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Gift Review - The Art of Science

 

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Trivial Pursuit has proved over many years that there's fun to be had from asking and answering trivia questions. But what could be better than a trivia game based solely on science? Simple answer: this game, because they have done some very clever things with the game play.

The problem is that even within the 'science' topic in a trivia game, many of us have strong and weak subjects. If I do a science question in a general knowledge quiz, I always seem to get a biology question, which can be a bit hit and miss. The brilliant idea in The Art of Science is that each player can choose their best subjects, and play to their strengths.

The game has six categories in all -maths, biology, chemistry, physics, engineering and miscellaneous. (I would have liked a 'history of science' section instead of the last one, but that's just a personal preference and there is a fair amount of history in the miscellany option). It comes with three packs of cards, each card having questions for the six subjects on the front and answers on the back. So far, so familiar. But you win by filling in a score card of points. You might need 8 points in your best subject, 6 in your next best and so on. The brilliant thing is that you choose which subject is best etc. So it's up to you what you need to be up to scratch on. (There are three lengths of game, the longer the game, the more points you need in each category.)

To play you move around a board throwing a dice. You can move in any direction, so can choose the best strategy available. And different squares award you different numbers of points if you get the answer right. Add to this special squares where you can duel or win/lose large numbers of points and it's a very well thought out structure.

Okay, not everyone will want to play it. I think you get a feel for potential players from the suggestions on how to choose who goes first. 'By tradition, the player with the greatest number of university credits is last in the order of play; but other stochastic methods such as rolling the die, using the nearest random number generator, or drawing straws, can be used to decide the order.' Quite. But with the right group of people it is simply superb. Questions vary considerably in obscurity (from 'What compound makes grass green' to 'What is the name of the dimensionless quantity in fluid mechanics that describes whether fluid flow is laminar or turbulent' on one card as an example), but should balance out reasonably well.

I only have two slight grumbles. One is the lack of a card giving a key to the link between colours and subjects (so you probably need to sacrifice a question card to use for this) - the makers are looking into this. The other is the price. This is a polished, professional-looking, well made board game, but even so I thought 39.90 was a bit steep.

All in all a terrific present for a science lover.

Gift category - midrange

Reviewed by Brian Clegg

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Last update 16 April 2011