Bond Raiders, part of the Game-Framed Math & Science initiative from Hostos Community College, introduces players to some of the most difficult concepts in chemistry with gameplay that is so fun players will actually want to learn. Organic chemistry is about as daunting of a subject as a student can face, but gamification can turn discouraging memorization into active engagement that will make students directly familiar with functional groups of complex molecules such as aldehyde, ether, and ester.
To begin Bond Raiders, each player receives a Functional Groups Recipe Card, which shows the assembly of molecules and how many points each is worth, and Atom and Bond cards. These cards are made into four by four squares that creating quadrants on the table. Players work from these to bonds and atoms to create molecules for points.
Matching play in Bond Raiders consists of rounds in three phases. First players “raid” one another by swapping out cards from their quadrant with cards from an opponent’s quadrant. After four turns of raiding, the construction phase allows players to create molecules from the cards they have in front of them. In the final phase, and where understanding the components of the molecules is especially important, is the Gleaning phase. After rolling off, the top-rolling player is able to pick cards from any of the quadrants the table to create a further molecule. When all possible assemblies are used up, the game ends, and the player with the most points is the winner.
For advanced play, Bond Raiders includes alternate “Active Bond” mode. In this fast-paced, cutthroat version, players are able to create functional groups as soon as they have them available in cards in their quadrant. This makes raiding particularly important as players can seize the cards they need immediately rather than having to plan for several turns down the road.
In both forms of Bond Raiders, holding onto bond cards is crucial. Just as in chemical structures, bonds are what tie everything together, and a player with plenty of atoms will be caught without the chance to make anything with them if they cannot be drawn together. There are plenty of different strategies for players to pursue as they go through the phases, collecting high-value atoms and bonds, grabbing up bonds to make the most molecules for quantity, or sabotaging other players to keep their scores low.
Bond Raiders is a card game for two or four players aged twelve and up. With its dynamic play involving both stealing and optimizing, it is likely best for older gamers, but younger players will certainly have fun matching the cards and building complex organic molecules like carboxylic acid. In addition to strategy and the social components of raiding, there is a good deal of luck, as order of play is particularly important in the Gleaning phase. No matter an individual game’s outcome, it will certainly one of the best ways to study chemical bonds and have fun doing it.