School is just around the corner for some families, but it has already started for us (we have a “modified year-round” schedule), so it’s a good time to look for games that emphasize academic skills. I recently received a copy of Bananagrams Duel from Bananagrams Inc. to review and wanted to see how my pretty decently read third-grader, A, took to it.
What Is Bananagrams Duel?
Bananagrams Duel is a spelling game for 2 players ages 7+ that takes about 10 minutes to play 10 rounds.
Bananagrams Duel Components
Bananagrams Duel contains the following:
- 1 Instruction Book
- Portable Case
- 24 Letter Dice
- 20 Category/Banana Cards
The Category/Banana Cards are a touch on the thin side, but the whole set fits neatly in a plastic banana container because the whole idea is that it’s small and easy to transport, and the Case does feel sturdy enough for decent travel. If the game was intended for classroom use, I might laminate the Category/Banana Cards first.
How to Play Bananagrams Duel
The basic gameplay mechanic is pretty fast to understand, but it might be trickier to master, especially for kids.
The goal of Bananagrams Duel is to win 10 rounds first by arranging your letters into words crossword-style faster than the opposing player.
Setup is super quick and involves splitting the Letter Dice between the two players so that each player has 12 of them.
How to Play
Players decide how to signal the start of a round and then they simultaneously try to arrange their Letter Dice into words crossword style. Players may turn the dice to switch which letter is displayed, but they must use all 12 Letter Dice. When a player has used all 12 Letter Dice successfully, they call out “Bananas” and then receive a point for the round. A Banana Card can be rewarded to help keep track of points.
We quickly discovered that rounds seemed to take longer than the 1 minute each that the game predicted. The game still moved quickly, but there was no way we were playing 10 rounds in 10 minutes. We also tried one of the game variations where we used one of the Category Cards but found this was much harder especially for an eight-year-old.
The first player to win 10 rounds in the game winner.
Why You Should Play Bananagrams Duel
Bananagrams Duel is fast, simple, and easy to transport. It does challenge you to think on your feet as you may have to pull a word and try another one if you still have dice leftover, and that is the part that will be most stressful for kids who are playing. Fans of Scrabble-type games will really take to this one, and skilled Scrabble players may want to try the categories variation.
I do think the game works better when players are closer in ability level to each other, as I had a clear advantage over A, and I think competing against someone closer to his age and level would have made the rounds less tense for him. The game may feel a touch too much like school for some kids to want to “play for fun,” but it does have definite value as an educational tool. Putting words together and spelling are highly emphasized skills in the game.
I would certainly recommend it as a fun way to work with a kid who needs more word practice or for homeschoolers and teachers. The game seems to encourage variations and I think teachers could come up with some fun versions of the game to help kids practice spelling words. It can be purchased here for just $7.99, making it a very affordable learning tool.