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Multimedia Gift Guide — Board Games 

Games for scallywags, geeks, hobbits and zombies!

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Feed the Woozle

If anything says family bonding, it’s nonsensical, meaningless competition in board games that leads to insufferable winners and pouty losers. Feed the Woozle is a miraculous departure from that reality, just in time to save Christmas. The family oriented Woozle, for ages four and up, is what’s known as a cooperative game — i.e., no winners or losers. Players roll a die to see how much food they must, ahem, Feed the Woozle, then do it in a creative way like hopping or crawling. The game may get a little silly, but it won’t lead to domestic disputes. If your kids don’t appreciate that, the police probably will.

Scallywags 

Nothing typifies Christmas like men dressed up in oversized suits, sporting ridiculous beards and black-as-coal boots. Arrrrrrrrr you thinking of Santa and his many impersonators? Well, matey, ye be wrong. Pirates are the true reason for the season, at least if you’re gifting Scallywags. Two to six players can play the game relatively quickly — about 15 minutes — leaving plenty of time for doing whatever else it is you do when forced to like your family. Kids will learn strategy and addition in the simple game by divvying a gold treasure and playing cards to claim their share of the loot. All without developing an unhealthy obsession with swashbuckling Johnny Depp movies. Win-win!

Geek Battle 

If you didn’t catch the memo, being a geek is, well, kind of cool. CBS sitcom The Big Bang Theory is the most popular primetime television show. Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson is a subcultural phenomenon, practically on par with pop singer PSY. It may seem odd that board gaming needs its own game to confer the title of biggest geek, considering, well, it’s board gaming. But every group needs rivalry, even geeks. The game is essentially a stripped down version of Trivial Pursuit, only the questions are much more narrow, with topics on science fiction, comics, videogames science and technology. It’s a worthwhile way to distract the geeks in your life for long enough they don’t see you sneaking up to inflict massive atomic wedgie damage. Or is it nerds who get wedgies? Maybe that’s a question better left for Geek Battle.

Zombies!!! 11 

The amount of zombie themes present in popular culture is, frankly, a tad vexing (see the various zombie races held in different locations, wherein you actually pay to be chased by people dressed as zombies). But somehow a zombie board game makes sense. And not just one zombie board game... 11 of them. The latest iteration of the Zombies!!! (yes, the exclamation points are part of the title) franchise is subtitled “Death Inc.” Players are thrown into a scenario where co-workers are zombies, and you have the unpleasant task of saving those worth saving. It may be worth buying just for the stellar back-of-box marketing copy: “Remember when you just THOUGHT everyone you work with was a zombie? Well, as it turns out, you were right. The CEO is now the ZEO. Your co-workers now moan in addition to the aimless shambling.”

Randomonium!

Everyone needs an outlet for those odd word associations that constantly flutter around our brains. Quick: Oatmeal. Uh... Reindeer. Randomonium! provides an outlet for such seemingly odd associations, in typical party game fashion. The layout is similar to Scrabble or dominoes, with pre-selected words on tiles. The game progresses with participants playing off of game pieces previously laid down. Your fellow players will decide whether your pairing counts. And as party games normally go, the more booze, the better the answers.

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

There was a time when December meant more than shopping and holiday preparation under the guise of religious observance. It was a short period — 2001 to 2003 — when the Lord of the Rings trilogy was released in three subsequent years. Along with the movies came associated products to help you live out your elfish fantasies. Those products, of course, included fantasy board games (think Dungeons and Dragons, for the common nerd). Alas, those years came to an end when it was indeed discovered that there were no more movies to make. Wait, no, The Hobbit. Of course! There’s still money to be made in December! Joy to the (Middle Earth) world! With the new Hobbit movie comes... wait for it... a new Hobbit board game. It allows up to 15 players, in case you want to play with everyone in your row at the movie theater.

The Logo Board Game 

You don’t have to look far to find people lamenting the over-commercialization of the Christmas season. Rather than fight that notion, embrace it. Yes, that’s right, engage in obnoxious, over-the-top commerce by buying gifts that blatantly recognize how commercial our society has become. One very easy way to do that: The Logo Board Game, which asks you to challenge “your knowledge of the world’s most popular brands.” For example: Do you know what NASCAR stands for? What’s in a V8? Those are two of the sample questions the game provides. If you want to know more, you’ll of course have to buy it. When the novelty wears off, you can always re-gift it, which is perhaps as much a time-honored holiday tradition as buying random gifts for people who don’t really want them.

Travel Blurt!

Ah, family bonding. What to do? Play a board game or go on a road trip? The Board Game Industrial Complex isn’t deaf to the fact that families confined to a car need ways to kill the hours of what would otherwise be debilitating silence. Thus many regular board games come in handy travel editions. So goes the way of Blurt! As car games go, it’s relatively simple: take turns reading clues, players “blurt” out answers, correct answers get points, crying and temper tantrums ensue. The travel edition even includes a magnetic scoreboard to easily keep everything in place. After all, you wouldn’t want game pieces to go flying out the window when you TURN THIS DAMN CAR AROUND.

How to Host a Murder 

Murder? How-to? Holiday? Yeah, I’m listening... Role-playing party games can be a clever way to avoid actually making conversation with the tangential friends you keep inviting to your New Year’s Eve party. “How do I evade really getting to know these people? Ah, yes, play a make-believe game.” The How to Host a Murder series comes in different themes, including a toned-down and “safe” version for the younger crowd, How to Host a Teen Mystery. There’s even a theme for ’70s disco lovers called “Saturday Night Cleaver.” Seriously. Each kit includes a guide with instructions, CD with period music and player manuals for up to eight people. 

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