If I had the money and the time I could get very excited over board games. They appeal to me in many ways: the aesthetics, the geeky fun-factor of interesting objects and obviously the long-time enjoyment of playing a decent game. As good as Articulate and Cranium1 are, with Christmas coming it’s tempting to pick up something new for parties. But they’re pricey and I’ve never taken the time to look up review sites, so I’d probably wander aimlessly past the shelves at Toys ‘R Us and do nothing. Happily, a solution just fell into my lap: Matthew Baldwin of defective yeti produces an annual list of the best games he’s found, and the 2006 version was just published. I’m immediately attracted to ‘Hey! That’s My Fish!’:
Occasionally I’ll play a new game so elegant in design that I’ll come away amazed that it hadn’t been thought of before. Hey! That’s My Fish! is the most recent example. Sixty small hexagons (each showing one, two, or three fish) are assembled into an ice floe. Players then place their penguins onto the board, and play begins. On a turn, a player moves one of his penguins and then claims the hex the penguin just vacated, scoring points for the fish shown thereon. The ice floe slowly melts as more and more hexes are taken. Eventually there will be no more legal moves, and the person with the most fish wins. It’s extremely simple and remarkably strategic. It’s also perfect for the Al Gore on your list, as I bet it would go great with the global warming PowerPoint he just happened to bring with him.
Board game + fish + pingwings + exclamation marks = yay. It’s £15 on eBay, and I think the temptation might be too strong. All of the games seem like they’d be fun, but ‘Khet’, ‘Ticket to Ride’ (mentioned in ‘Thurn & Taxis’) and ‘Wits & Wagers’ look particularly good.