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2006 Good Gift Game Guide

The 2006 Good Gift Games Guide appears today in The Morning News. If you'd like to take a gander at pasts G3 Guides, you can find them archived here.


A phenomenal number of games hit the G3 sweet spot this year -- so many that I not only had a hard time limiting the main G3 Guide to just ten, but picking only five runner-ups will be difficult as well. That said, here are some other games worthy of your consideration.

  • Aquadukt (Uberplay Entertainment, 2-4 players, 30 minutes, $22): This only reason this one was omitted from the main G3 Guide was because the list was already packed with simple, short, well-designed, semi-abstract family games, and I needed to make room for a few games of other genres. In Aquadukt, players first build houses, and then construct canals from the local spring to your humble abode. But as players take turns adding to the aqueduct, you never know when the flow of the water might zig when you desperately want it to zag. [More info]
  • Cleopatra and the Society of Architects (Days of Wonder, 3-5 players, 60 minutes, 45$): As with Aquadukt, I could have easily swapped this one into of the main list in place of, say, Masons or Blue Moon City. Players work together to construct a palace for the Queen of the Nile, but some may be tempted to cut corners and engage in shady deals. In the end, the richest player wins ... and the most corrupt player is sacrificed to the gods. Days of Wonder has a well-earned reputation for producing beautiful games, but they've outdone themselves with Cleopatra -- take a look at these components. [More info]
  • Voltage (Mattel, 2 players, 15 minutes, $16): Mattel is one of those enormous game companies not known for producing well-designed, elegant, "German-esque" games. What a pleasant surprise, then, to find Voltage under their banner, a simple but engaging card game for two players. Players place numeric cards to four terminals, striving to have the highest total if the polarity of the terminal is positive, and lowest total if its negative. Simple enough -- except, in a Machiavellian twist, the rules allow players to play cards on their opponent's side of the board, foiling their best laid plans. [More info]
  • Pickomino (Rio Grande Games, 2-6 players, 20 minutes, $20): The genre colloquially known as "push your luck games" (epitomized by the TV show Deal or No Deal) contains titles, that are simple, fun, and often nerve-wracking. Pickomino, for instance, has players as chickens, rolling dice Yahtzee-style and trying to acquire the tastiest worms off the barbecue. But if your total isn't high enough, don't despair: just steal another player's hard-won snack. Suitable for kids as young as eight, playable by up to seven people, and taking only 20 minutes to complete, this is a game suitable for just about any occasion. [More info]
  • Tempus (Rio Grande Games, 3-5 players, 90 minutes, $50): This one's a smidge heavier than some of the other games I'm recommending (which is the only reason it didn't quite make it to the G3 Guide proper), but it was one of my favorite of the year. The buzz of Tempus, before it was released, was that it was going to be "Civilization in two hours" -- that is, the wildly popular computer game distilled to its essence and shorted by about 99.7%. When the board game finally hit the market, though, people began carping that this wasn't exactly the case. Yes, you start at the dawn of time and shepherd your society up through the age of flight, occasionally expanding your territory and sparring with your neighbors. But to get the whole thing down to a reasonable time scale, designer Martin Wallace (one of my favorites) hand to simplify things -- oversimplify things, if you believe the critics. What they seem to have missed is that Tempus, stripped of the unrealistic expectations, is a great little game, even if it's a bit more abstract than folks had anticipated. Judged on its own merits, this is one of the better "city-building" games to come out in years. [More info]
And while I usually only include new games on these G3 lists, there were three reprints this year that I'd be remiss not to mention. Winner's Circle is a renamed version of one of my longtime gamenight staples, Royal Turf (full review here). Lord of the Rings: The Confrontation Deluxe Edition is an expanded version of one of my all-time favorite two-player games (full review of the original LotR:C here). And Simply Catan is a beginner's version of what I have often called the best Good Gift Game of all time, The Settlers of Catan. If you'd prefer to pick up a game that has already stood the test of time, check out one of these.

Second Opinions

Don't trust the yeti? Here are the highlights of some other "2006 best game of the year" lists.

German Game of the Year:

  • Winner: Thurn & Taxis
  • Special Prize for Complex Play: Caylus (my favorite new game of 2006, but too long and complicated to qualify for the G3 Guide)
  • Special Prize for Fantastic Play (I have no idea what that's supposed to mean): Shadows Over Camelot (one of my G3 picks from 2005, and fully reviewed here).

Deutscher Spiele Preis (A.K.A., "The Other German Game of the Year Award"):

International Gamers Award:

  • Best Multiplayer Game: Caylus
  • Best Two-Player Game & Best Historical Simulation: Twilight Struggle (Man, I gotta get that ...)

GAMES Magazine Awards:

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, 2006 to Good Gift Game Guide


You know what's weird? The game Khet was previously released last year or the year before as Deflexion. I wonder why they renamed it? I suppose Khet sounds more "Egyptian" but still...

Posted by: Dennis on December 6, 2006 8:03 AM

Wouldn't it be "runners-up"?

Posted by: CW on December 6, 2006 9:41 AM

Quick correction, you said "even managed to do something the earlier game did not: win the coveted Spiel Des Jahres Award" but Ticket to Ride, Zug um Zug in Germany did with the Speil Des Jahres in 2004.

To a previous commentor, Deflexion was rename to Khet because of a legal issue.

Posted by: Jason on December 6, 2006 9:47 AM

I found the post made by one of the Khet designers on BGG.

Posted by: Jason on December 6, 2006 9:48 AM

If you like games and have deranged friends, 1000 blank white cards can't be beat. The rules are at http://www.geocities.com/nconner23/bwcards.html and all you need is a pack of index cards and some writing utensils. You're welcome.

Posted by: bill on December 6, 2006 10:28 AM

Perhaps pimping my own game here would frowned upon, but a couple friends and I started a company to make games just as you described: entertaining, quick and easy to learn. We have published one card game, Doughnuts (http://www.utimegames.com/games/doughnuts/index.html) where an Evil Mad Scientist has kidnapped a busload a children. If his demands aren't met the children will be sent to their death at the bottom of a cliff. The governor has called on the players (all famous doughnut bakers) to bake a huge pile a doughnuts to cushion the bus's landing.

Drop me an email and I will send you a review copy.

Posted by: chad on December 6, 2006 11:16 AM

Thanks for the list again this year, Matthew. I have my own holiday game gift guide on my blog.

Mine covers all years, not just 2006. I wonder what your list would look like if you were recommending twenty or thirty games, no restrictions on years.


Posted by: Yehuda Berlinger on December 6, 2006 2:11 PM

Hey! The guy that created Wits & Wagers lives in my apartment complex in Maryland. We used to get flyers about it constantly when he was designing it, asking people to come play it and give feedback. Sadly, I never attended one of these events, b/c I am very hermit-like. I had no idea it had become so popular...

Posted by: Kim on December 6, 2006 3:54 PM

I look forward to your guide every year, and ff course this year I made all my holiday gaming orders 1 day before this guide came out.


Posted by: Jon on December 6, 2006 5:17 PM

1000 Blank White Cards sounds like the best of the lot, actually.

Posted by: Anonymous on December 7, 2006 10:27 AM

Thanks! Brother and Sister-in-law's presents = purchased.

Posted by: Mark on December 7, 2006 11:00 AM

Khet looks SO awesome. I must have it! Now! Seriously, gonna bug everyone I know and pray I get it for christmas from someone. Too bad my girlfriend already bought my present.

Posted by: Supragenius on December 7, 2006 11:14 AM

Hey! I was just wondering earlier this week why I hadn't seen the GGGG yet! Thanks!

Posted by: Sam on December 7, 2006 11:19 AM

(Couple of little but perhaps slightly important typos, one reference to "Pokomino" instead of "Pickomino," and one reference to "Royal Turn" instead of "Royal Turf." Wouldn't point them out but that they're the names of games.)

Posted by: Matthew F on December 8, 2006 5:00 AM

(Erm, "Pockomino." Typoed the typo, nice.)

Posted by: Matthew F on December 8, 2006 5:02 AM

Defective Yeti's work got name-checked in the NY Times yesterday! From an article on Evite:

"Produced in 1998, the Evite brand is so well recognized now that there are spoofs on the Internet, including an Evite invitation to ?war on Iraq? in which the only confirmed attendees are the United States and Britain."


Next time they may even mention your name! Way to go.

Posted by: eyeballpupil on December 8, 2006 9:21 AM

the first link (to the morning news) appears broken now ??

Posted by: bruceo on December 8, 2006 11:46 AM

I am now really sad that I actually *asked* for a Simpsons chess set for Christmas when I was 14, leading me to the logical assumption that were I 14 now, the Family Guy set would be equally desirable. I am shamed. And I still have that stupid chess set with me, 10 years and 7 moves later.

Posted by: Katai on December 10, 2006 10:58 PM

Just a niggle, but Tempus is from Cafe Games, not Rio Grande.

Posted by: John Todd Jensen on December 11, 2006 11:04 PM

I don't think Vegas Showdown is "out of print" in any meaningful sense. I just bought a copy at the Northgate (Seattle) Toys R Us, and there was at least one other copy in the store ($20 btw). Also, the game is still listed in the games list and featured on the front page of the Avalon Hill website.

Posted by: Mr Man on December 13, 2006 2:57 AM