* Prices may differ from that shown
Here we are again, back in the world of children's games. You'd not be without justification to suspect that I get paid pretty well to do little more than play games with kids all day and, well, I'm not going to lie to you; you'd not be *that* far wrong. However, I spend 8 hours of every day with children (one of whom who, in all seriousness, asked me last week 'Miss? How do you spell T.V.?') and none of them end up dead at the end of the day, so I think I'm entitled.
Let's move swiftly on, shall we? The game in question today is travel Operation.
The travel version actually differs quite a bit from the big version. On the big version you have a board on which is a picture of a man as if prepped for an operation. Acting as the 'surgeon', the player must take out various items using a pair of tweezers, all the time being careful not to activate the touch-sensitive buzzer.
In the little version, you do not have tweezers, and nor do you have to remove anything from the 'patient'. What you have is quite a small playing 'board' on which is the standard picture of the patient. In this version, there are four winding paths cut into the board which run from the tips of his hands and feet to his belly. Each path is lined with touch sensitive metal. There are slots on either side of the board into which you put 12 differently coloured bugs (which are just little plastic tablets). The game requires 2 'AA' batteries which are not, irritatingly, supplied.
The game comes with 12 smallish cards. There are 3 cards for each limb which are assigned a point value. The aim of the game is to use the metal pointer that's attached to the board to guide the plastic bugs from the tips of his hands or feet into the patient's belly (where they fall into a little drawer for easy collection and removal after the game has ended). The metal that lines the path from each limb is pretty sensitive and so a steady hand and patience are required to get the bug to the belly without setting off the buzzer. When all the bugs are in the belly the player with the most points wins.
This might better have been described as a 'portable game' rather than a 'travel game', as I suspect that even a person with the steady hands of a professional sniper would struggle to play this in a moving vehicle. Also, the bugs and cards are quickly lost as they seem to fall out of the little drawer quite easily, so I store mine in a plastic freezer bag with an elastic band around the top inbetween uses. That apart, it's a game that the children I teach seem to really love. The buzzer always elicits a jump and a squeal of delight and it's not so easy as to seem babyish, but not so difficult as to be off-putting.
I play this game with children of 6 and up, as it requires a reasonable degree of fine motor control and therefore may be frustrating for younger children. It's worth pointing out that the board moves around during play, so assigning one person to hold it steady is a good idea. It can be tricky to get the bugs to move initially, so I generally do that part and then let the children play independently after that. The scoring system seems a bit arbitrary as there is little difference in difficulty in getting a bug from the arm to the belly than there is in getting a bug from the leg to the belly. I usually just award the card to the person who gets the bug in the tummy and whoever has the most cards at the end wins.
The game can be adjusted for older/younger children quite easily: for those with a bit more skill points can be deducted for the number of times they set the buzzer off; weaker/younger children can be awarded double points for each bug they successfully move into the tummy or the adult can move the bug halfway to the tummy for them and then let the child finish the job.
Fine motor control is the biggest area that this game develops; not only must children have a steady hand, but the pointer that guides the bugs around is the same thickness as a small pencil so use of the tripod grip (which children need for effective writing) is promoted. For children who are slightly older (9+) this game is a nice example of how a simple battery-powered circuit is used in everyday life.
~*~Price and Availability~*~
I got mine in Smyths as part of a 'two travel games for five pounds' deal, when not on offer it tends to cost around the £4.99 mark.
~*~Things the game won't do~*~
Make you an *actual* surgeon. You could probably get a spot on ER, though, if they ever resurrect it.
Travel versions of popular boardgames are an oft-troublesome breed. Boardgames are usually designed to be played on sturdy tables, and whilst some convert to the back seat of a car/minibus well, such as connect 4 or travel chess, others dont, with Travel Operation being a prime example of the latter.
The original Operation game is reliant upon physical skill- namely dexterity- requiring players to take turns at removing certain ailments/organs (all lighthearted entities such as Wishbone, Funny Bone, Spare Ribs and Bread Basket) from the 2d body of a patient undergoing surgery, with players taking turns at performing particular 'operations' as dictated to by a series of playing cards, and trying to avoid touching the sides of the wells in which the organs/ailments are kept, as this sets off a buzzer and makes the patient's nose flash red, signalling the failure of the surgeon and the forfeiting of his fees.
The game is shrunk down dramatically for mobile use, but the difficulties of playing a game based on manual dexterity in the back of a moving vehicle should be obvious: the game often ends in frustration as the movement of the vehicle causes players to cock up their operations, reminding of one of those old slapstick sketches where a woman tries to do her makeup in a mirror jsut as an earthquake strikes and ends up smearing streaks of lipstick all over her face. This can be very annoying, and can even laed to arguments, thus going against the very purpose that travel games are meant to serve, aka keeping kids quiet for the duration of the journey.
On the plus side the game is durable and extremely cheap (£2 plus postage) and can be played reasonably well on smooth strips of road as well as picnic tables and the like, but the buzzer and flashing light are less impressive than on its bigger brother and the game itself just feels somewhat diminished in a way that, say, travel chess or travel battleships do not. A decent game then, but not a particularly successful conversion.