I’ll admit it, when I first received FlagMath from The 7 Puzzle Company, I was not too excited about playing. It looked more like a lesson or a math exercise than a game. In fact, the outside of the book doesn’t say “fun” or “surprising” or “tense” anywhere on it.
It should, because FlagMath is all of those things.
The game is easy to set up and understand. You stack the cards face down on table, then flip two over. Each card has a grid of twelve equations on it. The first person to find two equations that add up to the same number wins the round. That player takes one of the cards. Another card is put in its place, and play continues.
As soon as we turned the first two cards over, we were hooked. The equations aren’t super difficult (16+6, 12+5, etc), but they are tough enough that they take a moment to do in your head. It’s that difficulty level that made the game work so well. The math wasn’t hard enough to be intimidating, but it was hard enough that no one could just glance at the cards and see the answer.
Examining the cards, I ran the numbers for each flag in my head, trying to find a match, while occasionally stealing glances at the other players to see how they were doing.
I heard a giggle from one of the players, a 10-year old. “This is tough.”
“Got it!” a 12-year old shouted.”No, wait. Never mind.”
“What’s the country with the dragon on it?” someone said.
“Wales,” I said, absently, staring at the cards. Try as I might, I just couldn’t see the match.
“Wales and the one with the Yin-Yang thingie!” a player shouted, jabbing at a flag.
We all looked. “That’s the South Korean flag,” I said, “And you got it.”
“Can we play without knowing the flags? Just point at the two?”
“Sure,” I said, “but let’s make a deal. After the round, the winner has to find and name the countries of the flags.”
They were fine with that. The game includes a country flag key to make it easy.
The following rounds were everything you could want in a game: tense and fun, with moments of silliness. Every round is a straight-out race. There were rounds when players got the math wrong (“Aw man! I’m out!”), and rounds where players got lucky (“they were the first two I looked at. I can’t believe it”). We all had fun, and after the game was over, I heard players talking about it.
…and then we found out we had been playing it wrong. The rules say that you have to match the flag and the math, not just the math.
We looked at each other, then at the game.
“I’m so winning this time,” one of the kids said, shuffling the game cards back together.
The winner of the previous game guffawed dramatically. “Yeah, right.”
… And as quickly as that, we were playing again, this time with the added bonus of trash talk.
From an educational standpoint, the value of this game is math. It’s straight up math skill-building. Yes, there is an element of flag learning, but the heart of it is strengthening math skills.
My group of players were boys, aged 10 to 12, and me. We enjoyed playing the incorrect way (where you’re just looking at the math and not the flags) more than the correct way, but both were fun.
The bottom line is that this is a great game to have in your library. It’s fun and quick, and works well for 2, 3, or 4 players. It probably plays well for more players, but we didn’t have that many to test with.
Whether you’re looking to build math skills or just have a good time, this is one that I’d recommend.