Some people consider it family time when they pile on the couch for the latest installment of The Biggest Loser or Survivor: South Pacific. But chances are, you’re going to leave your kids with more lasting memories and intellectual stimulation if you switch off the talking box and play a board game together. Especially if it is snowing outside, the fireplace is roaring and you’ve got some hot chocolate on hand.
From classics like Monopoly to new hits like Settlers of Catan, local toy retailers say games are still among their bestselling items during the holidays.
Betty Quigley of Grand Rabbit’s Toy Shoppe in Boulder says the company Blue Orange makes a card game called Spot It that is good for a variety of age groups. She also recommends Blue Orange’s Fastrack, in which players use an elastic band to shoot all of their wooden disks to their opponent’s side.
In addition, Quigley speaks highly of The Laser Game: Khet 2.0, in which players set up mirrored pieces to project a laser around the board in an attempt to illuminate their opponent’s “pharaoh” piece.
As for the classics, you’re just as likely to find Monopoly in various themes (from Cars 2 to national parks) as you are the original version, but Quigley says good old standbys like checkers, chess, dominoes and Chinese checkers are still quite popular.
She and other Boulder toy sellers say a twist on an old theme is one of the hottest games around this season. Picture the old wooden boxes with tiny silver balls that you had to negotiate around mazes. Now picture it as a three-dimensional, clear sphere with different tracks inside that you try to steer a marble along.
It’s called Perplexus, and it comes in three skill levels: Rookie, Original and Epic. It’s for ages 6 and up, and no batteries are required.
The other commonly mentioned game is Settlers of Catan, which is geared more toward teens and adults.
“It’s one game we can’t keep in at Christmas time,” says Dawn Saurwein, owner of Playfair Toys in Boulder.
Dean Densmore, assistant manager at Into the Wind on Boulder’s Pearl Street Mall, describes Catan as a game built around resources like clay, wheat, rock and lumber. Players try to build roads and cities and avoid robbers’ attacks. Expansions can be purchased to add on to the original.
Another good board game for teens and adults is Ticket to Ride, which Sauerwein describes as a train-centered adventure set at the turn of the century. She says Lego games are also popular this year, especially Creationary, which is like Pictionary, but instead of drawing, players build items with Lego blocks. In addition, Sauerwein recommends Slamwich, where the goal is to build a sandwich with cards.
But she says traditional favorites like Risk, Clue, Life, Rack-O and Tiddlywinks sell well, too.
Even the classic card game UNO has a new angle. Mattel has released a new Roboto version in which UNO gets its own personality and plays the game emcee and records players’ names and house rules.
Paul Kussler, manager of Into the Wind, lists the card game Fluxx (and its various themes, from zombies to Monty Python) among his more popular items this year. He also speaks highly of “Killer Bunnies,” a card game in which you use young rabbits to attack your opponent in a quest for the magic carrot.
He also carries original editions of Clue, Monopoly and Life.
“You can’t find those anywhere, in like a Walmart or Target,” Kussler says, adding that the new versions have been edited.
For instance, he explains, the “Revenge” element was suppressed in the game of Life.
“They’ve all taken these turns to be more P.C.,” Kussler says.