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On the Beaten Path: General Market Games

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It’s so hard to find a happy medium in life. And we know that what’s true in life is also true in board games.

I’ve noticed that many in the board game hobby, in order to distance themselves as far as possible from Monopoly, have completely eschewed general-market (read: readily available) games. While it’s true that a good Euro is hard to find on the shelves of your local Target store, this doesn’t mean that what’s there is all bad. True, I might steer clear of Monopoly, Risk, and and Candyland, but there are plenty of other options, whether you’re looking for a good card, strategy, word, or party game. Below is my list of games I enjoy that are readily available. Feel free to add your own in the comments.

  • Wits & Wagers. Most games you’ll find in department stores are party games because, of course, games are only good for those situations when you have several people over at once and no one is talking to each other. Party games are sometimes particularly villified, but Wits & Wagers is a cut above. I describe it to friends as the trivia game where you don’t have to know anything. So far, no one I’ve introduced to this one hasn’t liked it.
  • Canasta Caliente. This is one of my favorite games. Really, any Canasta deck will do (my wife and I never use the Caliente variation because it detracts from the fun), but I like the “Latin flair” (so says the box) of the Caliente cards. Yes, I know, Canasta sounds like the geriatric game of choice, but this game is quite fun and offers good strategic choices. And it’s even better if you buy a hot pepper necklace for the victor to wear.
  • Pit. Pit is a great group game that can handle up to eight players. It’s a good way to get people who don’t know each other to interact. All they have to do is shout numbers at each other and frown when they’re passed the bear and no one will trade with them.
  • Stratego. A two-player game of capture the flag. I enjoy this one quite a bit, even if my wife won’t play it with me anymore.
  • Rook. I grew up on this one, and it has ruined Euchre for me completely. Rook is a bidding and trick-taking card game played in partnerships. Known and blind partnerships are both fun, but seriously, play with the rook card as the lowest trump. That’s the only way to go.
  • The Game of Things. What would Apples to Apples be like if it were fun? The Game of Things. The Game of Things allows  players to be creative, and there’s some objectivity (which eliminates the capriciousness of faulty judges). My friends and I have played just with pen and paper, but I hear the boxed version is even better.
  • Taboo/Catch Phrase. I probably prefer Taboo because of the additional challenge, but both Taboo and Catch Phrase are good clue-giving games for groups. Best still, when you have a rowdy group who won’t sit through a lengthy rules presentation, these are simple games that are easily understood.
  • Scattergories. I love this game, though my family is pretty cutthroat. It’s a good creative word game–but I’ve learned that no one likes a stickler on the insect/arachnid distinction.
  • Word games in general (Upwords, Boggle, Bananagrams). I’m lucky to be an editor, because word games are never in short supply at the store. Upwords, Boggle, and Bananagrams are my favorites, but Scrabble, Quiddler, My Word…the list goes on and on.

What are your favorite games sold in the general market?

I'll try anything once, but my favorite games are generally middleweight Euros.

Discussion3 Comments

  1. Well, the Target in Joplin has started carrying Munchkin (which I hate), Ticket to Ride (eh), Dominion (which is awesome), and I believe one or two others… so I believe the “general market” may be changing. But, overall, I loved Heroscape, which I bought tons of at Wal-Mart, Target and Toys R Us.

  2. That’s a good point–the general market IS changing. I hope it continues to. Our Target (Chicagoland) doesn’t have the ones you mentioned, but they do carry Settlers of Catan. I’d love to see them carry Dominion and Ticket to Ride.

    I’ve never played Heroscape. That’s a minis game, right?

  3. Reply for Josh Edwards

    Oh, I wish I had jumped on the heroscape train while it was rolling. I seriously played a game for the first time the same week they announced they were going belly-up and fell in love!

    Its a great strategy game, but like Heroclix it has the “collectables” fault (though not to nearly as great an extent). Though I have to admit that the customizable terrain was a huge draw for me. The potential for replay and the double use for the RPGs I play is too delicious. Heroscape sets are still on my Amazon wishlist.

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