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Gift guide: Zooloretto, Jungle Speed among table alternatives to video games
[November 22, 2008]

Gift guide: Zooloretto, Jungle Speed among table alternatives to video games

(Canadian Press (delayed) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) Computer and video games and their ever-greater realism get most of the attention these days. What most people don't realize is that non-computer games, the kind that have you sit down face to face and actually spend some time with other people, have also been getting better. There's no need to suffer through another largely random game of Monopoly or get into another argument over whether you can use the word ``qi'' in Scrabble. And even people who know about modern classics like Carcassonne or The Settlers of Catan can find something new to be excited about this holiday season. Here are some top contenders:

Zooloretto (Rio Grande Games)

The object of this game is to stock your zoo with cute animals, but underneath are rules that, while simple, force players to think ahead and make tough decisions. It's as challenging for adults as for kids. This game won the German board game critics' ``Game of the Year'' award last year. For two to five players, but plays best with at least three. Age eight and up.

Jungle Speed (Asmodee Editions)

This could be the game to capture the computer gamers who think table games are boring because they lack action. Each player gets a stack of cards and flips them over in turn. If two players flip over cards with the same symbol, the race is on to see who is the first to grab a wooden stick placed at the centre of the table. The game can lead to scratched fingers, but it's an addictive experience equivalent to a couple of cups of coffee. This game from France is rarely stocked in stores, but can be found online. Best for four to eight players, age seven and up.

Say Anything (North Star Games)

A lighthearted party game that's an alternative to Pictionary, Cranium and the ilk. One player asks the others a question like ``What would be the worst possible pizza topping?'' They write down answers, then vote on which answer they think is the most likely to be picked by the questioner as the best. In a test with adults, the answers quickly got raunchy, but everyone had a good time. Box says three to eight players, but would work best with at least four. Age 13 and up.

Ticket to Ride: Nordic Countries (Days of Wonder)

She's got a ticket to ride ... to Stockholm, Oslo and Helsinki! This is a sequel to the ingeniously simple and successful Ticket to Ride, which has players competing to blanket a map of train routes with their rides. ``Nordic Countries'' is optimized for two to three players, while the older game comes into its own with three or four. There are a few twists to the rules that are missing in the original, but it's still a very easy game to learn. And with the new map, you'll learn so much about the geography of Scandinavia! Age seven and up.

Incan Gold (Funagain)

Ostensibly, this game is about exploring a jungle ruin for treasure, but it's really about weighing risk and reward. Each turn, a player makes only one decision: Do I head further into the ruin, or do I head back to the safety of the camp? It seems like an easy call, but to win, you also have to guess what the other players are doing. Believe it or not, this simple game simulates the competitive pressures and risky behaviour that precipitated the latest financial crisis. And you can tell your kids it's about being Indiana Jones! For three to eight players age eight and up, but it's so simple that even younger kids can take part.

Pandemic (Z-Man Games)

In an unusual setup, the players of this game don't compete _ they co-operate to beat the game and save the world from devastating diseases. They take the roles of medical professionals who travel the world to find cures and treat the sick. A suspenseful game that emphasizes teamwork and planning, it's only slightly more complicated than Monopoly. The creepy theme could make kids see the world as one big hotbed of disease, but the art isn't graphic and the effects of disease are kept abstract. For one to four players, age 10 and up.

Battlestar Galactica (Fantasy Flight Games)

This game is terrific at emulating the desperation and paranoia of the sci-fi TV show. The players start out as humans, co-operating to save the last remnants of the race from destruction by the robotic Cylons. The twist is that one of them may secretly be a Cylon who is sabotaging the team. This isn't really a family game, because it's relatively complex, takes two to three hours to play and has dark themes. But fans of the show should be more thrilled than Starbuck scoring a hit on a Cylon Raider. For three to six players, age 10 and up.

Copyright ? 2008 The Canadian Press

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