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Parents at Play: Game choices for the holidays

Big things can, as the old saying goes, come in small packages. And with the holidays almost upon us, here are some new games that fit neatly into small boxes but provide nearly endless opportunities for big fun.

  • Dead or Alive (Laurence King Publishing)

This easy-to-play card game is like Fantasy Football, but for crime aficionados. Each of the 32 cards features one or more gangsters (including classics like Al Capone, John Dillinger, and Bonnie and Clyde, and lesser-known villains like Belle Star and Mishka Yaponchik), along with a bit of history and scores for body count, charisma, finances, rap sheet, firepower, and legacy. Play your card, and may the baddest baddie win. For ages 7+. Under $10.

  • Funnybones (Funnybone Toys)

According to the manufacturer, this game has been around in one form or another for more than two thousand years. It goes by different names, and is similar to the old game of Jacks, where you toss the ball up in the air and try to pick up those funny metal things. In this case, you’re tossing a small plastic “bone” and doing all sorts of fun, fancy maneuvers with your hand as you try to pick up one or more of the remaining bones. Ages 7+ (since Funnybones requires a lot of hand-eye coordination, younger kids may be frustrated). Under $10.

  • Little White Lies Movie Memory Game (Little White Lies)

If you love movie trivia, you’ll adore this game. It’s like a regular matching memory game, where you turn over cards hoping to make a match. But instead of an actual pair, in this game, you need to match a movie character with an object from the movie. For example, Marlon Brando’s “Godfather” matches with the horse’s head, Katniss Everdeen with a white flower, Mia Farrow’s “Rosemary” with a baby carriage, Carrie with a bucket of blood, and so on. Each pair is also color coded, so the movie-impaired (and the young) can still play. Ages 10+. Under $8.

  • Rock, Paper, Scissors, Bomb (Laurence King)

That pretty well explains it all, doesn’t it? Using cards instead of your hand and fingers, you play the old Rock, Paper, Scissors game. But there are four Bomb cards that, as you might expect, beat everything. The illustrations, by Mads Berg, give the game a tense, futuristic feel. Ages 5+, Under $10.

  • Utter Nonsense! (Utter Nonsense)

Start by selecting the first Judge (the rules say that honor goes to the player with the stinkiest feet). The Judge then deals seven Phrase Cards to each of the other players and flips over one Accent Card. Players then select one of their phrase cards and, taking turns, say it in the indicated accent. The judge decides which player does the best/funniest/most absurd job. First player to win five rounds takes the game. You don’t necessarily have to be good at accents to play, especially since most of them aren’t exactly accents (there’s Grandma, Surfer, News Anchor, Mime, and dozens more). For ages 8+ (there’s a Naughty Edition for older players). Under $30.

  • Ugh! (Calliope Games)

Unless you’ve seen “The Flintstones,” you can’t possibly appreciate what life for your average, everyday caveman was like. Thanks to Ugh! you can channel your inner Fred or Wilma. Score points by collecting cavemen (and women), their homes, their pets, and everything else that made stone-age life so desirable. But don’t push your luck. If you pull a Natural Disaster card, you’re wiped out, Ages 7+. $10.