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Best new games (that aren't video games)

Not all fun has to come from a screen.
By TOCK staff |

Say Anything Family Edition
(North Star Games, $20)
Good for ages 8 and up
Ideal for Closet comedians
Average play time 30 minutes

The rules of this game are so simple we were up and running (and laughing hysterically) within minutes. The Judge (a different player each round) draws a card and reads a question such as, “What’s the best breakfast cereal?” or “I just wrote a book. What’s it called?” Players jot down their answers on easy-to-clean mini dry erase boards, and everyone tries to guess which answer the Judge will pick as his or her favorite. You can play it straight, but what fun would that be? Our answers got sillier as time went on, and we all got better at guessing how each player might respond. My favorite part? Hearing my video-game-loving kids ask me when we could play a board game again.—Amy Carr

Bill and Betty Bricks
(Smart Games, $25)
Good for ages 5–9
Ideal for Future Jeanne Gangs, Frank Gehrys
Average play time 2 minutes

With its thoughtful title, this spatial-skills game acknowledges that girls like to build stuff too. Using blocks in Tetris-like shapes, players must construct a building to fit in a given outline. With five levels of difficulty, kids can find one appropriate for them. Interestingly, the six-year-old we played with tried to start on level two, couldn’t manage it, went down a level, then successfully worked up through the second level. There’s no time limit, and answers are included if you’re really stumped. Designed for solo play, the game can accommodate multiple players working cooperatively. While the cartoony builder figures will likely turn off older kids, the colorful bricks are perfect for the elementary-school set. And did we mention those figures are of a man and a woman? —Rebecca Maughan

7 Ate 9
(Out of the Box, $10)
Good for ages 8–11
Ideal for Kids who’ve outgrown Team Umizoomi
Average play time 5 minutes

I don’t know what’s more surprising, that this card game is nothing more than a series of math problems, or that the grade schooler we played it with had a blast. Like Uno but with arithmetic instead of colors, 7 Ate 9 features a card in the center with a number and a simple math problem: say, 3 plus-or-minus 2. Players then search their hands for a 5 or 1, each of which will have a new math problem on it, and try to be the first to put it in the center pile. There are no turns, and the first one to get rid of his or her cards wins. Since the game involves a dip into negative numbers, little ones might want to avoid this.—RM

Snake Oil
(Out of the Box, $20)
Good for ages 8 and up
Ideal for Future salespeople and members of Congress
Average play time 40 minutes

This party game for four to nine people takes a tried-and-true format—each person takes a turn deciding which fellow player gives the best answer—and adds a silly-fun twist that rewards imagination and fast talking. The deciding player is “the customer,” whose specific identity (coal miner, spy, superhero) is determined by a card. Meanwhile, all the other players are salespeople with a handful of cards with nouns on them. They have to “create” a new product by putting two nouns together, then successfully sell the customer on their imaginary goods. Naturally, the specific items get hilariously ridiculous: Can you convince the spy to buy a glue pillow? A rain cage? Noise handcuffs? The game works with all adults and the manufacturer recommends 13 and up, but it’s totally suitable for younger ages: Kids’ outlandish ideas are well-suited for the snake-oil task at hand. —Web Behrens

Hit the Habitat Trail
(Jax Ltd, $35)
Good for ages 8 and up
Ideal for Crunchy know-it-alls
Average play time 50 minutes

Score habitat cards by following this board game’s spiral trail and testing your eco-knowledge (Q: What is the oldest type of rock? A: igneous). You’ll also try your luck when you have to pick a “Wisdom & Consequence” card: You always use fabric reusable bags when shopping? Get a habitat card. Another amphibian extinct? Lose a card or go back several spaces. The winner’s the one with the most cards at the trails’ end. Grown-ups will like that this is an educational game that doesn’t go on forever; younger kids may get frustrated by the fact that many of the questions require a degree of world experience they don’t have just yet.—Judy Sutton Taylor

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