Review by Jenny Bristol, Common Sense Education | Updated July 2018
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Magnus Kingdom of Chess

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Gentle chess puzzle game ideal for young newbies

Subjects & skills
Subjects
  • Math

Skills
  • Character & SEL
  • Critical Thinking
Grades This grade range is based on learning appropriateness and doesn't take into account privacy. It's determined by Common Sense Education, not the product's publisher.
1–8
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Pros: Gradual learning curve, fun gameplay, and incremental lessons that build on previous ones.

Cons: There are little to no instructions, and the "help" cards often show up after they would have been helpful.

Bottom Line: For kids who are new to chess but want to learn how to play, this fun intro to the game provides a well-done tutorial combined with a light overarching storyline.

Teachers can use Magnus Kingdom of Chess as a fun but gentle introduction to the game of chess for even the youngest students. It can be used in math class or as a critical thinking lesson. It's perfect for those brand new to the game, or even for those who have a little experience. There isn't much reading involved, so it can be used with prereaders or English language learners (ELLs). The game allows students to build their chess knowledge and skills gradually before being confronted with a whole chess board. For the youngest players, consider activating "guided mode," which displays arrows to show the main path of the game -- so they don't get disoriented.

Remind students that they can travel around the board using any of the pieces they've unlocked, not just the king. Also, remind them to occasionally look at the larger map (especially before they move on to a new level) to make sure they haven't missed any coins or other items. If students get stuck -- which can happen during animal battles if certain pieces get captured -- have them click the X on the battle screen to start the battle over. Four players at a time can have profiles within the game. Players who complete the game can choose to receive a diploma.

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A collaboration of DragonBox and Play Magnus -- which was started by chess world champion Magnus Carlsen -- Magnus Kingdom of Chess is a chess tutorial game aimed at young kids. As a king chess piece, players explore the kingdom with their set of chess pieces and use their developing skills to solve puzzles along the way. There's a light storyline over the whole game, but it mostly just provides a theme. Within that theme, there are six different worlds where players collect coins, crowns, cards, and other treasures, and rescue trapped chess pieces. These rescued pieces join your team to use in battle, starting with pawns, then rooks, and then moving on to pieces with more advanced movements. As players accumulate their pieces, they can -- and often must -- navigate the levels with any of their pieces, allowing for unique puzzle challenges. Players then use their pieces during battle sequences, learning new strategies and applying new rules. Throughout the game, students learn how each of the pieces move, how to capture, checkmating patterns, tactics and strategies, and how to play a complete chess game. The game breaks down chess into such small components that it's approachable for anyone.

Magnus Kingdom of Chess gradually teaches students to play chess, unwrapping one concept at a time, which makes it easy for kids of all ages to learn. As players unlock new pieces, there are more tools to use to solve the puzzles, but the puzzles also get more challenging. Students also learn to use their pieces in combination to capture an opponent's pieces. Students must devise strategies using logic and analysis to capture pieces to win battles and access coins, keys, crowns, and cards. The cards detail chess rules, piece movements, game strategies, and information about the game environment.

If players' king chess piece ends up captured, they lose a single coin and then get another chance at solving the puzzle or winning the battle. Since coins are abundant, this provides plenty of room for experimentation. The more students play, the more they get a feel for how to approach and take their opponents' chess pieces while protecting their own. Through the steps of learning to play chess, Magnus Kingdom of Chess teaches students critical thinking skills, problem-solving, logic, analysis, perseverance, strategy, and even memory skills. It will teach students the basic rules and enough strategies to get them started playing on a real chess board.

Overall Rating

Engagement Is the product stimulating, entertaining, and engrossing? Will kids want to return?

From the start, the game encourages interaction; there are always more areas to explore, pieces to set free, and battles to win. Players are encouraged to try out new strategies since there's little penalty in failure.

Pedagogy Is learning content seamlessly baked-in, and do kids build conceptual understanding? Is the product adaptable and empowering? Will skills transfer?

The game offers a gentle learning curve for mastering chess piece movement and strategy with another lesson around every corner. Pieces are introduced individually with puzzles designed to highlight the use of each.

Support Does the product take into account learners of varying abilities, skill levels, and learning styles? Does it address both struggling and advanced students?

The game offers little help or additional resources, but they really aren't necessary; set a young student up with the game and they'll know what to do.


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