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Good Gift Games Guide 2007

The 2007 Good Gift Games Guide appears in The Morning News today.

Previous G3 Guides:
And all my defective yeti game posts are available in the archives.


It was, as always, tough narrowing the field of good G3s down to just 10. Here are a few more, that just missed the cut.

Take It To The Limit (Burley Games, 1-6 players, 30 minutes, $60, family puzzle): This one was actually on the main G3 list until the very last moment, when I decided it was just too similar to Quirkle to merit inclusion. Nearly 25 years ago, Peter Burley invented Take It Easy, a clever Bingo-Meets-Jigsaw-Puzzles game that would unfortunately jam an Eagles song into your brain for weeks on end. Though that title is now out of print, Burley just released Take It To The Limit, an expanded version of the game that promises to get an entirely different Eagles song stuck in your head. As in its predescecer, Take It To The Limit has player placing hexagonal tiles and trying to form high-scoring, unbroken lines from one side of their gameboard to the other. Success requires a lot of luck, to be sure, but a little foresight will go a long way. [No Official Page | Boardgame Geek | Funagain]

If Wishes Were Fishes (Rio Grande Games, 2-5 players, 45 minutes, $35, family strategy): Catch a fish and you can do one of two thing with it: throw it back and have a wish granted, or sell it at market. Selling earns money and money's the goal of the game, but the wishes confer a host of benefits to the recipients. What to do, what to do? The only board game I know of that comes complete with giant rubber worms. [Official Page | Boardgame Geek | Funagain]

Iliad (Asmodee Editions, 2-6 players, 45 minutes, $25, card): One of my favorite light strategy games is Condottiere, in which player struggle for control in Renaissance Italy. The same designer now brings us Iliad, which employs the same basic mechanisms but does away with the gameboard, tightens the playing time, and turns the who enterprise into something a bit more suitable for casual play. [Official Page | Boardgame Geek | Funagain]

To Court The King (Rio Grande Games, 2-5, 30 minutes, $30, dice): Yahtzee's been done a million times over, but never quite like this. Roll dice, set aside the ones you want, key rerolling until you get (or failt to get) a specific combination. Nothing new so far. But To Court the King has a number of characters; roll the dice combination associatd with a particular charatcer, and you'll get to use his special ability for the remainder of the game. The Jester allows you reroll a die; the Magician lets you change the value of a die to anything you want; the Nobleman gives you two additional dice; and so on. Works best with only two players, though three and four work as well. [Official Page | Boardgame Geek | Funagain]

Taluva (Rio Grande Games, 2-4, 40 minutes, $30, famiy strategy): Like the lovechild of Carcassonne and Settlers of Catan, Taluva has players building a volcanic island, and expanding their settlements with huts, towers, and temples. The rulebook is only 4 pages long, and an entire session can be completed in half an hour, but it feels like there's a lot of game in there. [Official Page | Boardgame Geek | Funagain]

I'd also like to point out that, while it comes nowhere close to being a Good Gift Game (too long, too complicated, and requiring a few plays to fully appreciate), Twilight Struggle was by far my favorite game of the year. Read my review here.

Second Opinions

Don't trust the yeti? Here are the highlights of some other "2007 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"):

International Gamers Award:

GAMES Magazine Awards:

Canonical G3s

While we're on the subject, here are my all-time favorite G3s.

Ticket To Ride (Days of Wonder, 2-5 players, 45 minutes, $40, family strategy): Went directly to the top spot on my "Best G3s List" when it was released in 2004, and hasn't been dislodged yet. In fact Ticket to Ride: Märklin, a newer edition of the game, even manages to improve upon the formula. Why is TtR so great? It's familiar (much of the play is based on rummy), appealing (who doesn't love trains?), easy to learn (figure five minutes for explaining the rules, tops) and competitive without being confrontational. Read my full review here. [Official site | Boardgame Geek (original) | Boardgame Geek (Märklin) | Funagain (original) | Funagain (Märklin)]

Carcassonne (Rio Grande Games, 2-5 players, 30 minutes, $25, family strategy): A serene game in which player collaborate and compete to build a pastoral landscape, full of roads, cities, farms, and monasteries. Since its release in 2002 a dizzying number of sequels and expansions for Carcassonne have been published, but the original is a fine introduction to the series. One of those rare games as accessible to kids as it is interesting to adults. [Official site | Boardgame Geek | Funagain]

Settlers of Catan (Mayfair Games, 3-4 players, 90 minutes, $42, family strategy): The game that launched the "German board game" craze of the mid-90s. Each players owns a small settlement on a island, and strives to become the dominant civilization by building roads, erecting cities, amassing armies, and raising sheep (yes, sheep). Trade is the key to success, as players may freely swap the natural resources they harvest; because these transactions can happen at any point during the game, every player is engaged all the time, even when it's not their turn. A marvel of elegant game design. [Official site | Boardgame Geek | Funagain]

Slide 5 (Endless Games, 3-10 players, 30 minutes, $7.50, card): Curiously, many of the most enjoyable games are those that provoke the most agony in the players. Slide 5 (previously called Category 5 and, before that, Take 6!) is a prefect example. The deck contains cards numbered from 1 to 104. Every round begins with each person playing a card from his hand face down. After all are revealed simultaneously, the cards are added to rows in the center of the table in ascending numerical order. But if your card winds up as the sixth in a row, you take the other five as points--and you don't want points. I've been playing this one for about a decade, and still enjoy every game. [Official site | Boardgame Geek | Funagain]

Lost Cities (Rio Grande Games, 2 players, 30 minutes, $23, two-player card): My default recommendation for a two-player game, unless I know the person well enough to suggest something more specific--and even then it's often the one I advocate. Lost Cities is essentially rummy, but with a specialized deck and the tension-quotation set to overdrive. Despite its simplicity, I routinely cite it as one of my favorite games of all time. [Official site | Boardgame Geek | Funagain]

Wits & Wagers (North Star Games, 4-7 players, 30 minutes, $30, party): Finally, a trivia game for people who don't like trivia games--like me. Every question has a numerical answer; players write their best guesses onto erasable cards, and then throw them into the center of the table. Now everyone has an opportunity to bet on which responses are correct, and they are not obligated to wager on their own. A game in which knowing who's likely to know something is as useful as knowning the thing yourself. Read my full review here. [Official site | Boardgame Geek | Funagain]

Transamerica (Rio Grande Games, 2-6 players, 30 minutes, $28, family strategy): It's so simple it's just barely a game, but lots of fun nonetheless. Players are randomly assigned five cities on a stylized map of the United States. On every turn players build railroad track in an effort to connect all their burgs. But because no one "owns" any given stretch of track, you can link into your opponent's network and use it to further your own goals. A typical game takes half an hour and can be played by persons of all ages and game-aptitude. Read my full review here. [Official site | Boardgame Geek | Funagain]

San Juan (Rio Grande Games, 2-4 players, 45 minutes, $25, card): Your goal: construct the town of San Juan, capital of Puerto Rico. Every card in the deck is a building, each with it's own unique ability. To put a building into play, simply place it in front of you, and then discard additional cards from your hand equal to it's price. A light "civiliation" game (i.e., one where you start with little and slowly build up your infastructure), it is one of those rare multi-player games than actually works great with only two. Read my full review here. [Official site | Boardgame Geek | Funagain]

Hoity Toity (Uberplay, 3-6 players, 60 minutes, $35, family strategy): 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. Read my full review here (the game was previously called "Adel Verpflichtet") [Official site | Boardgame Geek | Funagain]

Apples to Apples (Out of the Box, 4-10 players, 30 minutes, $30, party): The Judge turns over an adjective card, like "Soft" or "Respectable;" everyone else slaps down Noun cards from their hands as quickly as possible. The Judge then decides which played card best matches his own--if the description is "Slimey," will he select "Frog," "Used Car Salesman," or "Bill Clinton"? Perhaps the most accessible and laughter-inducing party game I've ever played! [Official site | Boardgame Geek | Funagain]

Posted on November 28, 2007 to Games, Good Gift Game Guide


Delurking to let you know I practically shouted, "YES! I win!" when I saw something I bought for the fam on your list :) Thanks!

Posted by: Jen on November 28, 2007 3:03 PM

You list games that are all good family games, but they are also all pre-2006 games. How about reviewing or recommending some of the newer (2006, 2007) ones?

Posted by: David on November 28, 2007 4:23 PM

I would just like to add that Apples to Apples cards make for an AWESOME game of charades.

Posted by: Jenne on November 28, 2007 5:29 PM

Yay! I've got all of the Canonical G3s. What do I win?

Posted by: JB on November 28, 2007 8:24 PM

Lost Cities: I bought this game based on your recommendation from years past. It's a great game but the funny thing is, the gin was flowing rather briskly the night we decided to learn the rules. Somehow we ended not reading the rules right and basically created our own derivative of the rules. So it totally worked out and we had a lot of fun and continued to play lost cities on and off for several months. Finally one night I decided to re-read the rules and realized we've been playing wrong all along. Once we learned the real rules, we basically ended up having two different games to play. So now if the suggestion is, "play lost cities?" the next question is "real rules or drunken gin rules?"

Posted by: ethermal on November 29, 2007 5:55 AM

You misspelled "Taluva" two different ways. Score!

Re: To Court The King, I think my favorite mechanism is that there is one less of each character than there are players, so it's guaranteed that people must take multiple paths to attempt to win.

Posted by: Jon F on November 29, 2007 11:02 AM

Every year I look forward to this guide. Thanks for guiding my holiday shopping yet another year.

Stumbled and mixxed.

Posted by: Jon on December 5, 2007 8:41 AM

Without you, I would have no idea what to buy my husband, EVER. So thank you, for making a list of things he would like, because he never will.

Posted by: Courtney on December 10, 2007 5:39 PM