No, not that kind of luck.
Browsing the shelves in the waning days of the “everything must go” sales, I came across something very interesting.
A board game about culture!
Oh, you were expecting something else? What can I say? You know I’m a culture geek.
Anyway, I found “Around the World”, a board game for kids ages 8 and up.
Players role dice and answer questions as they travel the world. For each correct answer, you gain a token for your Global Scorecard. The first person to complete their virtual world tour and fill up their scorecard wins.
The game made Dr. Toy’s (AKA Dr. Stevanne Auerbach) list of “100 Best Children’s Products”.
Hey, who I am to mess with a thumbs up from Dr. Toy?
Still, as cultural anthropologist and an educator, here’s what I like about the game.
Teaches basic facts about the world’s cultures.
The question cards are organized into four categories: People & Places, Geography, Language, and Culture and Customs, with questions ranging from “From which country was Michelangelo?” to “In which culture is the eagle believed to be ‘the great messenger’?”
(Hats off to the creators for including the first human inhabitants of North America. After all, they’re part of the world’s cultural diversity too.)
There are also two more decks — World Wonders and World Bank — that players must use as they advance around the board. World Wonders combines geography with information about world-famous landmarks. Players read a description on the card and then place a gem token in the appropriate place on the board’s map.
Stumped for an answer? No worries. Below each question is a helpful hint. For example, a question in the Culture and Customs deck asks, “Where do Buddhists typically practice their faith? Hint: Christians use churches.”
Setting aside the fact that not all Buddhists worship in a temple and not all Christians go to church, this is a simple way to teach kids about cultural differences while hinting at what we have in common.
Raises awareness of some of the world’s most pressing humanitarian issues.
Each World Bank card describes how the player has “helped the world”, for example by donating blankets and food to a local shelter or helping displaced families find refuge or volunteering for the Peace Corps.
Will you understand the complexities of international development after playing this game?
No, but you can use the game as a jumping off point for talking about natural disasters, homelessness, illiteracy, lack of potable water, and many other problems facing millions of people around the world.
Two Ways to Improve this Game
According to their web-site, Around the World is developing apps and other products. In future versions of the board game, it’d be great to see these changes:
Less fluff, more depth— Much of the information presented just skims the surface. As the tag-line on the box says, this is “trivia for the globally-minded”.
“Trivia” is the operative word.
Will playing the game help you learn interesting factoids about other countries and cultures? Most definitely.
Will it give you insights into how those cultures work and the values that make them tick? Not so much.
For that you have to subscribe to my blog. Just kidding. Sort of.
Use real images of people — I don’t know about you but the last time I saw a green person like the one depicted on the People and Places card was, um, never. And surely there’s a better way to represent Culture and Customs than a mask-like face. Instead of unrealistic illustrations like this, how about real photos?
These caveats aside, if you’re looking to expand your family’s knowledge about the world we live in, the Around the World board game is a good place to start.
Disclosure: All opinions expressed in this review are my own. I did not receive compensation for reviewing this product. Yup, that’s right. I forked over my own moolah to buy the game.