ION: A compound building, drafting game for SCIENCE!

Recommended Age:8+
Play Time:20-30 Minutes
Our Recommended Age:7+ (Possibly 6 with help and game experience)
Contents:9 Compound Goal Cards, 21 Action Tiles, 50 Charged ION Cards, 18 Neutral Noble Gas Cards, 6 Transition Metal Cards, 6 Polyatomic Cards, 14 Radioactive Element Cards
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We discovered Genius Games at ChiTAG 2015 and boy is this company amazing! They make learning science fun! ION is their newest game and a fast favorite in our house! A drafting card game where the goal is to get points by forming neutrally charged compounds or sets of stable noble gases! Seriously! A chemistry card game! The best part is…it is accurate AND fun!

Genius Games makes Science games. Educational and super fun games that are accurate…well as accurate as Science can be since it changes all the time. I do love that about Science. ION is a chemistry game and they have another plus two Biology games! We’ll be reviewing those as well…but more on ION.

ggionreview (2)ION comes in a smallish box with a lift up top and no real insert. It does have one of those inserts that take away about a half an inch on the sides (longways) an a nice place to put everything.

It comes with three bags so you can put the Action Tiles in one, the Drafting Cards in another and the Compound Goal Cards and Radioactive Element Cards in another together.

The cards are standard card material with that slight texture that makes them look shiny and the artwork is simple. It looks like something you would see in a scientific paper or book. Small marble looking red and white spheres bonding together inside of electrons.

You know, protons and neutrons inside the nucleus? Looks like that! I didn’t know until I played this game just what that really was about…mostly because Science is not my best subject but I LOVE it anyway!ggionreview (3)

Action Tiles are smaller, square and made out of what I believe is Chip Board. There are words on one side that say either Take From Center, Select Two, or RXN (Reaction) and look like they are written in chalk…which is an awesome detail that they added that I love.

On the other side are various negative numbers and a small letter. I’ll get to what those mean in a minute but basically you lose points for using them…but they are also written in chalk font!

The Radioactive cards are made the same as all the cards in the game but the artwork has a radioactive symbol as the background…which is pretty neat and makes me want to use gloves when I play them…might have to do that! The goal cards are again made the same but show a picture example of what you ware supposed to make to gain the points for each card.

The instructions are good and pretty easy to follow. There is a QR code on the front that takes you to a video that also tells you how to play. This is fantastic! Watching someone play or playing a round first always teaches me better than most instructions to be honest…I’m a hands on learner usually so the video was amazingly helpful!

It is the extras that make this company and the game even more amazing! Attention to detail, extra instructions, and the game comes with an expansion right off the bat! The Radioactive cards are the expansion and you can choose to play with them or not but they do require 3 or more players to use.

I will do my best to explain but you can also watch the video at the end of my explanation…cause it’s a good video…and who knows if I will confuse you. Now on to the confusing…err…explaining!


Create Neutrally Charged Compounds and sets of Noble Gases to get the most points.

ggionreview (4)Setup:

Start with the Action Tiles and look at the side with the numbers. Now look for the letter on the bottom and match all of the sets of three up together. Mix up the sets and randomly pass them out to all players. Any sets that are not used just put away.

Each player should have one of each that say Take From Center, Select Two, and RXN. DO NOT peek though! Keep the text side up until you use it. More on how to use them later.

Now grab the Drafting cards. These have the Red, Yellow, Purple or Blue squares on the top left and bottomish left with an Atom on the card and they say ION on the back. Make sure the Goal cards (which say Compounds on the back) are separate. Shuffle the Drafting cards up!

Flip 4 Drafting cards face up in the middle of the table but make sure they are all different. If you flip a double simply flip a different card. Each player then gets 8 cards for their hand. You can look or not yet as you will get to look at them in a moment anyway.

ggionreview (5)Before that though, flip 2 Goal Cards face up in the middle of the table near the Drafting Cards. If you are playing with more than 5 people, which we usually are not unless it’s game night, flip 3 Goal cards but before you do anything, including shuffle. If you playing with LESS than 5 people remove any card that says 5+ in the bottom right corner. THEN shuffle and flip 2 cards.

Each player picks a card at the same time so there is no first player. Now you are ready to go!


The whole game is only 3 rounds long. Just 3 rounds so it can go kind of quick but each round has a handful of turns so it depends on how fast everyone selects their card and how many players there are….and if you have lots of slow pickers…well….

Once you are all set up each player takes the 8 cards they were dealt and picks one, just one, and puts it face down in front of them. Keep the rest of the hand face down nearby but do not pass it to the next player just yet. This is important because once passed, your choices are stuck so you can’t pass until you have flipped your card and have played it!ggionreview (6)

Once everyone has a card of their choice in front of them everyone flips it over to show everyone else. You have two choices once you flip your card. You can either leave it by itself (unbonded) or you can pair it with another card to bond it. If you choose to bond the cards you HAVE to make it Neutral.

This means they have to have opposing charges, negative and positive and the right number of them. So if you have a card in front of you already that is, for example, Fluoride which has a -1 charge and you play a Hydrogen card which has a +1 you can bond them to create a neutral Hydrogen Fluoride compound! You just did Science!

Keep in mind if the card has +2 like Magnesium does, then you will need 2 cards with a -1 or a card with a -2 to make it a neutral compound. There are some Transition Metal cards that are worth more points (points are located on the bottom of the card in the same color box as the Charge and on the same side of the card. There are other cards that are scored differently so I’ll explain those before we get to the Action Tiles.

ggionreview (7)Transition Metal Cards – Transition Metal cards are an optional game variance and can be left out or shuffled into the Drafting Deck. They are slightly different in that you get to choose which side you want to use, either the top or bottom. You have to choose when after you flip it and once you pass your hand to the next player you are stuck with your choice…so choose wisely.

One side of the Copper card has Cu+ and is worth 3 points and the other side has Cu+2 and is worth 5 points. The harder to obtain = the more points it is worth. Noble Gasses are also scored differently.

Noble Gas Cards – If you play 1 Noble Gas, let’s say you play Neon, and do not get any more it is worth 2 points. If you play Neon and Helium they are together, worth 5 points, but if you play 1 of each of the three, Neon, Helium, and Argon, you get 9 points.

Polyatomic Ion Cards –  Cards like Peroxide and Carbonate are optional cards you can shuffle into the Drafting deck much like the Transition Metal Cards. We leave both sets it because it is not only more interesting and educational but more fun! You bond them just any other ION card but you choose the scoring option at the end of the round.

You can either take the points shown at the card OR you can Refresh (flip face down again to use again) an Action Tile. This is actually really handy because those tiles are very useful…but you do lose points for them.ggionreview (8)

Action Tiles: –  These are those 3 square tiles you got at the beginning of the game. Each one has a – number on the opposite side and you won’t know what it is until you use it…and you lose points at the end of the round.

These can only be used ONE time during the whole game. Not round, the whole game. Unless of course you choose to reuse one fora Polyatomic Ion card.

Select Two allows you to play two Drafting Cards from your hand instead of just one like normal. If you use this option then simply draw a card from the Deck to replace the extra one you took. Flip the Select Two tile over, wince at the loss of points and hope you used it wisely. This tile can be played at any time during a round.

Take From Center is exactly that. Flip this Tile to take one of the Drafting Cards from the center area and play it in front of you either bonding it or not. You still get your regular Drafting Card selection so you might want to make sure it will give you a good number of points. This tile can be flipped at any time during a round as well.

ggionreview (9)The RXN stands for Reaction and allows you to rearrange any or all of your Drafting cards in play in front of you. You also have the choice of taking a card from another player’s Drafting area to play in their own but it has to be a stand alone non-scoring one.

You can flip this card at point during a round and do the rearranging at that time but you can take another player’s card after that player has discarded their last two cards at the end of the round. Loss of points for any of them is scored at the end of the game (so if you can flip a card back over you won’t lose those points!)

If more than one person flips and RXN tile then they are resolved in the order they were flipped. If you decide to flip all 3 Tiles you will lose 9 points. Each set of three adds up to be -9 points but they are different combinations of numbers so you don’t know which Tile is worth what…negatively.

Goal Cards – There are 2 flipped up and in the center of the play are at the beginning of each round. These will give you various points based on how many of the options you complete during the round. Extra points are always good!ggionreview (10)

If one of the Goal Cards is Alkali Metal Bases you would need to make Soap or NaOH (Sodium Hydroxide) OR Paper or KOH (Potassium Hydroxide) to get an extra 2 points or BOTH to get 5 extra points!

Keep in mind it is hard enough to get 1 and harder to get 2 since the cards are dealt randomly and everyone will be trying to keep what they need to make them. But it is possible!

Now that you understand the cards, the scoring and the goal of the game I’ll finish explaining a round! After you have chosen your card to play for the first time and have taken your turn and passed the deck you get to choose again and flip and play cards again.

You’ll be able to flip tiles or not again as well. Keep doing this until there are only 2 cards left to pass and discard them. The round is over after that turn!

When those 2 cards are discarded is when you can steal another Player’s Drafting card from in front of them…if you flipped one that round. Don’t forget to do this as you will lose points for it…don’t want to waste it. Unless of course you chose to be nice and just rearrange your own cards…which we do with our son for now…as he gets better at this game (which is happening quickly) we might have to add this in.

ggionreview (11)I mentioned the game is played in 3 rounds. After the first round you repeat steps 4 – 7 in the Setup instructions. Shuffle the Drafting Cards, flip 4 of them in the middle and then pass out 8 to each player. Finally flip 2 Goal Cards (3 if playing with 5+ people) in the middle and begin it all again. After the 3rd round the game is over and final scoring will begin!


Once the game is over it is time to add up points from the final round to the other two rounds  and subtract any points from Action Tiles used. The person with the most points wins!

The game comes with the Radioactive Card expansion that is meant for 3 – 7 players. We haven’t used this much since my son is still learning but we have played it a time or two after he went to sleep on game nights…yeah he invades our game nights. I mean I love it! But it’s nice for adults to just play too…moving along.

To use these simply shuffle them in the Drafting deck at the beginning of the game and instead of 8 cards pass out 9 to everyone. The rest of the Set up is the same but these cards are different during play.ggionreview (12)

They do not get reshuffled into the deck at the end of each round. They stay in front of the players! You score them after a round and at the end of the game but there is a catch…of course. If you are the only player to play a Radioactive card then you get 2 points for that round. Yay you!

If 2 or more players also flip a Radioactive card each player turns their card 90 degrees to show that no one gets any points for them…boo. This is for a game with 3-4 players and it changes for a game with 5-7 players.

In this game if 3 players flip a Radioactive card you all flip them all over and (bad news) you all lose 2 points! If you are the only person to flip one you get +3 points, if 2 people flip one they each get +1 point so it isn’t all bad. One player can even play more than one Radioactive card their self without losing points so that’s neat.

At the end of the game scoring is based on Radioactive Decay…hehe I love that! Each Radioactive card has a number with a bar set on the left bottom area. This is number of Radioactive Decay and ranges form 2-5. End of game scoring is different then round scoring and is based on number of players, of course, and Radioactive Decay…I might not get tired of saying/writing that.

ggionreview (13)In a 3-4 player game the player with the most Radioactive Decay gets 9 points, the player with the second most receives 3 points, and the player with the least gets to LOSE 3 points.

Bad luck…for usually me. Now in a 5-7 player game the player with the most gets 13 points! Second place gets 9 points and 3rd gets 3 points and again the player with the least gets to lose 3 points…again.

You can leave the Radioactive Cards out of the game which is what we do when we play with the Gentleman. He is getting the hang of the regular game…well enough…so I am sure we will be adding this element soon enough. This means I’ll get to lose to him probably more often.

No I don’t let him win I just seem to really only be good at games where I can be sneaky or evil and excellent at games where I can be both! Though I do ok most of the time and at least don’t lose by quite a lot. If I have thoroughly confused you here is the video link from Genius Games on how to play. It is worth a watch even after you read the instructions.

ION is a fantastic and amazing game of Science and fun with that sneaky addition of being educational. It is a small enough box that you can take it with you to other people’s games nights or when you travel but probably not the best game for a doctor’s office waiting area.

I cannot believe how well this game was made from a Chemistry stand point though. I was never great at Chemistry. Fascinated by it but never really good at it and barely understood a lot. Through this game I feel like I have a better understanding of creating compounds, what molecules are, and what compounds are in Soap and Toothpaste!

If you are looking for a game to get your teen back to the game table, a game to help with understanding or teaching Chemistry or just a fun Drafting card game ION is perfect!

Show us your compounds! @MyGeeklings #ION @GotGeniusGamesggionreview2

“If a child cannot learn in the way we teach, we must teach in a way the child can learn.”
~ Unknown

Author: sandyz

2 thoughts on “ION: A compound building, drafting game for SCIENCE!

  1. What an in-depth review! Gamified science is a great way to reduce the intimidation that usually surrounds science and encourage the kids to explore more science!

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