Game Review: Syllables

Game Review: Syllables
By Karen Luciana

[Editor’s Note: Click here to read the GameFinder entry about this game]
I brought the purple-packaged Syllables into my classroom one morning and placed it on the corner of my desk.  It was a busy morning that kept me from my plans of diving right into the game.  During silent reading one of my more curious students asked if she could learn the game, and since reading directions and figuring strategy fall into the realm of my silent reading guidelines, I gave her the go.

Later that day she and a group of girls played Syllables.  Then the next day they stayed in at recess to play it.  The following day the board remained set up and they wanted to continue play. This went on for a week.  

The saying, “Don’t’ judge a book by it’s cover,” often holds true, but with marketing, it may be good practice toward enticing a potential consumer to at least open your book or in this case, to open your game.  This appeal is the first advantage I see in Syllables.  The packaging is visually charming with lavender and white colors.  One drawback to this is that the book baits girls when it is entirely appropriate for both genders. Boys may not want to be seen choosing a game that appears feminine.

Players roll the dice, move a pawn around the game board, and land on a letter.  The player must then think of a word that begins with that letter and is awarded points based on the number of syllables the word contains.  The directions are simple enough to make learning this game a breeze.  What I have discovered is that a game with too many twists, too many complicated directions, and just too much confusion overall leads to frustration which then leads to the game being put away and never chosen again. Syllables is easy to learn but also contains enough twists and additions to provide interest, strategy, and competitive nature to game playing.  For example, points can be earned in a variety of ways. First, when thinking of a word, longer words or words that contain less-frequently used letters earn more points. Also, there are spaces labeled, “Spelling Bee” and “Thesaurus.”  A player then chooses one of those cards and completes the task in order to earn more points.  One wins when he or she reaches a point value goal, predetermined by all players at at game start.

My observations of Syllables, along with those of a vibrant group of 11-year-old girls, include:

  • Love the game board set–up; its colorful design, the easy-to-read point chart, the ease of moving along the tiles
  • It is different and that makes it desirable to play.  One difference is the players get to decide on a point goal together.
  • It makes you think in order to build on vocabulary.
  • You can put it down and resume play at a later time.
  • It’s fun!
  • I see numerous uses in support of the language arts curriculum.
  • There is a clear academic practice component, but the players don’t see it as being tricked into completing more academic work.

Isn’t it a wonderful comment that a game that requires thought and effort is also fun?  No one wanted to stop playing.  Now that gives the best credit of all.

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