Buying a new game is cheaper than taking a family of four to the movies, and playing a game together creates memories and strengthens relationships. Bonus: You can play again and again.

We tried out several of this season's new games over the course of a couple of family game nights with my son the tween, my daughter the teen, my baby boomer husband and me.


Sort It Out! The Game of Putting Things in Order

Grade: A

This was my personal favorite — maybe because I finally won, or maybe because it appealed to my inner organizer.

Players: Two to six, ages 12 and older.

The object: Put a list of weird and sometimes unrelated items in order.

For example, sort these things by weight: an elephant's daily poo, three standard house bricks, a blue whale tongue, an average domestic cat and a Jeep Grand Cherokee. Or sort these inventions by when they were created: barbed wire, telephone, incandescent lamp, the Mercedes-Benz "Patent Motor Car" and the hovercraft.

Plus: My son and I thought it was great fun (a mix of strategy and educated guesses with no down time because everybody plays each turn).

Minus: My daughter found it frustrating, and my analytical husband questioned why anyone cared.


Monopoly City

Grade: A-

If you love traditional Monopoly, you'll probably like this 21st century revamp, complete with 80 3-D buildings such as skyscrapers, stadiums and industrial complexes.

Players: Two to six, ages 8 and older.

The object: You start with more than $37 million in cash and build on every Go. Unwanted property gets auctioned as soon as anyone lands on it. You can even sabotage other players' investments by placing prisons or sewage plants next to their prized properties.

Plus: My son liked the electronic gadget that serves as a timer and determines how many buildings can be purchased at a time.

Minus: We had to frequently refer to the 16-page instruction manual to understand the rules, slowing down play.


Trivial Pursuit Team Edition

Grade: A-

I used to love playing Trivial Pursuit but quit when kids came along because the questions often frustrated them. This version uses teams, so we evened out our knowledge bases with mom- and-daughter, father-and-son teams.

Players: Two or more teams, ages 18 and older.

Object: There are six question styles, including Multiple Choice: You get four possible answers and three guesses (the sooner you guess, the more you score) ; Name Six: For example, name six novels written by Jane Austen (get a point for each one you can name) ; More or Less: Correct answer on a hard question is worth twice the points

Plus: A cardholder makes it easy to take the game on the road.

Minus: You get 12 decks, good for just 12 games (until you wait long enough to play again that you can't remember the questions).



Grade: B

This year's updated Bop-It! has solo, pass it and party modes, which means more than one can play.

Players: One or more, ages 8 and older.

Object: In party mode, you throw your whole body into play and tap the Bop-It! on the body part that is called, such as the elbow or knee. But the thing talks back to you when you miss, asking "Too fast for you?"

Plus/minus: It can be either addicting or annoying, though it is kind of fun to twist, pull, bop and shout. You can adjust the sound level, and it comes with batteries.


StoryClub: Girls' Night Edition

Grade: A-

Marcie Jacobs , a former Kansas City, Mo., resident, invented this writing game along with a couple of friends when her book club members couldn't agree on what to read next. Whether it beats Bunko as an excuse to have a girls' night out is open to debate, but you do need a group of open-minded and imaginative friends.

Players: Six to 16 (12 is ideal), adult (rated PG-13).

Object: Two or three people huddle together to literally write one-page chapters in the notebook that comes with the game. The first team gets a Story Starter card, such as this one: "If she could go back in time, Carly would erase last night's argument with X. Would they ever speak to one another again? ..." People, Places and Things cards help keep the story going.

Plus: While one team writes, the other players snack, talk and relax.

Minus: Girls' night could stretch into a weekend if you don't set a time limit for writing each chapter.