Posts categorized “Good Gift Game Guide”.

The 2014 Good Gift Game Guide

The 2014 Good Gift Games guide appears in The Morning News today. Here are the ten games featured:

Game Rules Purchase
Splendor PDF AmazonFunagain
Machi Koro PDF AmazonFunagain
Concept PDF AmazonFunagain
Marrying Mr. Darcy How to play AmazonFunagain
Tokaido PDF AmazonFunagain
Star Realms How to play AmazonFunagain
Terror in Meeple City (FKA “Rampage”) PDF AmazonFunagain
Camel Up PDF Amazon, Funagain
Mascarade PDF Amazon, Funagain
Quantum PDF Amazon, Funagain

It’s often difficult to whittle the selections down to 10, but this year was especially tough. Here are five more that were on the list at one time or another, but eventually pushed below the fold.

  • Thunder Alley (GMT Games, 2-7 players, 90 minutes): I name-checked this one in the main list, as a possible alternative to Camel Up. Stock car racing games are often uninspired — roll a die, move your piece — but Thunder Alley has players managing a team of cars rather than a single vehicle, trying to maximize a score rather than simply cross the finish line first. [Boardgame Geek | Amazon | Funagain]
  • King of New York (IELLO, 2-6 players, 45 minutes): King of Tokyo is a perennial suggestion as a Good Gift Game (see “A Decade of Good Gift Games”, below), and King of New York improves upon it in nearly every way: it accommodates more players, it introduces buildings to destroy, and you can even gain an ally in the form of an animated Statue of Liberty. I still recommend Tokyo to non-gamers for its accessibility, but for everyone else, this is the one. [Boardgame Geek | Amazon | Funagain]
  • Istanbul (AEG, 2-5 players, 50 minutes): Where most pick-up-and-deliver games have players transporting freight across a nation in a train or across the galaxy in a starship, Istabul is confined to a marketplace, where you shuttle goods using your trusty wheelbarrow. The core mechanics are simple but there are a plethora of special spaces and actions available, making it unsuitable for the game Good Gift Games list due to its complexity, but also one of the best strategy games of the year. [Amazon | Funagain]
  • Tiny Epic Kingdoms (Gamelyn Games, 2-5 players, 30 minutes): TEK packs a lot of game into a tiny package, although perhaps not as much as it boasts: it claims to be a 4X game when, truth be told, it is more of a hybrid between an action selection and an area control game. Classifications aside, Tiny Epic Kingdom offers a pretty amazing gameplay-to-footprint ratio. [Boardgame Geek | Amazon]
  • Eldritch Horror (Fantasy Flight Games, 1-8players, 180 minutes): I spent more hours playing Eldritch Horror in 2014 than on any other game. I’ll write a full review shortly but, suffice it to say, I will likely never play Arkham Horror again so long as EH is in my collection. [Boardgame Geek | Amazon | Funagain]
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A Decade of Good Gift Games

This year marks the tenth anniversary of the Good Gift Game Guide’s publication in The Morning News. Not all of the selections over the last decade have withstood the test of time, but here are 20 that hold up (and are still available) today.

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Other Opinions

Don’t trust the yeti? Here are the highlights of some other “2014 best game of the year” lists. German Game of the Year:

Deutscher Spiele Preis (the “other” German Game of the Year award):

  • First PlaceRussian Railroads (I haven’t yet played, but my strategy game group loves this one)

International Gamers Awards:

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Where to Buy

I dunno about your hometown, but board game stores have recently been cropping up in Seattle like toadstools after a rain. Plug “games” into Google Maps and see what you get. As for online, Amazon now carries just about everything I recommend. Funagain Games is one of the oldest board game retailers and remains one of the best. Others that I’d recommend include:

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Need additional info, or want a more specific recommendation? Don’t hesitate to drop me a line.

 

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The 2013 Good Gift Games Guide

The 2013 Good Gift Games guide appears in The Morning News today. Kind of a strange list this year, populated almost exclusively with card games. The only games with traditional boards are VivaJava and Eight-Minute Empire (albeit one the size of a large index card). There also no games exclusively for two-players. I was originally going to include Agricola: All Creatures Big and Small (see below), but ultimately omitted it from the main list for the crime of Excessive Dryness.

Here are the ten games featured:

Game Rules Purchase
Sushi Go! PDF AmazonFunagain
Rise of Augustus PDF AmazonFunagain
Hanabi PDF AmazonFunagain
Pathfinder Adventure Card Game PDF AmazonFunagain
Dungeon Roll Download page AmazonFunagain
Coup Can’t find AmazonFunagain
Forbidden Desert Download page AmazonFunagain
VivaJava PDF Amazon
The Little Prince: Make Me a Planet PDF Amazon
Eight-Minute Empire PDF Appears to be out of stock everywhere, but the sequel, Eight-Minute Empire: Legends, will be released on 12/09 according to Amazon and Funagain.

See also: the Good Gift Games Greatest Hits (although I need to update it with King of TokyoCards Against HumanityLove Letter, and Lords of Waterdeep).

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My Other Favorite Games of the Year

The Good Gift Games guide focuses on games that are “easy to learn and teach, fun and engrossing to play, and that can be completed in 90 minutes or less”. I like games that meet these criteria of course, but also enjoy the meatier stuff. Here are five of my favorite mid- to advanced-strategy games of last year or so.

  • Android: Netrunner (Fantasy Flight Games, 2 players, 45 minutes): I’m late to the party on this one (it was released in 2012, and is based on a game from the 90s), but holy smokes, Android: Netrunner presses all of my buttons.  I’m a sucker for the setting — hackers vs. corporations in a dystopian cyberpunk future — and every element of the game reinforces the theme, from the mechanics to the art to the terminology (the corporation’s draw deck is called “R&D”, for instance). It’s a “living card game”, which means that there are endless expansions to buy, but there is plenty of game in the base set alone. [Boardgame Geek | Amazon | Funagain]
Android: Netrunner
  • Sentinels of the Multiverse (Greater Than Games, 3-5, 45 minutes): As long as I am confessing to late-adopterism, I should also point out that, after years of being urged to play Sentinels of the Multiverse, I finally did so a few months ago. And yes, everyone was right: it’s right up my alley.  Each player has their own, custom deck in this cooperative superhero card game, which pits players against a supervillain and his minions. What elevates the game beyond the basic “play a card, do what it says” filler is the fascinating way in which the good guys, bad guys, environments, and assorted powers interact, providing lots of emergent gameplay to explore. [Boardgame Geek | Amazon | Funagain]
  • Terra Mystica (Z-Man Games, 2-5 players, 120 minutes)Terra Mystica is very much a euro despite its fantasy theme, a worker placement game that emphasizes resource management and long-term strategy.  I’ve had my fill of “point salad” games, but the various races in Mystica set it apart from its brethren: in my three games I’ve played the halflings, the giants, and the nomads, and each has required a completely different approach.  There’s a steep learning curve on this one, and you’ll be perpetually checking the rulebook for clarifications, but so far it’s paid hefty dividends on the investment.  [Boardgame Geek | Amazon | Funagain]
  • Tzolk’in: The Mayan Calendar (Rio Grande Games, 2-4  players, 90 minutes hours): My other favorite euro of the year, Tzolk’in has one of the best board game gimmicks in recent memory: a set of interlocking gears that completely regulate the gameplay.  You can read my full review at Playtest.  [Boardgame Geek | Amazon Funagain]
image
Tzolk’in: The Mayan Calendar 
  • Agricola: All Creatures Big and Small (Z-Man games, 2 players, 30 minutes):  Agricola is a huge, sprawling, complex game, in which 2-5 players have to manage seven types of resources while trying to eke out an existence on a 17th century farm; Agricola: All Creatures Big and Small, on the other hand, is its adorable little nephew, allowing two players to just focus on the fun part of farming: chilling with the livestock. To that end the players take turns building fences, constructing stables, and raising sheep, pigs, cows, and horses. And what happens if you have two animals of the same kind at the end of the round? Yay, babies! [Boardgame Geek | Amazon | Funagain]
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Other Opinions

Don’t trust the yeti? Here are the highlights of some other “2013 best game of the year” lists. German Game of the Year:

Deutscher Spiele Preis (the “other” German Game of the Year award):

International Gamers Awards:

GAMES Magazine Awards:

  • Abstract Strategy GameKulami
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Where to Buy

I dunno about your hometown, but board game stores have recently been cropping up in Seattle like toadstools after a rain. Plug “games” into Google Maps and see what you get. As for online, Amazon now carries just about everything I recommend. Funagain Games is one of the oldest board game retailers and remains one of the best. Others that I’d recommend include:

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Need additional info, or want a more specific recommendation? Don’t hesitate to drop me a line.

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The 2012 Good Gift Games Guide

The 2012 Good Gift Games guide appears in The Morning News today. Here are the ten games featured:

Game Full Review Rules Purchase
Lords of Waterdeep Playtest PDF Amazon, Funagain
Morels Playtest Unavailable Two Lanterns Games website
Cards Against Humanity None PDF Amazon, or print your own set for free [PDF]
Flash Point: Fire Rescue Coming soon PDF Amazon, Funagain
Risk: Legacy defective yeti PDF Amazon, Funagain
Love Letter None PDF Amazon, Funagain
Escape: Curse of the Temple None Available on this page (click the flag in “Languages”) Currently: only available at brick and morter stores; eventually: Amazon, Funagain
Takenoko None PDF Amazon, Funagain
Kingdom Builder None Available on this page (click the flag in “Languages”) Amazon, Funagain
Friday Playtest PDF Out of stock everywhere at the moment, but Rio Grande Games told me they’d have more copies available in December. Watch this space.

Also: the Good Gift Games Greatest Hits.

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My Other favorite Games of the Year

The Good Gift Games guide focuses on games that are “easy to learn and teach, fun and engrossing to play, and that can be completed in 90 minutes or less”. I like games that meet these criteria, of course, but also enjoy the meatier stuff. Here are five of my favorite mid- to advanced-strategy games of last year or so.

Mage Knight Board Game (Wizkids, 1-4 players, 2-4 hours): I’m a huge fan of Vlaada Chvátil, and Mage Knight Board Game checks in at #11 on the Boardgame Geek top 50, so this was a no-brainer, I thought. Wrong! Figuring out the game requires like three or four brains, minimum. Like Through The Ages (also by Chvátil, and my current favorite game), Mage Knight is of Byzantine complexity, and yet everything fits together astonishingly well. And because each turn of the game feels like a tactical puzzle (not unlike the combat aspect of Dungeon Lords), the game work very well as solitaire. (In fact, many contend that it is the best solitaire game ever, an assessment I currently agree with). [Boardgame Geek | Amazon | Funagain ]


Photo by Eric Kouris.

Eminent Domain (Tasty Minstrel Games, 2-4 players, 45 minutes): I really wanted to put this on the main G4 list, but it fails the “must be fun on the first play” criterion, at least for non-gamers. But anyone who can make sense of the description “Dominion meets Race for the Galaxy” is in the target audience for this one. Yes it’s another deck-builder, but one that plays quickly and cleanly, and offers an experience similar to many more complicated card games without all of the overhead. This, along with Kingdom Builder, was one of the surprise hits of PAX 2012, for me. [Boardgame Geek | Amazon | Funagain ]

Eclipse (Asmodee, 2-6 players, 2-3 hours minutes): I’ve only played this once, and it was of the most boring experiences of my life. But! But I was bored because, not knowing what to do, I adopted the most conservative strategy possible, and the game punished me for my timidity. That’s a feature, not a bug, in a game such as Eclipse; as in other 4X games, such as Civilization, the goal is to explore, expand, exploit, and exterminate … not hide away in your corner of the galaxy and hope to go unnoticed, as was my plan. Eclipse presses a lot of my buttons — technology tracks, diplomacy, and light wargame elements — and so, even with only one play under my belt, I can already predict with confidence that it will become on of my favorites of 2012. [Boardgame Geek | Amazon | Funagain ]


The starships in both Eminent Domain and Eclipse (they use the same ones, for some reason). Photo by Mikko Saari.

The Castles of Burgundy (Ravensburger, 2-4 players, 60 minutes): I first played this at a friend’s house and, midway through the game, I pulled out my phone to order a copy for myself via Amazon. The game is similar to Troyes in that it uses dice, but has many, many systems to mitigate the effect of fluky rolls. The Castles of Burgundy looks more daunting than it really is; the core system is fairly simple, and the game is well suitable for mid-weight gamers. [Boardgame Geek | Amazon | Funagain ]

Ora & Labora (Z-Man games, 1-4 players, 2 hours): The latest from Uwe Rosenberg, and my favorite of his “worker placement trilogy” (which also includes Agricola and Le Havre). Ora & Labora struck me as more thematic than the others, almost to the point of feeling like a light civilization game rather than the straight resource-management, number-crunching, please-don’t-let-my-family-starve affairs for which Rosenberg has become known. [Boardgame Geek | Amazon | Funagain ]

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Other Opinions

Don’t trust the yeti? Here are the highlights of some other “2012 best game of the year” lists.

German Game of the Year:

Deutscher Spiele Preis (the “other” German Game of the Year award):

International Gamers Awards:

GAMES Magazine Awards:

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Where to Buy

I dunno about your hometown, but board game stores have recently been cropping up in Seattle like toadstools after a rain. Plug “games” into Google Maps and see what you get.

As for online, Amazon now carries just about everything I recommend. Funagain Games is one of the oldest board game retailers and remains one of the best. Others that I’d recommend include:

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Need additional info, or want a more specific recommendation? Don’t hesitate to drop me a line.

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The 2011 Good Gift Games Guide

The Top Ten Eleven

My 2011 Good Gifts Game Guide (G4), in which I provide capsule reviews for my favorite easy-to-learn-and-teach games of the year, appeared in The Morning News last Friday. The listed games follow.

Survive: Escape from Atlantis! Boardgame Geek Amazon Funagain
King of Tokyo Boardgame Geek Amazon Funagain
Summoner Wars Boardgame Geek Amazon Funagain
Jab: Realtime Boxing Boardgame Geek Amazon Funagain
Airlines Europe Boardgame Geek Amazon Funagain
7 Wonders Boardgame Geek Amazon Funagain
Ascending Empires Boardgame Geek Amazon Funagain
Skull & Roses Boardgame Geek Amazon Funagain
Train of Thought Boardgame Geek Amazon Funagain
Thundestone: Dragonspire Boardgame Geek Amazon Funagain
Confusion: Espionage and Deception in the Cold War Boardgame Geek Amazon Funagain

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Honorable Mentions
Whittling the list down to 10 (actually 11 games, as Summoner Wars and Jab share an entry) was unusually difficult this year, as I started with 19 worthy of inclusion and amassed half a dozen more as I asked others for recommendation.

Here are some that didn’t make the cut but are worth looking into if they pique your interest.

Elder Sign (1-8 players, 90 minutes, dice): Arkham Horror–the dice game! If you are unfamiliar with Arkham Horror or uninterested in H. P Lovecraft, this is not the game for you. If you are a fan of the mythos, though, Elder Sign allows you to battle eldritch horrors in as short as an hour. I will be reviewing both Arkham Horror and Elder Sign soon as part of the H. P. Lovefest. Why it was left off the main list: Uses the same central mechanism as the more accessable King of Tokyo. [Boardgame Geek | Amazon | Funagain ]

Letters from Whitechapel (2-6 players, 90 minutes, family strategy): One person assumes the role of Jack the Ripper, carrying out his dark business on the streets and in the alleys of London; the remaining players are detectives, trying to track the killer down and bring him to justice. Why it was left off the main list: It is currently out of print and the company that made it has gone belly-up, so there’s no guarentee that it will be available anytime soon. If you want a copy, call your local game store and see if they have any in stock. Otherwise check out the classic game Scotland Yard (which uses the same One Person Plays the Bad Guy, The Others Play the Detectives mechanism), or the two-player Mr. Jack (which has both the Ripper theme and the deduction element). [Boardgame Geek | Amazon | Funagain ]

Mondo (1-4 players, 20 minutes, puzzle): More multi-player jigsaw puzzle than board game, Mondo has players racing against the clock (and each other) to assemble a map of the world, striving to score points for completed environments and collected animals. Similar in feel to Carcassonne, with the timer injecting an element of urgency. Why it was left off the main list: It’s a fun game, but the dearth of player interaction ill-suits for the G4. [Boardgame Geek | Amazon | Funagain ]

Fortune and Glory: The Cliffhanger Game (1-8 players, 90 minutes, adventure board game): Rated highly on Boardgame Geek and perhaps the board game with the most buzz at the 2011 Penny Arcade Expo, Fortune and Glory is a loving recreation of pulp-era yards, complete with lost treasure, abominable monsters, and boatloads of Nazis. Flying Frog‘s streak of producing well-received thematic games remains unbroken. Why it was left off the main list: List price of $100. Yikes. [Boardgame Geek | Amazon | Funagain ]

Quarriors! (2-4 players, 20 minutes, dice): As “deck building games” reach the saturation point (see my review of Thunderstone: Dragonspire on the main 2011 G4), designers need a unique take on the genre to stand out. WizKids has done so by eliminating the deck entirely, and replacing the cards with dice. The result is a game that plays fast and gives you the great satisfaction of rolling a huge handful of bones on each turn. Why it was left off the main list: Same reason as Elder Sign, essentially: too many dice games on the main list already. [Boardgame Geek | Amazon | Funagain ]

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Other Opinions

Don’t trust the yeti? Here are the highlights of some other “2011 best game of the year” lists.
German Game of the Year:

Deutscher Spiele Preis (the “other” German Game of the Year award):

International Gamers Awards:

GAMES Magazine Awards:

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Where to Buy

I dunno about your hometown, but board game stores have recently been cropping up in Seattle like toadstools after a rain. Plug “games” into Google Maps and see what you get.

As for online, Amazon now carries just about everything I recommend. Funagain Games is one of the oldest board game retailers and remains one of the best. Others that I’d recommend include:

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Need additional info, or want a more specific recommendation? Don’t hesitate to drop me a line.

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GGG Update

My Good Gift Games post has been updated with lots of additional information. See it here.

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The 2010 Good Gift Games Guide

The 2010 Good Gift Games Guide is available at The Morning News today.

Unfortunately a few of the games appear to have gone on backorder between the time I started making the list and today. That said, most can still be found online:

Telestrations Amazon | Funagain
Piece o’ Cake Amazon | Funagain
Jaipur Amazon | Funagain
Forbidden Island Amazon | Funagain
Castle Panic Amazon | Funagain
D&D: Castle Ravenloft Amazon | Funagain
Catacombs Funagain
Last Call: The Bartender Game Funagain
Modern Art: The Card Game Amazon | Funagain
Master’s Gallery Amazon | Funagain
Fresco Amazon | Funagain
Cornerstone Amazon | Funagain

Honorable Mentions

Here are some games that just barely missed the main list.

Long Shot: There is no shortage of horse racing games on the market, but few allow the players as much control over the proceedings as Long Shot. The horses that move, and the distance they travel, is determined by the roll of the dice, but players can nudge luck in their direction by purchasing animals mid-race, and by playing any of a huge number of cards affect the position of the ponies and the state of the bets. Horse racing is one of those themes that seems to go over well with nearly any crowd, and Long Shot even allows you to play with as many as eight. [Funagain | Amazon]

Mr. Jack Pocket: Mr. Jack was listed in my 2007 GGG Guide as an excellent two-player deduction game. Mr. Jack Pocket is not simply a smaller and more portable version of same, but a completely different game–albeit it one with the same theme, atmosphere, and many of the same mechanisms of the original. One player is Jack the Ripper, and strives to keep his identity secret; the other is the detective, working to unmask the killer. It’s a great little game, and perfect for travel–be it to the Bahamas, or the local pub. [Funagain | Amazon]

The Adventurers: It’s not Indiana Jones: The Board Game, if only to avoid copyright infringement. Players send their archeologists into a booby-trapped temple, hoping to collect riches and not get crushed by rolling boulders. This game looks great–set it up, and family members will gravitate to the table out of curiosity alone. [Funagain | Amazon]

Onirim: As I mentioned in the main 2010 GGG guide, quality two-player games are hard to find. Rarer still are good one-player games, but Onirim fits the bill. The player is a dreamwalker, trying to escape a labyrinthine nightmare before he is trapped forever in his own mind. As solitaire games tend to lose much of their appeal once “solved”, the box contains no less that three expansions, to keep you puzzling for a long time to come. And if the thought of sleeping alone sound depressing, rules are included for a cooperative, two-player game as well. [ Funagain | Amazon]

The Resistance: The Resistance began as a free, Internet-distributed version of Werewolf (a.k.a. Mafia), but is now available with professional-quality cards. Playable by up to 10 people, The Resistance puts most in the role of rebel fighters, but some in their midst are covert agents for the empire. Unlike Werewolf, The Resistance does not require a moderator, and there is no elimination (so everyone is involved until the final victory). And continuing a trend we’ve seen with other games this year (Fresco, Onirim), The Resistance comes complete with an expansion, which as new cards to the mix for extended replayability. [Funagain]

Zombie Dice: Last month I declared myself sick of all things zombies. And it’s true, it’s true. But that doesn’t prevent Zombie Dice from being a pretty good little package, and cheap at ten bucks. As a push-your-luck game it’s really not that different from Bunco or Ten Thousand (both playable with a fistful of regular dice), but a few clever twists and the neato dice make this perfect for killing time between episodes of The Walking Dead. [Funagain | Amazon]

Second Opinions

Don’t trust the yeti? Here are the highlights of some other “2010 best game of the year” lists.

German Game of the Year:

Deutscher Spiele Preis (A.K.A., “The Other German Game of the Year Award”):

International Gamer Award:

GAMES Magazine Awards

Good Gift Game Archives

You can find my previous GGG lists, as well as my top 15, on the Good Gateway Games page.

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The 2009 Good Gift Games Guide

The 2009 Good Gift Games Guide appears in The Morning News today.

Watch this space–by day’s end I will post the 10 honorable mentions, as well as provide additional information to help you make your choices. In the meantime, you can peruse the GGGG archive here, and see the all-time top 10 at defectiveyeti.com/ggg.

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Good Gift Games Guide 2008

The official Good Gift Games Guide 2008 is available at The Morning News today. The games profiled are:

Pandemic [Funagain | Amazon]
Stone Age [Funagain | Amazon]
Say Anything [Funagain | Amazon]
TZAAR [Funagain | Amazon]
Last Night on Earth [Funagain | Amazon]
Dominion [Funagain | Amazon]
Sorry! Sliders [Funagain | Amazon]
Airships [Funagain | Amazon]
Wasabi [Funagain | Amazon]
The Hanging Gardens [Funagain | Amazon]

Runners Up

Usually, when I compile my annual Good Gift Games (G3s) Guide, I come up with seven or eight shoe-ins and then have to cast around for a few more to round out the list; this year my “just off the top of my head” list came out to 18 items, even before I started doing the research.

In other words, there were G3s a’plenty in 2008. In any other year any of the below probably would have appeared on the main guide; there are only relegated to the “Runners Up” list

Lost Cities: The Board Game (Rio Grande Games, 2-4 players, 45 minutes, $40): Designed by the esteemed Reiner Knizia, Lost Cities: The Board Game won the 2008 German Game of the Year Award (under its previous title of Keltis) and is perfect for families. Play cards and advance your intrepid adventurers as they seek to discover five forgotten empires. A great family game, and one that certainly would have been on the main G3 list were it not simply a multiplayer version of the fantastic two-player card game Lost Cities. Unless you never play two-player games, the original Lost Cities is the one to get. [More info: Lost Cities: The Board Game | Lost Cities (original)]

Cold War: CIA vs. KGB (Fantasy Flight Games, 2 players, 30 minutes, $25): Well, here’s something I wouldn’t have predicted: someone managed to combine the simplicity of blackjack with the bluffing element of poker into a thematic game political strategy. In Cold War: CIA vs. KBG, players struggle to control high-value objectives, such as Cuba and the Nobel Peace Prize by recruiting military, political, economic and political groups. With each group offering a distinct power, and each player able to use different Agents to achieve their goals, there’s plenty to consider in this little gem, and lots of exciting reversals of fortune. [More info]

Uptown (FRED Distribution, 2-5 players, 30 minutes, $20): Tile placement games are curiously addicting, and Uptown is no exception.
On your turn you simply place one of your tiles onto an empty space on the board, or use it to capture a tile of an opponent. You goal is to have as few groups on contiguous tiles on the board as possible by games end. Though that description (and reading the two pages of instructions) will probably leave you wondering, “is that it?”, the game itself is remarkably engrossing given the paucity of rules. [More info]

Battlestar Galactica (Fantasy Flight Games, 3-6 players, 2 hours, $50): Based on the contemporary series, Battlestar Galactica is a cooperative game–mostly. Like Shadows Over Camelot before it, almost all the players in Galactica are working as a team to overcome the game system, while a few secret traitors seek to undermine their efforts; unlike Camelot, though, not all the “bad guys” in Galactica know they are such from the start, as some may discover they are cylons well into the game. The rules are a bit too complicated to qualify this as a true G3 (which is why it was left off the main list), but fans of the show–and anyone who likes a healthy dose of paranoia and mistrust–will like this a good deal. [More info]

Galaxy Trucker (Rio Grande Games, 2-4 players, 60 minutes, $75): Another one that gets kicked to the “runner up” pile for rules a smidge too complex (not to mention that price!), Galaxy Trucker is nevertheless one of the most fun games I played all year. Each round is played in two phases. In the first, players simultaneously grab lasers, shields, generators, cargo holds, and other tiles from a common supply in real time, as they strive to build the best ship they can in the shortest amount of time possible. Then, in phase two, all the players journey through space, and pray that the ships they hastily assembled can withstand the meteors, pirates, and other events they encounter. I have Grave Doubts about this game when it was described to me, but one play had me hooked. [More info]

Race For the Galaxy (Rio Grande Games, 2-4 players, 45 minutes, $35): Jeeze, what’s with all the great science-fiction games this year? Race For the Galaxy has been described as “San Juan for gamers”, and the analogy is apt: the two games are both based on the board game Puerto Rico, and have strikingly similar mechanics. Where they differ is the depth: Race offers a lot more options, and plenty of different routes to victory. It does this at the expensive of accessibility, unfortunately–it’s tough to learn without having an experienced player walk you through the rules–but if you can overcome the learning curve, it will pay you back with interest. [More info]

Metropolys (Rio Grande Games, 2-4 players, 60 minutes, $50): It wouldn’t be a G3 list without an easy to learn, 45 minute auction game. In Metropolys, players use bid for neighborhoods, with the winner constructing buildings in his newly acquired property. But while some places are valuable (the subway exit would be an ideal location for your restaurant, for instance), other places (such as archeological sites) will actually give you negative points if you are so unfortunate as to build over them. I left this off the main list because, frankly, I have seen so many easy to learn, 45 minute auction games that this just struck me as more of the same. But if you don’t have such a game in your collection you should, and Metropolys is a fine candidate. [More info]

Second Opinions

Don’t trust the yeti? Here are the highlights of some other “2008 best game of the year” lists.

German Game of the Year

Deutscher Spiele Preis (A.K.A., “The Other German Game of the Year Award”):

  • Winner: Agricola – Great game (played it last night, in fact), and one that I’ll review here soon, but too “meaty” for the G3 Guide.
  • Second place: Stone Age
  • Third place: Cuba

International Gamers Award

  • Best Multiplayer player: Agricola
  • Best Two-player player: 1960 – read my review here.

GAMES Magazine Awards

Prior G3s

The canonical G3s have been given their own page: defectiveyeti.com/ggg. This year I am inducting Thebes and Zooloretto, both of which were featured in the 2007 G3 Guide, and which I have played much of in the last year.

You can find previous G3 Guides here:

And all my defective yeti game posts are available in the archives.

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Good Gift Games Guide 2007

The 2007 Good Gift Games Guide appears in The Morning News today.

Previous G3 Guides:

And all my defective yeti game posts are available in the archives.

Runners-Up

It was, as always, tough narrowing the field of good G3s down to just 10. Here are a few more, that just missed the cut.

Take It To The Limit (Burley Games, 1-6 players, 30 minutes, $60, family puzzle): This one was actually on the main G3 list until the very last moment, when I decided it was just too similar to Quirkle to merit inclusion. Nearly 25 years ago, Peter Burley invented Take It Easy, a clever Bingo-Meets-Jigsaw-Puzzles game that would unfortunately jam an Eagles song into your brain for weeks on end. Though that title is now out of print, Burley just released Take It To The Limit, an expanded version of the game that promises to get an entirely different Eagles song stuck in your head. As in its predescecer, Take It To The Limit has player placing hexagonal tiles and trying to form high-scoring, unbroken lines from one side of their gameboard to the other. Success requires a lot of luck, to be sure, but a little foresight will go a long way. [No Official Page | Boardgame Geek | Funagain]

If Wishes Were Fishes (Rio Grande Games, 2-5 players, 45 minutes, $35, family strategy): Catch a fish and you can do one of two thing with it: throw it back and have a wish granted, or sell it at market. Selling earns money and money’s the goal of the game, but the wishes confer a host of benefits to the recipients. What to do, what to do? The only board game I know of that comes complete with giant rubber worms. [Official Page | Boardgame Geek | Funagain]

Iliad (Asmodee Editions, 2-6 players, 45 minutes, $25, card): One of my favorite light strategy games is Condottiere, in which player struggle for control in Renaissance Italy. The same designer now brings us Iliad, which employs the same basic mechanisms but does away with the gameboard, tightens the playing time, and turns the who enterprise into something a bit more suitable for casual play. [Official Page | Boardgame Geek | Funagain]

To Court The King (Rio Grande Games, 2-5, 30 minutes, $30, dice): Yahtzee’s been done a million times over, but never quite like this. Roll dice, set aside the ones you want, key rerolling until you get (or failt to get) a specific combination. Nothing new so far. But To Court the King has a number of characters; roll the dice combination associatd with a particular charatcer, and you’ll get to use his special ability for the remainder of the game. The Jester allows you reroll a die; the Magician lets you change the value of a die to anything you want; the Nobleman gives you two additional dice; and so on. Works best with only two players, though three and four work as well. [Official Page | Boardgame Geek | Funagain]

Taluva (Rio Grande Games, 2-4, 40 minutes, $30, famiy strategy): Like the lovechild of Carcassonne and Settlers of Catan, Taluva has players building a volcanic island, and expanding their settlements with huts, towers, and temples. The rulebook is only 4 pages long, and an entire session can be completed in half an hour, but it feels like there’s a lot of game in there. [Official Page | Boardgame Geek | Funagain]

I’d also like to point out that, while it comes nowhere close to being a Good Gift Game (too long, too complicated, and requiring a few plays to fully appreciate), Twilight Struggle was by far my favorite game of the year. Read my review here.

Second Opinions

Don’t trust the yeti? Here are the highlights of some other “2007 best game of the year” lists.

German Game of the Year:

Deutscher Spiele Preis (A.K.A., “The Other German Game of the Year Award”):

International Gamers Award:

GAMES Magazine Awards:

Canonical G3s

While we’re on the subject, here are my all-time favorite G3s.

Ticket To Ride (Days of Wonder, 2-5 players, 45 minutes, $40, family strategy): Went directly to the top spot on my “Best G3s List” when it was released in 2004, and hasn’t been dislodged yet. In fact Ticket to Ride: Märklin, a newer edition of the game, even manages to improve upon the formula. Why is TtR so great? It’s familiar (much of the play is based on rummy), appealing (who doesn’t love trains?), easy to learn (figure five minutes for explaining the rules, tops) and competitive without being confrontational. Read my full review here. [Official site | Boardgame Geek (original) | Boardgame Geek (Märklin) | Funagain (original) | Funagain (Märklin)]

Carcassonne (Rio Grande Games, 2-5 players, 30 minutes, $25, family strategy): A serene game in which player collaborate and compete to build a pastoral landscape, full of roads, cities, farms, and monasteries. Since its release in 2002 a dizzying number of sequels and expansions for Carcassonne have been published, but the original is a fine introduction to the series. One of those rare games as accessible to kids as it is interesting to adults. [Official site | Boardgame Geek | Funagain]

Settlers of Catan (Mayfair Games, 3-4 players, 90 minutes, $42, family strategy): The game that launched the “German board game” craze of the mid-90s. Each players owns a small settlement on a island, and strives to become the dominant civilization by building roads, erecting cities, amassing armies, and raising sheep (yes, sheep). Trade is the key to success, as players may freely swap the natural resources they harvest; because these transactions can happen at any point during the game, every player is engaged all the time, even when it’s not their turn. A marvel of elegant game design. [Official site | Boardgame Geek | Funagain]

Slide 5 (Endless Games, 3-10 players, 30 minutes, $7.50, card): Curiously, many of the most enjoyable games are those that provoke the most agony in the players. Slide 5 (previously called Category 5 and, before that, Take 6!) is a prefect example. The deck contains cards numbered from 1 to 104. Every round begins with each person playing a card from his hand face down. After all are revealed simultaneously, the cards are added to rows in the center of the table in ascending numerical order. But if your card winds up as the sixth in a row, you take the other five as points–and you don’t want points. I’ve been playing this one for about a decade, and still enjoy every game. [Official site | Boardgame Geek | Funagain]

Lost Cities (Rio Grande Games, 2 players, 30 minutes, $23, two-player card): My default recommendation for a two-player game, unless I know the person well enough to suggest something more specific–and even then it’s often the one I advocate. Lost Cities is essentially rummy, but with a specialized deck and the tension-quotation set to overdrive. Despite its simplicity, I routinely cite it as one of my favorite games of all time. [Official site | Boardgame Geek | Funagain]

Wits & Wagers (North Star Games, 4-7 players, 30 minutes, $30, party): Finally, a trivia game for people who don’t like trivia games–like me. Every question has a numerical answer; players write their best guesses onto erasable cards, and then throw them into the center of the table. Now everyone has an opportunity to bet on which responses are correct, and they are not obligated to wager on their own. A game in which knowing who’s likely to know something is as useful as knowning the thing yourself. Read my full review here. [Official site | Boardgame Geek | Funagain]

Transamerica (Rio Grande Games, 2-6 players, 30 minutes, $28, family strategy): It’s so simple it’s just barely a game, but lots of fun nonetheless. Players are randomly assigned five cities on a stylized map of the United States. On every turn players build railroad track in an effort to connect all their burgs. But because no one “owns” any given stretch of track, you can link into your opponent’s network and use it to further your own goals. A typical game takes half an hour and can be played by persons of all ages and game-aptitude. Read my full review here. [Official site | Boardgame Geek | Funagain]

San Juan (Rio Grande Games, 2-4 players, 45 minutes, $25, card): Your goal: construct the town of San Juan, capital of Puerto Rico. Every card in the deck is a building, each with it’s own unique ability. To put a building into play, simply place it in front of you, and then discard additional cards from your hand equal to it’s price. A light “civiliation” game (i.e., one where you start with little and slowly build up your infastructure), it is one of those rare multi-player games than actually works great with only two. Read my full review here. [Official site | Boardgame Geek | Funagain]

Hoity Toity (Uberplay, 3-6 players, 60 minutes, $35, family strategy): 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. Read my full review here (the game was previously called “Adel Verpflichtet”) [Official site | Boardgame Geek | Funagain]

Apples to Apples (Out of the Box, 4-10 players, 30 minutes, $30, party): The Judge turns over an adjective card, like “Soft” or “Respectable;” everyone else slaps down Noun cards from their hands as quickly as possible. The Judge then decides which played card best matches his own–if the description is “Slimey,” will he select “Frog,” “Used Car Salesman,” or “Bill Clinton”? Perhaps the most accessible and laughter-inducing party game I’ve ever played! [Official site | Boardgame Geek | Funagain]

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2006 Good Gift Game Guide

The 2006 Good Gift Games Guide appears today in The Morning News. If you’d like to take a gander at pasts G3 Guides, you can find them archived here.

Runners-Up

A phenomenal number of games hit the G3 sweet spot this year — so many that I not only had a hard time limiting the main G3 Guide to just ten, but picking only five runner-ups will be difficult as well. That said, here are some other games worthy of your consideration.

  • Aquadukt (Uberplay Entertainment, 2-4 players, 30 minutes, $22): This only reason this one was omitted from the main G3 Guide was because the list was already packed with simple, short, well-designed, semi-abstract family games, and I needed to make room for a few games of other genres. In Aquadukt, players first build houses, and then construct canals from the local spring to your humble abode. But as players take turns adding to the aqueduct, you never know when the flow of the water might zig when you desperately want it to zag. [More info]
  • Cleopatra and the Society of Architects (Days of Wonder, 3-5 players, 60 minutes, 45$): As with Aquadukt, I could have easily swapped this one into of the main list in place of, say, Masons or Blue Moon City. Players work together to construct a palace for the Queen of the Nile, but some may be tempted to cut corners and engage in shady deals. In the end, the richest player wins … and the most corrupt player is sacrificed to the gods. Days of Wonder has a well-earned reputation for producing beautiful games, but they’ve outdone themselves with Cleopatra — take a look at these components. [More info]
  • Voltage (Mattel, 2 players, 15 minutes, $16): Mattel is one of those enormous game companies not known for producing well-designed, elegant, “German-esque” games. What a pleasant surprise, then, to find Voltage under their banner, a simple but engaging card game for two players. Players place numeric cards to four terminals, striving to have the highest total if the polarity of the terminal is positive, and lowest total if its negative. Simple enough — except, in a Machiavellian twist, the rules allow players to play cards on their opponent’s side of the board, foiling their best laid plans. [More info]
  • Pickomino (Rio Grande Games, 2-6 players, 20 minutes, $20): The genre colloquially known as “push your luck games” (epitomized by the TV show Deal or No Deal) contains titles, that are simple, fun, and often nerve-wracking. Pickomino, for instance, has players as chickens, rolling dice Yahtzee-style and trying to acquire the tastiest worms off the barbecue. But if your total isn’t high enough, don’t despair: just steal another player’s hard-won snack. Suitable for kids as young as eight, playable by up to seven people, and taking only 20 minutes to complete, this is a game suitable for just about any occasion. [More info]
  • Tempus (Rio Grande Games, 3-5 players, 90 minutes, $50): This one’s a smidge heavier than some of the other games I’m recommending (which is the only reason it didn’t quite make it to the G3 Guide proper), but it was one of my favorite of the year. The buzz of Tempus, before it was released, was that it was going to be “Civilization in two hours” — that is, the wildly popular computer game distilled to its essence and shorted by about 99.7%. When the board game finally hit the market, though, people began carping that this wasn’t exactly the case. Yes, you start at the dawn of time and shepherd your society up through the age of flight, occasionally expanding your territory and sparring with your neighbors. But to get the whole thing down to a reasonable time scale, designer Martin Wallace (one of my favorites) hand to simplify things — oversimplify things, if you believe the critics. What they seem to have missed is that Tempus, stripped of the unrealistic expectations, is a great little game, even if it’s a bit more abstract than folks had anticipated. Judged on its own merits, this is one of the better “city-building” games to come out in years. [More info]

And while I usually only include new games on these G3 lists, there were three reprints this year that I’d be remiss not to mention. Winner’s Circle is a renamed version of one of my longtime gamenight staples, Royal Turf (full review here). Lord of the Rings: The Confrontation Deluxe Edition is an expanded version of one of my all-time favorite two-player games (full review of the original LotR:C here). And Simply Catan is a beginner’s version of what I have often called the best Good Gift Game of all time, The Settlers of Catan. If you’d prefer to pick up a game that has already stood the test of time, check out one of these.

Second Opinions

Don’t trust the yeti? Here are the highlights of some other “2006 best game of the year” lists.

German Game of the Year:

  • Winner: Thurn & Taxis
  • Special Prize for Complex Play: Caylus (my favorite new game of 2006, but too long and complicated to qualify for the G3 Guide)
  • Special Prize for Fantastic Play (I have no idea what that’s supposed to mean): Shadows Over Camelot (one of my G3 picks from 2005, and fully reviewed here).

Deutscher Spiele Preis (A.K.A., “The Other German Game of the Year Award”):

International Gamers Award:

  • Best Multiplayer Game: Caylus
  • Best Two-Player Game & Best Historical Simulation: Twilight Struggle (Man, I gotta get that …)

GAMES Magazine Awards:

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.

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