Donuts and the Power of Drafting

Post date: Apr 13, 2018 1:40:59 PM

Drafting is one of my favorite game mechanics. I'm not talking about iterative writing I'm talking about choosing the cards/pieces you want for your game plan from a shared pile among the players. Whether it's Magic the Gathering, Dominion, Sushi Go or, now, Go Nuts for Donuts, there is just something really fun about trying to build your own strategy while other players are doing the same. I think we can find some great ways to use this mechanic in the classroom.

Go Nuts for Donuts

I picked up Go Nuts for Donuts on an Amazon recommendation a couple weeks ago. I was ready for a new game to play with my lunch kids. I saw that this could support 6 players and I know my kids love donuts so the theme would be an easy sell. It has quickly become their go to game choice.

The game is a bit of a cross between a draft and an auction. Each Donut has a point value or ability printed on the card. There are multiple strategies to win. You can try to build a small stack of donuts and then get huge point bonuses from having Old Fashioned in your stack. You can try to collect every Donut Hole as they grow in value exponentially as you collect them. I figured most of my kids would stick to the tried and true "pick whichever donut on the board has the highest printed point value." They largely have not - and that's the beauty of the draft mechanic.

Each round you lay out enough donuts for each player plus one. Then each player secretly picks the donut they want. If no other player picks that donut, they get it. If any other player picks it that donut is discarded. Nobody gets it and it is gone. So, if multiple people go for Powered because it is an easy 3 points it ends up being essentially worthless. This adds a deep strategic and social layer to the game yep keeps it simple. Where the game really shines is in the simplicity of how the draft/auction plays out. You don't have to worry about tracking any currency. Just pick a donut and go (nuts.)

The game is ridiculously fun and surprisingly deep. For an under ten dollar game it really is impressive.

So, how do we use it for learning?

Many years ago I did an activity with my GATE and elective kids called "Solutions Draft." It was based on the video game ScribbleNauts but with an added draft mechanic. I would pose a problem to the groups such as a beached whale. We then went from group to group drafting objects to help solve the problem. As soon as one group picked an item (bulldozer for example, then no other group could.) They then had to write out their plan to save the whale. It was very fun but also very abstract. As a result I couldn't really find a way to use it with my on-level learners.

Go Nuts got me thinking how it could work for them. One thing that immediately came to mind is argumentative writing. We do a ton of that in social studies now. Every unit ends with it. On the day before the test we do an activity adapted from the DBQ Project that we call Bucketing. Students are given a list of the likely evidence they will want to use in their argument. It is a list of 16ish terms/people/concepts from the unit. They also get a digital chart (basically just a T-chart) with the two options for the argument on either side. One of our questions, for example, is "Who had a larger influence in Europe between 1400 and 1700, the Medicis or Martin Luther?" So, the chart would have one side for Medicis and one for Luther. They can then use any of the 16 terms as their evidence on the test.

This often results in students using the same 5-6 terms throughout the day. They tend to pick those that stood out the most - even if they aren't necessarily the strongest evidence. If I added a draft mechanic it would do a few things. First, it would force groups to really debate which evidence is most important. Once the added pressure of "if that group picks it we can't" is added then the pressure really builds to pick carefully. Secondly, it requires them to really learn all 16 terms since they might not get to use just the few they personally knew best. Lastly, it adds fun! Challenging kids, especially higher level ones, to fit their evidence in ways they hadn't planned can be a lot of fun.

I could also see the draft mechanic being used for creative writing in Language Arts. Draft a character, a conflict and a setting then write the story. Story Cubes might be a good tool to make this even feel more like a game. Maybe in math students could be given a specific value or concept to represent and then have to draft numbers and math symbols to do it. In science what about having a bunch of random objects that students have to tie to Science concepts? In each case these are activities that have been done before but adding that extra draft mechanic layer turns it into a game.

How else could we use this simple mechanic to increase engagement in our classrooms?