building blocks — attempting to guess the structure and identity of their Secret Molecules.

Covalence, designed for two to four players aged eight and up, contains three levels of difficulty: easy, medium and hard, as well as the Chemist Expansion set for even greater challenges. We recommend you start with the easy level to learn the instructions before moving on to more challenging levels. And once you’ve mastered the game, throw in the extra Secret Molecules card and chlorine tiles and clue cards.

Final Thoughts

Genius Games’ chemistry titles are truly a superior value for science classes, gaming groups and family and friends, with hours of playing time to keep players engaged, learning and winning.