The Quick 10: The Top 10 Board/Card Games for 2010

Food isn't the only reason I'm looking forward to Thanksgiving this year. I think I told you last week that when the weather turns cold and it's dark out at 4:30 p.m., I love nothing more than game night. However, since it's just my husband and me, the board games we can play are kind of limited. With so many people gathered for Thanksgiving (and in a small town with not so much as a Walmart), I have all kinds of opportunity to inflict board games on people. I can't wait. If you're the same way and looking for something new to throw in to the mix this year, check out the 10 top games for 2010 according to Games Magazine (they do the top 100 every year, conveniently right before Christmas!).

smallworld1. Small World wins Game of the Year. D&D lovers, this might be for you. Dwarves, wizards, amazons, giants, orcs and humans are all battling to expand their land and defeat everyone else trying to expand their own and encroach on personal territory. It kind of sounds like a cross between Lord of the Rings and Ages of Empires, doesn't it? And there are expansion packs "“ Small World Cursed! gives you goblins and kobolds to worry about; Grand Dames of Small World introduces the females with Priestesses, Gypsies and White Ladies. Each race of people comes with pros and cons, of course, so choose wisely at the beginning of the game.

blox2. Blox takes the Abstract Strategy division. This is a game where you build towers, but don't think Jenga. Instead of sharing one tower, each player has to compete to build their own, deciding when the opportune time to raze someone else's structure is while protecting your own at the same time.
3. Le Havre is the game to play if you're into Advanced Strategy. Like a little Sim City, you're working on developing the town of Le Havre. There's a lot going on here "“ you have to worry about goods, harvest, food, buildings, ships and cash reserves. The person with the most successful town at the end of the game wins.

4. Roll Through the Ages: The Bronze Age is what you should invest in for family game night, since it was voted the Best Family Board Game. Educational and fun "“ what more could you ask for in a game? Here you have to build more than just a town "“ you have to build an entire civilization. And you only have an hour. Good luck with that.

Amerigo_f_23395. Amerigo is the Best Family Card game (probably a little bit easier to throw in the car when you're headed for grandma's house for the holidays). And, bonus: it's another educational game! Ready to travel the world in search of goods and riches? You can set sail with nothing but a deck of cards. The more you venture out, the cooler stuff you'll find "“ but you also have to spend time coming back to market to sell your goods, so you have to decide just how far it's worth going.

6. Dominion takes the title for Best Family Strategy game. It's also a card game "“ you're trying to gather the most of a certain type of card. There are Treasure cards, Victory cards, Kingdom cards and Curses. You buy these cards, fending off your competitors who are trying to do the same to expand their dominions as well. And if you get bored with it, there are four expansion packs to keep play interesting.

dixit cards7. Dixit wins Best Party game, which is typically the type of game I'm after. It's really unique and unlike any game I've ever heard of. Everyone gets six cards with a single picture per card except for the "storyteller," who gets one card. The storyteller looks at the card and decides on a word that describes the picture. Then everyone throws one card into the pile (like Apples to Apples), including the storyteller's single card, and everyone has to guess which one was the storyteller's card based on the word he or she gave. If everyone guesses or if no one guesses, that's zero points for the storyteller "“ so the key is to be a little abstract in your description, but not ridiculously so. Otherwise, the storyteller and the people who guessed the correct card each get three points. The person with the most points at the end of the game wins. Bonus: the cards are gorgeous!

orastelo8. La Ora Stelo will satisfy your need for a brainteaser, as this is the Best Puzzle game. If 10,000 piece puzzles are a joke to you, perhaps you'll find this challenging. Honestly, I don't even know how to explain this one, so I'm just going to borrow the description from Games:

La Ora Stelo is a remarkably novel polyform puzzle, with pieces based on two types of isosceles triangles whose side lengths are related by the golden ratio. The golden ratio is an irrational number known as phi (approximately equal to 1.61803...), and has more interesting properties than you could shake a slide rule at (anyone remember those?). When up to three of these triangles are combined edge-to-edge in all possible ways, they form a set of 32 tiles called polyores. Phi is very common in formulas relating to pentagons, so it is no surprise that this set rests in a pentagonal tray. It also has five small black tiles to fill the center. At least nine other sizes of pentagons can be constructed with a subset of all the tiles.

9. Fields of Fire is 2010's best Historical Simulation game. It's yet another card game (they must be popular this year) that has you waging war. The settings range from WWII to present day, and you get appropriate terrains for each, so between that and the cards that dictate your weapons and style of combat, no two games are ever the same.

jumb10. Jumbulaya is actually the winner of the Best Word Game for 2009, but since Games didn't appear to declare a Best Word Game for 2010, we'll go with last year's. You know this is smart game because it gets the Mensa seal of approval, winning the Mensa Select Award in 2008. It's like Scrabble with more twists and turns. You can scramble words already on the board, you get letter-combo tiles, you can trade tiles, and if you can spot a way to make a Jumbulaya (a seven, eight, or nine letter word) by using any of the above strategies, you get bonus points.

Of course, there are the always-fabulous games in stock in the mental_floss store, including our own brand of quirky trivia. Strange that it seems to be left off of Games' top 10 list"¦ hmm. An oversight, I'm sure.

I will be toting Loaded Questions, The Game of Things, Scattergories and perhaps Scene It to my in-laws' house. Those in addition to the usual cut-throat game of Monopoly, of course (I'm serious. They're vicious). Is there any game in particular your family gathers around the table for without fail? And have you tried any of these?

10 Sweet Facts About Candy Canes

The sweet and striped shepherd’s hooks can be found just about everywhere during the holiday season. It's time you learned a thing or two (or 10) about them.


While the origins of the candy cane are a bit murky, legend has it that they first appeared in hooked form around 1670. Candy sticks themselves were pretty common, but they really took shape when the choirmaster at the Cologne Cathedral in Germany got the bright idea of twisting them to look like shepherd’s hooks. He then handed them out to kids during church services to keep them quiet.


It’s no surprise, then, that it was a German immigrant who introduced the custom to America. The first reference we can find to the tradition stateside is 1847, when August Imgard of Wooster, Ohio, decked his home out with the sugary fare.


Candy canes without the red don’t seem nearly as cheery, do they? But that’s how they were once made: all white. We’re not really sure who or exactly when the scarlet stripe was added, but we do know that images on cards before the 1900s show snow white canes.


Most candy canes are around five inches long, containing only about 50 calories and no fat or cholesterol.


The world’s largest candy cane was built by Geneva, Illinois chef Alain Roby in 2012.  It was 51 feet long, required about 900 pounds of sugar, and was eventually smashed up with a hammer so people could take home a piece.


Fifty-four percent of kids suck on candy canes, compared to the 24 percent who just go right for the big crunch. As you may have been able to guess, of those surveyed, boys were nearly twice as likely to be crunchers.


According to the National Confectioners Association, about 1.2 billion candy canes are made annually, and 90 percent of those are sold between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Which honestly begs the question: Who’s buying the 10 percent in the off season?


Bobs (that’s right; no apostrophe) Candies was the first company to really hang its hat on the sweet, striped hook. Lt. Bob McCormack began making candy canes for his kids in the 1920s, and they were such a hit he decided to start mass-producing them. With the help of his brother-in-law, a Catholic priest named Gregory Harding Keller (and his invention, the Keller Machine), McCormack was eventually able to churn out millions of candy canes a day.


December 26 is National Candy Cane Day. Go figure.


Here’s how they make candy canes at Disneyland—it’s a painstaking (and beautiful) technique.

10 Actors Who Hated Their Own Films

1. Sylvester Stallone, Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot. Sly doesn’t pull any punches when it comes to his film career. Despite co-starring with the delightful Estelle Getty as the titular violence-prone mother, Stallone knows just how bad the film was:

"I made some truly awful movies. Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot was the worst. If you ever want someone to confess to murder, just make him or her sit through that film. They will confess to anything after 15 minutes."

2. Alec Guinness, Star Wars.

By the time he played Obi-Wan Kenobi in 1977’s Star Wars: A New Hope, Guinness had already appeared in cinematic classics like The Bridge on the River Kwai, Great Expectations and Lawrence of Arabia. During production, Guinness is reported to have said the following:

"Apart from the money, I regret having embarked on the film. I like them well enough, but it's not an acting job, the dialogue - which is lamentable - keeps being changed and only slightly improved, and I find myself old and out of touch with the young."

The insane amount of fame he won for the role as the wise old Jedi master took him somewhat by surprise and, ultimately, annoyed him. In his autobiography A Positively Final Appearance: A Journal, Guinness recalls a time he encountered an autograph-seeking fan who boasted to him about having watched Star Wars more than 100 times. In response, Guinness agreed to provide the boy an autograph under the condition that he promise never to watch the film again.

3. Bob Hoskins, Super Mario Brothers. He was in Who Framed Roger Rabbit?. As far as I’m concerned, Bob Hoskins is forgiven for Super Mario Bros. Hoskins, though, doesn’t seem to be able to forgive himself. Last year the Guardian spoke with the veteran actor about his career and he summed up his feelings rather succinctly:

What is the worst job you've done?
Super Mario Brothers.

What has been your biggest disappointment?
Super Mario Brothers.

If you could edit your past, what would you change?
I wouldn't do Super Mario Brothers.

4. George Clooney, Batman & Robin. Sure, Batman & Robin made money. But by every other imaginable measure, the film was a complete failure, and a nightmare to the vast majority of the Caped Crusader’s most fervent fanatics. Star George Clooney recognized what a stinker he helped create and once plainly stated, “I think we might have killed the franchise.”

5. David Cross, Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked. When actors have a movie out, it's customary that they publicize the film by saying nice things about it. Earlier this year David Cross took a different approach. When it came to describing his new film Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked, the veteran comedian — better known for Mr. Show and Arrested Development — went on Conan and called the film a “big commercial for Carnival Cruise Lines” and told people not to go see it.

6. Katherine Heigl, Knocked Up. Judd Apatow’s unplanned pregnancy comedy was a huge hit and helped cement her status as a bankable film actress. After the film’s release, however, Heigl didn’t have all good things to say. In fact, what she specifically said about it was that the film was:

"…A little sexist. It paints the women as shrews, as humorless and uptight, and it paints the men as lovable, goofy, fun-loving guys.”

7. Charlize Theron, Reindeer Games. The 2000 action film Reindeer Games starred Ben Affleck, Gary Sinese and Charlize Theron and was directed by John Frankenheimer. But it all somehow failed to come together. In the end the film lost a lot of money and compiled a wealth of negative reviews – including one from its star actress who simply said, “Reindeer Games was not a good movie.”

8. Mark Wahlberg, The Happening. Mark Wahlberg doesn’t exactly seem like a guy who lives his life afraid of trees. But that is the odd position M. Night Shyamalan’s 2008 film The Happening put him in. Wahlberg, as it turns out, doesn’t look back too fondly on the film. He went on record during a press conference for The Fighter when he described a conversation with a fellow actor:

"We had actually had the luxury of having lunch before to talk about another movie and it was a bad movie that I did. She dodged the bullet. And then I was still able to … I don’t want to tell you what movie … alright “The Happening.” F*** it. It is what it is. F***ing trees, man. The plants. F*** it. You can’t blame me for not wanting to try to play a science teacher. At least I wasn’t playing a cop or a crook."

9. John Cusack, Better Off Dead. John Cusack reportedly hated his cult 80s comedy so much that he walked out of the screening and later told the film’s director Steve Holland that Better Off Dead was "the worst thing I have ever seen" and he would "never trust you as a director again."

10 Christopher Plummer, The Sound of Music. The Sound of Music is considered a classic and has delighted many generations of fans. But the film's own lead actor, Christopher Plummer, didn't always sing its praises. Mr. Von Trapp himself declined to participate in a 2005 film reunion and, according to one acquaintance, has referred to the film as The Sound of Mucus.


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