Saturday, December 12, 2009

1.26: If everyone else jumped off a bridge...Holiday Gift Guide

Well, it seems that everyone I know and all the podcasts and blogs I frequent are doing a "Holiday gift guide." has their annual gift guide, The Spiel did an entire podcast for theirs, and there seems to be no shortage of other gaming gift guides.  There's a lot of great suggestions, a lot of great games and ideas and categories for all types of people and ages (if you have kids, click the word "other" in the previous sentence).  With all this, could I have something to contribute?

Well, no.  Not really.

Okay, obviously I'm kidding, despite my deepest urge to simply end this update now for S&G. 

Despite my urge to send any number of "non-gamer" blindly into a game store, to be struck with awe and then lost amid the vast selection of boardgames (okay, actually that's the opposite of what I want...regardless of how funny that would be), you're probably a thousand times more comfortable doing your boardgame shopping at regular retail stores like WalMart, Target or Kmart.  So let's explore some good games you can get at those stores (that should be read with disdain--not for any reason, just because).

Category 1:  Retail store games
- For the Adults -

Risk:  2210 A.D. - Enjoy Risk?  Does it take too long?  Well, Risk 2210 lasts only 6 turns, and features a sci-fi theme and futuristic map of the world...and the moon!  Add to this specialized commanders that allow you to buy cards that give you extra troops or special abilities (like the Nuclear Commander, who's cards let you bomb the crap out of the world...or the moon!), and you've got a shorter, tighter, meaner version of Risk.  And if you'd prefer more of a fantasy/lore theme...

Risk:  Godstorm - This time you lead the Egyptians, Norse, Babylonians, Celts or Greeks, and receive aid from their associated pantheons of gods, all in an effort to conquer Ancient Earth.  Like the commanders, these gods allow you to really mess with the game, and if you save up the resources and get the right cards, you can sink one of the continents--the Moon!...I mean, Atlantis!  Don't worry, though, your troops can continue to fight in the Underworld, and even return to Earth to aid your army.

- Playable with the Kids - 

Don't Break the Ice - Really, if you don't know about this game, I don't even want to talk to you.  Just go buy it.  It's awesome, and it's for ages 4 and up.  I picked this up recently for my two-year old, and despite being two years short of the recommended age, she was mostly able to play this game; I expect with a few more tries and another couple months, she'll be playing this easily.  It's normally $8-10, but this time of year you can usually find it for as cheap as $2-4.  Give a try at Toys R Us or Kohl's.

Sorry!  Sliders - I've mentioned this one several times, and if you still don't own it, I'm going to come over to your house and stomp on your toes.  Then I'm going to steal your wallet/purse, take $15 dollars, and leave you a copy of this game.  Yes, an advantage of all the holiday hullabaloo, discounted games; Sorry!  Sliders at $15 is an excellent price--last I checked, WalMart still had plenty available both in store and online.  Children as young as 3 or 4 should be able to play this with a little coaching, and they'll definately love the tactile "flicking" aspect of the game.

Snorta - If anyone has played Slapjack, you're halfway through the rules to this game; as with Slapjack, the goal is to get rid of your cards.  Players each have a small barn, inside which they have one animal, which everyone at the table has already seen.  A deck of cards is dealt to all players, and one at a time players flip one card face up and place it in front of them.  As soon as two players cards match, these players must make the noise of the other person's animal (the one hiding in their barn); the fastest person hands all their face-up cards to the slower.

Obviously this game is loud, and there's a lot of humor in seeing your opponents struggle with remembering exactly which animal you have, and a whole chorus of animal noises pour forth from their mouths.  With a little coaching, children around age 5 should be able to play this one.

Blokus -  A very simple but challenging spatial and pattern-recognition game; all players begin the game with an identical set of Tetris-like pieces, your goal being to place as many of these pieces on the board.  You have two simple caveats--after your first piece is played, all other pieces must touch one of your pieces...and your own pieces can only touch at the corners.  When no more pieces can be placed on the board, the number of squares each unplayed piece would take up are tallied, and the player with the lowest score wins.

This game is gorgeous, the clear plastic pieces are wonderful, and the game is an excellent challenge.  It begins as a land-grab, and a few turns in becomes a struggle to fenagle the next piece between one or more opponent's pieces.  Children around age 5 or 6 sholdn't have a problem with this game, and if they're math/spatially gifted, they'll crush their parents.  Good for them.

Blokus 3D (aka Rumis) - This game is similar to Blokus, but your pieces are, obviously from the title, three-dimensional.  Like Blokus, each piece you play after the first must touch at least one of your other pieces (though this time on a face, not the corners), but unlike Blokus, in this game you are not spreading out so much as reaching up.  In this game, your goal is to either block out or climb upon your opponents, such that at the end of the game your blocks are visible when looking down from above.  The player with the most squares visible from this view is the winner.

This game would be clever enough if it was just a matter of playing within a cube, but the game comes with several boards to play upon, each with different base shapes (such as a square or an L) and limits on the maximum height of the structure--some even have multiple such limitations, resulting in stepped pyramids or the like.

I very much enjoy this game.  While the most obvious strategy would be to simply continue playing upon your opponents, it's often more benificial if you can simply block off a piece of the base.  Keep in mind this is suggested for children 8 and up, but it's an excellent tool for 3D visualization for kids.  Best of all, $10 at Barnes and Noble.


While this update did focus on games you could buy at large retailers, show the local small game stores some love.  I would hope that there's a good shop near everyone, and though this may not be the case, if you do find a good shop, the owners will be more than helpful in guiding you along to games you'd enjoy and are appropriate to your play level.  In case you're a new gamer and feeling daring, here's a list of few "stocking stuffer" games that most game stores should have in stock, just to  give you a starting point.  No links here, just a list of games, you have to do the research (though I will say I highly recommend the asterisked games):

No Thanks!*
Bull in a China Shop*
Blue Moon
Hex Hex
Lost Cities*

And, just because I'm awesome, I'm going to throw up a few local game stores for California and Utah readers: 

GMI Games and Hobby
8300 Limonite Avenue, Suite F
Riverside, CA 92509

Game Night Games
2030 S. 900 E. • Suite E
Salt Lake City, UT 84105


  1. This is nice and all, but it occurs to me so far you've really only talked about games you like. Are there any games you'd like to like, but can't because of one or more fatal flaws?

    In other words, I think I'd like to read your critiques on some games, in addition to these nice descriptions of recommendations you've been posting.

  2. ...are you sure, I mean, there are some real stinkers out there. I'll give it a go, but I'm worried it may devolve into hyperbole theater, or angry cussing. :)

    I've been tempted to do just that, for instance we played, or rather tried to play, Rush N Crush at BGG.con, and it was only marginally bearable.