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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.

Posted on December 01, 2008 to Good Gift Game Guide


I would say that Race for the Galaxy also sacrifices interaction. There's almost no need for anyone else to be at the table when you play. Although you can piggy-back off others' actions, there isn't anything else you can do to affect or hinder any other player. For this reason, I will always suggest San Juan or Glory to Rome over it.

Posted by: Dave Lartigue on December 2, 2008 6:28 AM

Agricola is hands down my favorite game. And yes it is "meaty" - if the *BOOK* of fine print rules is any indication. Best way to learn it is to jump right in we've found (the rules make themselves apparent).

If you have the chance - play it several more times with different amounts of players, and with the different decks - before you review it. I think you'll find it has lots of replay-ability and it's interesting in that you can never have the same strategy as the last time you played. Which is nice - I play Catan, Puerto Rico, Euro-rails with many of the same people and the games get a little repetitive (the same people focus on the same things every game). This is a welcome change from that.

Also - the game is so much more fun if you swap the piggy/cow/sheep tokens with little miniature animals, and the people for little wooden guys similar to the Carcassonne pieces. But I'm visual like that (plus there's the cute factor).

Posted by: Amy on December 2, 2008 6:29 AM

I'm surprised neither Kingsburg or Stone Age made this list. Both of those games are a ton of fun and are high on my list of replayable games of this year.

Sadly, Agricola doesn't make my personal list of good games because I can't get a copy... but I'm sure it'll creep up once it gets added to my collection.

Ooh and Galaxy Trucker is really fun, probably the most fun I've had in a game in a long time just 'cause of it's silliness. But yes, the price does cause you to pause.

Posted by: Tao - Starlit Citadel on December 2, 2008 7:10 PM

Despite its simple rules, its long-term playability, and that at only 40 minutes per game, 'Dominion' (http://boardgamegeek.com/game/36218) might not be the perfect candidate for the 3G list: it's just a tad bit too abstract a card game to appeal to the most casual gamers. I came across it two weeks ago and got so hooked we played it for hours until the mood of the mob wanting to play it, too, became life threatening. If you feel challenged by games like Lost Cities, this one is a treat!

Posted by: Stefan on December 3, 2008 1:23 AM

This is really surprising , that it didnt work for both of them.

Posted by: Everquest Platinum on December 3, 2008 9:05 AM

Any places to get Dominion in Seattle in a brick and mortar store? I absolutely hate paying shipping fees!

Posted by: Jessica on December 3, 2008 9:14 AM

Jessica, apparently it is (or, at least, was) available at Blue Highway Games.

Posted by: Matthew Baldwin on December 3, 2008 1:15 PM

Your amazon link for Pandemic goes to Last Night on Earth instead, fyi.

Posted by: Elizabeth on December 4, 2008 7:32 PM

Did you review any of those games? Why not include links to your reviews?

Posted by: Sukotto on December 12, 2008 8:28 PM

Thank you so much for your game reviews - I just bought gifts for all of my siblings and their families from your lists! And a couple for my family as well (Puerto Rico and Ticket to Ride). Really, really helpful to read your suggestions!

Posted by: Lesley on December 14, 2008 9:29 PM

Great review. Very helpful indeed.

Posted by: eq2 plat on March 10, 2009 10:06 AM