Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Improving Communication Skills with Out of the Box Games {A TOS Review}

Out of the Box Games Review

Our family loves to gather around our dining room table to play games together. We love finding fun new games to play, especially when they are educational. Thanks to the Schoolhouse Review Crew, we have discovered a new-to-us company called Out of the Box Games. Out of the Box Games has actually been around for quite a while, 16 years to be exact. Through the years they have created some really nifty party, card, and board games. Our family was thrilled to be able to review the award-winning Snake Oil - Party Potion, an educational party game which was created by a teacher.

I have to be honest, when I first heard about Out of the Box Games, I didn't really think we were going to be reviewing this product. I figured the game would be over the girls' heads, as they are not yet 8 years old, which is the recommended age. However, then I saw the little note that children as young as 6 can successfully play this game if they can read. And suddenly I went from not being very interested, to jumping up and down, begging to be picked for this review. And now that we have played this game, I am so very glad I did. 
Let me share what has excited me so much.
Out of the Box Games Review
Snake Oil - Party Potion is the new, younger version of the original Snake Oil Game that is geared for children 10 and up (which is the other product members of the Crew were able to choose to review, so don't miss out on what my fellow Crew mates thought of it). This game is based on the expression "snake oil salesman." Reading about the history of snake oil and snake oil salesmen was very interesting. In case you have never heard the expression before, someone who is considered a "snake oil salesman" is being deceptive and misleading while trying to get you to purchase their product or believe in them, such as a car salesman or a politician. This expression came about because of men going around selling what they claimed was beneficial snake oil and yet was found to have no snake oil in the product. 

Now, I don't want the deceitful background of this expression to turn you against this wonderful game. The players of this game are not learning to be deceitful! They are learning to be creative while improving their communication skills. You may be wondering just how this is being accomplished. Well, I'd love to share that with you right now. 

The game is played with 112 Word Cards and 14 Customer Cards. A tray is also provided for the cards to be placed in. Each player will take at least one turn being the customer. The other players are the salesmen who need to convince the customer that he or she wants needs their product which is created by combining two of the word cards. The enclosed instruction sheet clearly explains how to play.

Each player is dealt 6 word cards. The player who is the customer does not need to look at their cards for that round of play. 

Instead, a double-sided customer card is drawn from the pile and the player may choose between the two. There are some really fun and interesting customer cards, including a School Bus Driver, a Fisherman, a Dog, a Waitress, a Treasure Hunter, an Olympic Athlete, and a Robot.

Once the customer has decided what he or she wants to be, the remaining players look at their cards to determine which two they would like to combine to create a unique and relevant product for the customer.  Below you can see one of the first combinations that was made to try to sell to an Artist. This was our first game, so we were playing in teams in order to help the girls figure out how to play. The Artist had to choose between this "Training Statue" and a "Parachute Diary."

As you can tell, this is where the creativity and communication skills come in. There are times the word cards in your hands do not combine to make the greatest of products for the designated customer. You have to use your imagination to make the best product you can and then you need to figure out your "pitch." How are you going to get the customer to want to choose your product over the other products?

According to the rules, as soon as one person is ready they can take their turn pitching to the customer. The remaining players then take their turns. So far, we have just been going around the table in order, which has worked well for us in keeping down the stress in who is going to be first and the disappointment in having to go last. (Of course, there are those who prefer to go last as they feel they have the advantage because they have already heard the previous pitches.)

Daddy is very persuasive in his pitches and really knows how to capture the customer's attention and Tabitha is taking after him. Amelia and I have a bit of work to do on our communication skills. Tabitha has always had a great imagination though, which is clearly needed if you want to sell a "Flame Forest" to a Pop Singer. 

Speaking of which, I would love to share with you a few of the combinations we created.

In addition to the Flame Forest, a Jewel Robe and a Ribbon Spray were pitched to the Pop Singer.
We tried to convince a Camper that she wanted Lake Parrot, a Bacon Bus, and a Mosquito Locker.
The Fisherman had to decide if she wanted a Gorilla Bib, a Bubble Curtain, or a Sponge Torch.
We also tried to sell Radio Pants, a Trumpet Satellite, a Soup Coat, and a Video Boy to a High School Student.

Once the customer has heard all the pitches, it is time for that player to choose the best product. The customer card then goes to the player who created that product. The word cards played in that round are discarded and new cards are drawn so everyone has 6 again. Play is to continue until everyone has been the customer once. We enjoy playing so much, we usually keep going until everyone has had a second turn. The winner is the player with the most customer cards. Instructions are also given on how to break a tie. So far we haven't needed to worry about that though.

Snake Oil - Party Potion is an easy-to-learn party game which helps improve communication and social skills. You really do have to think quickly and be able to clearly express your ideas. We have allowed the customer to ask questions about the products, though I am not sure if that is supposed to be allowed. We have found that the children benefit from having a chance to have specifics clarified. I believe as they get older we will insist that they learn how to pitch a product succinctly, as I feel that is the goal of this game, to be able to catch the customer's attention quickly and pull them in.

Not only is Snake Oil a party game, it is also an educational tool that is played in classrooms due to all the beneficial skills it develops. You can see a full list of these skills by checking out the "Educational" tab on the product page.  For example, it is important to me that Snake Oil promotes creativity and improvisation skills while building vocabulary, but there are so many more skills that will be worked on. In fact, there is even a chart that illustrates how each of the games from Out of the Box match up with Common Core Standards for those who are interested.

Snake Oil - Party Potion is geared toward children ages 8 and up, though it can easily be played by children as young as 6, as long as they can read. In fact, Hannah joins in with our games and she is only 4 (she does have to play with a partner though). As I was playing with younger children, there were several word cards that I decided to remove from game play. These included such words as curse, skull, nightmare, grave, and butt.  Removing these cards did not adversely affect the game, it just ensured that my young children weren't exposed to things I felt were not appropriate at this age.

Though my children are on the young side of the age range, I am going to be having a chance to play the game with children who are in grades 4-7 during our January session of our homeschool co-op. The website has a page dedicated to classroom activities where I found 3 different suggestions for classroom use that I am going to implement. We are going to be making posters or brochures and working on our writing skills. I can't tell you how excited I am for this opportunity.

 Snake Oil - Party Potion is a game that I highly recommend. It definitely meets the goals the company has for their games. It is easy to learn and is a blast to play. It can be played in about 30 minutes, though if others are like us, they will want to play again and again. We are loving the fun, colorful illustrations on the customer cards. All in all, a wonderful and educational game.

You can purchase Snake Oil - Party Potion for $14.99. There are also two other related games, the original Snake Oil and Snake Oil - Elixir, which can be played alone or combined to create even more game-time fun.

You can find Out of the Box Games on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.

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  1. I love all these game reviews! And I really like how each one is very educational and a great learning experience for the kids.

  2. This game is so fun!!! At first when I was told about how the game worked I was scared I wouldn't be any good at it... But I actually did pretty well. I'm not one to have good communication skills and I won the game. The kids did really well too but my mom had to help Hannah while Tabitha and Amelia played with no help... I had the most cards at the end though... We all had so much fun!!!


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