When the weather gets cooler and the days get shorter, I fetch three things, usually in this order:
1) My recipe for caramel corn.
2) My cast-iron Dutch oven and some large hunk of meat that cooks low and slow until it shreds at the slightest touch and makes our house smell like Chipotle. (This autumn routine also prompts my children to spout their perennial quote, which I beg them not to say at school: “Mom sure loves her pot.”)
3) Board games.
Board games are to fall and winter what sunscreen is to summer vacation: quintessential. So every year around this time, I talk to Gwen Ottenberg at Imagine That Toys in Wichita – a fine place to waste (I mean, spend) an afternoon – and ask her which new board/card/dice game I should add to my family’s holiday wish list.
She never disappoints. Last year the game was Tenzi, a fun and addictive little dice game that quickly became the most popular stocking stuffer in south-central Kansas (or so it seemed).
This year, Gwen is all about Crazy Aaron’s Thinking Putty.
“You gotta get some putty,” she said over the phone. “Just come play with it. … It’s a great stress reliever.”
It’s not a board game, but this stuff is fun. Like Silly Putty, but better – not sticky, not smelly, non-toxic, non-drying and available in more than 30 colors, including heat-sensitive, glow-in-the-dark and magnetic. Once you pick it up, it’s hard to put down. The putty comes in metal tins and costs $10 to $15.
There are plenty of new games to consider this year as well, if you’re looking for something new to play. Some are available at Ottenberg’s store, at 29th North and Rock Road. Others can be found online or at local discount stores:• Timeline (Asmodee, $14.99) – Which was invented first: the light bulb or glasses? Players compare their knowledge to historic reality by trying to correctly place cards depicting inventions, monuments and more in chronological order. The more cards that are played, the harder it is to correctly place new ones. Ages 9 and up.
• Logik Street (Asmodee, $19.99) – A game of simple logic that’s fun for all ages (recommended for ages 4 and up): Players select a card, then follow the clues – and use process of elimination – to guess where certain pets live with their owners.
• PicWits (MindWare, $24.99) – Players try to match their photo cards with the judge’s caption card. As in the ever-popular Apples to Apples, if the judge picks your photo, you win the round. (The photo-to-caption theme of this game also reminds me of Bubble Talk.) Ages 10 and up.
• Snake Oil (Out of the Box, $19.99) – Based on the concept of the snake oil salesmen in the Old West, the object of this game is to get your skeptical “customer” to buy your product. Invent the product by pairing word cards from your hand – Rumor Mirror! Burp Balloon! Death Rocket! – and make your 30-second pitch. Ages 10 and up.
• Jenga Tetris (Hasbro, $16.99) – This variation of the favorite game features logs shaped like Tetris pieces, which also increases the difficulty. (You may not be able to see the entire piece you’re trying to remove.) Ages 8 and up.
• Make ‘n’ Break Party (Ravensburger, $30.99) – One player tries to build structures described by his teammate without seeing the card. Variations include building blindfolded or without using taboo words. Ages 10 and up.
• 77 Ways to Play Tenzi (Tenzi, $9.99) – Still can’t get enough of Tenzi? This deck of 77 cards features dozens of new ways to play. Ages 7 and up.