Time To Hit The Boards

From film trivia to wordplay, board games are hot

All trivia fans. Name one of the fastest-growing categories of toys. Answer: board games. Maybe it's the nesting trend, the popularity of "game nights," or just that they're low-cost entertainment, but board game sales are up 11% this year in an industry that's flat, says the NPD Group. To find out what's fun, BusinessWeek surveyed retailers and game aficionados.

Mattel (MAT ) has a likely winner with Scene It? ($49.99), a movie-trivia game in which players answer questions from cards and a DVD played on your TV. The movie clips and DVD graphics are great, and most of the questions are challenging. But the game is best for fans of recent flicks: The 1954 film Creature from the Black Lagoon is as classic as Scene It? gets.

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Hasbro (HAS ) also went the TV route with the Trivial Pursuit Pop Culture DVD ($39.99). Here again, the game uses cards and onscreen questions. But the graphics aren't as good as those of Scene It? and pop culture can get old really fast. One question: Who did Demi Moore start dating after breaking up with Bruce Willis? Answer: Ashton Kutcher. A better bet is last year's top-selling Trivial Pursuit 20th Anniversary Edition ($29.99), which has questions from the past 20 years on a wider range of subjects.

Hasbro did a better job with Clue FX ($29.99), an electronic version of the classic murder-mystery game. Although some fans may be put off by the board redesign and new characters such as Rusty or Mrs. Meadow-Brook, younger players will love the talking mansion that announces which suspects are in each room. For the older folks, characters such as Colonel Mustard and Miss Scarlet are still there.

Dealmakers who are tired of Monopoly might consider I'm the Boss! ($34.95) The instructions could be clearer, but the game is fun. Players negotiate with one another to round up investors and close deals. Whoever collects the most dividends wins.

If that sounds too much like work, consider the Apples to Apples Crate Edition ($29.99). The idea is to pair nouns and adjectives in the funniest combination. For instance, if the adjective drawn is "frightening," a player could choose a card that reads "tornadoes" or "Michael Jackson," depending on which player is judging. Sometimes, the best games are the simplest.

By Christopher Palmeri

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