The first one I'd like to discuss is Dominion. This is a card game, it's like the yin to Magic: the Gathering's yang, and I say that because building your deck IS the game here. As with M:tG, you compose your deck with action cards, and resource cards to cast them with (land in M:tG, coin in Dominion).
You start with 10 set cards that are a mixture of coin and victory points. All the available cards are on the table in stacks. You draw 5 cards from your deck, and start to purchase action cards, coin, or victory points with whatever coin you drew. The cards you purchase go into your deck for future draws.
It's a pretty simple game to learn, it's got lots of strategy potential, and most importantly it was fun! It's also less intent on bankrupting you IRL; there will be expansions, sure, but not of a cash cow magnitude. Eric tells me that Dominion will debut this October at the Spiel games convention in Germany, and US residents will be able to buy it shortly after that. People who are long-time M:tG players but a little burned out by now, or maybe tried Magic and found it to be overwhelming for whatever reason, should definitely try this one! You can read more about it here.
Another more casual game we played was called Say Anything, and it's due for release in August. This one was like Apples to Apples in many ways. It's a good party-type game for 3 to 8 players that functions best with higher numbers of participants. You take turns reading a hypothetical (for example, "I think the best super power ever would be...") from a card featuring several, and people write down something fitting that statement. When everyone's answers are submitted, there's a round of betting on which answer the judge will select. You gain points both for having your answer selected and for betting on an answer that was selected. Great party game. This one's due out next month, and more details can be found here.
Lastly, we played a cooperative game called Pandemic, where players team up as scientists and researchers to wipe out several diseases before they explode and overrun the world. The premise is a fun one, and I liked this a lot more than some other cooperative games we've played, though we did fail to stop the pandemics in time.
Pandemic sold out both its first print runs, so unfortunately, this one's not available at the moment either, but a third run is on the way! In the meantime, if apocalyptic disease disasters are your thing, you might check out this free flash-based game, Pandemic II. It's a lot more complicated than the boardgame, though I didn't have time to go through the whole tutorial. You get to choose your type of outbreak and name it in this one, though, which is a nice touch.
The last thing I want to highlight are the efforts of Boardgame News to support the SPCA (Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) with a games for donations program. In a nutshell:
Rather than post [review copies of] games for sale or give them all away in monthly drawings, I'm offering to ship them for free to anyone who donates to the cause of animal welfare. My wife and I volunteer at the Concord-Merrimack County SPCA in New Hampshire and have been surprised by how impoverished the shelter is. Cats come in with dirty, matted fur, for example, yet they can't be groomed – despite having a volunteer groomer at a local pet store – because the shelter can't afford to give the cats a rabies shot. The cost of this shot? $9.I'm going to donate, and so should you!
PS - Guitar Hero: Aerosmith? I beat it, yes, but if I could track down whoever decided to add mandatory boss battles to Guitar Hero...I'd much rather beat THAT PERSON. Just kidding, but seriously, it was hard, frustrating, and if I didn't have my husband to hand the guitar to and say, "Here, beat this stupid boss battle for me." then I would not have continued to play. In conclusion, I'm officially a Rock Band girl, and will probably not play Guitar Hero again (I'm not sorry to have the Aerosmith guitar, though). I'm clearly not alone in these feelings, either, because Steven Tyler was laid off this month. Sorry, Steve, I hope things work out for the best, and I'll always be a fan.