December 6th, 2005
People from all over the globe (by which I mean two people who are not housemates) have written to ask if I am doing my annual overview of the year’s best boardgames for non-gamers.
And now, supplimental material just for you, my loyal yeti readers.
The Ghosts Of Christmas Past
I didn’t write a whole lot about games this year (“more blogging about games in 2006″ sounds like a good candidate for a resolution), but, of the games on TMN list, I did review Shadows Over Camelot and Jambo. You can also see previous G3 Guides for the years 2002 – 2004, 2001, and 2000.
Other Good Games
Here are some games that, for one reason or another, just missed the cut for The Morning News piece.
- Cluzzle (Eagle Games, 3-6 players, 45 minutes, $35): I wrote a full review of this one calling it one of the better party games I have played, and it was only omitted from the official list because it was released in 2004. Players sculpt puzzles out of clay, striving to make them of “Goldilocks” difficulty: not too easy, not too hard. The game is very derivative of the older game Barbarossa, but I cut Cluzzle some slack because Barbarossa was, at the time of my review, out of print. Barbarossa has just been re-released, though, so take your pick. I still give the nod to Cluzzle: simpler rules and a short playing time make for a more fun game.
- China (Uberplay, 2-5 players, 45 minutes, $35): China is a re-released and retheming of one of my favorite games of all time, Web Of Power. It’s fairly simple, but the whole thing hinges on a brilliant scoring system that rewards strategic play. Best of all, China is one of those rare games that works exceptionally well with three players.
- Fairy Tale (Z-Man Games, 2-5 players, 30 minutes, $15): The only reason Fairy Tale was left off the main list is because it was not released in English until (literally) today. Before, when this game was only available in Japan, gamers were plunking down 40 bucks for a copy of it in Japanese, so that oughtta tell you something about its appeal. Fairy Tale takes the “drafting” aspect of Magic: the Gathering, and builds a clever little middle-weight game atop it. Plus, the art is gorgeous.
- Travel Blokus (Educational Insights, 2 players, 15 minutes, $20): I went back and forth on whether to include Ingenious or Travel Blokus on the main list, and finally went with the former because it accommodates up to six players (sort of). But, like Ingenious, Travel Blokus (which goes by the vastly superior name Blokus Duo in Canada) is one of those abstract games that even people who profess to hate abstract games (such as myself) wind up loving. I enjoy Ingenious more, but Travel Blokus is easier, cheaper, smaller, and better suited as a gift for a couple.
- Caylus The Good Gift Games Guide is intended to showcase offerings that work well with non-gamers, so I typically leave off the heavier strategy games. If you’re looking for something meatier, though, the game Caylus has been getting incredible buzz this year. I have yet to play it (it was released yesterday) so I cannot provide a personally recommendation, but those who have seem pretty united in calling it the best game of the year. I’ll review it myself just as soon as I can get my hot little hands on a copy.
The Canonical G3 List
There are 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.
- Ticket To Ride: Last year’s top pick, and virtually a requirement for any game love. The slightly more strategic Ticket To Ride: Europe is also now available.
- Carcassonne: Pick up the original, or any of the plethora in the Carcassonne series.
Family Card Games
- Bohnanza: A game about bean trading. For real.
- Mamma Mia: A game about making pizzas. For real.
- Category 5: A new version of the classic “Take 6!”
- Lost Cities: A great game for spouses and partners. Just ask Deluxe version will be released shortly.
- Hera & Zeus: Still one of my favorites.
- 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 “2005 best game of the year” lists:
Spiel des Jahres (a.k.a. “The German Game Of The Year”):
- Winner: Niagara
- Runner-up: Around the World in 80 Days
- Runner-up: Jambo
- Runner-up: Himalaya
- Runner-up: That’s Life
- Multiplayer Strategy: Ticket To Ride: Europe
- Two-player Strategy: War of the Ring (if you live in Seattle and own or buy this, invite me over to play — I’ve never tried it)