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Top 10 Stocking Stuffers / Small Game Gifts of 2006

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Every year, some fun, creative or otherwise interesting small games and game-related products are published -- and they're just the right size and price when you need to buy a small gift for a gamer. Here are my picks for the best stocking stuffers for game players in 2006.

1. Start Player

Start Player
Designed by Ted Alspach; published by Bezier Games; 2 or more players; ages 6 and up; $12 (approximate)

This is a goofy, "kinda collectible card game" targeted to anyone who has ever had problems deciding which player goes first. Start Player solves that dilemma. Randomly choose a card and follow the instructions, which might be "the player who has the smallest feet is the start player" or "the player who scored the highest on their SATs is the start player."

2. Crokinole: DVD Documentary

Directed by Jonathan Steckley and Joshua Steckley; published by Gillies Lake Productions; not rated but suitable for all audiences; $25 (approximate)

This film is wondrful to watch for anyone who has enjoyed the simple brilliance of Crokinole. I haven't been able to access the movie's official site (www.crokinolemovie.com) for some time, but copies are available from www.crokinole.com, a web site maintained by Mr. Crokinole, Wayne Kelly, who is featured as he makes a Crokinole board from scratch.

3. Star Wars Miniatures

Designed by Jeff Grubb, Jonathan Tweet, Bill Slavicsek and Rob Watkins; published by Wizards of the Coast / Hasbro; 2 players; ages Z and up; $20 (approximate)

Expansions keep getting published for this collectible miniatures game, much to my delight and the delight of Star Wars fans around the world. The most recent set is Starship Battles, which puts players in control of a wide variety of Star Wars universe spacecraft. Also published in 2006 was my favorite expansion, Bounty Hunters.

4. Zombies!!! 5: School's Out Forever

Designed by Todd Breitenstein and Kerry Breitenstein; published by Twilight Creations; 2 to 6 players; ages 12 and up; $15 (approximate)

The Zombies!!! franchise keeps growing. Zombies!!! 5 adds new map tiles and event cards; it requires the core game to play. This expansion also introduces "guts" rules which can be added to other gamesd in the series.

5. Battleship Missile Strike

Designer not credited; published by Milton Bradley / Hasbro; 2 players; ages 7 and up; $10 (approximate)

Players first play tokens (numbered 3 to 11) on each of their five ships, making sure to put them in order from lowest to highest -- although duplicate numbers are allowed. To attack, each player rolls three dice and chooses two. They place those two dice next to a token, and if the total equals the value of the token, a hit is scored. Rolls of 2 and 12 are always hits. Unfortunately, this clever Battleship-based dice game is not very easy to find. Your best bet is to look in drug stores and grocery stores.

6. Attacktix Battle Figure Game

Designer not credited; published by Hasbro; 2 players; ages 6 and up; $20 (approximate)

The last-man-standing Attacktix battle game, originally published with Star Wars characters in 2005, was expanded in 2006 to include Transformers. In fact, a Star Wars vs. Transformers starter set is available. Attacktix fans take note: Marvel Attacktix is coming.

7. Treehouse

Designed by Andrew Looney; published by Looney Labs; 2 to 4 players; ages 10 and up; $10 (approximate)

Treehouse uses the colorful plastic pyramids of Looney Labs' Icehouse game system in a fast-playing game. Players compete to be the first to get their pyramids to match the shared goal. A die roll each turn tells them what action may be taken.

8. Enemy Chocolatier

Designed by James Ernest; published by Cheapass Games; 2 to 6 players; ages 10 and up; $6 (approximate)

It gets tiring, working for the chocolatier. So you have decided to break free of his control, start your own company and eventually destroy him. Players buy houses, trying to complete neighborhoods in order to win additional powers and points.

9. Pepper

Designer not credited; published by Out of the Box Publishing; 3 to 6 players; ages 8 and up; $6 (approximate)

This is a simple, quick-playing card game that's also a lot of fun. The cards represent balls being thrown from player to player. The card values represent speed -- the higher the number, the faster the ball is going. When a player receives a ball, he must either play a card (the same color ball, or a faster ball) or pick up all the cards in front of him and then start a new round. The game ends when someone plays his last card in front of a player who cannot play without first picking up.

10. HeroScape Flag Bearers

Designed by Craig Van Ness, Rob Daviau and Stephen Baker; published by Milton Bradley / Hasbro; 2 to 8 players; ages 8 and up; $13 each (approximate)

If you're a serious fan of Heroscape, you owe it to yourself to get the flagbearers. Each one brings special new powers and a set of custom dice to the game.

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