School is officially out and children have already begun to forget everything they learned the past year. If you don't keep them somewhat academically engaged over the summer, their brains will be mush before one month ends. Keeping them engaged is easier said than done, because the last thing they want to think about is school and learning. (UGH!) So how can you make sure they don't become zombies, but do it where they are still having fun on their break? Play a game, of course!

Genius Games is a "a game design company focusing on designing science themed and science based games for both the classroom and game room." Today, I will be reviewing their game Ion: A Compound Building GameIon is a card-drafting chemistry game for 2-7 players ages 8+. It can be played in 20 to 30 minutes and retails for $25.



1. Match each trio of "Select Two," "Take From Center," and "RXN" Action Tiles according to the letter in the bottom left corner.

2. Flip the Action Tiles over and give each player a random trio of these tiles.

3. Separate the Drafting Cards from the Goal Cards and shuffle each deck separately.

4. Flip four Drafting Cards face up in the center of the table, making sure that each card is different from the others.

5. Deal eight Drafting Cards to each player to make up their hand.

6. Deal two Goal Cards face up in the center of the table (or three if you are playing with 5+ people).


Game Play

The game takes place over three rounds with each round playing exactly the same.

1. Select one Drafting Card from your hand and place it face down in front of you. Once everyone has done this, flip the card over at the same time.

2. You will then bond the Drafting Card to an ion within your player area or lay the Drafting Card unbonded in your player area. (Once the card is placed, it cannot be moved.)

3. You may also choose to play one of your three Action Tiles at any time to modify your turn, but the points on the back of the tile will be subtracted from your final score.

4. After the Drafting Cards/Action Tiles are placed and resolved, you pass the remaining Drafting Cards to the player to your left.

5. Repeat the above Steps 1 through 4 until only two cards remain, which will then be discarded.

6. Score for the round by scoring Neutral Compounds, Noble Gases, and Goal Cards.

7. The person with the highest score at the end of three rounds is the winner.



Overall, I was pleased with the game Ion. I wasn't sure what to expect from an educational game, but it was surprisingly fun, and it didn't feel like you were learning at all, which is the best way to learn, in my opinion! There are plenty of games with card-drafting as their main mechanic, but what makes this one different are the asymmetrical Action Tiles (meaning that one person's RXN tile might be -4 and another's might be -3), the communal Goal Cards, and the fact that you have to make neutral compounds to score your cards (aside from Noble Gases). A lot of card-drafting games have a "take that" factor in that you can see what your opponent is trying to play and prevent them from doing it by playing a card so they can't. Ion doesn't really have that element (no pun intended), because you almost always have cards to play that will help you.

Within this game there is also also a mini-expansion that includes radioactive cards. This adds another wrinkle to the game by adding a set collection element and new ways to score. I generally play without the expansion, because I like the simplicity of the base game, but whenever I want to rack my brain a little more, I throw in some radioactive elements and let things start to decay. Playing this game brought me back to high school and sitting in Chemistry class. As simple as this game is, they upped the knowledge level by including more complex elements like Transition Metals and Polyatomic ions. This game is perfect in the classroom, for a homeschooling parent, or just a nice little family game to trick your kids into learning something.

This game was provided to me for free by Genius Games in exchange for an honest review. If you found this review helpful, please click here and hit Yes! Be sure to also check out their other science games Linkage, Peptide, and Covalence!

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Copyright 2016 Stuart Dunn