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Coin Hopping--Washington, D.C.

J. F. Cartier
Coin Hopping Games, LLC

11714 Farmland Drive
Rockville, MD 20852

Whether you're a frequent visitor to our nation's capital or you've never been before, this is the board game for you! I am always a bit skeptical about new board games, tending to assume that there is nothing new under the sun, but I am pleased to say that this game made me eat my words and made me want to pack my bags for some D.C. sightseeing!

The object of this game is to acquire one of each coin--penny, nickel, dime, and quarter, and to place a "citizen" in the White House, the Capitol, and in the Supreme Court. Sounds fairly simple, but the game is designed to make it as realistically challenging and meaningful as possible. Included in the sturdy game box are the game board, a stack of fifty city-wide destination cards, six colored pawns in a drawstring pouch, six sets of color-coded citizen disks, and five additional cards representing bills that can be enacted by Congress to enhance game play. Players must each supply an actual penny, nickel, dime, and quarter, so our family chooses to keep a full set of these in our drawstring pouch with the pawns for convenience. The game board is a colorful and organized 27 x 18 inches, making the images large, readable, and inviting. The board displays what is essentially an oversized tourist's road map with all major landmarks shown in oversized form to make it easy to see game piece destinations, as well as red lines that indicate where players can travel. The quality and durability of all of these items is excellent and well worth the price of the game.

Game play begins after each player places his or her four coins on various destinations on the board according to their desires. Players take turns moving to museums, monuments, and important buildings, landing only on destinations that have a coin, and traveling only on the red lines that connect destinations. The colored pawns move about the board, hopping from coin to coin. When players learn on certain destinations like the White House, Capitol, or Supreme Court, it may be possible to leave a citizen disk behind to advance that player's goals. In these cases, Constitutional rules apply, such as you must have a citizen of your own in the White house in order to place a citizen of your own in the Supreme Court--this is where the civics lessons really get interesting and the learning gets exciting!

Players can expedite their pawns' movements by using a destination card to hop across the board without worrying about coin placement or red travel lines. These cards are approximately 2 x 3 inches and include a large, full-color image of the destination, as well as the name of the destination and a sentence about its significance. Many city landmarks have more than one card in this stack, and each occurrence includes a different photograph and different information, which I appreciate.

While hopping across the board trying to meet the game's objectives, players can stack coins they come in contact with in the hopes of creating a full set of four. Not only does this advance the individual's game play, but it also creates hardships for other players who have fewer locations they can hop to as they play. A simple game with younger children may move quickly, but several additional options for advanced play can make things quite exciting. Using the "Bill" cards, players who have a citizen in Congress can make new rules that impact how the game is played. Each time a player adds a citizen to Congress, she has the potential to make a bill into a law that applies to all players.

Additional strategizing can be done via the Supreme Court. If a player is able to get more than one citizen on the Supreme Court, she can suggest that a law is unconstitutional. Then a vote can be taken to officially overturn the law, but only players with justices on the court can vote, of course. Another way this game strives for realism is to offer Lobbyist cards within the Destination card pile. If a player has a Lobbyist card, it can be used to impact the vote in Congress on new bills, which of course can determine whether or not it becomes a law.

Advanced players may wish to experiment further by writing their own bills, teaming up to agree to vote on each other's bills, and generally practice their political skills through this game. There are a lot of variations that can create additional realistic political scenarios.

This is an incredibly creative learning tool that would be ideal for homeschool settings of all kinds, and perhaps especially to enhance government studies or American history classes in a co-op. The age recommendation is for 8 and up, and I heartily agree. Despite her intentions, our 6-year-old quickly lost interest and abandoned our first game.

The more we play this game, the more I learn, the more my children learn, and the more we all love the game. For a creative mix of capital city landmarks, civics, and fun, Coin Hopping--Washington D.C. is a winning choice.

Product review by Melissa Theberge, The Old Schoolhouse Magazine, LLC, March 2010

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