As most PopTenners know, I’m a massive board game junkie. I pile games up in my closet and behind my couch, scour thrift stores for any I don’t yet own, and if there are more than two people at my house, I’ll try my damnedest to foist one on them.
I’ve spent a lifetime amongst these peaceful, gentle creatures. The holiday season being upon us, I figured it my duty to help you make wise choices amongst the hordes at Toys R Us. (Who am I kidding, Amazon.com.)
Here are my top ten.
1. Loaded Questions
On hearing the premise of this game, most people (myself included) shrug. Someone asks a question, each player writes down an answer, and you try to guess who said what. Yawn? Nah, you’ll be too busy choking on laughter.
Loaded Questions produces the kind of laughter that takes years off your life. I’ve practically gotten asphyxiated from playing this game. The key is to play with people you know, preferably those who are wildly immature and those who are drawn to scatological humor. Playing with your cousins works best, playing with your co-workers or book club- worst.
Gotta give it up for a classic. Clue is amazing simply because it tests how good a cheater you are. Played fairly this game is decent at best, but once you abandon your morals and start getting creative with mirrors, Clue can’t be beat. I’ve tried every tactic- call my opponent’s home phone with my cell so they leave the table, position myself so that my opponents have mirrors or glass behind them, slip a laxative (or poison) in their drink, give them sharpies that bleed through the paper, wage psychological warfare on them, pull the old ‘lye in the eye’ trick, blinding them forever…
Cheating during board games isn’t much fun, but with Clue, cheating is the unwritten rule. If you ain’t cheating, you ain’t done played the game enough…
3. The New Yorker Game
This is a variant of Loaded Questions, but instead of guessing who answered a specific question, you’re giving New Yorker cartoons their captions and guessing who wrote which one. I’m not a fan of New Yorker cartoons in general, but until they make a Far Side version of it, this game will reign supreme.
Somehow this game brings out everyone’s perverted side better than Freud. I once wrote a XXX caption to a cartoon when playing with my fiancee’s family and got a bit nervous, until I found out her mom had written the same exact caption. If you haven’t picked this game up, I couldn’t recommend it more.
Argh… Putting this game so high on the list… is… killing…. me. This game forced me to enter Starbucks, then forced me to play it every single day for a year, until my friends and family all knew every question, and we were simply Cranium Zombies going through the motions… For years seeing this game would give me the shakes. Finally a new version came out a few years ago, and the madness has begun anew. I know it’s a brainless mashing together of every good board game… but it’s just… so… fun…….. Damn you Starbucks! Damn you to HELL!!!
Actually, I probably played this game even more than Cranium, a good decade before it. Pictionary. The game that separates couples and brings some together. The game that makes ‘artists’ hang their head in shame. The game that always inspires someone to say, “Let’s frame that one!” though I’ve yet to see a Pictionary picture on a wall… to my regret.
It’s almost imperative to play this game with one person who considers themselves an artist, and expects to get twenty minutes to draw each answer. When the hourglass empties, they’re still working on the foot that will doubtlessly be Abraham Lincoln if you only give him another few seconds…
Full disclosure: I love this game because I’m full of shit. And I love any game that caters to bullshitters like me. Making up definitions is somehow my idea of a good time, and there’s no greater joy than convincing someone that septuagenarian means ‘a female fruit fly larva’. Also, this game gets competitive as hell sometimes, and would probably be doubly enjoyable if you put some money on it.
7. Omega Virus
I lost this game years ago and sometimes find it in my dreams. You are a monochromatic Space Commando. You are on a mission to destroy the computer virus that has hacked into your space station. The only problem is that there are three other monochromatic commandoes also trying to stop the virus…
The gimmick of this game, it’s brilliant stroke, is the maniacal computer virus that narrates the adventure- you punch in commands, and it reacts to them. The best part of the game was secretly attacking your friends. The robotic/satanic voice would then cackle “Green is attacking… Red Warrior… How AMUSING! Hah hah hah…”
If only I could get my GPS (and/or wife) to adopt that voice…
This game needs to be on the list because we all know that playing this game with hot members of the opposite sex is intrinsic to our social/psychosexual maturation and personal evolution. Everyone’s had that moment when you’re at a party in high school or college (or grade school for some of you early-bloomers) and you’re playing Twister, perhaps inebriated, when The Hottie suddenly jumps into your game. And usually it’s at that very moment that you, all-at-once, grow up, to some extent, and hit one of those benchmarks of maturity. Once your Twister cherry is popped, you find yourself pathetically shoehorning it into any social function in the hopes of Chasing the Dragon. But everyone is somehow disinterested now, and you feel like a fool lugging Twister everywhere you go. Back to catching a case of The Feelies at a club, and hoping no one hates you for it…
Not including this in the top ten is like not including The Godfather in Top Ten Movies: I’m not a huge fan of either, but I respect their awesomeness. My brother is hugely into Monopoly- he probably has every version (except for the $600 chocolate version Neiman Marcus sold in ’78). Finally, after decades of playing, I think I’ve gotten to the point where I find the first hour fun. It’s that seventh inning stretch (i.e.- hours two through twelve) where I start wondering if swallowing a piece will lead me to the emergency room, and out of the game…
I can’t decide between them, but both of these games are similar enough, and I usually am pretty psyched to play either. It’s especially fun to play the original version of Outburst, where you have to list stuff like the top ten Gilda Radner movies.
My God I’ve left out a lot of greats. Trivial Pursuit for one (WTF?! How did that happen?!?). Also Scrabble, Scattergories, Munchkin (for the geeks- it’s not strictly-speaking a board game, or it would be high on the list) Catch Phrase, Hero Quest (the game that was my initiation into D&D) and Settlers of Catan (for you brainy folks).
P.S. Robo Rally is for suckers.