PORTAL: THE UNCOOPERATIVE CAKE ACQUISITION GAME
For those who have played the video game, you know that this game won't be a piece of cake. Or will it? Nearly a decade after the release of the popularly frustrating single-player video game comes a tabletop version to bring your non-gaming friends and family in on the fun and disappointment (depending which way you look at it).
The same developers, the Valve Corporation based in Bellevue, put together similar puzzles in this fast-paced game. Your team of test subjects travel through portals into different chambers of the Lab and defeat these puzzles in order to be rewarded with cake at the end. But when one of these chambers falls through into oblivion, so can some of your test subjects and precious cake. The person with the most cake when someone loses their last test subject wins.
Maybe you can finally have your cake and eat it too. Ages 15 and up; $50
Cake not your thing? Maybe you're more of a pie person. The popular European game just became available in the U.S. this year because of high demand after a video of a father and son playing the game went viral. There's a mechanical arm with a sponge or whipped cream on the end; you place your face into the target area and crank the handle the number of times the spinner tells and, like a jack-in-the-box, you never know when a pie in the face is going to happen.
Whipped cream is not included, because that would be gross. Although a sponge is included. Ages 5 and up; $25
Think Minesweeper crossed with charades, but without the pantomiming. This game is for your pal who loves puzzles and riddles. There are 25 cards laid out with a word on each one; the team leader has an access card, which tells them what is underneath the cards (blue team spy, red team spy, beige innocent bystander, or the game-ending assassin card). The team leader says a word and a number — for example, "BEACH 3" — which means there are three cards on the board that have the correct spy underneath, and they all have to do with the beach.
Be careful who you give this to, because this game has the ability to build the best alliances and tear families apart. Ages 14 and up; $20
THE MARCY CASE
For your pal who raved about T.I.M.E Stories, in which he traveled through time to solve crimes. Now there can be an abundant of new references and phrases you don't understand (or be sucked into). The time travel series brings you The Marcy Case, an expansion with the mission of solving the disappearance of a young girl in a small town. The players (or Temporal Agents) travel back to 1992. Add some laughter to the game by dressing up for the era and find your throwback '90s attire buried deep in your closet. Ages 12 and up; $30
YETI IN MY SPAGHETTI
This is basically Pick-Up Sticks or KerPlunk. The rules are simple: if you touch a noodle, you have to take it. You can only remove one noodle at a time, but you may use both hands. The last person to pull a noodle successfully without the Yeti falling into the bowl wins! It's easy to learn without much direction at all, and is great for children. It could really be gifted to anyone who likes competitive board games that revolve around skill and finesse. Ages 4 and up; $18
Remember those times your fantastic pairing in Cards Against Humanity didn't get picked? Your "Next from J.K. Rowling: Harry Potter and the Chamber of ______" "dead parents" combination was guaranteed to get you a win. Anyone who has felt this would love to receive Superfight this season. It's Cards Against Humanity, with a debate-team element. Throw down your aces, state your case calmly and professionally (yeah, right), then it's put to a group vote. There are also expansion decks for purchase to revolve the game around topics from anime to The Walking Dead. (Pssst: the yellow deck expansion includes fighting over who wins Quidditch or the Iron Throne.) Ages 8 and up (depending on the deck); $40
One week. Seven dreams. One player is a ghost and the rest are clairvoyants. Don't worry; the game isn't actually a week long. It's another game that tortures the one (the ghost) with all of the answers (like earlier mentioned Codenames) to give clues (in the form of dream cards) that will hopefully connect the clairvoyants to the suspect, location and weapon. Online reviewers recommend pairing this game with drinks (it probably makes interrupting dreams much easier). So gift this game to a pal who will bring it to the next party. Ages 10 and up; $50
STAR WARS: X-WING MINIATURES GAME
Of course there had to be a Star Wars game included. The new movie is coming out, and when your buddy who's a Star Wars fanatic returns home after the cinematic adventure, they won't want it to end. Enter Star Wars: X-Wing Miniatures. It's strategic ship-to-ship combat, complete with detailed miniature ships to re-enact the epic cinematic battles. It's played similarly to Battleship (no offense, Battleship Galaxies). Whether they're a part of the Rebel or Imperial armies, this gift is sure to be force-full. Ages 14 and up; $26.50
OK, maybe an extra Star Wars pick because, I mean, come on, it's Star Wars, and you're bound to have a lot of friends enthusiastic about the long-awaited movie, coming out right before Christmas. What are you going to do? Give them all the same Star Wars-themed board game? No.
When the miniatures have been exhausted, the mood can be lightened up with Loopin' Chewie. A spin-off of the popular Loopin' Louie, this game is about timing. As Chewie spins in a circle riding the Millennium Falcon, hit your lever to knock Chewie off-track, take out your opponents' Stormtroopers and keep him from knocking down your own. This take on a classic game crossed with a classic film series will have your gift recipient exclaiming, "The force is strong with this one!" Ages 4 and up; $33 ♦