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Your move ; New board games prove to be entertaining, if trivial, pursuits. Got game? Pick a card and take a spin through the latest indoor diversions.

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Adult board games can be ideal icebreakers or ways to further probe the psyches of those you already know and love. Granted, you may not love them so much after hearing them explain why they'd prefer to be caught picking their nose and eating it instead of wetting their pants in front of their co-workers, while playing Zobmondo!!

Zobmondo!! -- in which contestants must choose one of two bizarre hypothetical situations and discuss why -- is one of the hot board games joining the ranks of such best-selling adult classics as Scattergories, Taboo and Pictionary, and old reliables like Monopoly and Scrabble.

"Board games are still strong. They've got some competition with computer games, but people still like 3-D reality instead of looking into a computer screen," says Michael Stern, vice president of marketing for the Game Keeper Inc.

And of the new crop, Zobmondo!! is not the only game that may reveal more about yourself and others than you may have wanted.

Did you have any idea the mild-mannered librarian who sits beside you every day at work is a veritable encyclopedia of "Star Wars" knowledge? You will, once you challenge her to a game of Trivial Pursuit: Star Wars Edition. Can you admit to yourself that you've made no significant impression on the co-worker you've been hanging out with for the last year? You just may have to face that fact if you play "Therapy" with him. And did you ever imagine that simply reading a game's directions would confuse you to no end? Read the directions to "Mind Trap II," and you just may be so humbled.

Such revelations were made when seven players gathered last week to test-drive four of today's most popular board games. Are you game?

Trivial Pursuit: Star Wars Edition (Parker Brothers)

Setup: Just like the Trivial Pursuit game board, except with "Star Wars" images. Instead of pies, game pieces are pewter characters from the film with bases into which you place the colored scoring tokens. Question categories include "DCA: droids, creatures and aliens" and "WV: weapons and vehicles."

Objective: Answer questions correctly, accumulate wedges from each category and answer final question from category chosen by opponents.

Sample question (from "GEO: geography" category): "What sector in the Hoth system did Darth Vader's fleet emerge from hyperspace into?" (Answer: Sector 4.)

Advantages: Allows "Star Wars" junkies to spew all the space trivia they've had bottled up since the 70's.

Disadvantages: Virtually useless for the "Star Wars"-impaired and likely to bring out bitterness among those lacking the Force. Plus, questions sometimes are worded unclearly, and the R2-D2 randomizer, which you use instead of rolling a die, needs really rare batteries that are not included. We used a die from another game instead.

Good for: "Star Wars" trivia nuts and those aspiring to that level.

Overheard: "I'm only going to play if I can be Princess Leia." "Who walks around knowing this?" "If you're a Star Wars freak, this is a cool game; if you're not, you're just bitter."

Mind Trap II (Pressman)

Setup: Game board and assortment of mind-bending cards, including all manner of riddles and brain teasers, in addition to "tangram" shapes for timed design-assembly challenges.

Sample question: Too long and involved to fit here, and it would probably make you feel stupid anyway.

Objective: Be first to reach last square on game board by conquering these brain-crampers.

Advantages: Requires a lot of thought.

Disadvantages: Requires a lot of thought.

Good for: People with a lot of time, patience, logic and a zeal for brain teasers. Potential to be very involving and satisfying once you get into the intellectual rhythm.

Overheard: "I don't get it." "This is too hard." "Huh?"

Therapy (Pressman)

Setup: The colored couch game pieces and pegs are reminiscent of the cars from Life, in which you would accumulate peg children, and so provide some nostalgic value. Board is divided into color-coded sections. Squares direct you to various question cards and bear labels such as "Insight," "Group Therapy" or any number of categories.

Objective: Be the first player to get one peg from each of the six stages of life, from infancy to seniority, by answering and asking questions from each stage of development.

Sample question: "So, tell me [blank], if a school friend you hadn't seen in 10 years left a message on your answering machine, would you -- (a) call back, and hope they were in; (b) call back, and hope there was no answer; (c) never call back?"

Advantages: When another team's couch lands in your own color-coded "office," you get to play the therapist and pre-guess the response.

Disadvantages: Too many details and random categories. If you get a question wrong from an "Insight/Chance" square, you have to go to the "psychosis" mushpot in the center of the board. Plus, "Thinkblots" are also annoying. You look at an inkblot, and instead of saying what you see, you have to guess what the majority of people who have looked at it have seen.

Good for: Casual acquaintances and those interested in general pop psychology who want a non-intimidating way to get to know each other better.

Overheard: "This isn't like real therapy." "The couches are cute."

Zobmondo!! (Zobmondo!! Entertainment LLC)

Setup: Little lozenge-like game pieces look good enough to eat. The rather psychedelic game board is decorated with whirlpools, bright colors and cockroaches topped with whipped cream and cherries. Game is played with cards containing bizarre, hypothetical situations in categories ranging from pain/fear/discomfort to appearance/embarrassment.

Objective: Start off-the-wall debate and be the first to reach the middle of the board by predicting how opponents will respond to the strange choices.

Sample question (from food/indigestion category): "Would you rather drink a gallon of dirty hot dog water or a shot glass of someone else's foot sweat?"

Advantages: Inspires great conversation and really sparks your imagination, particularly when you land in a whirlpool space, called a "quagmire," and have to think up your own "Would you rather?" scenario for the rest of the group to contemplate.

Disadvantages: Some of the questions are so out-there or yucky that they cause nausea or embarrassment (when we played, it was a question delving far too deep into excrement).

Good for: Creative people who don't get grossed out easily, have wacky senses of humor, an appreciation of the absurd, and enjoy a good, involved argument.

Overheard: "This game rocks." "This is disgusting." "I can't believe you'd drink toilet water."

Top Games

Top 10 sellers for 1998 at the Game Keeper Inc.

1. Deluxe Sequence (JAX Inc., $29.95)

2. Zobmondo!! (Zobmondo!! Entertainment LLC, $34.95)

3. Triopoly (Reveal Entertainment, $39.95)

4. Mind Trap (Pressman, $26.95)

5. Therapy (Pressman, $29.95)

6. Loaded Question (Things Equal Inc., $26.95)

7. Dirty Minds (TDC Games, $20)

8. Rush Hour (Binary Arts, $17)

9. Trivial Pursuit Genus IV (Parker Brothers, $39.95)

10. Trivial Pursuit Star Wars Edition (Parker Brothers, $39.95)

Pub Date: 01/21/99

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