Gift Guide: Board games are more than just a trivial pursuit

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With so much advanced entertainment technology dominating the market, how can traditional board games compete?

The answer can be found in the niches. Instead of marketing to mainstream consumers, some board game manufacturers target customer niches with special editions of hit games, while others develop new games for the specific interests of pocket groups.

Trivial Pursuit (Hasbro), the undisputed king of the question-and-answer game, has for years been in pursuit of niche audiences. In addition to six Trivial Pursuit updates, there are now six editions for kids, special editions on literature and ones for "Lord of the Rings" and "Saturday Night Live." This year, Hasbro added a Web-enabled "Silver Screen" version and a low-tech board edition, Totally '80s. Here's a tip: Don't know the answer? Try "Ronald Reagan."

Rock and Roll Triviologies (Aleken Games) has the trivia king beat when it comes to pop music. Questions are as easy as, "What Irish rock 'n' roll band's name comprises only a letter and a number?" and as hard as, "Who sang the No. 2 hit song of 1960, 'The Wanderer'?" (It's not Bobby Darin.)

With each correct answer, players build a band, which then has a chance to land a recording contract, get a hit record and collect industry awards. (Correct answer: Dion DiMucci & the Del-Satins.)

Homogenius: The Gay Trivia Game (Homogenius Inc.) -- the name says it all: First one out of the closet wins. The manufacturer promises "You can even play it with your mother."

Imaginiff (Buffalo Games) might be a good way to make enemies. "Imagine if (name another player) were a flying object, which object would he be?" Picking on the foibles of friends might not be your idea of a good time.

BubbleBrain (Patch) was co-invented by Michael Dietz, an actor formerly of Pittsburgh who's performed on "Guiding Light," "Port Charles" and "The Bold and the Beautiful." The object is to guess which players put which captions into the cartoon "bubbles" placed over photographs. The provided photos are mostly mundane, making it harder to come up with captions. Curiously, the most clever caption writer is also the most easily identified and will lose.

Last Word (Buffalo Games) gives players a subject and first letter and asks them to shout out applicable words before the timer expires. Fun with a crowd but impossible to play quietly.

John Hayes can be reached at or 412-263-1991.


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