Games for grown-ups sell fast

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BY THE end of this week your children may be beating seven shades of annihilation out of the Sega Dreamcast, or brawling over the latest unpronounceable Pokemon, but the real Christmas toys will remain in adult hands.

Take the Truth Machine, a lie detector, price pounds 32.99. Resembling a small computer circuit board, it supposedly picks out stressed or anxious voices round the dining-table by measuring frequency changes.

It is not only those around the Christmas table you can test. Its makers claim the Truth Machine will sort out friends on the telephone or smooth- tongued politicians on television, detecting stress on the airwaves.

For those of more mystical bent, there is the Magic Eight Ball, a top seller at pounds 12 from the Urban Outfitters accessory shop. This is a grapefruit- sized toy filled with word-dice suspended in an inky solution. You ask it urgent questions, shake it up and wait for the dice to offer one of 20 answers.

Then there's Eternity, a 209-piece jigsaw designed by the Hon Christopher Monckton, a former policy adviser to Baroness Thatcher, which is also selling briskly. This comes with a pounds 1m prize, to be awarded to the first person to solve it before 2004. Its number of permutations runs to 621 digits.

Even at pounds 29.99, sales of the puzzle are high, and Mr Monckton claims to be igrowing nervous that someone will crack the code before he can afford to fund the prize.

At Hamley's toy shop in London, sales of Eternity have even outstripped the much-hyped Who Wants to be a Millionaire? home version, which, for pounds 24.99, includes neither Chris Tarrant nor a pounds 1m prize. Even so, it is a top seller, as is Pass the Bomb, an exploding pass-the-parcel quiz for grown-ups. Sales of the pounds 15 game have been brisk at Hamley's and many other toy shops.

If you've tired completely of assorted aunts and uncles, you can always resort to a traditional game. By e-mail, that is. Manufacturers have created a range of e-mailable games including Cluedo, Chess and Backgammon at pounds 9.99 each for those who want to interact with friends elsewhere.

Whoever said Christmas was for children, anyway?