Game: Chicago Express
Publisher: Queen Games
Number of Players:
2 to 6
Play Time:
60 Minutes
Grade Range:
Middle and High School
Return on Investment:
Analog Game

Chicago Express

Chicago Express

All aboard! Chicago Express is a game of investment and riches centered around the early days of railroads in the United States. In the game, players can invest in any of the four railroads companies in the game by purchasing stock. Holding stock in a company allows a student to make decisions for that company on their turn as well as receive dividend payments over the course of the game. Players can hold stock in more than one company, diversifying their portfolio and giving them a controlling interest in multiple companies. As the companies grow and expand, their value increases and so do the dividends they pay. This is important as the winner of the game is the player with the most money, cash on hand and stock value.

While this may sound complex, the mechanisms for play are rather simple. On a player’s turn, they may take one of three actions. First, they may put a new share from any of the railroad companies up for auction. The auction goes around the table to the highest bidder and the money paid goes into the company. Second, they may add new trains onto the game board for a company in which they own stock. The board is a hex map of the northeast section of the United States from the coast to Chicago. Each of the three companies start in a hex on the east coast and they slowly spread out, connecting to the other cities on the board. There are costs that come from growing the railroad and those costs come from the coffers of the company. But of course, as a company spreads and links to more cities its value increases making the expenses worthwhile. The last action a player may take is to improve an area on the map. This too increases the value of any railroads that have expanded their railroad into that space.

Each of these actions may only be taken a certain number of times before the students are locked out from taking that action. When two of the three actions have been exhausted, the companies pay out dividends on their stock. Each company’s current value is divided by the number of stocks currently issued to determine the value of each share, which is then paid out to all the players who own stocks in the companies. The actions are reset and play continues with students being able to chose from any of the three actions once again. This cycle of play continues until one of several end game triggers, when players count up their personal assets and determine the winner.

Chicago Express is a wonderful introduction for students to investment, stocks and dividends. Not only is the game ripe with the financial application of math, it rewards careful planning and calculated risks. Coming in about sixty minutes the game will be spread over over two days, but it is worth that investment of time as there is so much math concentrated into that one hour. While a player’s action choices are simple, there are a few game rules that can be omitted which won’t affect the game’s play or curricular value and make the barrier to entry that much lower. There is a fifth company that is introduced when one of the railroads reach Chicago that can be omitted as well as the rules for increasing the costs when more than one railroad has a train in the same space. Those two rules aside, just a few copies of the game can easily accommodate a classroom of students and provide students with a fun and challenging game of economic investment.

Name: Bolide
Publisher: Rio Grande
Number of Players: 2 to 8
Play Time: 120 Minutes
Grade Range: Middle and High School
Return on Investment: High
Format: Analog Game

Bolide brings racing and physics together on a crash course as students hope to be the first across the finish line in this dynamic simulation of the sport. In the game, car movement is not driven by dice or cards. Instead each movement is based on vector physics, giving students control over their car’s momentum and inertia as they weave between their competitors and the twists and turns of the track.
Bolide is played on a double sided board, which features a different race track on each side. Both tracks are overlaid with a grid, whose intersections serve as the movement points for the cars as they race along the track. Each player has a car and a momentum marker that will be on the board at all times. At the beginning of the game, a player may move anywhere within a one space radius of their car at the starting line, moving on the intersections of the grid. For example, they could move forward one intersection and over one to the left. After the student finishes moving, their momentum marker would then mirror that exact movement pattern, one space forward and one to the left, from the point where their car finished moving. Now, for the remainder of the game, players must finish their car’s movement anywhere within a 2 square radius surrounding their momentum marker. This simple mechanism allows students to interact with and push the limits of acceleration and momentum as they make their way through hairpin turn and long straightaways.
The game, while normally played for two laps, can easily be played for just a single lap to shorten the playing time. This doesn’t exclude playing longer games though, as the game state can easily be saved between classes and recreated by taking a quick picture of the board. To take the game even further, students can mount a camera over the board and take pictures of the cars as they move each turn. Those pictures can then be used to create a stop motion video that allows students to see the motion of their cars in a more fluid manner.

There are other rules regarding the risk involved with being near other cars, special movement actions and drafting but these can easily be removed to ease student entry into the game. Because, even without these extra mechanisms, Bolide is an exciting game of Formula-1 racing that is centered wholly around the principles of physics. While that is value enough, Bolide goes beyond by giving students an opportunity to experience and manipulate these concepts in a familiar and fun environment.

I will cross post the video series I am undertaking for the Game Library. If you haven’t had a chance to visit:

We have been building the collection for about 3 years now and I wanted to start a series that highlighted the games we are using as resources for student engagement and growth.

Word on the Street

Designed by: Jack Degnan

Number of Players: 2 to 8

Grade Levels: Middle School and Up

Length: 45 Minutes

Curricular Connections: ELA – Vocabulary, Word Structure, Spelling

Investment: Low
Return: High

The word on the street is “SCORE” for Out of the Box. Yet another engaging game that gets students working with language. I brought my review copy of Word on the Street to work with several sixth grade classes on English and Language Arts skills and this was the runaway hit. The combination of teamwork and competition brought out the best in the students as they worked together to brainstorm and agree on the most strategic word choices each round. They listened and gave suggestions, switching between leadership and support roles organically without teacher prompts. They grew as learners and leaders… but most importantly they had fun! (more…)

AUTHOR’S NOTE: I have a thing for shifty politicians once featured on tin lunch pails in anti-establishment comedic family sitcoms… so I may be slightly biased in my review.

Number of Players: 2
Grade Levels: High School
Length: 2 to 3 hours

NYS Standards:
Social Studies Standard 3: Geography
Social Studies Standard 5: Civics, Citizenship, and Government
AASL Standards:

1.1.2: Use prior/background knowledge as context for new learning
1.2.5: Adapt by changing the focus and strategies to achieve success
2.1.1: Apply critical thinking skills in order to draw conclusions and build new knowledge
3.1.5: Connect learning to community issues

1960: The Making of the President is one of two sophisticated political offerings from Z-Man Games. It is a two-player card driven simulation game. Each player takes on the role of a political candidate in the 1960 election: John F. Kennedy or Richard Nixon. The goal of the game is simple; maneuver through the delicate political landscape of 1960 in an effort to win state support and take the election. (more…)

Numbers League

Numbers League is a clever card offering from Rochester’s Bent Castle Workshop. Up to four players participate in this quirky superhero themed game of build and capture. The game’s 20-30 minute play time makes it an easy fit into a class period. And while the initial game incorporates elementary mathematics, the Infinity Level Expansion takes the skill level up to a middle school math.

In the center of the gaming area are various villains, each assigned a numerical value ranging from single digit negatives to around fifty. Players work to capture them by building superheroes from cards in their hands. Cards represent heads, bodies and legs of differing numerical quantities. Their body part’s combined value is used to match and thereby capture villains. So, a hero with a 3 head, -1 body and 2 legs could capture a villain with a value of 4. (more…)