Alternative trading card games: Xeko and Bella Sara
It's easy to forget that trading card games are actually games, not just collections of tradable pieces of paper. And while Pokemon, Yu-Gi-Oh!, Magic the Gathering and the rest dominate the field, two trading card games attempt to go in surprisingly different directions.
Xeko uses kids' fascination with trading cards to teach them about endangered animals and ecosystems. This is hands-down the most beautifully-designed game I've ever seen, starting with the packaging -- a wooden shipping crate inside which is hidden a secret mission. Kids ("agents") strategize in order to create the strongest "Xeko-systems" by playing their cards. Along the way, they learn facts about endangered species and the habitats in which they live. Even better, 4% of the proceeds go to Conservation International. The Xeko website will give you a sense of just how lush and lovely the cards and materials are, and you can even watch a tutorial (because parents need these things).
Bella Sara cards are aimed squarely at the demographic least likely to be found huddled around a pile of trading cards: little girls. I was never into the pink/purple/horse-and-unicorn thing, but I was in the minority -- most girls love it. You should have seen my four year-old daughter's eyes light up when I dumped a few of these on the floor to have a look. She immediately started picking out her favorite horses and sorting them into little piles.
Each card has a code that can be entered at the Bella Sara website, so kids can care for and feed animated versions of their horses (and listen to plenty of new age music). There are also games to be played, horse goodies to buy with points, and places to explore.
This game is less about trading and direct play as it is about creating an online fantasy world, which makes sense -- somehow getting Kelpie-Pooka to battle Rimfaxe just doesn't feel right. The online experience is a lot of fun and very sweet -- I'll admit that my X chromosomes started buzzing a bit.
Win them! I've got a Xeko Mission: Indonesia Starter Pack and a pile of Bella Sara 5-packs to give away to two lucky Parenthackers! To get in the running, answer the following two questions in the comments:
What was your favorite collectible when you were a kid?
If you win, would you prefer Xeko, Bella Sara, or no preference?
I'll pick two winners tomorrow at 5pm PST. Good luck!