A couple of weeks ago, kids played a new and improved version of Huntopoly, a neighborhood scavenger hunt game I created, at my neighborhood summer camp, Camp Yale.
While most kids enjoyed version 1.0 last year, a few other kids lost interest and stopped playing. So, a couple of months ago, when I told my oldest son, Marco (7-1/2) that we were playing Huntopoly again at Camp Yale, he exclaimed, “Please, I don’t want to play Huntopoly again!”
However, he and all the other campers really got into this year’s version. After the first session on Monday of camp week, Marco told me, “I wish we could play Huntopoly all summer!”
In a nutshell, Huntopoly is combination of a scavenger hunt and Monopoly. Each team of three or four kids is assigned one block in our neighborhood. Teams use the neighborhood mural on my driveway as a Monopoly-like game board and our actual neighborhood for a scavenger hunt. To read about last year’s game, read this article.
The most important change I made was to plant a “treasure chest” at a lot on each block. So, on each Huntopoly day (they played Monday, Wednesday, and Friday), teams would gather on my driveway to: 1) learn of the location of the treasure chest on their block, and 2) roll the fuzzy dice and move their Monopoly gamepiece to a house on their block.
Then, each team fanned out in the neighborhood its block. First, team members found their treasure chest and took out one toy each. Then, they went to the house with their gamepiece and rang the doorbell. If a resident answered the door, they had to get a photo with the resident, have him or her answer some questions (e.g. “What’s something interesting about you that you’d like neighbors to know?”), and collect some items from the resident (e.g. an ingredient for baking a cake that we’d make on Friday).
If a resident didn’t answer the door, the team just went to next house next door. This was different from last year, when no answer at the door forced teams to come back to my house to roll the fuzzy dice and move their game pieces.
Teams got points for the things they got from the residents in their blocks. They also could get points for making a lego house and placing it at the lot where their gamepiece was.
Unlike last year, this year, many kids got into the race for points, and wanted to win. On the last day, Friday, one team dramatically got eight points at the very last moment when the neighbor they were supposed to get things from came to our house to find them. He had shooed them away when they first came to his house because he was about to go into the shower, but I guess he had a moment of “clear thinking” in the shower. (I, too, have many of my best insights showering in the morning!)
I saw that three teams were going to finish within one point of each other, so I “engineered” a three-way tie. Thus, members of three out of the five teams – a majority of campers – won a first prize gift: a $10 gift certificate to Cheeky Monkey, a local toy store.
It was a rousing way to end this year’s Camp Yale. The primary change between this year’s and last year’s Huntopoly – adding the treasure chest – made the hunt more fun for everyone, particularly little kids (ages six and below). The smaller change of letting teams just go next door if a neighbor didn’t answer the door diminished frustration and fatigue.
In spite of this success, I’ll be looking to make more changes next year. I want to keep the game fresh for the players (kaizen…). More importantly, I want to think of more creative ways to increase engagement of the neighbors the teams visited. My full vision is to pull neighbors out of their homes to our yard for a big, communal block party on Friday. I’ve tried to do this the last two years, but the best we’ve done is to get neighbors to politely engage with teams for five minutes, and then go back to their busy lives.