[Family Board Game] [Strategy Games][Card Games] [Two-player Games] [Party Games] [Where to Buy] [Second Opinions] [The Offer]

Good Gift Games 2001

Every year I try to assemble a list of Good Gift Games:  games that, in my opinion, make swell presents for the holiday season.  It is assumed that the gift recipients are not hardcore game players, so the games selected (with a few exceptions) are those with few rules and with a focus more on fun than on strategy.  I also try and emphasize inexpensive games, although some games are too good to omit despite their higher price tag.

This is not intended to be an exhaustive list, just those that came to mind as I was writing it.  If you see another game that you want an opinion on, drop me a line (matthew@acesup.com) -- my knowledge in these matters is frighteningly encyclopedic, so I may be able to offer some feedback.  (And Gamenight regulars:  be sure to check out The Offer, below.)

Without further ado, here are the 2001 G3s.

Family Board Games

Settlers of Catan:  Here it is again, in the #1 spot, for, like, the 70th year in a row, because Settlers of Catan should be the cornerstone of any "modern game" library.  Players vie for dominance on the tiny island of Catan, building roads, settlements and cities.  Plus:  it's got sheep.  Sheep, I tell ya!  [Reviews: BGG]

Carcassonne:   Any game that is beloved by both me and my mother has got to be good.    On your turn you do exactly one thing:  pick up a tile and place it on the table.  But, in doing so, you'll be constructing roads, building cities, and creating pastures for your farmers to stand around in.  Simple, addictive, clever and fun.   [Reviews: mine | BG]

Cartagena:  Another one that passes the Mom test, this game's so simple you'll be amazed that no one had thought of it before.   Your job:  herd all your pirates from the prison in Cartagena to the escape ship through an underground tunnel.  On a turn, you only have two options:  move your pirates forward, or move them backwards.  But making this decision isn't nearly as obvious as it sounds.  [Reviews : mine | BGG]

Honorable mention - Buffy the Vampire Slayer Board Game:  As a rule, board games based on movies and tv shows suck rocks.  But hey!,  this one's purdy good!  It may not appeal to anyone who doesn't know or like the show, but to those who (like me) are hooked, it does a great job of capturing the spirit and the fun of the series.  [reviews:  BGG]

Strategy Games

Lord of the Rings: With the Lord of the Ring movie fast approaching, interest in this Tolkien epic is reaching fever pitch.   In this LotR game, you and 2-4 other players assume the roles of the intrepit hobbits, trekking up to Mount Doom to destroy the One Ring.  What sets LotR apart is that it is cooperative rather than competitive:  players work as a team instead of against each other.  A unique and exciting game.    [Reviews: mine | BGG]

Web of Power:  I just recently played this again after a bit of a hiatus, and man it's good.   Place Cardinals and Advisors on a map of Europe in an attempt to control the continent.  Fairly easy to learn, Web of Power's short playing time (< 60 minutes) makes this a great game for lunchhour, casual gatherings and family get-togethers.    [Reviews: mine, BGG]

Citadelles:  Citadelles is still one of my favorite games from the last few years ... and still, unfortunately, only available in German.     But I've never had a problem with the language issue, and this game is so good you should consider it anyhow.     In Citadelles you play an assassin, a king, a thief, a merchant, or any of four other roles.  But don't get too comfortable:  the person you play will change every round.  Fairly easy, and you can play with up to seven.  [Reviews: mine, BGG]

Honorable Mention - Princes of Florence:  So, this was actually my favorite new game of 2001.  So why does it get stuck down here in the "honorable mention" section?  Well, it's a bit complicated, and involves a lot of strategic decision-making, so it's probably only appropriate for a true gamer.  But if you have such  a person on your list, this is the one to get 'em.  [Reviews: BGG]

Card Games

Bohnanza:  I have given more copies of Bohnanza as gifts than any other game - and that was before there was an English language version.  The new version also supports up to seven players, which is two more than the original.  The popularity of Bohnanza seems universal:  it is well liked by men and women, young and old, causal and hardcore game players.  If I had three thumbs they'd all be up.  [Reviews: mine | BGG]

Wyatt Earp:  Have you ever played rummy?  If so, then you already know half the rules of Wyatt Earp, which is essentially rummy with a bunch of special cards and a clever scoring system thrown in.  Do your part to capture seven deadly outlaws while preventing the other Sheriffs from horning in on your reward money.  Perfect for three or four players.  [Reviews: mine | BGG]

6 Nimmt!: Second only to Bohnanza in the "Game Most Given as Gifts by Matt" category, this one also comes from Germany but doesn't have a lick of text on the cards so it doesn't matter a bit. 6 Nimmt! is an oh-so-aggravating (and yet, somehow, oh-so-fun) card game with rules that can be explained in, like, two minutes. And it's popular enough to have spawned it's own t-shirt, which oughtta tell you something right there. [Reviews: mine | BGG]

Honorable Mention - Pig Pile:  Okay, so I've only played this once, and it's exactly the kind of game I should hate (i.e. almost totally luck dependent), but, I dunno, I sort of kind of really liked it!  Be the first to get rid of all your cards by playing them onto the Pig Pile, with the help of Hog Washes, Ewe-Turns and a Hog Tying now and again.  Every bit as stupid as it sounds, but perfect for light holiday play and suitable for kids as young as seven.  [Reviews: BGG]

Two Player Games

Lost Cities: This game has just a few rules, but is so full of agonizing decisions that playing a game is like watching a suspense movie.  A perfect gift for a couple, especially one that doesn't play a lot of games.   [Reviews: mine | BGG]

flowerpower:  Probably the simplest game on this list, but that doesn't make it any less fun.  Plant ten variety of flowers, and strive to create the biggest flower beds.  And if your opponent starts doing too well, just toss a few weeds onto her side of the board.  A good one for the game inexperienced.  [Reviews: BGG]

Hera and Zeus: A great game for those who have a bit more game-playing under their belt.  Hera and Zeus can be a little daunting the first time through -- there's lots of little rules to keep track off -- but by the second game it really smokes.  Plays in about half an hour and you'll immediately want to play again.  [Reviews: mine | BGG]

Honorable Mention - En Garde:  It costs nine bucks, it plays in 15 minutes, and the rules could fit onto a business card.  If there's a better "something to do while you're waiting for your nachos to arrive" game on the market, I don't know about it.  [Reviews: mine | BGG]

Party Games

Time's Up:  Look:  I don't like party games, so when I recommend one it must be good.  Using any words you want, get your partner to correctly name a list of Celebrities.  Now get him to name those same Celebrities using only one word a piece.  Now get him to name those same Celebrities using only gestures!   Every bit as laughter-inducing as Apples to Apples. [Reviews: Funagain]

Call My Bluff:  I probably played this game more often and with more people than any other in 2001.  A light dice-and-bluffing game, it's all the fun of poker without any of the annoying "money losing" aspects.   And this is really one for the whole family:  kids as young as 8 could play it (and probably beat me).  [Reviews: mine | BGG]

25 Words or Less:  I got this as an x-mas gift while I was a Peace Corps Volunteer, and that copy got played so much that I had to buy a new one when I got back.  It's like a cross between a thinking-person's Taboo and "Name That Tune", and just about the only word-based game that I really, really like.  [Reviews: mineBGG]

Honorable Mention - Apples to Apples:  I am sick to death of this game, but only because I played it so much when I first got it, and it has been one of the most requested Gamenight  staples ever since.  All laughter, no rules.  If you don't already have this one, you probably should. (And if you already do, there's always the expansion set. )  [Reviews: mine | BGG]

Places to Buy Games

Online Brick 'n' Mortar / In Seattle

Second Opinions

What, you don't trust me? Well, here's some other "best of" lists for your consideration.

The Offer

I'll be placing an order with Funagain Games this weekend (probably Saturday morning).  If you'd like me to order any games on your behalf, let me know by Friday and I will combine them with my own.  And I'll cover the shipping -- yes, you pay no shipping!   It's my festive holiday gift to you.  (Not to mention the fact that the more of my friends who have good games on their shelves, the happier I become.) After I receive the shipment, we'll have another Gamenight to distribute the booty. Yeeehaw!