You’ve got family in town. You eat. You open presents. You eat some more. Then what? You could play Parcheesi. Or, since it’s 2011 and not 1951, you could try something a little bit fresher. Let us be your guide to the latest, greatest and lamest in board games. Bring one home, drink some eggnog and find out which one of your uncles is the worst competitive jerk.
Monopoly: Nintendo Collector’s Edition
Price: $34.99 Rules: Select a token (Samus helmet, 1-Up Mushroom, Link sword), move around the game board (properties include Kirby, Waluigi and Tom Nook) and drive your opponents into bankruptcy. The good: The Block cards are cute. “Voted Most Popular Plumber. Collect $10.” The bad: My ADD/video game-addicted friends can’t finish a full game without quitting. Play it with: People who understand a little thing called commitment. Buy it? If you already like Monopoly. If you don’t, the novelty branding won’t be enough to convert you.
Magic: The Gathering 2011 Core Set Intro Packs (Stampede of Beasts, Breath of Fire)
Price: $12.95 each. (You need at least two decks to play.) Rules: Reduce your opponent’s life count from 20 to 0 by tapping mana, casting spells, launching creature attacks and doing other nerdy-sounding things. The good: The 2011 cards are much simpler than the ones in the various 2000-2010 editions. The bad: Nowhere near as clever as 1994’s Revised Edition. Play it with: Overweight white guys, Asian preteens and strippers. I know this sounds crazy, but I’ve met several strippers who play Magic: The Gathering. Buy it? Know what? I’m going to say yes. Go ahead and judge.
Price: $27.99 Rules: You start the timer, draw letter and category cards, and list off objects that fall under the category and begin with the given letter. Sounds like Scattergories? Yep. The good: Um … the box is cute? The bad: Many letter/category combinations are impossible, so there’s a lot of waiting around. Play it with: People who’ve never played Scattergories. They’ll have nothing to compare it to. Buy it? Nope.
In a Pickle
Price: $12.99 Rules: Draw object cards and then argue about whether one “fits inside” of the other (e.g., Does a theory fit inside a refrigerator? Or would a refrigerator fit within a theory?). The good: It’s the perfect social excuse to demonstrate your cocksurety and indignance. “No way would an extension cord fit inside the Renaissance. That’s just common sense.” The bad: The joke gets old pretty quickly. Play it with: Board game rookies. Buy it? Only if you can figure out how to turn it into a drinking game.
Life’s a Pitch
Price: $29.95 Rules: Draw an object card and a scenario card. Then make a case for why the object fits the scenario (e.g., “Here’s how Britney Spears’ Greatest Hits CD will help you cheat on your taxes …”) The good: It’s like Apples to Apples—on pesticides. The bad: Unimaginative people will not only suck at this game, they’ll feel uncomfortable attempting it. Play it with: Lawyers, insurance salesman, mall clerks, politicians—anybody who convinces people for a living. Buy it? Hell yes. This game is my new favorite.