Though video games and other high-tech toys are more popular than ever, classic tabletop board games are experiencing a renaissance as well. A longtime favorite on family game nights, the best of the bunch continue to grow in popularity and production values as well. Looking for the top new board game picks available today? Here are several of the choicest selections of both new and classic experiences worth adding to your collection:
Monopoly by Hasbro – No list of board games would not be complete without Monopoly, so what better game to kick things off? Though there is a good chance you’ve played Monopoly before, there is an ever-growing list of variations to discover, and we don’t just mean themed versions based on a variety of pop culture staples such as Nintendo, Marvel Comics, The Lord of the Rings, and Dr. Who. Monopoly Empire, for example, introduces a tower to fill with billboards featuring such brands as McDonald’s, eBay, and Xbox, while Monopoly Millionaire challenges you to reach one million dollars first. Other variations include the app-enhanced Monopoly Zapped and the streamlined gameplay of Monopoly Electronic Banking.
Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG by Goodman Games – Rather than placing you in the role of hero, this role playing game allows you to take on a darker and more sinister persona, from reavers to cutpurses, heathen slayers, or even those creepy warlocks who guard secrets long since forgotten. Dungeon Crawl Classics promises fast, old-school style gameplay with modern rules which govern your use of sword and sorcery as you seek to claim the treasure that is so rightfully yours to take.
Pass the Popcorn by Mattel – How well do you know your movies? That is the question posed as you’re challenged to beat your friends to the punch as you race to guess the names of various films based on such clues as actors, characters, story snippets, or even memorable quotes. A 50-card booster pack adds numerous films from the ’80s and ’90s, and the first player to complete their category tiles is declared the Best Actor… er, winner.
Family Business by Mayfair Games – If you have under an hour you need to kill, this resource management card game will make sure your boredom sleeps with the fishes. Up to six mobsters compete to become the last family standing as you put out hits on other players and use a little bit of the ol’ “family influence” to save your own, all in the name of survival. After all, pushing up daisies isn’t good for business, capiche?
Descent: Journeys in The Dark Second Edition Board Game by Fantasy Flight Games – This revision of the popular dungeon-delving board game brings more of what you love with rules that have been streamlined, new heroes and monsters, class-based gameplay, and more. One player takes on the role of the evil overlord, while up to four others must stand together to overcome his/her treachery.
Words With Friends by Hasbro – First, there was the crossword board game Scrabble from Hasbro. Then came the online and mobile game Words With Friends by Zynga. Rather than fight, the two instead came together to produce the Words With Friends board game. Use your seven-letter tiles to form new words across the board vertically and horizontally until there are no more tiles left to determine a winner. The first person to run out gets to add the points of the tiles from the remaining players to their own score. For those familiar with Scrabble‘s board layout, Words With Friends features a different setup, providing some variety.
Age of Cthulhu: Death in Luxor by Goodman Games – The year is 1924, and your team of archaeologists has arrived in Egypt to investigate the legends of a great and evil terror which Ramesses III sacrificed his very empire to seal away beneath the sands of Luxor for all time. With death now roaming the city’s streets once again, it is up to you to succeed where even the mighty Pharaoh himself once failed in this globe-spanning adventure for horror role-playing game favorite Call of Cthulhu.
A Game of Thrones: The Board Game Second Edition by Fantasy Flight Games – Based on the fantasy novels of George R. R. Martin and the hit HBO television series which it inspired, this game calls for three to six people to rise up from one of the six Great Houses to converge and form armies to march across the Westeros map as you attempt to forge new alliances with your opponents, all in the name of taking control of this ever-changing political struggle. All the while, detailed artwork ensures you’ll be able to enjoy the series’ most memorable elements as you strive to shift the balance of power in your favor.
Blokus by Mattel – A strategic board game which has won the Mensa award for promoting healthy brain activity, the goal of Blokus is to fit all of your Tetris-like game pieces onto the game board. Of course, it’s not as simple as setting your pieces down and calling it a day; certain rules must be adhered to, such as the requirement of a new piece touching a played piece of the same color, but only at the corners. Other players may attempt to thwart your progress by laying pieces that can block your moves, just as you can do to them, leading to a game which is easy to understand, yet pits your wits against those of your family and friends.
Cards Against Humanity – Self-described as “a party game for horrible people,” this smash-hit game for adults may bring out a surprising side of your friends and family. As you go around the group, each player draws a card from the deck featuring a question or a sentence with one or more words left blank. The remaining players must then choose from the cards in their hand a word they think provides the funniest answer, and you’ll be amazed by how abstract-yet-fitting or surprisingly on-target some of the answers can be. Just be sure to perform due diligence and research the game further before purchasing it, as it may not be right for everyone or every situation.
A smarter way to play: Video games industry analysis, reviews & insight.
It’s never too early to peer ahead and get revved up over what the games industry has planned for us in the coming year. However, 2013 stands to be an odd time: While Nintendo’s Wii U will surely begin to hit its stride, we still have no idea what Microsoft and Sony have planned for their next-generation systems. And what about the robust tablet and smartphone market? How will cheap, downloadable games affect sales of triple-A retail fare?
The coming year looks a little uncertain, but there are still tons of games to get excited about. Here are ten of the hottest new games for 2013.
BioShock Infinite (Windows, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3) – This spring, first-person shooter fans will have the opportunity to dive back into the top-notch storytelling that defines the BioShock games. BioShock Infinite plays much like its predecessors, but the game doesn’t take place in the undersea city of Rapture. Instead, players explore a floating city called Columbia.
Rayman Legends (Wii U) – Set to hit the Wii U in February, Rayman Legends is a magnificently-animated platforming game with a great sense of humor. Up to four people can play the game at once, and one additional player can assist the others via the Wii U game pad.
Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch (PlayStation 3) – If you’re a fan of RPGs and you own a PlayStation 3, you won’t want to miss Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch this winter. This whimsical game is a co-production between the talented developers at Level-5 and Studio Ghibli, the animators behind Hayao Miyazaki’s epic anime works.
Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time (PlayStation 3, PlayStation Vita) – Sly the raccoon is back this February in another adventure game full of sneaking, hiding, and thieving. You’ll also be able to utilize new powers and accessories.
StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm (Windows, OSX) –StarCraft is synonymous with real-time strategy games, so anticipation for the March release of StarCraft II is practically boiling over. Players can expect at least 20 new missions, as well as a storyline that continues the struggle against the malicious Zerg.
God of War: Ascension (PlayStation 3) – God of War can always be counted on for solid third-person action, and God of War: Ascension, coming in March, appears to have more hacking, slashing, thumping, and maiming than ever before. Expect tons of new weapons, minigames, and puzzles. Also, expect Kratos to be in a bad mood.
Fire Emblem: Awakening (Nintendo 3DS) – Fans of turn-based strategy games will be happy to know that Nintendo’s celebrated Fire Emblem series is making its return in February. The game boasts new options like team-up attacks, and will introduce downloadable content over time.
Last of Us (PlayStation 3) – Fans of post-apocalyptic scenarios should instantly fall in love with Last of Us when it hits shelves in May. This third-person survival adventure game narrates the struggles of two people as they try and stay alive in a world populated by disease-infected humans and wary survivors.
Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon (Nintendo 3DS) – Maaario! Luigi makes a return to ghost busting this spring with a follow-up to the GameCube’s cult hit. This time, there’s more than one haunted mansion to stumble through, and every single one is stuffed to the brim with ghosts, monsters, and spooks. Good thing Luigi has his vacuum cleaner.
Crysis 3 (Windows, Xbox 360, PlayStation) – Crytek’s next entry in this famous first-person shooter series takes place in an alternate New York City that’s been choked by trees, vines, and foliage. The main character, Prophet, needs to untangle the complicated reasons behind the transformation.
With 2012 over and 2013 now dawning, we can say this much: The year provided us with some excellent toys and video games. The growing video game market produced some real winners, especially for folks looking for family-friendly titles, and the hottest toys are encouraging kids to build, dream, and fiddle with smaller versions of the electronics that are quickly becoming an inseparable part of their daily lives.
Need a refresher of what’s worth checking out? Here are ten of 2012’s best toys and video games – the good news being that many more (i.e. the LeapsterGS, Imaginext’s line of playsets, a variety of MegaBloks kits, etc.) are available in droves.
Wii U – Nintendo’s latest contribution to the video game console race is tons of fun for game players of all ages and skill levels. The system is considerably more powerful than its predecessor, the Wii, but its most notable feature is its tablet-style controller that lets you enjoy games while the family TV is wrapped up for other purposes.
Skylanders Giants (Nintendo 3DS, Wii, Wii U, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360) – When you can’t choose between toys or video games, grab a compromise. Skylanders: Giants is an adventure game that’s packed with plastic figurines. Said figurines come to life when they’re scanned into the game via an included “portal” accessory.
Rayman Jungle Run (iPhone, iPad) – Rayman Jungle Run is a well-build and easy-to-play endless running game for iOS. At 99 cents, it’s also very affordable!
Pokemon Black Version 2/White Version 2 (Nintendo DS) – These direct follow-ups to Pokemon Black/White for the Nintendo DS bring offer tons more content for Pokemon enthusiasts, including more Pokemon than ever to catch, and hours and hours of exploration and content.
Minecraft (PC) – This independent world-building game is a colossal hit, and for good reason. Players literally carve out their own world from a huge canvas, and several pioneers can play in the sandbox at once via the game’s multiplayer options.
Hot Wheels RC Terrain Twister – RC vehicles are a lot of fun, at least until the vehicle goes offroad and slows to a crawl. The Hot Wheels RC Terrain Twister is meant to take on all surfaces, including road, grass, dirt, and snow.
Tabeo – Toys R Us’s exclusive 7-inch tablet is engineered specifically for kids. With the help of a Wi-Fi connection, youngsters can play fun and educational games, and there’s even an HDMI output allows the tablet’s content to be broadcast on bigger screens.
SuperStructs – This series of pegs and round blocks lets kids snap together all kinds of fun creations. There are different model kits to choose from, but each one is extremely versatile and encourages kids to add their own flourish.
Lego – Legos remain an extremely popular gift choice, and for good reason. Building block towers never gets old no matter what age you are, and playsets like the DC Universe help keep things fresh.
Glow Crazy Doodle Dome – The Glow Crazy Doodle Dome gives kids their own hideout, which they can subsequently make their own by doodling on the walls with a lightwand (included). It’s fun, it’s affordable, and best of all, it’s mess-free.