Top events in the world of mainstream board and card games, as I see it:
1. Monopoly's new standard and Here and Now editions
Hasbro continues to beat this game into the world's collective brains through a combination of savvy marketing, licensing, PR, and national pride.
They released a new "standard" edition, preceded by months of voting for landmarks to be included, and followed by months of complaints from citizens of the least expensive properties to the municipality of Atlantic City.
They also put out their no-cash credit card edition, so that another generation can learn to trust the infallible computer.
(See my list of 1000+ Monopoly versions.)
2. Dominoes on ESPN?
After the success of Texas Hold'em, the next big discussion this year was how sedentary can we make the activity and still broadcast it on a sports network? The discussion centered around Dominoes which requires even less from a player than Poker, astoundingly enough.
3. Games That Made the News
War on Terror: The right game at the right time to cause controversy. The genral public was aghast at the idea of actually playing suicide bombers (but Nazis are ok?), while opponents of the governments handling the so-called war on terror were thrilled. For my part, I objected not to the theme, but to the attitude of moral equivalency on behalf of the designers on their web site.
Apparently, the game is not half bad.
Da Vinci Code (several games): Following the publicity of the book and the movie, several board games attempted to cash in on their success.
Sudoku (several games): This is a carryover from last year, but 2006 saw several new games for this popular craze.
Deal or No Deal: Yet another series of games based on a popular culture phenomenon, none of which are any good.
Your Best Life Now: A self-actualization game based on a popular book. Apparently, the game does not reflect the values of the book too closely.
GiftTRAP: A meta party game about giving and getting the right gifts.
Wits and Wagers: A trivia game where the object is not to know the most, but to bet on the answers given by all the players.
4. Headz Games in Nova Scotia
Headz Games, creator of numerous sports related board games, announced a new manufacturing plant in Parrsboro, Nova Scotia, which was to provide 1500 new jobs. The plans sent the tiny town into a tizzy, but by the end of the year, the CEO had quit and the plans went on hold.
5. Chess shenanigans
In the wild and wacky world of Chess, grand master players fell to their death, committed suicide over their abusive fathers, punched opponents on the dance floor over a woman (who left with a third party), and leveled accusations of consulting chess computers in the facilities while on bathroom break.
Way to keep the sport noble, guys and gals.
6. Crowdsourcing board gaming
Around the world, and especially the U.S., thousands of people took to the streets to take the part of live pawns, playing board games using GPS systems and mobile devices.
7. World's largest Uno game
Mattel organized 330 players in West Virginia to simultaneously play UNO, in the world's largest gathering of UNO players. I'm not sure why that's important, but it got news coverage.
8. World's highest Scrabble score
As did two guys in a basement who played the world's highest single score (830) in a game of Scrabble, as well as the world's highest combined scoring game (1320), and most points for a single play (365, for QUIXOTRY).
9. Trivial Pursuit lawsuit
The old "some guy ripped off my game" controvery reared it's ugly head when the makers of Trivial Pursuit were served a lawsuit by some guy who said that they stole the idea from him after sharing a cab ride in the late 70's. This conveniently comes after the developers took all the risk, time, playtesting, and marketing required to actually produce and sell the game, as well as another 25 years.
10. Pink Scrabble Tiles
I don't know about you, but this makes my heart go boom. A completely pink game of Scrabble was developed, the proceeds of which are aimed at fighting breast cancer.
Surely that's more newsworthy than the various accounts of people killed as a result of Scrabble games over the last year.
11. Microsoft porting Eurogames to XBox
This may not mean much to mainstream gamers right now, but Microsoft announced plans to port three groundbreaking Eurogames to the XBox, including Settlers of Catan. The day will come when mainstream gamers are assimilated onto the true path. Resistance is futile.
WHAT DID NOT HAPPEN
Despite some great press reviews and lots of eager anticipation, Phillip's Entertaible, which is supposed to marry a touch sensitive electronic gaming table to physical components such as glass cubes, got some press, but hasn't made it to the public yet. We're still waiting and hoping.
P.S. Check out my 2006 Holiday Gift Guide!