Mojo does a fantastic job of balancing educational value and pure entertainment.
Oftentimes, educational games run into the difficulty of balancing entertainment and the actual learning bits, and I think Mojo does an incredible job of walking that fine line.
Let’s dive in and take a look to see what Mojo has to offer.
Brief Overview of Mojo English
Mojo English: Family Fun is a learning card game in which players build sentences from the ground up. For native speakers of English, we don’t really think about how to create a sentence grammatically. We usually just spew forth and word-vomit all over the place without a thought to what each part of a sentence adds to the conversation.
This game makes making sentences fun and a creative way to learn with the whole family.
One of the aspects of Mojo that really intrigued me is the versatility of the game as a tool for education. Not only that, but it’s also a lot of fun. It’s not inherently for ESL learners, but can also be fantastic fun for native English speakers, and can help expand vocabulary and grammar skills for all ages.
Unboxing Mojo English
The cards are made of quality stock and aren’t likely to warp easily, however, they do come in a thinner oblong shape. It’s not the normal playing card style you might be used to, although it does work well for the game as well as save on table space during actual gameplay.
I really like the artwork of the cards in this game. Mojo uses original cartoon artwork that’s family-friendly, and while talking to the designer, I learned that he specifically designed the game with as much inclusivity as he possibly could. There should be no offensive texts at all based on race, religion, or any other demographic you could think of.
It’s always refreshing to see custom artwork that deviates from the norm, and I really like the cartoon-look of the cards. I can almost imagine a web comic or web cartoon showing the misadventures of the characters running around.
How to Play Mojo
- Mix all the cards together well.
- Each player gets 7 cards.
- Players use the cards to make 1 sentence.
- Each game has 3 rounds.
- Each round, each player gets 1 turn.
- Each turn, a player may discard up to 3 cards and take the same number of cards from the deck.
- After 3 rounds, read the sentence and count the points.
- The player with the most points wins.
The game can be played several ways, but I’ll be going over the standard play mode first.
Standard Play Mode
Mojo is played in 3 rounds.
Each round, players draw 7 cards and have the option of discarding and drawing a card, up to 3 times.
Once players are satisfied with their hands, they begin to build their sentences using the different parts of speech on the cards.
Set 1 comes with a full set of cards and parts of speech so players will be able to create fun and goofy sentences. As more sets are released, the sentences available will become more complex when more parts of speech are added.
A typical sentence, of course, comes with a subject and a predicate; a noun, and a verb. Even if you’re not a native English speaker, you’ll still be able to create funny little sentences like,
“The zombie dances in the woods at night.”
The cards have a pretty intricate color and symbol system that’s rather intuitive. The symbols and colors can simply be matched up to create a fully grammatically-correct sentence.
Once everyone takes their turns, players lay down their cards to form a sentence and take turns reading them aloud. Each card has a point value associated with it and the more complex the sentence, the more points it’s worth overall.
End of Game & Scoring
If at any point players can use all 7 cards in a single round, they can immediately place their cards on the table, displaying their full sentence. After the end of 3 rounds, all players will place their cards down and read their sentences aloud.
Once the sentences are all finalized and read, it’s time to tally up those sweet victory points. Each card has several different point values depending upon which form of the word is used. Present, past, future tense, or whatever form you can manage to use are all worth different point values. Add those points up at the end to see who wins!
More Ways to Play
The 5/4 Split variant works similarly to Texas Hold ’em. Instead of players getting a set hand of 7 cards, they’ll only get 2 cards to start, but will be able to use a communal pool of cards (like the River) when building their sentences.
As the rounds continue, players will continually draw new cards until they have 5 cards in hand, along with 4 communal cards in the “River”.
Be the Last
This is a rather clever game mode and one of my favorites. It’s a last-man-standing scenario in which players take turns placing a single card into one sentence. Each player has to add a card and once the sentence is 4 cards long, players start to get knocked out for not being able to add to the sentence.
It adds a tricky strategy element to the game and forces players to look at how complex the English language can actually be.
Your First Game of Mojo
Mojo has several ways to play and 3 different variants come with the first set. For your first game, I suggest playing the standard play mode to get a feel for what Mojo has to offer.
Each round of Mojo English is relatively quick and can be played pretty much anywhere you go.
The cards are all clearly sorted and numbered, so you can actually pull out any of the more advanced cards depending upon your skill level. For the first game it’s easy enough to test out with just the stock cards of Set 1.
Just to get a sense of the cards and how they function when you build sentences, I highly suggest using the original rules.
After you have a few games under your belt, it’s much easier to start building up with attack cards, point multipliers, and more advanced parts of speech.
Pros & Cons
- Genuinely useful as a teaching tool
- Genuinely fun
- Can be intimidating at first glance
Mojo English can be pretty intimidating at first glance. I was instantly reminded of going up to the whiteboard as a kid to diagram sentences.
When you first look at the cards, there are a lot of different symbols and many ways to match up the cards. That all makes sense when you consider that the game was designed to help ESL students as an English language learning tool.
The designer, Nicholas Kupsch, took great care to condense down an entire language system and deliver it within a deck of cards. It’s pretty amazing when you think about it and even after teaching English for several years, it does help as a refresher for the more uncommon parts of speech.
As a native English speaker, we take a lot of our language for granted and use a lot of grammar rules subconsciously, so it’s interesting to see how much we actually do purposefully.
As with any game we review, the most important factor is that it’s fun. So, is it fun?
Yes it is!
I really enjoy the structure of the game and the added wild cards and competitive attack cards add a lot of replayability. All aspects of the game allow players to let their imaginations run wild.
Versions & Expansions
Mojo is eventually expanding into 5 different sets. Set 1 introduces the basics of English grammar with nouns, verbs, some adjectives, and a little bit of gamesmanship.
Currently, only the first set is available, but I was able to get my hands on the prototypes for the upcoming sets. They’re all designed to progressively build up the language difficulty, as well as add complexity to the game with new cards and challenges.
There are 5 sets planned for the series, although only set 1 is currently available to the public. The other sets are in the production stages, and hopefully, with the slowdowns from Covid-19 starting to shift, we’ll see them pop up for sale soon.
Mojo English is an educational card game that doesn’t feel contrived like a lot of its competitors. It’s legitimately fun to play and from a teaching perspective, it’s a pretty powerful tool for ESL or literacy development.
Players take turns creating sentences using fanciful characters and locations with the cards representing different parts of speech. Mojo English was created to help people learn by themselves without spending a lot of money on after-school programs and private lessons.
This is clearly a passion project that has come to fruition. The detail in the structure of the game is pretty darn impressive and what’s more, it’s legitimately useful as a teaching tool.
Probably one of the most interesting things about Mojo English is that it takes an entire language’s rules and translates them into a card game. Having the standard building blocks of sentences and word structure offers a blank canvas for educators, and for gamers. Some of the play-testers even created a set of homebrew tournament rules. The possibilities of the game, just like with language, are endless.
As I mentioned earlier, Mojo English clearly has a passionate team behind the game. They’re currently working on creating a web series, in which students of all ages and backgrounds can learn English using the cards and following along with the video. There are also little adventure stories created using the building blocks from the cards for each character on their website.
Have you tried Mojo with your students or family? We’d love to hear your thoughts on this great educational game. Drop a comment below and let the learning begin!