Uwe Rosenberg is a saucy minx. The European board game designer created Agricola, the most riveting agriculture game on the market. If you think “riveting agriculture game” sounds like an oxymoron, you’re wrong. In this game sheep, cattle and wild boars are sent to slaughter, hungry families beg for food, and, much like commercial agriculture today, hunger isn’t caused by a shortage in the food supply but by people’s lack of resources.
The one- to five-player game makes players the masters of their own domain. The goal essentially is to create a well-rounded efficient farm. Players can plow fields, sow grain and, if they select the right cards, bake bread and feed their family. If not, all hell ensues. Players can also keep and breed animals and, if they select the right cards, slaughter them and feed their families. If not, all hell ensues. (JB)
If you can get past the boring name, you’re in for a good time. The object of Power Grid, a game for two to seven players, is to supply the most cities in the United States with power. In order to power the cities, you must first acquire raw materials (coal, oil, garbage, uranium, and wind or solar power), and then build power lines that connect the cities. What’s interesting about the game is that newer, more efficient power plants eventually become available on the market.
If you blow all your wad and buildings on coal plants (after all, it’s the American thing to do), hippies could sweep in on Round Three and build cheaper, more efficient wind-power plants. And because those environmentalists don’t have to buy resources, they’re spending all their money on kicking your ass and building a monopoly. If you don’t adapt and upgrade your plants, you’ll be left in the dust burning dinosaurs by the minute. (JB)
Who wants to trade some beans? No really, this simple game is all about trading green beans, stink beans, chili beans and soybeans, planting them, and then selling them for gold coins. First things first: Yes, you can play this game while drunk, and yes, it does get better the louder, sexier and more persuasive you think you are. The goal of the two-to-seven-player game is to make money, but in order to do that, you need to be conniving and manipulating. Ultimately, you need to convince other players to trade or bargain and give you all the good cards. Because of which, this is a deadly game for best friends and couples. Conversation tends to get a little rowdy (just give me your red beans, bitch) and feelings will inevitably be hurt. (JB)
The easiest way to describe Zero is like Family Feud in reverse. In the popular and long-running TV game show (“Survey says!”), teams earn points by answering questions in the same fashion as 100 surveyed people. If 90 people responded “Ford” to the prompt “name a car company that begins with F,” and you answer “Ford,” your team gets 90 points.
In Zero, the fewer points, the better. Using the same car example, if you answered “Fiat” and in fact no one in the survey answered the same way, you receive no points — and that’s a good thing. It’s fitting, then, that the game’s tagline is “Aim Low, Score High.” (Scott A. Leadingham)
MONOPOLY (AD NAUSEAM)
Be the first player to reach Dork Paradise. This game is for Jackass wannabes. It’s not for kids, and it’s not for families. The rules are muddy and the point is silly, but it’s a memorable game. Players start in the “gene pool,” separate into Dorks and Keeners, then make their way around the board. There are silly questions, ridiculous stunts, improvisational performances and more. Some challenges are momentary, while other challenges last throughout a round or the entire game. If you’re shy, don’t even think about this game. From the way you talk to the actions you take, this game will definitely make a dork out of you. ($43)
Fundamentally, there’s nothing new about Monopoly, which was first introduced in 1935. Tell people to “get out of jail free” or “do not pass ‘Go,’ do not collect $200” and they’ll most likely know the reference.
But the interests Monopoly caters to are now so widespread, one wonders if entire temporary Christmastime stores could sell nothing but the game and its many spinoffs. Consider all the special editions just for dog lovers, including: Chihuahua-Opoly, Pug-Opoly, Lab-Opoly, Dachshund-Opoly, Boxer-Opoly, Yorkie-Opoly and Shihtzu- Opoly, to name a few.
Fear not, equine lovers, for Horse- Opoly has you covered.
Don’t forget Bible-Opoly, Space- Opoly, Wine-Opoly, Brew-Opoly and Cocktail-Opoly.
From old-school comedy to contemporary pop culture, there are versions for The Three Stooges and Family Guy, John Wayne and Hello Kitty. Even the Tim Burton film The Nightmare Before Christmas has a special edition.
You can even buy a “make your own Monopoly kit” to customize the game to any interest you want. The kit comes with computer software so you can design and print your own property names. Your South Hill mansion can even be Boardwalk. (SAL)
If it’s a fun, quick, easy-to-understand party game you need (think at-home New Year’s Eve party), this may be the hands-down winner. Two separate employees at different Spokane game stores recommended it as such.
What’s best, it’s simple to pick up the rules. Combine the quick drawing of Pictionary with the random and lostin-translation nature of the childhood game “Telephone” and you have Telestrations.
The maker, USAopoly, recommends it for ages 12 and up, though at least a few reviewers have said it could work for those as young as 8. But considering how longgrown adults can skewer the “Telephone” game and haven’t mastered the art of stick-figure drawing, age may not matter much. (SAL)
Kids Battle the Grown-Ups
Perhaps one of biggest hindrances to family game night (other than the teen rulebook strictly forbidding it) is an unequal playing field and skill level between generations. For as much as I prided myself on youthful Trivial Pursuit knowledge, the questions on Bob Hope and Audrey Hepburn were clearly unfair for me and my brothers.
Kids Battle the Grown-Ups tries to account for this knowledge gap, weighting the questions to which team — kids or adults — is being asked. The motif and set-up is as a “family tug of war,” but depending on the complexity of the supposed kid questions, it might be a real-life version of Are You Smarter than a 5th Grader? It’s suggested as suitable for ages 8 and up, for two or more players. So if you bore of watching newly unwrapped movies all day, most of the family can sit down and actually talk and play a game. Another Christmas miracle! (SAL)