Boards and Bees Second Annual Post-Holiday Gift Guide

Last year, I noticed that everyone was publishing a holiday gift guide to help you find presents for your loved ones.  However, I also noticed that there was a lack of information about what to do AFTER the holiday.  So, as a public service, I offer the Post-Holiday Gift Guide.  Last year, I focused on what to do with the remnants of those gift cards you got / extra small games to fill out an order so as maybe to qualify for free shifting.  This year, I’m going to focus on what to do with those games you got that you DIDN’T want.  Let’s get started!

SO SOMEONE GAVE YOU MONOPOLY…

image by BGG user Aarontu
image by BGG user Aarontu

Some well-meaning relative heard that you like board games and decided that this must mean you need a themed version of Monopoly.  So you open your package and yep, there it is.  Simpsons-opoly.  Or My Little Pony-opoly.  Or Insert-the-name-of-your-favorite-sports-team-here-opoly.  And you smiled and thanked them while inside your insides were boiling with rage.  Let’s be honest, if you’ve played one version of Monopoly, you’ve played them all.  Sure, it may be briefly entertaining to see those Muppet pieces, but it’s still Monopoly.  I think Monopoly has done more to discourage people from exploring the board game hobby than any other game – a lot of people love it so much they won’t even try anything else, and a lot of people hate it so much they won’t even try anything else.  And then there are those that only think of Monopoly when they think of board games.  So, what do you do?

TRADE IT IN FOR…

 

image by BGG user yayforme
image by BGG user yayforme

Bruce from The PartyGameCast has called Bohnanza “Monopoly with all the Monopoly taken out.”  I tend to agree.  This 1997 Uwe Rosenberg design features the good parts of Monopoly (trading, set collection, economics) without all the bad (roll and move, extreme elements of chance, countless house rules that make the game unplayable).  It’s a game about bean farming.  On your turn, you plant a bean or two in one of two fields, then have a trading phase where you reveal two cards from the deck and everyone makes offers for them.  The twist in the game is that you cannot rearrange your hand, so the first card in your hand is the one you’ll have to plant, whether you want to or not.  It’s a great gateway game that you should fill a Monopoly sized hole with something better.

SO SOMEONE GAVE YOU RISK…

image by BGG user GROGnads
image by BGG user GROGnads

A lot of people love Risk.  And I’ll admit, I’ve never played, so I don’t know exactly how I’d react to it.  But from what I hear, it’s very long, and you have to rely on a lot of good die rolls to do well.  Plus, there’s the optimal strategy of holding Australia to ensure victory.  At its core, it is a light wargame, but has long since been replaced by much better and more streamlined games.  So what do you do with Risk?

TRADE IT IN FOR…

image by BGG user MarkKaufmann
image by BGG user MarkKaufmann

If you want a game that is about conquest, you can’t do much better than Small World.  This 2009 Philippe Keyaerts design has fantasy creatures competing over a small area in order to score points.  You choose a fantasy race and power combination, then take your turn to distribute your units, scoring after each turn.  At some point, you will send your race into decline, meaning that you can take another, but the last one won’t be actively doing anything for you anymore – they stay on the board until conquered, they just can’t move.  The game is fun, doesn’t have player elimination, and plays in a shorter time frame than Risk.  So I think it’s a pretty good replacement.  (I could have gone with Risk Legacy here, but I thought I’d make a clean break with the Risk franchise.)

SO SOMEONE GAVE YOU HUNGRY HUNGRY HIPPOS…

HHH

We probably all have fond memories of Hungry Hungry Hippos.  I mean, you’re bashing a lever to operate mechanical hippo heads in order to eat the most marbles.  The game has been around since 1966, if you can believe it, and is still very popular.  It’s just not much of a game.  Yes, there’s competition, but there’s no skill – it usually comes down to how the marbles roll around on the playing area.  And one ALWAYS gets stuck in the center, so everyone is fruitlessly mashing their lever until someone bumps the board.  It’s completely mindless, and really loses what small appeal it has after a minute.  So what do you do with it?

TRADE IT IN FOR…

image by BGG user henk.rolleman
image by BGG user henk.rolleman

If you want a lever-mashing game, go with Looping Louie.  This game, which goes in and out of print (I think it’s currently out, but you can find copies) is about launching a motorized plane into the air so it knocks your opponents’ chicken discs off their coop.  Like HHH, it is a completely brainless experience, but has the advantage of being slower-paced and thus introducing a little more skill.  Not that Louie EVER does what you want him to, but you can waste a lot of time on this game.  And it’s fun.  So, if you can find it, definitely trade up from your Hippos.

SO SOMEONE GAVE YOU YAHTZEE…

image by BGG user NeonBlue
image by BGG user NeonBlue

Let’s be clear…I do NOT think Yahtzee is a bad game.  I think it’s a very nice solo puzzle.  But it is also NOT a competitive experience.  It quite literally is the definition of multiplayer solitaire.  You roll your dice three times, you mark your score pad, you pass the dice.  When it comes to your turn, you do it again.  Absolutely nothing your opponents do has ANYTHING to do with what you can do.  So how do you deal with this gift?

TRADE IT IN FOR…

King of Tokyo - image by BGG user kherubim
King of Tokyo – image by BGG user kherubim

King of Tokyo takes the Yahtzee mechanism of rolling your dice three times and adds a super fun theme – giant Kaiju monsters battling over Tokyo.  You could go for points, or to hit other monsters, or to heal yourself, or to collect energy that can be spend on new powers.  The game is a blast to play, and is far more interactive than Yahtzee ever could be.  At the same time, it is not a mean-spirited game – you don’t choose who you attack, you just attack the monster in Tokyo or all those outside of it (depending on where you are).  It’s going to cost you more than a standard Yahtzee set, but is going to be much more fun.

SO SOMEONE GAVE YOU UNO…

image by BGG user EJKemp
image by BGG user EJKemp

I used to like Uno a lot.  And I still do, to some extent.  The problem with Uno is that it can take FOREVER.  I always played with the variant that, if you didn’t have a card you could play, you had to keep drawing until you got something.  I still like this way better than the real way, which is you draw once and get skipped if you can’t play.  My way sometimes leads to some massive hand sizes, but you have plenty you can do on your next turn.  When you get down to it, however, the game is just Crazy Eights with some fancier cards.  It’s not terrible, but it’s not something I want to play a lot.  Plus, everyone already has a copy somewhere – I know my Shrek 2 edition is just gathering dust on my shelf.  So what do you do with Uno?

TRADE IT IN FOR…

image by BGG user W Eric Martin
image by BGG user W Eric Martin

Wolfgang Kramer’s 1994 game 6 nimmt! has been reskinned several times, most recently as The Walking Dead Card Game.  This game is all about trying not to claim points – you have a hand of 10 cards, and each turn, everyone plays a card simultaneously and adds it to a row.  The trick is trying not to make a row longer than five cards – if it is, you claim the row.  If you can’t play the card you chose because it’s lower than everything else on the board, you claim a row.  After a certain number of rounds (or points), the player with the fewest points wins.  This version uses bullets instead of bull heads as in the original, and uses imagery from the TV show, but it’s basically the same, with a variant where you can try to collect the most points.

SO SOMEONE GAVE YOU SCRABBLE…

image by BGG user mildthrill
image by BGG user mildthrill

Scrabble is a very popular word game, and probably the definitive game of the genre.  And it’s a good game, it really is.  The trouble is that if you play some one with a better command of the English language, they are going to wipe the floor with you.  Also, the tile draw is random, and too often you end up with all vowels or all consonants (including the Q and X).  The endgame can also be pretty drawn out as you try to optimize those last few letters, eventually not coming up with any thing better than TO for 2 points.  So what do you do with Scrabble?

TRADE IT IN FOR…

image by BGG user Fubeca
image by BGG user Fubeca

Paperback is a recently published game by Tim Fowers.  It’s a deck-building word game where players are trying to make words from letters in their deck that will allow them to purchase new letters and eventually complete novellas (which are the objectives of the game).  This is one I haven’t played, but I think it’s now on its second printing and has been pretty popular with people who have tried it out.  I don’t think you can get it in retail stores right now, but you can get the cash for Scrabble and use it to buy your own copy.

SO SOMEONE GAVE YOU LCR…

image by BGG user William Hunt
image by BGG user William Hunt

LCR is a popular dice game where you roll dice and give out chips based on the result.  It is the quintessential luck game.  You roll three dice.  If you roll an L, you give a chip to the player on your left.  If you roll an R, you give a chip to the player on your right.  If you roll a C, you put a chip in the center of the table.  If you roll a dot, nothing happens.  The last player with chips is the winner.  There’s no strategy, there’s no skill, there’s only rolling dice and hoping that you don’t completely break the bank.  It’s essentially gambling without money.  It’s terrible.  But people like it, and for some reason feel like sharing the love.  So what do you do with LCR?

TRADE IT IN FOR…

image by BGG user Rainalor
image by BGG user Rainalor

Zombie Dice, by Steve Jackson, probably has just as much luck as LCR, but also has a push-your-luck aspect so it’s not just rolling and seeing what happens.  On your turn, you pull three dice from the cup and roll them.  You set aside any brains and shotgun blasts you roll.  If you choose to keep rolling, take any footsteps you rolled plus more dice from the cup to get back to three and roll.  If you ever get three shotgun blasts, you’re out and score zero.  However, if you choose to stop before this occurs, you score one point per brain.  When someone gets 13 brains, the other players get one more chance to beat you, and the player who ends up with the most wins.  It’s a brainless game, but there’s at least the illusion of control since you can decide when you stop.  It’s at least better than LCR.

SO SOMEONE GAVE YOU JENGA…

image by BGG user CinMel
image by BGG user CinMel

Jenga is what people think of when they think of dexterity game.  And it’s not bad in itself, just overdone.  You pull out a piece and place it on the top.  You try not to knock it over.  But who wins?  Everyone but the person who ultimately knocks it over?  Or the person before the person who knocked it over?  There have been attempts to slap a theme on the game, but really, it’s just a pure block stacking game.  So how do you replace it?

TRADE IT IN FOR…

image by BGG user kaylex
image by BGG user kaylex

Animal Upon Animal is the answer.  This 2005 Klaus Miltenberger design gives the same stacking and toppling type of game, but with irregular pieces, a logical conclusion, and much more fun.  You roll a die to see if how many animals you are stacking (if any).  If you knock animals off, you pick them up and add them to your supply.  The first person to get rid of all their animals wins.  The pieces are a lot of fun, and the game, I think, holds much greater aesthetic value than Jenga.  So look for it if you want a replacement.

SO SOMEONE GAVE YOU CLUE…

image by BGG user edelen
image by BGG user edelen

Clue (1985) is the greatest board game movie ever made (not that this is saying much).  The board game has the potential to be great, but really kind of falls flat due to the roll and move aspect.  You know how it works – go to a room, make a suggestion, narrow down the suspects.  The deduction aspect of Clue is great.  Everyone knows some things, and you want to narrow down what others know in order to find whodunnit, with what, and where.  These last two always seemed weird to me – you have a body, where did you find it?  That’s probably where.  And what kind of a wound was it?  If it was a blunt object, then you have three choices.  However, for a gun, knife, or rope, it should be obvious.  The game has attained iconic status, and despite its flaws, probably is one of the better mass-market games out there.  But you have moved on, so what do you do with Clue?

TRADE IT IN FOR…

image by BGG user alexnev
image by BGG user alexnev

This one is an odd choice because it is not yet out in the US, but based on buzz, I think it’s a good one to wait for.  Mysterium (which is what it will be called in English) is a cooperative deduction game where one player is a ghost that can only communicate via dreams.  They cannot talk, but give cards to the players that are supposed to help the others figure out who is the culprit, where the murder took place, and with what (the murder happened in the past, so that’s how we get around that little thematic hurdle).  The images on the cards are very dreamlike, which means this game is a kind of cross between Clue and Dixit.  Everyone who has played it raves about this game, so keep an eye out for it (if you can wait that long before getting rid of Clue).

SO SOMEONE GAVE YOU CHESS…

image by BGG user Kaizen Zanshin
image by BGG user Kaizen Zanshin

Chess has been around for centuries, and it’s one of the most popular games in the world.  The game has been studied and studied and studied over the years, and there are a ton of strategy guides out there.  So much so, in fast, that you cannot hope to be competitive without careful study.  And some people enjoy that – they really like dedicating their time to mastering this one game, and that’s fine.  But for the rest of us, Chess can be pretty daunting and not too much fun.  So what to do with Chess?

TRADE IT IN FOR…

image by BGG user W Eric Martin
image by BGG user W Eric Martin

The Duke was published in 2013 by Catalyst Games, designed by Jeremy Holcomb and Stephen McLaughlin.  It’s a two-player abstract where players are trying to capture their opponent’s Duke on a grid of squares.  Each individual piece has its own moves, and it plays a lot like Chess.  However, it takes the game up a few notches by introducing a random draw of pieces, as well as having two possible moves for each piece.  When you use a piece, you flip it over, and the grid describes a new set of possible actions.  The game is quite engaging, and the random elements make it much more fun to me than the luckless game of Chess.  So if you’re looking for a Chess replacement, I suggest The Duke.

SO SOMEONE GAVE YOU CANDYLAND…

image by BGG user handofachlys
image by BGG user handofachlys

CandyLand is notorious for being a game that is over as soon as you shuffle the cards.  From that point on, the only skill needed is the ability to recognize colors.  This makes it a really good game for 2 and 3 year olds, but for anyone older than that, it’s pretty worthless.  Sure, the art may be cute and it may have a nostalgia factor, but there is nothing of substance in the game at all.  So what to do with CandyLand?

TRADE IT IN FOR…

image by BGG user kevintlee
image by BGG user kevintlee

Labyrinth is a maze game where players are trying to reach certain goals before their opponents do.  On your turn, you add a tile to the maze, which shifts some paths.  You then move your piece, trying to reach a treasure printed on the top card of your deck.  When you do, you score the card and start working on the next one.  The first one to find all their treasures and make it to their start space wins.  This game is great for building spatial awareness, and is a great game that will provide challenge for older kids and adults as well.  If your kids have moved beyond the color matching stage, I think this is a fantastic choice.

I hope you’ve found some ideas here.  Obviously, this has been a fairly tongue-in-cheek post – a lot of people like these games for a reason.  I just think that there are other options out there that people should be aware of.  So Merry Christmas/Happy Holidays to all, and thanks for reading!

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