Pull up a chair at the board game renaissance

Contemporary settlers of catanvideo games are big, flashy, and all kinds of fun, but sometimes they just can’t compete with a simple roll of the dice.

That’s something more and more gamers are discovering as they rekindle their love of a distinctly analog form of entertainment.

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Eight board games you never knew existed

Pop klondike-jpg_235737culture is a melting pot. Crossovers are common, but occasionally we’re still taken off guard (like when eagle-eyed viewers spotted R2-D2 in J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek: Into Darkness).

Surprisingly, many of the most unexpected crossovers happen in the board game world. Merchandising gone wrong, or bafflingly wonderful merger? That depends on how much you spent on the thing, probably. Here are some of the more magnificent recent oddities.

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Monopoly is getting rid of jail to woo kids

Just monopoly-jail-top630as Monopoly fans come out of their mourning period for the dearly departed iron game token, Hasbro’s tinkering with the formula again. And purists are likely to be outraged.

A new version of the game, Monopoly Empire, is tailored for the short attention span of today’s youth. Among the changes? Plenty of real world brands to own — and no pesky jail to slow things down.

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Is Boardwalk worth it?

For some families, Monopoly is a bonding experience. For others, it’s a Machiavellian affair that tosses love and loyalty aside in favor of a capitalistic bloodlust where there is but one goal: Drive mom, dad, grandma and weird Uncle Steve into bankruptcy as soon as possible.

But what’s the most efficient way to do that? Everyone has a theory about how best to win at Monopoly. Some try to buy a single property of every color, while others swear that becoming a slum lord, buying up the low rent properties, is the key to victory.

And no matter the strategy, there’s no greater jewel in a player’s crown than Boardwalk. But is that pricey blue spot — and it’s sister street Park Place — really worth it?

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Now Legal in Scrabble: Thang, Blingy and Grrl

You still can’t use people’s names in Scrabble — but according to the latest update of one major Scrabble dictionary, words like “Grrl” and “Innit” are just fine.

The publishers of the Collins Official Scrabble Words book have added 3,000 allowed words to the game’s vocabulary, including several slang terms, tech jargon and familiar corporate names.

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Interview: Sifteo Founders Pursue Wii-Like Enchantment

Gamasutra editor-at-large Chris Morris talks to Sifteo co-founders David Merrill and Jeevan Kalanithi about their new gaming system that plays games via small electronic blocks communicating wirelessly with a PC.

Long before people take a side in the Sony vs. Nintendo vs. Microsoft vs. Apple snipefests that so often dominate forum and comment chatter, they start with much simpler gaming interests.

Blocks… Sticks… Rocks… In many cases, board game pieces… Love of gaming often begins with some sort of tactile sensation. That physical connection sometimes fades once players get exposed to video games, but David Merrill and Jeevan Kalanithi are hoping to bring it back, by fusing the best parts of traditional and video gaming.

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App review: Jenga

Jenga doesn’t seem a natural fit for an app, but NaturalMotion does a terrific job of building an electronic version of this classic — thanks in large part to its terrific physics engine, which causes the blocks to react as they would in the real world. Is it more fun than the game you play with friends around a table? No. But it’s as close as you can come. The pass and play mode is the best mode — since playing Jenga alone isn’t a fulfilling experience. And the new arcade mode, with colors and a timer, is a great spin on the single player game that makes it fun to play when you’re alone. Game Center functionality or some other way to play with friends who aren’t in the immedate room would have been welcome, but at its core, this is a terrific game.

Read more at Common Sense Media