Mag-blast is a fast-paced space battle card game for 2-8 players ages 10 and up. I have played this game myself for several years and have been waiting anxiously to teach my son. The game is a lot of fun and provides a level of complexity just above my son’s potential right now. I felt Mag-Blast would challenge him without frustrating him to the point of not wanting to play. James Paul Gee calls this the “Regime of Competence” principle whereby “The learner gets ample opportunity to operate within, but at the outer edge of, his or her resources, so that at those points things are felt as challenging but not ‘undoable.'”
Playing Mag-Blast requires more set-up than my son is used to. Rather than rolling dice and allowing the youngest player go first, cards are dealt and placed in an certain order.
In Mag-Blast players assume the role of a flagship. The game begins with each player randomly choosing a flagship card. My son stopped me and asked “What does random mean?” Which brings us to our first (at the age of five anyway) learning opportunity – game vocabulary. I say game vocabulary because the definition I gave him was not the exact Webster dictionary definition (which is “without definite aim, direction, rule, or method”), but rather one that relates to the context we are currently in. I told my son that “random” in this situation means to “turn all the [flagship] cards face down, mix them up and pick one.”
The player chooses a flagship card, turns it face up, and reads the text. Each flagship is endowed with a special ability that can be used throughout the game. This ability, and most every card in the game, provides opportunities to read to your child, teach them new words and for the child to match cards (images) to their meaning. My son is only just beginning to read on his own, so I read to him what his flagship does and explain when/how to use it. I repeat this multiple times throughout the game to reinforce it in his mind.
After a flagship card has been chosen it is placed face up in front of the player. Next, ship cards are dealt, 4 to a player, and another lesson, counting by four’s begins. I ask my son “How many ship cards does each player get?” He answers “Four!” I then ask “There are X players, how many cards do I have to deal out?” He then hides his face in his hands and counts on his fingers. “Eight!” he yells (this time it’s just the two of us playing). The ship cards are placed randomly face down, one on each side of the flagship. After being placed the ship cards can be turned face up.
Last we deal out action cards. Action cards are dealt five to a player and placed to the side. I ask my son “How many action cards does each player get?” “Five.” He replies. “So how many cards do I need to deal out?” He doesn’t need to use his fingers for fives, unless it’s over ten in which he starts at ten and uses his fingers from there. A swift response of “Ten!” can be heard across the room. The cards are dealt and set-up is complete. We have now learned game vocabulary, practiced counting by fours and fives and the game hasn’t even started yet. Continued in Mag-Blast: Game play (Coming Soon)