Suzanne Tobias

Stacking up the best new games of the year

Some of the hot new games – and old retro ones – at Imagine That Toys in Wichita.
Some of the hot new games – and old retro ones – at Imagine That Toys in Wichita. The Wichita Eagle

Every year around this time I call Gwen Ottenberg, owner of Imagine That Toys in Wichita, and ask if I can come over to play.

“Sure,” she says with a smile. (I can’t see her smile over the phone, but it’s there. I can hear it.)

Autumn is in the air. My family is munching SweeTango apples, digging sweaters out of storage, making Frito chili pies and obsessively watching postseason baseball.

And we’re fetching the board games.

Hannah and her friend Madeline, both 16, played Pretty Pretty Princess recently. Like a couple of preschoolers, they moved their pieces around the game board, collecting plastic rings, earrings, necklaces and bracelets and avoiding the dreaded black ring.

Some pieces were missing, of course, probably dropped into some air vent years ago at our old house. The girls didn’t care. They mixed and matched earrings, wore the broken crown, posed for princess selfies, laughed like crazy.

Board game time is quality time, no matter your age. That’s why I call Ottenberg each fall to ask which new board or card game I should add to my family’s holiday wish list.

Last year it was Timeline and Crazy Aaron’s Thinking Putty (the latter not a game, really, but fun nonetheless). The year before that, we were all about Tenzi and Wits & Wagers.

This year, Ottenberg says, the must-have game is Pyramix.

In this three-sided strategy game, players take turns removing one cube at a time from the pyramid stack. As cubes are pulled – scoring players one, two or three points each – others slide down toward the base.

“I’m so loving it, because you can play it with a 6-year-old, or I can play it with my husband,” Ottenberg said. “It’s my favorite. It’s going to be huge.”

The game is designed for two to four players, ages 8 and up, and costs $24.99.

Here are some other games to consider this year, if you’re looking for something new to combat screen time or for holiday gift-giving. All are available at Imagine That Toys, at 29th North and Rock Road:

▪ Sushi Go! (Gamewright, $12.99) – In this super-fast card game, you are eating at a sushi restaurant and trying to grab the best combination of sushi dishes as they whiz by. Score points for making the most maki rolls or for collecting a full set of sashimi. Dip your favorite nigiri in wasabi to triple its value. Gather the most points and become the sushi master. Ages 8 and up.

▪ Robot Turtles (Think Fun, $24.99) – This game, the most backed board game in Kickstarter history, sneakily teaches preschoolers the fundamentals of computer programming, from coding to functions, by prompting players to direct their turtle to the jewel tile and unlock the next level of play. Ages 4 and up.

▪ Gravity Maze (Think Fun, $29.99) – In this marble run and logic puzzle all in one, players put their visual perception and reasoning skills to the test. The goal: Create a maze that will carry a marble from the start position to the target tower. Includes four levels of play, from beginner to expert. Ages 8 and up.

▪ Timeline Music & Cinema (Asmodee, $14.99) – Which came first: “Ride of the Valkyries” or the “William Tell Overture?” Players test their knowledge by trying to correctly place cards in chronological order. This new deck can be played on its own or combined with other decks in the Timeline collection. Ages 8 and up.

Also new this year, or making a comeback: Several “retro” games and toys parents my age will remember from childhood. Things like Simon, Labyrinth, Spirograph, Lite Brite and Fashion Plates.

Wait, Fashion Plates?! With the rubbing crayons, colored pencils and stylish carrying case, for taking your designs and fashions on the go?!

Yes, Ottenberg said. “All those old toys are back in full force this year.”

I can’t wait to show the Pretty Pretty Princesses.

Reach Suzanne Perez Tobias at 316-268-6567 or stobias@wichitaeagle.com. Follow her on Twitter: @suzannetobias.

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