Robot Turtles: the board game that teaches preschoolers to program

Robot Turtles is "a board game you play with your favorite 3 to 8-year-old that sneakily teaches programming fundamentals." Created by entrepreneur Dan Shapiro and inspired by classic kids' programming language Logo, the board game lets kids ages 3-8 write programs with colorful playing cards. The game is brilliantly simple: kids play a row of action cards to control their turtle on the board, as moved by the adult game master.

Dan designed the game for his 4-year-old boy/girl twins, because "people who can program are going to be writing the future, and everybody else is going to be reading it." With 10,000 backers, Robot Turtles is nearly the most-backed board game on Kickstarter. It's available until Sept 27 for $29 and is scheduled to ship in time for Christmas.

Dan's a good friend of mine (I'm Robot Turtles' first backer), and we spent months discussing the strategy behind both Robot Turtles and my recent Kickstarter. If you're interested in some of the lessons Dan and I learned, he's got a great post up on the subject.

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  1. ee0r says:

    Looks like a great version of this idea for kids! Another game in this idea space, but aimed a little older is "Robo Rally" ( http://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/18/roborally ) from the great Richard Garfield (of Magic: the Gathering). It includes a lot more direct competition between players (shooting at each other, pushing each other into pits, etc.) so I wouldn't want to play with 5-year-olds, but in my 20's this was a great beer-n-pretzels kind of game.

  2. @ee0r: Thanks! I talked to Richard... wrote about it here. http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/danshapiro/robot-turtles-the-board-game-for-little-programmer/posts/605701
    @Simenzo: You might get a kick out of the "Galapagos Rules for Grownups" that are included (well, as a downloadable PDF) with the game. In that version, ignoring your opponents is a viable but usually nonoptimal strategy. Optimal strategy is usually a mix of stealth (write your program without revealing it) and anticipation (figuring out what your opponents will do - from a fairly small menu of choices - and route around it).

  3. @rocketpj Unfortunately Kickstarter doesn't let me charge a 'fair' price to everyone - I have to charge the same for Canada and Cambodia if I'm using KS infrastructure. See the FAQ for details (and an apology!) if you're curious
    @Faiz_Imam: The best way to back it internationally right now is to find some friends and go in at the heavily discounted 3- or 10-pack level, which brings the price down around $40 including shipping. It may be available again some day but I have no idea how or when or where.

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