Christmas shopping is upon us. It’s the time of year when newspapers and magazines fill Christmas pull-out specials with gift ideas. Board games are often touted as the ideal way to spend some quality time over the festive season with your family.
If you’ve ever played Monopoly by the actual rules you’ll know this is far from sage advice. It’s a brutal family-rift inducing, table-flipping nightmare. At the end of a year which saw judges at the World Scrabble Championships strip an opponent for a missing ‘G” (seriously. Oh, the jokes), I present some of the best pest games that you should consider for your Christmas shopping.
Perfect Pestie Pressies:
Hive is an addictive strategy game for two players that is not restricted by a board and can be played anywhere. There are twenty two pieces, eleven black and eleven white, resembling a variety of invertibrates each with a unique way of moving.There is no tedious setting up before you play- the game begins when the first piece is placed down. Pieces are placed so they forms a pattern that becomes the playing surface (the pieces themselves become the board). Unlike other games, the pieces are never eliminated and not all have to be played. The object of the game is to totally surround your opponent’s queen bee, while at the same time trying to block your opponent from doing the same to yours.
I can’t recommend this one enough, if you like the idea of chess but can’t bear the tedium or just awant an indestructible game that you can play with adults or children, this should be in everybody’s stocking this year.
Despite the name, Cockroach Poker has nothing to do with poker – except that the game is all about bluffing, but with cards showing cockroaches, rats and stink bugs instead of queens, 10’s and aces.
The deck includes 64 cards, with eight copies of eight types of critters. To set up the game, shuffle the deck and deal the cards out to players. On a turn, a player takes one card from his hand, lays it face down on the table, slides it to a player of his choice, and declares a type of critter. The player receiving the card accepts the card, she says either “true” or “false”, then reveals the card. If this player is wrong in her claim, she keeps the card on the table in front of her face up; if she is right, the player who gave her the card places it face up before him.
I played this with my daughter for years and she’s a demon at it: “It’s A Rat Daddy! …I think…I’ve forgotten! I think it’s a rat!?” Sigh- her skills at bluffing are legendary.
Note: despite the German box text the game has no writing on the cards and the rules are multi-language.
In Rat Hot two players take turns to draw two tiles from a face down pile, then add them to the existing layout. The tiles all show a combination of rats, spices or empty crates. Each player has four different types of spice in their player colour which they are trying to form into large groups. The game is scored with grey and yellow chips which represent 1 and 2 points. Each time you place a tile, you and your opponent can score points from groups created or changed by that tile. Whenever a group of two of the same spice is formed, the owning player receives one point, or two points for groups of three or more. Beware! If there are three rats of your own colour visible at the end of your turn, you instantly lose.
Rat Hot can be very tricky. You want to keep your opponent’s rats exposed in awkward places, so they have to spend both their moves trying to keep the rats covered. But you also want to set up scoring positions, and cover your own rats, and avoid giving your opponent points as well. It’s a good puzzle game that keeps you thinking a turn aor two ahead and you are always looking at what th other player is doing.
Rattus is set in Europe, 1347. A disaster is about to strike. The Black Death reaches Europe, and during the next 4-5 years, the population of Europe will be halved. The players settle in the various regions of Europe, while the plague spreads throughout all of the continent. The players gain help from the various classes of the middle ages: The Peasants provide population growth, the wise Monks keep the rats away, the rich Merchants flee when the plague approaches, the warfare conducted by the Knights spreads the plague to new areas, the Witches controls the spread through magic and witchcraft, whereas the Kings avoid the plague by staying in their fortified palaces. But the plague does not make any distinction: when the rats arrive, no one can feel safe. When the plague withdraws and the game ends, the player with the highest surviving population wins. Not the most engaging of Christmas themes, but it is a jolly good game.
Flea Circus is a pretty simple cardgame with a circus or carnival theme. Players play cards (generally one at a time) representing fire breathers, animal trainers, clowns, cotton-candy vendors and the like in an effort to attract spectators who, depending on what card is played, can be taken from a pool or from another player. Watch out for the Animal Catcher though- your audience are cats and dogs, and he’ll take them away! Great fun, this one, and hardly takes any time to get the hang of the rules and play a few hands.
Popular stocking fillers:
Mousetrap- a game that everyone of a certain age remembers from their childhood, but never for playing- just for building the board. Usually for hours on end while your parents rolled their eyes and tried to stop halt of the pieces from being lost or broken.
Bed bugs! The game of forcep snapping pest control. Not seen this one around for a while as I’m not sure everyone will see the funny side of catching human parasites when they are making a world-wide comeback! It’s not so much fun when you actually trying to catch them with forceps at 4am.
Beetle drive. I had this one as a child. I liked making the beetles. What I don’t remember so fondily was sitting around for three hours playing the game waiting for someone, anyone, to roll a three to get the final leg on any one of blooming things.
…and whilst we are talking about great games I hear that Present Drop! the cut-out game on the back of this year’s Medium Cadbury Selection Box is very good indeed….
Credit to the amazing www.boardgamegeek.com for some of the synopses.