In terms of game theory (and skip ahead if game theory is of no interest) we might see games as either simulations or activities. Monopoly is a simulation. It allows us to pretend to be buying and selling property. Tic Tac Toe is more of an activity. So are Clue and Trivial Pursuit. They allow us to do something and be scored on how we do it. It seems self evident that some games become huge hits simply because they allow us to do something fun in a fun way. Before the eyes begin to roll let's consider that for every Cranium there are a million failures out there. It may just be that identifying fun may be harder than it sounds. Further, whether you can do something fun with a minimum of simple but appropriate rules may be the key criterea for the success of an activity game.
Which brings us to Gift Trap, which has a concept both extremely simple and extremely fun, and is thus the new hot game of my elite game testing group. In Gift Trap the players are dealt a selection of cards upon the game board. Each card has a photo of a gift on it. In different rounds the gifts may be low key, like some new boots, or progressively more exotic, like a vacation. The players examine the gift selection and secretly assign a gift to each of the other people at the table. Then the players rate each gift based on how much they themselves would like to receive it. Finally the choices are revealed. If you chose to give someone something that they really wanted then you both score points. There are literally hundreds of possible gifts that can come into play so each game will be a little different.
Gift Trap works on several levels. Many of us enjoy catalog shopping and this is an organized way to do just that. Further it's a fun test of how well you know someone, or in another light, a fun way to get to know someone. Finally, I'm becoming partial to games that allow several players to score points as opposed to having a single winner. I think these games fly better with younger players. Gift Trap allows virtually any player to score points with only a slight effort and thus is fun for adults and children alike.
There are a few caveats. Ideally we would not be so materialistic and Gift Trap may be a bit of a reflection of the unhealthy consumeristic world we live in. OK. Also the game does include a few "adult" gifts which must be removed before play with the kids. The adult gifts are easy to identify but parents are advised to get them out before releasing the game to the care of the kids. Finally, this is a game which is scored fairly subjectively. Like Apples to Apples it's a party game and not intended as a fierce competition. I can't imagine a competitive gamer mistaking Gift Trap for a serious game but other reviewers have complained so it seems that it's possible.
Pros: Fun and easy to play, great for all ages
Cons: Reflects our decadent consumeristic lifestyle, comrade
Beyond the Basics: Great party game