My 2004 Good Gift Game Guide appears in The Morning News today.
In my games archive you can find full reviews for three of the games mentioned: Ticket To Ride, San Juan and Hansa. You can also see previous G3 Guides for the years 2003, & 2002, 2001, and 2000. Enjoy the broken links and images!
Other Good Games
This was a pretty good year, and I had a tough time narrowing my choices down to ten. Here are some worthy of honorable mention:
- High Society and Razzia (Society: Uberplay; Razzia: Ravensburger; Both: 3-5 players, 30 minutes, $20): Two of Reiner Knizia’s classic games, High Society and Ra, have been out of print for a while. Both were rereleased this year, although Ra has been given a new name (Razzia), a new theme (Mafia) and simplified rules. Players are obscenely wealthy in High Society, purchasing yachts and mansions while dodging the taxman; gangsters divvy up their ill-begotten booty in Razzia, and try to secure getaway cars and drivers before the cops arrive to shut their operation down. Both games have ingenious auction systems at their heart, and are perfect for families or friends at a pub.
- St. Petersburg (Rio Grande Games, 2-4 players, 45 minutes, $28): Hire craftsman, build buildings, and recruit aristocrats in eighteenth century Russia. St. Petersburg was considered by many to be the best game of the year, but I find it a little to mathematical to make an effective G3. Thematically similar to San Juan , and the “gamier” of the two.
- Attika (Rio Grande games, 2-4 players, 45 minutes, $33): I got totally addicted to Attika for a while, but the game is too abstract (and the rules a smidgen to convoluted) for make it suitable for gift-giving. Expand your city across the Greek Peninsula, beating your opponent to best building sites and making the best use of the available resources. Although rated from 2-4 players, I find that it really only works well for two. That said, it was my favorite two-player game of the year (aside from Memoir ’44).
- Hoity Toity (Uberplay, 3-6 players, 60 minutes, $35): While not a new game — it was first released in 1990 and promptly won the German Game Of The Year award — this is the first English edition in a long time. In Hoity Toity, players purchase antiques and earn points by showing off their collections to others, while dispatching burglers to swipe the valuables of opponents and employing policemen to capture rival thieves. This game uses a game mechanism called “blind bidding” which is one of my least favorite, so it’s a testament to Hoity Toity’s quality that even I think it’s terrific fun.
- 10 Days In The USA / 10 Days in Africa / Europa Tour (10 Days in *: Out Of The Box; Europa: Schmidt Spiele; All: 2-4 players, 30 minutes, $20): The same game (with minor modification) set on three difference continents. Despite the frightening “educational game” appearance, these arefirst and foremost ight and fun rummy variants — learning the capital of Tunisia is strictly a fringe benefit. Another of those rare games that plays up to four but works wonderfully well with two.
The Canonical G3 List
All of the games listed at The Morning News and above were released in the past year. There are, of course, hundreds of great G3s from year’s past. Here a sampling from the Canonical G3 List:
Family Board Games
- Settlers of Catan: Now and forever the #1 G3.
- Carcassonne: This is “the original Carcassonne” mentioned in The Morning News article.
- TransAmerica: Looks similar to Ticket To Ride to the untrained eye, but they are two entirely different games.
Family Card Games
- Bohnanza: A game about bean trading. For real.
- Mamma Mia: A game about making pizzas. For real.
- 6 Nimmt!: Recent rereleased as “Category Five”
- Time’s Up: Like a perpetual laughter generation machine.
- Apples to Apples: You’ll play it until you’re sick to death of it. I did.
- Smarty Party: An instant hit with just about everybody.
Don’t trust the yeti? Here are the highlights of some other “best game of the year” lists:
Spiel des Jahres (a.k.a. “The German Game Of The Year”):
International Gamer Awards:
GAMES Magazine’s game of the year:
Gamerdad’s Unplugged 2004 Game Guide.
Gamefest’s Gift Games Guide.
Where To Find
If you live in Seattle, check out the stores page of SeattleSpiel, which lists all the outlets for these games in Puget Sound. Online stores are listed there as well, for those readers who live elsewhere.