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SPACE TIVITZ

Reviewed by Herb Levy

(SAS Games, 2 players, ages 8 and up, about 30 minutes; $29.99)

 

The great philosopher Mary Poppins was quoted as saying, “A spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down”. Although Mary is better known for her childrearing skills, there is little doubt that these words of wisdom ring true. As though inspired by those words, we came across a game that takes on the daunting task of improving math skills by coating its approach in an entertaining board game: Space Tivitz.

Space Tivitz comes in a thin, square box which holds a gridded board with 30 different gamesheets, 9 red and 9 blue mathematical dice (called “tivits”), a bunch of score sheets and 8 page rulebook. Tivits are identical sets of six-sided dice showing numbers and each player begins with an identical set of dice. (Sets are differentiated by the symbol on the particular dice face, e.g. a square, a circle etc. Players decide, before play, as to which set to use.) Players place these dice on one edge diametrically opposite of their “score” areas with red planets only scoring for the red player; blue planets only scoring for blue. (Two “common” planets, located between the scoring areas are fair game for either player.) The goal here is to cross across the Universe onto scoring planets and calculate the highest score.tivitz

All planets display various numbers. (The 30 different gamesheets have different values for the planets so the mathematics involved will change with each game. A blank gamesheet is also provided for the ambitious player to create his own values if so desired.)

Red goes first and movement is fairly basic. A tivit can move one space or jump up to five tivits on a turn but only in a forward direction by following the diagonal lines on the grid. Both opposing and friendly tivits may be jumped. When playing with “advanced rules”, a player can FORCE his opponent to jump; the goal being to move enemy pieces off the path to high scoring planets. There are also potential obstacles on the board, called, in keeping with the space them, Black Holes. Black Holes have no effect if you voluntarily move onto them. However, if you force jump your opponent and he lands on one of them, his piece is “sucked into” the void only to reappear in any of his starting positions next turn. This can cause a significant (and possibly fatal delay) for your opponent as the game ends when both common planets are occupied and one player has occupied all 7 of his scoring planets. (If you’re stuck with pieces marooned at start, you’re not going to be the player completing his scoring goals.)

In keeping with the educational aspect of the game, each player calculates his score at the conclusion of the game. For example, a tivit valued at 60 ending up on a planet with +7 value will score 67 for that player. (The math machinations range from simple as in the example shown to sophisticated with the use of fractions, percentages, square roots and more.) Your opponent then checks your math. If a wrong calculation is caught, the score for that particular planet turns into a big fat zero! The player with the highest total wins!

From a game perspective, Space Tivitz takes flight when the advanced rules of force jumps and black holes are used. This presents more challenging choices for players. As the game is really geared to make math interesting, the scoring aspect of “checking” scores works well for the target group of 8 years to 8th grade. (For adults, it’s “get out the calculator” time.) And, should the space theme begin to wear thin, the game is also available with baseball and aqua themes. Extra credit goes to whoever designed the board’s grid. The grid keeps the tivits snugly in place so that an accidental bump (all too common when adults play much less kids) will not dislodge or shift playing pieces, an important consideration since following those diagonals impacts on scoring opportunities.

Games have shown to be excellent mediums for teaching all sorts of skills and can be invaluable in easing the learning process. Math can be a tough sell. But Space Tivitz does the job painlessly for its target audience as kids will probably be surprised by just how much math they’ve learned when they weren’t looking. This is a game that would undoubtedly win the approval of Mary Poppins. – – – Herb Levy


 

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