Ancano is a game designed by yoga instructors with the aim of teaching young children how to manage their anger and get on well with others. The game itself is super simple: it's a very basic roll & move race game where players roll a standard six-sided die and then move that number of spaces along the track. The player's token will land on a space that's either a square, star or circle. The squares and stars mostly require the child to complete an activity and the circles prompt children to think about their emotions. The circle cards are graded into three levels and you take the level of card that corresponds to your position along the track. The star cards usually reward players by telling them to move forward another space. The circle cards reward players with heart tokens and when you've collected enough of these they can be traded in for a special action.
Ancano is intended as an educational activity so it's a tool that primary school teachers may well find useful for younger children to play as part of their personal, social and health education (PSHE). Just as Feelinks (Act In/Blackrock) has a practical application in school Circle Time, so Ancano can be pressed into service to encourage self-control. There's quite a lot of text on some of the cards tho', including vocabulary that will be challenging for younger children, so this is an activity for 2-6 children that's likely to demand direct input from a teacher or teaching assistant.
The simple and familiar roll & move mechanic makes Ancano easy to teach but it means there's very limited game play here to underpin the educational activity. There's enough here to appeal to six- and seven-year olds but older children will probably expect more. The activities required by the cards usually prompt reflection but they are mostly easily completed. Children's progress in the race is almost entirely dependent on the luck of their die rolls; the game offers them very little agency other than when and how to spend the heart tokens that they collect. Like the 'marshmallow test', delayed gratification affords better rewards: if you spend three heart tokens you just get to move your piece one space forward or an opponent's piece one space back. However, if you save up your heart tokens until you have six to spend, you can use them to swap places on the track with another player (obviously, the player whose piece is in the lead) or force a player to miss a turn. Of course, if you're the victim of one of these 'take that' actions, it may well put the game's anger management lessons to the test!
Ancano is on Kickstarter right now. Click here to check it out.
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