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Robot Turtles

Posted by on January 9, 2014

Have you heard of Robot Turtles? It’s “The Board Game for Little Programmers”. Some official blurbs:

  • Robot Turtles is the the most-backed board game in Kickstarter history.
  • It sneakily teaches programming fundamentals to kids ages 3 and up.
  • Inspired by the Logo programming language, lets kids write programs with cards.
  • Up to five players [1 Turtle Mover and 4 Turtle masters] can play at once, and everyone who gets the Robot Jewel wins.
  • As seen on NPR, Bloomberg, Make: Magazine, Boingboing, Techcrunch, Reddit, Geekmom, Geekdad, and more

When I saw the Kickstarter campaign for Robot Turtles, I was impressed and intrigued. I wasn’t entirely certain my kids would enjoy it, though, so I hesitated to contribute to the campaign. However, the more I thought about it, and the more positive reviews I read, the more I felt compelled to get a copy for my kids. By the time I went page to the Kickstarter page, though, the campaign had ended, and I was bummed. When the creator sent out a message saying that Maker Shed was offering the game for a reasonable price, I was elated. I convinced my wife to loosen the purse strings and splurge on another gift for the kids. The shipping price was a little hard for both of us to swallow, but we did.

What follows is a description of my family’s first experiences with the game. Reading the game instructions will help it makes sense.

I played for the first time with my kids – boys 4 and 5 year old, and a girl almost 3 (34mo) – a couple days after Christmas. It was more successful than I anticipated! The 5yo reached his jewel using the shortest path possible and without bugs. The 4yo took longer, banging into the outside wall a few times and spinning in place. The 3yo had fun, but she had a hard time sitting still and never really figured out how to navigate. Even so, she was as excited as her brothers to “win” and shout “Yay! I got my jewel!”. Her brother enjoyed helping her get there, too. They both made suggestions when she had a bug in her code or seemed to be spinning aimlessly.

At the start of round two, the 5yo confidently stated that round one was really easy, and asked me to make it harder. I obliged by adding an ice wall just for him. After round two I added a second ice wall. The 4yo played two rounds without walls. He finished flawlessly the second time, though, so I added a wall for round three. The 3yo played without obstacles all three times.

After round three we stopped to go sledding. The 4yo was *very* upset, seemingly afraid he’s never get to play Robot Turtles again!

The next day I was Turtle Mover for my boys and my nephews, aged 7 and 5. My boys both started with ice walls, with the 5yo having more than the 4yo. After that round, my nephews played with ice walls, my 4yo got more walls, and my 5yo got to use laser cards. I noted with amusement that my 5yo frequently pretended to make mistakes so he could use the bug card. I won’t bore folks with further details, except to say that everyone had fun and was bummed when I put away the game before dinner. 🙂

Overall, I’d say the game is a resounding success so far! 🙂

Unfortunately, I don’t think the creator of Robot Turtles is planning on any more printings of the game, so you’d better buy one quickly(if there are any still left). Perhaps, if we flood the official community page and his twitter account with praise and pleadings , we can convince him to change his mind. 🙂

(BTW, if you’d like to get some of the nerdy back story on how Robot Turtles came to be, check out this blog post.)

UPDATE: As of June 2014 Robot Turtles is now a ThinkFun product! 🙂