Let’s be honest, when a game publisher tries to make an educational board game, the odds that your kids will want to set it on fire increase tenfold. Sometimes, I wonder if corporate stooges force designers to come up with the lamest ideas imaginable and incorporate them into some overdone game mechanic that inspires a long night riddled with boredom. Don’t believe me? Go check out your local chain bookstore or retailer. It doesn’t have to be that way. We’re in the golden age of board gaming, as consumers we demand more. Well good news folks, let me introduce you to Serpent Stones published by Dangermoose Entertainment. What started off as a successful Kickstarter Project is finally making its way to the market. A fantastic two player strategy game, perfect for ages eight and up.
What’s so unique about Serpent Stones? Game designer, Robert Harrington didn’t just add an Aztec theme, but rather took an ancient Mesoamerican game and based his idea off of it. Matter of fact, the whole game mechanic has been infused with not just the Aztec culture, but their native language, known as Nahuatl, as well. I was pleasantly surprised with the quality of the pieces and the fact you’re given a bunch of extra zip lock bags for easy storage. A traditional board has been replaced by a cloth mat that folds up nicely to allow for convenient packing on trips. There’s definitely some positives and drawbacks with the use of a cloth mat, but for clumsy kids who like to spill drinks all the time this option is a plus. The game also comes with an expansion set that I’ll cover later.
Serpent Stones starts out with each player randomly selecting which house they will control; Jaguar or Eagle. Once a house is chosen the deck of cards is shuffled and dealt out to each player. The object of the game is to capture your opponents Teotl Stone, which is located on the opposite end of the board in your enemy’s starting location. To capture the stone you’ll need to place warriors adjacent to one another in the pre-marked spaces on the mat. Basically, you’re forming a chain to get to the other side. Not all the cards are warriors, the others allow players to attack, capture your enemy’s warriors and summon ancient Aztec gods to grant you a special ability.
The “god” cards mix things up a bit, adding more enjoyment to the game. You must invoke the name of the god before playing the card. Yes, there is a pronunciation guide in the manual. They let you do things like draw an extra card, force your opponent to discard and sacrifice. The sacrifice ability is a great tactic to catch the other player off guard. You can save a card to play next turn, thus allowing you to play up to three cards in one turn if you are lucky enough to possess two sacrifice cards. The attacking and capturing cards add a nice mix to the strategy as well, each card has a pattern on it that can affect multiple cards on the mat. Plus, each card resembles an animal that is sacred to the Aztecs. The end of the manual lists their significance to Aztec culture. After your kids play this a few times, they’ll want you to take them to the library for some books on Aztecs.
As an added bonus, my copy of the game came with the Ends of the Fifth Sun expansion. The expansion adds quite a bit of depth to the core game. Each player can build walls on the mat that block anyone from placing a warrior on that respected space. Not to mention, there are some new god cards that add additional dimensions to the game. For those of you with younger kids, you’ll be happy to learn that there are three different rule sets you can play with. The basic version is perfect for your first few games. Kids around ten years of age will want to quickly move on to the more advanced rules set. I found the game pretty easy after a round or two.
I thoroughly enjoyed the game and feel like kids will benefit from the educational elements found within. Even better, I didn’t feel like I was playing something “dumbed down” for kids, adults should understand this isn’t solely a kid’s game. I look forward to mastering Serpent Stones and sharing it with friends.
You can purchase the game here.