Balloon Cup

I’ve been making it a regular habit to play a game or two with my 10 year-old daughter in the evenings, if she’s done her homework, chores, etc. We’ve been doing this for almost a year now, and it’s been a really great way to spend time together.

Last night we played Balloon Cup, which is a two-player game, designed by Stephen Glenn, and published domestically by Rio Grande. Balloon Cup is part of the Kosmos two-player series, is appropriate for ages 8 and above, and takes less than thirty minutes to play.

In Balloon Cup, players compete for victory through a series of balloon hops that lead through plains and valleys or over dangerous mountains. The winner of these short excursions is determined through clever card play and a certain amount of luck. The cards come in five color types with numeric values ranging from 1 to 13. Low cards are important when traveling over the plains, while high cards are important over the mountains. One of the aspects of the game my daughter and I both like is that you can not only play good cards on your side of the hops, you can also play bad cards on your opponent’s side.

The addition needed to play the game allows my daughter to work on her computational fluency, which is a fancy way we math educators refer to the ability to do basic math in your head. My daughter is currently in fifth grade, and in the next few years, she’s going to be required to do more and more abstract mathematical procedures. By playing a game like Balloon Cup, it helps her move more complex addition facts from what is called procedural knowledge, where a student must take the problem and work through some type of process, and move those facts into what we (math educator types) call declarative knowledge, where a student can simply recall the correct answer.

I don’t tell her about any of this. We just have fun playing the game. If this kind of stuff interests you as a parent, please leave a comment. I am toying with the idea of writing a series of posts about how parents can use boardgames to help their children with math.

ballooncupdetailBalloon Cup comes with 45 high quality balloon cards in five colors that correspond to five trophy cards. Also included are 45 victory cubes in the five colors that are placed on the four balloon hop cards, which have two sides, a mountains side and a plains side. The cubes are drawn from a cloth bag that is also included.

Parents should let the kids draw the cubes from the bag. Kids love to do that.

Each hop tile is numbered from one to four, which indicated how many victory cubes are placed on the tile. It also indicates how many cards can be played on each side of the tile, so once the number 2 tile has two cards on both sides, it is scored. If the hop tile shows mountains, then the side that has the highest total wins the victory cubes, and if it shows the plains, then the side that has the lowest total wins. The best part of all of this is that the victory cubes indicate what color cards need to be played! So if there is a red cube and a yellow cube on the number two hop tile, there must be a red card and a yellow card on both sides of the tile in order to score it. Once it is scored, the tile is flipped over and new victory cubes are drawn from the bag. You need a particular number of cubes to claim a trophy, and the first to claim three trophies is the winner.

Balloon Cup is available from Funagain Games, your local game store (if you are lucky enough to have a good one), and other reputable online retailers. If you are a fan of Lost Cities, I think you’ll like this one as well. Happy gaming!

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