The ten funnest games of 2009

Of all the Majorly Fun games we played in 2009 (until November), here are the 10 funnest:


HABA Ball Run

The HABA Ball Track Building Set is, by all measures, a toy to treasure. Made of European Beechwood, the pieces are beautifully finished, and a pleasure to touch, lift, position, reposition. The basic set includes just enough ready-made sections of track and tunnels to make the purpose of the toy immediately accessible, and more than enough building elements to invite curiosity, imagination and endless elaboration. The HABA Ball Track Building set will engage children in hours of play, exploration, design, construction and, above all, experimentation.

Truth be Told - "The Laugh out Loud Pretend to Know your Friends Game

Before we delve too deeply into the nature and wonders of Truth be Told, let me ask you to fill in this particular blank: "The most expensive thing I purchased last month was ____________ " And by "I", I mean "me," majorly speaking, fun himself. Now, on your paddle-like, write-on, wipe-offable, nicely thick True Answer Paddle cards, write the answer that you think was the one I gave. Remember, you get one point for everyone who votes for your answer. And one point if you vote for mine. (If you wrote down my answer, I find myself that much closer to you as well, insofar as I get a point too.) And now, one at a time, in sequential order, everyone, except me, of course, reveals their answers. I then, with great flourish and conceptual fanfare, reveal my "true" answer. Scores are recorded on the convenient, also write-on and wipe-offable scorekeeping card. And then, on to the next Truth Teller.

Dixit - a party game of subtlety, sensitivity and creativity

Dixit is a surprisingly lovely and subtle party game in which players try to guess which image was selected by the "storyteller." The rules are simple enough to learn in a few minutes. The 84 large cards are beautifully and evocatively illustrated. And the whole game can be played in well under an hour. The subtlety of the game comes from the scoring system and from a growing understanding of the art of being a successful storyteller - for art is what it is.

Tumblin' Dice

Think of it shuffleboard with dice. You'd be wrong, but you'd understand almost all you needed to know in order to start playing. There are four sets of dice, each a different colors (and lovely colors they are). Each set has four dice. Players take turns flick/slide/rolling their dice, starting on the top level, aiming towards one of the three platforms on the lowest levels. If your die reaches the third level, you get exactly as many points as are on the top of the die. If your die reaches the fourth level, you get twice as many points; the fifth level, three times as many, and if you reach the lowest level, you multiply the face of the die by four.

Worm up!

There's something gently lovable about Worm up! O, it's fun, all right. Major FUN, in actual fact. But it's funny, too. And so spare in its design that it's what you might call endearing. The colorful little game box contains 5 sets (each in a different color) of 7 wooden hemispheres. These are used to make worms - take a set, put the hemispheres, hemi-side down, in a column, and there you have it, your basic worm. It's good for families whose kids are a precocious 7 or older. It's good for kids. It's a good game to play between more serious games. Gentle fun. A happy little diversion.

Word on the Street

Take all your consonants except for the ridiculous ones like Q, X and Z. Put them on your satisfyingly hefty bakelite tiles. Now, make a long game board, like a 4-lane highway with a divider strip just wide enough and long enough to accommodate all of your happily hefty letter tiles. Next, get together a deck of 216, often surprisingly laugh-provoking, double-sided category cards, like: "The Brand of Clothing Worn by One of the Players," and "Something that is Wasted," and "Something Used by Scuba Divers," and "A Word that Describes a Car Crash," "A Title Used for Males but not for Females." Add a cardholder and sand timer. And those are all the ingredients needed for a new and notably Major FUN word game called "Word on the Street" from those frequently Major FUN game publishers, Out of the Box. Everything, of course, except for the rules. And there in lies the tickle.

The Bilibo Game Box - a child's tool kit for game invention

The Bilibo Game Box is not just a toy. It is a tool kit for the very young game designer (age 4 and up) and an invitation to inventiveness for the rest of us. The Game Box contains a die with interchangeable faces and six sets of differently-colored discs that fit in each face. There's also a set of six, plastic, hand-sized "mini-Bilibos," in each of the six colors corresponding to the colors of the discs. The Bilibo Game Box is remarkably innovative and brilliantly designed, but the real value of it only becomes apparent when it is used as a tool for playful, inspired invention.

Monopoly Deal

Before I go into too much detail, let me tell you this: Hasbro's Monopoly Deal is fun. It's a card game that gives you that Monopoly feeling. You build monopolies and even put houses and hotels on them, and pay for them, in the millions of dollars - all with a deck of cards. But it's faster, and shorter, and easier, and at least just as much fun.

Bananagrams - a crossword tile game you can play everywhere with anyone

Bananagrams is a word game that uses letter tiles - 144 unusally finger-friendly, bakelite letter tiles. Basically, you draw a bunch of tiles and try to assemble all of them into a crossword array. If you succeed, you draw another tile. And so does everyone else. Because the game is so simple to explain, it is also simple to change - to adapt to different skill levels, different environments and time constraints. Read, for example, Lance Hampton's exemplary story of how he plays Bananagrams with his kids. We're working on variations for teams, and maybe even cooperative versions.

Consensus®

Consensus® is a party game - the kind of party game to which you will eventually be comparing all other party games. If your kids are old enough, it's just that kind of family game - the kind you'd want your family to play. It's a game that makes people laugh, think, talk and listen to each other. Most of all, it's the kind of game that brings people together and keeps them together.

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