Picking a game resource for your school library is not an easy task. There are several factors to consider when deciding if a game is right for your library.

  • Is it an authentic games?
  • Does it tie in with the curriculum?
  • How will the game will work with your school’s time schedule?

Another important, and often overlooked, consideration is a game’s Return on Investment. How much do you need to invest introducing, setting up and teaching the game to your students and what return are they going to get from their gaming experience?

Board games can provide a variety of direct educational benefits for students. From enriching curricular units on ancient civilizations or American history, to reinforcing content specific skills such as division with remainders or concepts like the idea of diminishing returns. Games enrich the learning experience. Unfortunately, the return on some games are not worth the time needed to guide the students through a successful gaming experience.

Perikles is an excellent example of a good game that does not work well as an educational resource. In Perikles, players take on the role of a noble family looking to gain control over a number of ancient Greek city-states. The game offers students the opportunity to develop an understanding of the varying strengths of the different regional areas in ancient Greece. It also provides insight into some of the political and military posturing inherent to that time.

Unfortunately, the game is complicated and only becomes accessible after several game plays. Couple that, with a playing time of two hours or more a game and the benefits the students get from the playing the game are much less valuable than the time spent getting there.

To help you gauge a game’s return on investment before you make a purchase you will need to do some homework.

  • Start by reading the rules: most game publishers will offer pdf versions of their rules online.
  • Check the Geek: The reviews, session reports and feedback left on Board Game Geek are a valuable tool for getting the feel of a game.
  • Try it before you buy it: Some local game shops have open copies of games available for you to look through and try out. You can also check to see if there is a board game group in your area. Often, they will get together every month to play games.

With a little research, a skill we school librarians excel in, you can be well on your way to building a solid collection of game resources for your school library!