prime climb board game review

Prime Climb

  • Emily 

What are you doing to keep the math brains rolling over summer break?  For the multiplication-aged crew (whether learning or comfortable), we’re loving Prime Climb.  Younger kids?  Stick with me—this one is good for the addition-subtraction crew too—the whole thing age-adjusts perfectly if you play with addition and subtraction only. This game moves quickly,  and while it requires a lot of math thinking, it surely doesn’t feel like you’re being drilled on your math facts—being able to use them is the strategy and the key to winning.

The board: a spiral from zero to 101 (yes, prime) with each whole number in between. Numbers are marked with colors which can be used along with the key on the side of the board to help identify multiples and factors. Prime numbers are all marked in solid red.

To play:  each player gets two pawns (start on zero) and the goal is to get both to 101 as quickly as you can.  At each turn, a player rolls two 10-sided dice (yes of course, included–but we tend to keep extra on hand as they get pilfered often), and then may add, subtract, multiply or divide with those numbers to get as far as possible.  The Player must use both numbers independently of each other, as they act on the number which the pawn sits.  For example, a pawn starts on zero and the player rolls a 3 and 5.  You can multiply, divide, add, or subtract the rolled numbers to zero:  for the first move you would want to add.  Then for the second number (say you moved to 3), you could multiply and land on 15.  At any turn, a player may apply the numbers both to the same pawn or split them.

It gets exciting when you bring in the prime numbers (red).  Any time you land on these, the player draws a card from the stack.  There are two flavors of cards—“keepers” which may be saved for use on a later turn, or actions which happen immediately.  “Send a Pawn of your Choice to 64” could be great if you’re near the beginning, or frustrating near the end!  But  the keeper card “add or subtract your pawn by 4” can be enormously valuable towards the end of the game as you do that final dance towards 101.

The set also includes a few blank cards—E8 LOVED designing his own (and loved even more when one of his cards caused me to back track and him to win the game ? )

At the start, the inclination is to get as far as you can as quickly as you can, but young mathematicians quickly realize that—as you may not pass 101—multiplication does you no good past 50.   There’s enough of an element of chance, that superior math skills won’t leave a novice feeling clobbered, but enough strategy involved that you feel like you’re wielding your own knowledge to your advantage and not purely at the mercy of the dice.  If you’re at 51 and roll a 1 an a 2, order of operations is huge!  If you add 1 first, all you can do with that 2 is add or subtract.  But subtract 1 from 51, then multiply by 2 and all of a sudden, you’re at 100!

E8 loves this game—the speed and the strategy, but I think the aesthetics are part of what draw him in as well.  And he hasn’t yet been taught “order of operations” at school—but he’s learning it here without realizing it!

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