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Board games family-friendly holiday fun

POSTED December 27, 2011 10:07 p.m.

Drinking and Dick Clark aren’t the only two ways to pass time until that glistering ball drops in New York City.

This New Year’s Eve, why not while away the hours playing a board game?

If you’ve been stuck on Monopoly and Clue, you’ll be amazed at how far board games have come in the last 20 years. European influences have crept into mainstream American board gaming, creating games which somehow offer deeper strategies, yet more intuitive game play.

Here are just a few suggestions from the Journal:

·         For serious gamers: Settlers of Catan
Settlers of Catan isn’t just another game – it’s been called “the board game of our time” by the Washington Post, and been inducted into the Games Magazine Hall of Fame.

As the name suggests, this game is all about settling an island nation; players compete to build cities and roads, competing for control of the island. What the name doesn’t tell you is how brilliant the game is, which sees a complicated interplay of resource management, trading, and a touch of luck, with every player usually in the hunt to win until the bitter end.

The game can take upwards of an hour to play, and experienced gamers may have an advantage at the start, but it’s a blast for anyone willing to give it a chance.

·         For wannabe rail barons: Ticket to Ride
Run your own railroad company, plotting tracks across North America. Make the longest track, hitting all the most valuable cities, and you win!

Making matters more difficult, some cities only have enough room for a single rail line, and each player has secret routes he or she must build to earn extra points. The fun lies in jockeying back and forth for the best routes, while denying opponents from reaching their goals.

If you enjoyed the concept of Monopoly, you’ll love the implementation of Ticket to Ride.

·         For large (potentially inebriated) groups: Apples to Apples
Who says you can’t drink and play board games at the same time?
Apples to Apples is a riotous party game, where one player acts as a judge and draws a “theme” card, then all the other players offer up their best matching card from their hands. The catch: matching themes is entirely subjective; the theme “Fat” might draw cards ranging from apt (“Butter”) to ironic (“Jogging”) and brutally hilarious (“Elvis”) with the judge left to pick his or her favorite.

·         For Tetris fans: Blockus

Take a handful of Tetris-like pieces, and make them all fit on a Scrabble-like board in this highly-decorated four-player game.

The concept may sound simple, but after a few turns even veteran players are left scratching their heads looking for available squares close enough to their existing pieces to keep playing. As your playgroup gets better, the game just gets harder, as opponents will work to deny your own ability to place pieces on the board.

·         For kids, too: Qwirkle
Essentially a new twist on dominoes, Qwirkle challenges players to build rows of tiles. While the game of dominoes asks players to match numbers, though, Quirkle is all about matching colors or symbols.

The game is scored after each play like Scrabble, with the end goal of creating long lines of tiles which share a color or symbol. As those lines stretch out, though, they oftentimes run into other players’ lines, creating a challenging crossword-esque game board.

While the strategy can become challenging, children as young as six can play Qwirkle, per the game’s developers.

 

To contact Alex Cantatore, e-mail acantatore@turlockjournal.com or call 634-9141 ext. 2005.

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