Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Snake Oil - It Cures What Ails Ya!

Howdy, folks! Every homeschool needs a good educational game now and then, and Snake Oil will teach your kids all kinds of creative thinking skills while they laugh! We got to review Snake Oil from Out of the Box Games to test its claim: "It Cures What Ails Ya!"
Out of the Box Games Review
Out of the Box Games believes that games should be easy to learn and fun for the whole family to play together. They've made a name for themselves producing innovative and entertaining board and card games that can be played in less than an hour, and that encourage great player interactions from start to finish. They've been around since 1998 and have earned several awards for their games, so they know their stuff.

Snake Oil has already earned recognition from Parenting for High Potential, Mensa Select, Major Fun and several game magazines and groups. And was a recipient of The Old Schoolhouse Blue Ribbon Award in 2013! (Those are the awards that the Schoolhouse Review Crew votes on, in case you didn't know!) We didn't get to review Snake Oil in 2013, but since it had earned that kind of high praise from crewmates, we were very excited to be able to try it this year!
Out of the Box Games Review
This game takes its name from the so-called snake oil salesmen of the Old West - hucksters who could talk their customers into buying almost anything, no matter how ridiculous. Each player takes a turn acting as the "customer" by taking a Customer Card and assuming that persona. The other players then combine any two of the Word Cards they are dealt into a product they think they can convince their customer to buy. After hearing all the sales pitches, the customer awards the Customer Card - and the imaginary sale! - to the hawker whose item was the best. At the end of play time, the player with the most Customer Cards is the winner! Easy!

How did we use it? I am not kidding when I say it took us less than 5 minutes to learn the rules the first time we sat down to play. Kennady was so eager to play that she had already memorized all the rules and explained it for us, so we just picked up our first set of cards and got right down to the business of pitching our products to each other! Seriously, the rules are printed on the box itself:
- so we literally were able to take the game "out of the box" and start playing!
Mostly we played with the three of us - Landon, Kennady, and me, and the game wasn't as fast-moving that way as when played with a small crowd. The rules mention setting a time limit of 30-40 seconds to pick two of your Word Cards and lay them facedown in front of you, then each of the players in turn pitches their product. We probably should have set the time limit to keep it moving along, and I would certainly recommend doing that with a larger group, but we were fine without watching the timer. In fact, we pretty much followed the "Fire When Ready" variation of the rules - instead of taking turns, we just made our pitch as soon as we'd come up with our product. We did keep our sales pitches to about 30 seconds - no one wants to be cut short by a potential customer and lose a sale! We also liked playing with more Word Cards in our hand to choose from - "The More The Merrier" Rules variation. The rules suggest ending the game after one round, but with only three players that wasn't enough for us. The great thing about it is that we could play for however long we wanted to. Just two rounds while having a quick lunch, or maybe five rounds as an evening family activity. 
The game encourages quick and creative thinking, the ability to express ideas and be persuasive, and the ability to think from another point of view.  It builds skills in oral presentation, evaluation and improvisation skills, and risk-taking. And it builds vocabulary and social skills too. Pretty amazing for a simple card game! Not to mention - it definitely got us laughing!
I found out that my kids are super-creative thinkers, and that Landon has an especially great delivery. Maybe he should consider writing ads - he is good!
Which would a Diva be more likely to buy - a Spear Kit (to make a quick costume change during the opera) or a Burp Bracelet (which prevents your dinner from coming back up during the performance)?
How about a Teacher - would she rather have a News Seat or a Shame Cannon? Don't ask...
 Our Pirate had a tough decision - a Corpse Tattoo or a Blood Story?
We looked over the suggested Classroom Activities (see the Educational tab on the Snake Oil page) for some additional ideas on how to use Snake Oil, and we realized it might be an awesome church youth group activity. By using the suggestion called "Step Right Up" the game cards provide the starting point for a game show version, with a host and three contestants and an audience. Kennady is hoping that maybe we can try it at youth group just for fun, or maybe as part of a lesson. I can think of a few object lesson applications that would work well! 
Out of the Box Games Review
What we liked best:
  • so quick to learn! We could pretty much open the box and go.
  • play time can be as short or as long as we wanted, depending on how much time we had to play and how many people were playing.
  • if you can read, you can play!
What I need to mention:
  • you need at least three people to play. We think it's more fun and moves faster with more people, but it's easy to make some variations to suit whatever size group you have.
Our bottom line: Listen, folks - whether you're looking for an innovative way to build your students' speaking and vocabulary skills, an improvisation and impromptu speech activity, or a party game that your whole family - or your kids and all their friends - will enjoy; Snake Oil is the game for you! And that's not just a sales pitch! Step right up and be the next to own your very own Snake Oil kit! Just in time for Christmas gift-giving too!
Out of the Box Games Review
Would this be the game that "cures what ails ya" in your home? Here's what you need to know:
Visit the website:

Pricing: Snake Oil retails for $19.99

Recommended Ages: Snake Oil is best for ages 10 through adults of all ages. For younger snake oil salesmen, Snake Oil Party Potion is for ages 8 and up.

You can follow Out of the Box Games on Facebook, on Twitter, and on YouTube.

Visit the Schoolhouse Review Crew blog for more information and to read other reviews. Crew members reviewed the Party Potion game as well, so be sure to check out all of them! 
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