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Mind blowing

Some days you just can't get rid of a bomb." A classic line from the 1966 movie "Batman". And it was a classic bomb: round and black with a bit of string posing as a lit fuse.

Our hero, passed the deadly device by his enemies, was poised to throw it into the sea. There wasn't much time left. Tick, tick went the bomb. Quack, quack went the fluffy ducklings swimming by.

"Some days ..."

Concern for small creatures stayed the Caped Crusader's hand. In my case the inhibiting factor was an inability to come up with a word containing the letters "oug" - in that order. Tick, tick went my little plastic bomb. Think, think went my brain. Then BOOM.

Pass the Bomb (Gibsons Games Pounds 14.95) is a fast, funny, family word game. Last year's "Daily Telegraph" Game of the Year, and winner of the French Ace D'Or, it is set to be one of this Christmas's deserved best-sellers.

Pass the bomb proves that the best Christmas games are usually inexpensive and simple. No need to spend hours explaining the rules to granny; she probably knows them already. For a selection of such paper-and-pencil pastimes, try the After Dinner Games Compendium or the Travel Games Compendium (Lagoon Pounds 4.99).

Many of the games are familiar - Charades, Botticelli. Some are variations on an old theme - Contortion, for example, which I grew up calling Twister - and some will be new to everyone, except, of course, granny. Most show that fun can be had without making the children blush. Only more extrovert families should attempt Desire ("rife with potential embarrassments"), Eye-Spy (not the one you're thinking of) or String Along (casual clothes and a centrally heated room required).

For real addicts there is also the new Encyclopedia of Games (Aurum Press Pounds 17.95). This contains the rules for 250 ways humans have found to amuse themselves when not at work. The text is clear - certainly the instructions for Mah-Jong were much better than the cheap Chinese translation I once battled with. There's just nothing like a well-explained Pung.

One more family game likely to do well this winter is Masterpieces (Bizarre Pounds 16.99). With a pound donated to Great Ormond Street Children's Hospital for every one sold, the marketing men and women are on target to profit from Christmas guilt as well as Christmas greed.

The game is simple and appealing. Hundreds of children's drawings have been put on cards, and the aim is basically to guess what the pictures are. The more obscure the drawing, the greater the reward for the person who guesses correctly. It's not as easy as it sounds; clearly some would-be Mark Rothkos start young.

So if you want a try your hand at a new game for Christmas, you had better get planning. After all, there are only 500 shopping hours to go. Tick, tick ...

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