Strategy board games this year are taking off in more vast and varied directions than ever before, and gaining momentum.
Settlers of Catan ($38.00, Ages 12 & up) by Mayfair Games
Even nearly a decade and over 20 variants later, Settlers of Catan remains a constant best-seller in the board game category among hobby game retailers, according to the Game Industry Network forum. The non-violent yet competitive theme and fun game play have been converting families into island pioneers, while opening American eyes to the elegant designs of gems from Europe.
Carcassonne ($22.95, Ages 10 & up) by Rio Grande Games (ToyShow)
Winner of the prestigious Spiel des Jahres (“Game of the Year”) in 2001, Carcassonne has risen to rival Settlers of Catan in sales, franchise, and popularity. Named after the medieval city of Carcassonne in southern France famous for its city walls, it shares with Settlers a similar “tile-building” premise as players take turn laying down terrain tiles connecting roads, fields, and city walls to score points. Its latest version, Carcassonne: The City was one of the most anticipated titles at the annual Internationale Spieltage Spiel (International Game Faire), the world’s largest game convention, in Essen, Germany.
Ticket to Ride ($39.95, Ages 8 & up) by Days of Wonder (ToyDirectory)
This winner of the 2004 Spiel des Jahres was selected as “Toy of the Year” by Family Fun magazine. Available in six languages and 30 countries, this “cross-country train adventure” board game has just topped the 250,000 mark in copies sold. Players collect train cards used to connect cities and claim the longest rail route in North America. The rules are simple enough to fit on a train ticket, learnable in three minutes and playable in 30-45 minutes, making it a perfect game for children with short attention spans.
Sid Meier’s Civilization: The Boardgame, Second Edition ($59.99, Ages 10 & up) by Eagle Games (ToyDirectory)
Not the old Avalon Hill version, of course, it only takes half as much time to play. Eagle Games released a new edition of the board game based on the popular computer game earlier this summer. It is heavy on components and thus very visually appealing, as players move armies and found their civilizations beginning at 4000 B.C. The previous edition was a big hit for the Comp USA chain and specialty game stores — a tradition this upgrade seems to uphold thus far from the constant restock reported by retailers.
Heroscape ($39.99, Ages 8 & up) by Milton Bradley
The 30 painted figures and plastic tiles included will ensnare virtually any youngster’s attention. This game is a dynamic visual treat as figures such as warriors, mechanized battle droids, dragons, and dinosaurs move across the three-dimensional terrain in an epic clash.
DOOM ($49.95, Ages 10 & up) by Fantasy Flight Games
Converted from the mega-popular id Software namesake series of first-person shooters, DOOM the board game is a fresh new kid at barely a month old, but looks to hit the ground running with beautifully rendered pieces (from marines to cyberdemons) and unique game play to match the frantic pace of its computer counterpart.