by Colleen Matson

A lifetime student and alien cosmetologist on this planet to check out other forms of design, Colleen thinks she wants to be a teacher so that she can control the little minds of America.

Instructional Objective The beginning contractor student will learn to equate particular design structures with appropriate construction materials, while becoming acquainted with amenities that can appreciate the value of homes. Players will be able to build a house to spec on time by completing the house first:

* with all necessary elements

* using the recommended building materials

* while trying to conform to the spec guide for the style chosen.

Learners/Context The game is intended for those interested in learning the correct application of architectural design in home construction. The game can be played in beginning contractor, real estate, urban planning, and architecture classes.

Rationale The idea of Specahouse is to reinforce the thematic attributes of building design while adding real-world economic pressures of completing a house on time. Corners may be cut in the area of conformity of style and/or material used to build the house; however artistic and structural consequences will result.

The game allows players to visually acquaint themselves with thematic architectural designs by assembling cards with the designated picture element needed to complete a house. Players also become aware of how attributes can increase property values. By using the icon paste-ups which match their card elements, players see the effects of mismatching different architectural styles in building their houses. The visual representation of each player's hand can be viewed throughout the game as the players assemble paste-up icons of their building elements on a magnetized board. The guide indicates when players may be docked points for use of inferior materials, for obstacle cards, or for lack of style conformity.

Rules The game is designed for 2 to 6 players. Deal one card to each player in the first round. Turn one card over to begin a discard pile, leaving the rest of the deck for pick up.

Each player begins to assemble the necessary elements for construction and to collect attribute/obstacle cards to increase property values by retrieving 1 card from the pickup or discard pile. In each subsequent round, players are dealt the same number of cards as the number of rounds currently played until they obtain a total of 10. Players are allowed to retrieve 1 card per play from the pickup deck or discard pile, but must discard 1 card for each play. Players may discard an attribute/obstacle card through bartering one attribute for another.

If used correctly, attribute/obstacle cards may cause property to appreciate or may motivate players to rethink building strategies. A player may retain attribute cards in order to accumulate points. However, attributes can turn into obstacles if they do not comply with correct specs or if another player goes out first. For example, if a player holds a card designating a lot size of 1200 square feet and the current house size is 1500 feet, he or she will be docked for inadequate space; the card has become an obstacle card. It may be discarded either by exhanging/bartering it or by placing it on the discard pile. In the latter case, it must comply with either the construction theme (such as Spanish style/plaster) or the building elements (roof/roofing materials). Attribute/obstacle cards are associated with the following points:

* 15 points for 1st completed home

* 2 points for every usable attribute

* -1 or -3 for inferior building materials

* -1 or -3 or -5 for inferior structural designs.

The player who builds a house first gets 15 points. However, players are docked points if they use inferior materials or improper house elements/attributes for the chosen design. Points gained or lost are based on:

* homes that are built earliest (15 points)

* homes that conform to specs (3 points per item such as a roof)

* construction materials ratings (3 for superior, 2 for good, 1 fair/bad/poor)

* attribute/obstacle cards (depends on situation)

The player with the most points wins.

Card and Deck Design The deck is composed of 7 house element cards with 58 variations, 21 thematic design cards, and 30 attribute/obstacle cards.

The house elements cards needed to build a house are: *Square foot house:

* Frame or exterior walls

* Roof styles (11)

* Windows

* Garage type

* Driveway

* Number of rooms

The thematic design cards are:

* California Monterey, California Ranch

* Contemporary, Modern

* French Provincial, Conventional French Provincial, Traditional French Provincial, Contemporary French Provincial, Norman French

* Cape Cod

* Victorian

* Spanish, Conventional Mediterranean

* Southern Colonial, Traditional Colonial, New England Colonial, Contemporary Colonial, Dutch Colonial

* English Cottage, English Half Timber, English Tudor

The attribute/obstacle cards are elements through which to gain additional points. They may be kept in addition to the 8 house elements, but should be discarded if they do not increase the value of the house or if they conflict with current card status attributes. They include such items as driveways, sewers, narrow entry ways, views, air conditioning, a yard, a sprinkler system, a pool, and space for an addition.

The Guide Map displays the various architectural themes and their recommended structural materials.

Paste-up Icons of house elements are used to visually display players' progress in the construction process as well as to aid in understanding structural design.

Design Process Because home construction entails a variety of elements, all of which create a particular appearance or pattern, I chose a rummy structure. I thought it would be interesting to add actual dollar costs to the obstacle cards, but realized this might be best utilized in a board game.

House Elements Characteristics

Roof Windows Exterior Walls Room

corrugated metal sliding glass concrete 2,3,4,5
rolled tar-paper storm shutters tile
tar & gravel dormer stucco
composition shingle corner plaster
aluminum sheet bay brick
cedar shingle floor masonry
cedar shake adobe
redwood shake wood
tile (flat or curved) concrete block

Roof Style: Garage: Fence Driveways
conical (tower) 1,2, or 3 redwood asphalt
m-Roof car-port bldg. blocks cement
wood detached brick brick
hip cement masonry
mansard stone
A-frame adobe
gable stucco
shed (single pitch)
steep pitched

Attribute/Obstacle Cards

view: ocean, mountain, desert sewer
fireplace: masonry septic(leech lines/cannot build on)
frame/pipe driveway (asphalt,brick,stone,cement)
# rooms: 1,2,3, or more lot size reduction
sprinkler system: single sinks
yard house size
air conditioning walk-in closets
patio pool
built in vacuum system room for addition
wide entry way narrow entry way
underground utilities boxed eaves