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The 2004 Good Gift Game Guide

My 2004 Good Gift Game Guide appears in The Morning News today.

In my games archive you can find full reviews for three of the games mentioned: Ticket To Ride, San Juan and Hansa. You can also see previous G3 Guides for the years 2003, & 2002, 2001, and 2000. Enjoy the broken links and images!

Other Good Games

This was a pretty good year, and I had a tough time narrowing my choices down to ten. Here are some worthy of honorable mention:

  • High Society and Razzia (Society: Uberplay; Razzia: Ravensburger; Both: 3-5 players, 30 minutes, $20): Two of Reiner Knizia's classic games, High Society and Ra, have been out of print for a while. Both were rereleased this year, although Ra has been given a new name (Razzia), a new theme (Mafia) and simplified rules. Players are obscenely wealthy in High Society, purchasing yachts and mansions while dodging the taxman; gangsters divvy up their ill-begotten booty in Razzia, and try to secure getaway cars and drivers before the cops arrive to shut their operation down. Both games have ingenious auction systems at their heart, and are perfect for families or friends at a pub.
  • St. Petersburg (Rio Grande Games, 2-4 players, 45 minutes, $28): Hire craftsman, build buildings, and recruit aristocrats in eighteenth century Russia. St. Petersburg was considered by many to be the best game of the year, but I find it a little to mathematical to make an effective G3. Thematically similar to San Juan , and the "gamier" of the two.
  • Attika (Rio Grande games, 2-4 players, 45 minutes, $33): I got totally addicted to Attika for a while, but the game is too abstract (and the rules a smidgen to convoluted) for make it suitable for gift-giving. Expand your city across the Greek Peninsula, beating your opponent to best building sites and making the best use of the available resources. Although rated from 2-4 players, I find that it really only works well for two. That said, it was my favorite two-player game of the year (aside from Memoir '44).
  • Hoity Toity (Uberplay, 3-6 players, 60 minutes, $35): While not a new game -- it was first released in 1990 and promptly won the German Game Of The Year award -- this is the first English edition in a long time. 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.
  • 10 Days In The USA / 10 Days in Africa / Europa Tour (10 Days in *: Out Of The Box; Europa: Schmidt Spiele; All: 2-4 players, 30 minutes, $20): The same game (with minor modification) set on three difference continents. Despite the frightening "educational game" appearance, these arefirst and foremost ight and fun rummy variants -- learning the capital of Tunisia is strictly a fringe benefit. Another of those rare games that plays up to four but works wonderfully well with two.

The Canonical G3 List

All of the games listed at The Morning News and above were released in the past year. There are, of course, 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.
  • Carcassonne: This is "the original Carcassonne" mentioned in The Morning News article.
  • TransAmerica: Looks similar to Ticket To Ride to the untrained eye, but they are two entirely different games.

Family Card Games

  • Bohnanza: A game about bean trading. For real.
  • Mamma Mia: A game about making pizzas. For real.
  • 6 Nimmt!: Recent rereleased as "Category Five"

Two-player Games

Party Games

Second Opinions

Don't trust the yeti? Here are the highlights of some other "best game of the year" lists:

Spiel des Jahres (a.k.a. "The German Game Of The Year"):

International Gamer Awards:

GAMES Magazine's game of the year:

Gamerdad's Unplugged 2004 Game Guide.

Gamefest's Gift Games Guide.

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.

Posted on December 06, 2004 to Elsewhere, Games, Good Gift Game Guide


Great suggestions! Good to know there's a Gamer at TMN. Ticket to Ride is great. I'd also like to suggest the "original" Carcassonne, Puerto Rico and the Catan games. I have Memoir '44 on the way for Christmas -- looking forward to that!

Posted by: MrChucho on December 7, 2004 8:13 AM

OK, so the games on that list all say "2 to x players", but can you clue me in as to which of them are *really great* for two players, as opposed to just "yeah, it sorta works with 2" ? I have a few games that are Just OK with two players, and am hoping to find some that are really great. Thanks!

Posted by: leen on December 7, 2004 10:22 AM

Two great two-player games: Reiner Knizia's Spy and the Settlers of Catan Card Game.

Posted by: MrChucho on December 7, 2004 10:51 AM

Of the games listed over at The Morning News and honorably mentioned here, the ones that for-real work with two are Memoir '44 (it's exclusively a two-player game), Attika (it should have been an exclusively two-player game), Carcassonne (both the original and the new "Carcassonne: The City" version -- there's even a "Carcassonne: The Castle" that's just for 2), 10 Days In *, and BuyWord (which can even be played solo). The games that work almost as well for two as with more are San Juan, St. Petersburg, and Hansa. (I've never played Hoopla as two-player, but as everyone is on the same team i suspect it falls into this second-tier category.) The games that don't work well for two are Alhambra and Loco! I don't know about the rest, but I will endeavor to find out.

Update: Word on the street is that Ticket To Ride works great with two.

Posted by: Matthew on December 7, 2004 11:39 AM

Your article just got Slashdotted. :)

Posted by: Greg on December 7, 2004 12:34 PM

And congrats on being mentioned on /.

Posted by: dunsany on December 7, 2004 12:36 PM

I already loved your '04 G3, but your credibility got boosted further for your mention of Time's Up. What a fantastic game.

I'm not familiar with every title here, but I think I see an abstract strategy gap. Not a fan of the genre? All the GIPF games are terrific, including YINSH (an '04 contender). I've managed to at least intrigue folks that normally loathe the genre with those (my favorite's probably DVONN).

Posted by: Jim Biancolo on December 8, 2004 6:35 AM

We've made Catan work for two by doubling the rolls, but it's been replaced by Carcassone as our two-player game.

Also, for party games, I like Why Did the Chicken...? (http://www.boardgamegeek.com/game/10559#links)

Posted by: taleswapper on December 8, 2004 9:27 AM

"dispatching buglers to swipe the valuables of opponents" now there's a twist I've not seen before....

Posted by: larry on December 8, 2004 1:40 PM

Wow, my brother just e-mailed me to say 'if you could get me and my wife a board game, that'd be cool'.
Thanks very much!

Posted by: Sparticus on December 9, 2004 2:28 AM

I am so glad I found your blog!

I have been playing Risk and Diplomacy for years, and as there is no decent board game shop for miles and miles I hadn't come accross any of the games yuo have listed.
This week, having discovered this blog, I've bought Ticket To Ride, Apples to Apples and Carcassonne from an online games shop!

Thanks very much.

Posted by: Gary on December 9, 2004 3:17 AM

Has Apples-to-Apples gone out of stock across the US based on your recommendation? (I've just tried six online stores.) That's pretty powerful!

Posted by: Wynne on December 15, 2004 9:37 AM

Congrats on the radio interview; nice to see some good games being publicized.

Just a small correction to this page: Razzia! is published by Amigo, not Ravensburger. Ravensburger published the earlier Razzia (sans the bang and not a Knizia game).

Posted by: SkookumPete on December 15, 2004 5:33 PM