Rusty's Reviews

Game Reviews

Acquire -- One of my very favorites. Should be as popular as Monopoly and the other big sellers, but it's actually hard to find. It's a unique game of strategic buying, merging, selling, and trading. The game becomes more intense as it goes. You can feel everyone starting to really dig in and think after the first handful of rounds. One interesting thing about this game is that it's hard to tell who's "winning" at any given point. Your acquisitions are more important than the money in your hand, and the value of these acquisitions is constantly changing. In fact, at the very end of the game, everyone is usually surprised to see who's won--and how close it was. This aspect of the game makes the game interesting to players throughout, since it's not often you have a strong sense that you are losing (though of course you have a decent idea of who's doing better). Again, an unnoticed but great game.

Agricola -- Possibly my favorite gamer's game.  It has a lot of the common elements (boring production theme, victory points, etc.), but combines them so that this is almost the only one you need.  Unlike a lot of gamer's games that risk becoming repetitive, the huge amount of cards in this game (so many that you'll probably never see them all) makes each playing experience slightly new, each player going for something different as a result.  The Farmers of the Moor expansion provides extra fun.

Apples to Apples -- A perfect party game.  Everyone I've ever played this with has liked it.  The game changes depending on what collection of people you're playing it with, and it's also very malleable in terms of the rules.  There are many ways you can mix it up if you get bored.  And the expansions are all pretty good.

Arkham Horror -- The H.P. Lovecraft theme makes this cool (not that I've ever read him).  It's one of the few cooperative games I've played, and it's more fun than I thought a game of that sort would be.  If you've got a gamer friend, the two of you can really pitch in together.

Axis and Allies -- Potentially fun if you're willing to really concentrate it and put many, many hours into it, but not great for those who want a quicker (more traditionally fun?) kind of game. A more complicated Risk, sort of.

Backgammon -- Only a little better, perhaps, than checkers.

Balderdash -- One of the better party games, especially for smart folks who are good at making up convincing definitions.  The newer versions of the game are even more cool since you can make up things like movie plots.

Battle Ball Game -- One of those "football of the future" games that's actually pretty fun.  Enough complications to keep it interesting, but not so many that it becomes confusing.

Battle of the Sexes -- Supposed to be a party game that makes us laugh at the differences in sexes, but not terribly funny or interesting.

Battleship -- A decent time-killer, but not a very strategic game.  Great for kids.

Bermuda Triangle -- An interesting concept: the Bermuda Triangle (a magnetic cloud) sucks up your metal ships at various points on the board. But not a great game, since almost everything is determined by rolling dice and moving things around. Probably fun enough for kids.

Blokus -- A colorful strategy game that's simple enough for a kid to play but complicated enough for adults.

Boggle -- A fun word-find game.  Sometimes can give you a headache with the noise of the letters shaking followed by the deafening silence of everyone looking for words while brains are frying, but still fun.

Bookology -- About the closest thing they had for those who wished there were a literature-only category of Trivial Pursuit (before they came up with the Book Lover's Edition), but in the end the game has enough dumbness (usually the parts that take away from the purely question-and-answer aspects) to not make it as good as all that. Still interesting for book nuts.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer -- More than just a TV show cash-in. We bought the game as a fan-of-show collectable, but ended up really loving the game. It's a fighting game that requires a fair amount of thinking. Fans of the show will also be impressed with how the game makers have logically tied in characters and storylines to fit what you do in the game. After playing the game almost every night for about half a year (like I did), it gets to where you feel you know the ins and outs a little too well, but for those less fanatical, the game will hold up for a very long time. A hidden treasure.

Catch Phrase -- Fun at first as a party game, a combination of hot potato and a word-guessing game, but unfortunately (at least in the electronic edition) the clues begin repeating pretty fast so that the real object of the game becomes passing it on to a new family after you've used it up for one night.

Candy Land -- A perfect game for children, in that it's colorful and fun-looking while not being at all hard (indeed, it's not really a game, so much as it is moving your piece around until you get to the end). Gives the illusion of a board game to kids who want to do what adults do. Don't play it if you're over six, even with your kids. Again, a wonderfully-designed children's game.

Checkers -- The retarded half cousin of chess.

Chess -- What can you say? It's chess. Perhaps a perfect game. Of course, I'm so horrible at it, that I rarely enjoy playing it.

Chutes and Ladders -- Like Candy Land, this isn't so much a game as it is a way for kids to pretend they're playing a real game by moving pieces all over the board. This one is fun for kids because of the ups and downs and illusion of progress and regress.

Citadels -- Is an interesting game of character-switching that is really fun the first several times you play, but once you sort of catch on, it becomes a little stagnant or over-simplistic.

Clash of the Light Sabers -- What looks like just another Star Wars cash-in is actually a well-thought-out card game.  Game play is simple but uses interesting strategies.  And it comes with pewter figures of Qui Gon Jin and Darth Maul!

Clue -- The charm of the game, I believe, is what has made this popular for so long. Feeling like you're solving a murder mystery in that old house with those great characters is pretty irresistible. But in the end, the game is basically just checking names off of a list until the answer is staring you in the face (unless you're willing to jump the gun and make a guess). Ten points for presentation, but that's all it has going for it.

Cranium -- A combo of Trivial Pursuit, Pictionary, charades, and other party games.  And a pretty good one.  The main problem is the way the board works.  It's completely unfair and even a little confusing.  Making up some house rules (preferably throwing the board away altogether) makes it work better.

Dixit -- An "art" game that's more about being whispy or being funny or being poetic (or many other things, depending on the mood you're in and crowd you're with) that being cut-throat.  Nice images on the cards and pretty rabbit pieces.  A fluffy cloud of a game.

Dominoes -- Depending on what kind of game you play, can be really fun or really pointless.  Usually fun, however.

Don't Go To Jail -- A fun enough dice-rolling game, sort of Yahtzeeish.

Duel Masters -- I bought this game for cheap, read the instructions, and realized it wasn't worth playing.

Go to the Head of the Class -- Trivial Pursuit for elementary school kids. Not a bad idea.

Guesstures -- A fun charades game, perhaps my favorite of that genre, since it has a cool timer that forces the game to speed along, rather than drag like regular charades.

Guess Who -- A pretty great game for kids, and one that adults won't be bored out of their skulls playing with their children (or maybe with each other, with some slight rule alterations--we like to play the game by asking about the characters' "auras" rather than physical features).

Hi Ho! Cherry-O -- Perfect for small children who will love picking the 3-D cherries and all the stuff they're allowed to do in this "game."

Hungry Hungry Hippos -- Fun for kids, of course, but even then it's noisy and kind of frustrating since there's not even a kiddie version of strategy--just mindlessly banging away for marbles.

Jar-Jar Binks 3-D Adventure Game -- Your Jar-Jar figure does little flips and things to win. I'm sure it's fun for kids. I bought it because it was cheap and as a Star Wars collectable.

Jedi Unleashed Game -- The board is cool, with lots of characters from Attack of the Clones fighting each other.  It's fun for one or two plays, but it's not one you'll bring out a lot.  Maybe good for pre-teens.

Jenga -- Barely qualifies as a game, more of a "when will I get to hear a loud noise and have to clean something up?" marathon.  I can see how it could be fun, but really it's just weird.

The Game of Life -- Candy Land for adults. A spinning wheel forces you to land on spaces and follow their fascist rules. My favorite game to make fun of.

The Game of Life: Pirates of the Caribbean--Dead Man's Chest -- Although it's still Candy Land for adults, this one adds a few interesting twists, such as getting to be specific pirates (or landlubbers) from the movie, buy ships, raid each other's ships, etc.  Still not much choice or strategy, but it's slightly more fun.

The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring -- The idea of a growing board is nice, and the artwork and pieces (all based closely on the movie) are wonderful, but the game is only worth playing once (if that many times) and has only slightly more freedom-of-choice than Candy Land.  Really the game is just a complicated way to read the story of the book and is perhaps the most pointless game I've ever played.

Lost: The Game -- A game with a lot of potential where the gamemakers dropped the ball.  You play characters from the TV show and try to kill each other, which of course isn't what the show was all about, so it doesn't make sense within the logic of the story.  The rules are extremely complicated, but yield stupid results.  An almost impossible game to play.

Mastermind -- Kinda fun for the first few times you play it, then you eventually "figure it out" and it becomes useless.  Like tic tac toe.

Memory -- A fun game for small children that adults won't mind helping with too much.  Works equally well as solitaire or with more than one player.

Monopoly -- The best board game ever created. Those who simply roll the dice and do what the board says (playing for hours and hours and complaining how boring it is) are missing the point. The beauty of the game is its flexibility, allowance for deals, rule-bending, basically turning it into whatever game you like based on who you're playing with. We call our version "Corrupt Monopoly" since the premise is to throw out any heart you have and go for the throat of your opponents. Twenty or so minutes are often spent between dice rolls negotiating a deal (whether it's eventually agreed to or not). It becomes almost a role-playing game if you let it. I wanna play it right now!

Munchkin -- Possibly a fun game with the right group of people.  But if you're a real D&D player (which this game parodies), then it will be too simple and goofy for you.  If you're not at all a D&D player, then it will be too much like D&D for you.  I find myself in the sweet spot of people who might like this game, but unfortunately haven't found anyone else there yet, but I'm guessing this is kinda fun though maybe more trouble than it's worth.  Plenty of expansions and other versions if you do like it.

The Newlywed Game -- I guess you don't have to actually be a newlywed to play this, but it helps.  When I was a newlywed, my wife and I played it against two un-married dudes who teamed up and they beat us.  Some of the questions are actually too personal to answer.  I know that's part of the point, but it became more weird than fun.

The New Yorker Cartoon Caption Game -- Like Balderdash, this game is really fun when you're playing with smart or funny people who can come up with creative captions for New Yorker cartoons.

Once Upon a Time -- A competitive storytelling game with a fantasy theme.  I like games without extremely strict rules that are based around creativity (at least for a change), and this is definitely one of them.  The Dark Tales expansion adds more creepy elements.

Ouija Board -- Always sold in the games section, though it's really just a way of talking to evil spirits... or allowing your knows-more-than-you-know unconscious to subtly maneuver your nerves to appropriate places on the board. Haven't decided. It's fun, but--scary?

Pay Day -- Even bored me as a kid.  A repetitive game that replicates the day-in / day-out nature of life.

Phase 10 -- An okay card game for killing time with the family or if there are younger people around, but kind of a waste of time if you want a real game.

Pick Up Sticks -- Actually kind of a lovely little game for kids.

Pictionary -- Works as a game whether you can draw or not.  Especially fun if you're playing with someone you're close to and have a psychic link with.  However, while the drawing/guessing element is fun, the actual rules of the board is kind of a headache.  Especially since you find yourself constantly asking, "Is it an All Play?"

Pit -- Perhaps the loudest game ever.  There's a great moment for all first-time players when they realize that, yes, you simply do have to shout at each other in order to play properly.  A very fun (and exciting) stock-trading game.  Buy the one with the bell if you can (or at least get a bell).

Poker -- The greatest of all bluffing games.  The basis of life as we know it.  There are so many versions of this game and all of them are potentially interesting, especially when money is involved.

Power Grid -- Game involving several elements (bidding, buying, building, and more) that become really fun once you get the hang of the game.

The Princes of Florence -- Really fun bidding game that has a lot of different things going on so that you don't get bored within the game.

Probe -- A more complicated version of Hangman.  A pretty fun word game.

Quiddler -- A simple but fun word game.  Maybe too easy to have really strong lasting power; probably best for young teens and under.

Risk -- In spite of the dice rolling, this is a really fun strategy game, sort of at the higher end of "simple" games but at the lower end of complicated war games.  A worthy classic.

R.S.V.P. -- Something like a sideways Scrabble.  Almost too weird to really play, but not a bad game.

Saved By the Bell -- If you're not in the mood for Mystery Date but want something similar, this is the way to go. A goofy game, as you might expect, but might potentially provide some goofy fun. The nice thing about the game is that the trivia questions are really hard, and if you're a fan of the show, you can really show off your knowledge (and you shouldn't be ashamed to do so).

Scotland Yard -- I like the idea of a player being a mystery guy, not knowing where he is on the board, but the game itself doesn't live up to that coolness.

Scrabble -- Competitive crossword puzzles: what a concept. The game is more interesting than you would think forming words could be. I like it a lot, and it's such an odd game that it's transcended the genre of board game somewhat. I do find that the best way to play this game is online, though, rather than as a board game, since you spend a lot of time (unless you're doing a timed game, which I would hate) waiting for the other player(s). Usually I bring a book to read to the table.

Scribblish -- It's the game "telephone" (or "gossip"), but with drawing instead of whispering.  Makes for one of the more hilarious games out there, even more than Balderdash or even The New Yorker.

Song Burst -- You'd think a "name that tune" game would be fun, but this one was somewhat poorly put together and only mildly amusing.

Sorry -- It's a "get things around the board" game, but it's one of the better ones, with some minor things you can do to tweak the game and make it more interesting (such as the "adult" version where you hold three cards in your hand). You can slide and screw your friends, so that's good stuff.

Stratego -- A cross between Chess and the children's game Memory (in that over half the game consists of remembering where your opponents specific pieces are that you've discovered). I guess in a real war you'd be able to write things down. In spite of the fact that I'm lousy at remembering and not too great at the game in general, I still like it a lot.

Taboo -- A really fun party game for those who want to sound like they're having brain farts while talking.  However, after playing this for even a short time, you start getting the same cards over and over again.  So play it sparingly or be prepared to give it to someone else once it's used up.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Game -- It really wants to be Buffy the Vampire Slayer, but it's pretty stupid.

10-Four Good Buddy -- One of those "move your pieces around the board" games, best played while listening to "Convoy" on repeat. It's not totally random, in that you can sabotage your opponents with Smokeys, etc., but it's still mostly luck-of-the-spin based.

Trivial Pursuit: Genus Editions -- Often misunderstood as being a game to show how smart you are, it's actually just a game to show how much clutter is in your brain (and how much you can bring to the front of your mind). Nothing much to do with intelligence at all (though being well-read and semi-educated helps). Some of the genuses got "dumbed-down" as the series went on (I remember Genus IV specifically basically giving you the answers within the questions), as well as perhaps the categories (literature went out the door eventually), so maybe playing with older sets are best (even if the questions are dated).

Trivial Pursuit: Silver Screen Edition -- More a set of questions for people who know a lot about really old movies. This description was also true when the box came out in 1983, so it's even harder now for the average movie-watcher who doesn't watch stuff much before 1985. Not a critique, just a warning.

Trivial Pursuit: 20th Anniversary Edition -- A nice collection of questions from the early 80s to the turn of the century.

Trivial Pursuit: Book Lovers Edition -- A long time coming, though unfortunately (for me) this covers all books, not just what is widely considered "literature." So not only do you have to know Shakespeare and Raymond Carver, you also have to know Chicken Soup for the Soul and whatever crazy bestseller is out there. Makes the game kind of hard unless you read everything.

Trivial Pursuit: 90s Time Capsule Edition -- One of the easiest TP ever, but that's not an insult. Living through the 90s, and the fact that it was only last decade, makes it fun to recall all these events. One of the more fun TPs.

Trivial Pursuit: Pop Culture DVD 2 -- If you know anything about pop culture, this edition will be so insultingly easy that you won't want to play it.  The DVD feature doesn't add much to the gameplay.

Trivial Pursuit: DVD SNL Edition -- One of the hardest Trivial Pursuits there is, believe it or not.  You have to know more than just skits.  For example, do you know who the director was for the episode starring Paul Simon from season 2?  Crap like that.  You'd have to have studied every aspect of SNL to be good at it, not just be a loyal viewer of the show.

Trivial Pursuit: Totally 80s -- A good companion to the 90s Time Capsule Edition.  Fun for 80s nostalgia.

Twister -- Fun for kids or perverted adults, but maybe especially randy young teens.

Uno -- This is fun when you're a little kid, but when you're older you realize it's just a game of spinning from clockwise to counterclockwise and drawing lots of cards.  It's got a fun "screw your friends over" element to it, but that's the best thing going for it.

Upwords -- If you're bored of Scrabble but want a Scrabble-type game that moves a lot quicker, this is a good one.  It seems like a novelty that wouldn't actually be good, but it is.

Vampire Hunter -- For some reason, this is popular among game players, but it's just a glow-in-the-dark kids game that isn't that fun, even if it looks cool.

Wits and Wagers -- One of the more interesting new trivia games out there.  You don't have to know actual answers, just estimates.  And the betting (on yourself or others) adds a cool element to the game.  Very easy to learn and I haven't met anyone who doesn't like it.  As a bonus side game, you get to write funny things on your dry erase board.

Yahtzee -- Combines the fun of poker with the wackiness of dice rolling.  Doesn't require much brain, but it's a fun way to pass the time with a group of people.

ZOMBIES!!! -- The game is pretty cool, with a new map every time you play and at least a hundred zombies.  But many of the rules are illogical, so in order to make a better game, house rules are almost necessary.  In spite of its flaws, still a good concept.

Game Categories

The Best: Acquire, Agricola, Apples To Apples, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Monopoly, Scrabble, Trivial Pursuit

Unnoticed-But-Great: Acquire, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Clash of the Light Sabers

Fun Party Games: Apples to Apples, Balderdash, Guesstures, New Yorker, Pictionary, Scribblish, Trivial Pursuit, Wits and Wagers

Mindless, Yet Fun: Battleship, Sorry

Barely Games at All: Bermuda Triangle, Clue, The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, Life

Overrated: Clue, Life, Vampire Hunter

Copyright (c) Nov 2003 - Jan 2011 by Noby and Rusty's Games