Player analysis: "It's a fun game," Marley says. "You could really play it without the board."
Number 1 and Still Champion, Knockoffs Notwithstanding According to Seattle-based Pictionary inventor Rob Angel, there have been about 20 clones of Pictionary in the United States and perhaps 40 worldwide, with good reason. Pictionary (the game of charades on paper) and its official variations have sold more than 14 million units.
Knockoffs have done well, too. For example, "Win, Lose or Draw" is at No. 2 behind Pictionary among the board games on Toy and Hobby World's list of best-selling toys. The game's an unofficial Pictionary clone, and there's a television show of the same name.
Among official Pictionary takeoffs are Play with Clay (a children's game in which players create clay sculptures instead of drawings), the second edition of Pictionary, Pictionary Jr., and Bible Pictionary. Expected this year are Party Pictionary, with an easel and wipe-off boards, and Travel Pictionary.
But watch out for one of the clay knockoffs: Charado, for adults. "I've taken it to parties and people find it more fun than Pictionary," says Laure Levin, a buyer for Imaginarium, a toy and games chain with eight stores in Southern California. "(Adults making clay sculptures) sounds really difficult and hokey, but it's not. The manual, hands-on aspect makes you feel like a kid again. And once you get the hang of it, it's almost easier than drawing."
\o7 Player analysis: "Pictionary\f7 --\o7 in any form--makes you laugh so much it's the closest you'll get to wetting your pants playing a game\f7 ," \o7 Los Angeles screenwriter Ted Neff says. "But never let couples or spouses play on the same team. They're always at each other's throats midway through the game."\f7
The Games-as-Art, How-Does-It-Look-on-Your-Coffee-Table Competition Vying for honors in the most visually dramatic arena are two relatively new entrants: Abalone, a stark, black-and-white strategy game based on the principles of sumo wrestling and designed in a modern, minimalist style. And Zomax, a strategy/action/suspense game with a magnetic, vertical game board resembling a Jackson Pollock painting. Board game critics have praised both games for their intelligent designs and simple rules. Both games are more popular in Europe than in the United States.
And both are used in schools--Zomax in two school systems in Idaho, says inventor Gary Bellinger of Sun Valley; Alabone in French schools, co-creator Michel Lalet says.
Though Abalone (pronounced to rhyme with Avalon) is an abstract strategy game, it was created to teach a young friend of Lalet's how to deal with emotional issues: loneliness, getting beat up by bullies and importance of making friends.
A basic strategy of the marble game is that if your marbles stay together, they're safer from trouble than if they're isolated and alone. "If you do what's obvious, it's always the right move," Lalet says. "If you have a problem, you just go back with the group."
\o7 Player analysis: "If you really like strategic problems with tactical subtleties, Abalone's the game," says gamesman Jonathan Kamras, an assistant county attorney in Grayson, Tex. "And played at the deeper levels, sometimes it's so complex it's really baffling." "I can play Zomax with my children\f7 . . . \o7 or with my friends," enthuses game collector/Air Force Maj. Jerry Butt, of Spokane, Wash. "You have limited intelligence. You can see your opponent's hand moving ships, airplanes and tanks on the opposite side of the board, but not exactly which ones or where. The only drawback is that the game's expensive--about $60." \f7
Off the Air but Still on the Board The Morton Downey Jr. Show may be going off the air in September, but Downey can still be found on some retailers' shelves in the form of his board game, Loudmouth. In it, players debate, yell, sing Irish songs and more. A moderator arbitrarily judges players as most provocative, most logical, most entertaining, most outrageous, loudest and best tellers of jokes. "Obviously it (Loudmouth) is not America's biggest seller. I've probably bought more of them than anyone. I give them away to people," says the talk show host. But don't look for Downey to be holed up playing the game after he folds his TV tent: "I invented the game with them (Cardinal Industries) and that's the last time I played it. I get bored with board games."
\o7 Player analysis: "Loudmouth is hardly a game at all," Sackson says. "It's a chance for amateur actors to act and to put on a Morton Downey mask and utter some of Downey's biting remarks such as 'You're a real Pablum puker, pal.' " \f7