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Imaginative sporting games that the whole family can enjoy are good presents for Christmas

Sporting games are available this year in greater number and variety than ever before, and most will hold the interest of children, as well as adults, for longer than a few days after Christmas. These games, on the whole, are well constructed, relatively inexpensive and provide a real test for the imagination and skill of the sports-minded juvenile. The prices given here are list but, as with most toys, they can be purchased at much lower prices.

The best football game ever invented is Football Strategy ($3), which comes in an attractively designed 10-inch-high cardboard cylinder and is an honest-to-Pete challenge to the man who knows he would have been a great pro quarterback if only he had had the chance. Kids like it too. It is not an action game but one designed to test the ability of opposing players to outthink or outguess each other. The offensive player selects a play—the one he thinks is appropriate for the situation—from 20 possibilities listed on a durable vinyl master sheet. The defensive player, at the same time, chooses from a set of cards one of 10 possible defensive patterns—the one he thinks best to throw against the offensive play he feels his opponent is likely to call. The success or failure of the play is determined by a simple check of the master sheet. The game includes a football field (also made of vinyl), a plastic football, a plastic 10-yard marker and a scoreboard.

Another good gridiron toy is the Mag-Powr Football Game ($16.95), which is played on a 19½-inch-by-27½-inch composition football field. The field rests on four legs (which can be removed for storage). Lifelike vinyl football players, with magnetic bases, are lined up facing each other on the field in offensive and defensive team formations. By moving the players with magnetized wands held underneath the field, simulated football action is created. The players can be made to block, kick, run, pass or receive the ball by proper manipulation of the wands. While the game can be fun for a little while for young children, it is most skillfully played by teen-agers and adults. There is also a Mag-Powr Baseball Game ($16.95) and a Mag-Powr Ice Hockey Game ($14.95) that utilizes the same principles as the football game.

In Gotham's Electric Slide-Action Hockey Game ($18), metal hockey players, attached to rods, are moved up and down the rink by pulling or pushing control handles at each end. The players can be made to shoot or pass a magnetic puck (which adheres to the players) by a twist of the handles. Whenever a goal is scored, a light flashes on behind the net. Because there are six handles to manipulate at each end, the game is most fun when there are two or three people to a side, each working a couple of handles. Don't be deterred by the "Electric" in the game's name. The only thing electric about it are the batteries used to make the lights work.

Not as lively as the hockey game but just as much fun is the Gotham Electro-Magnetic Baseball Game ($10). It features a spring-release bat, a magnetic baseball and an electric pitching arm. The player whose team is on the field regulates the speed and type of pitch (across the plate, outside, fast ball or curve) by the way he places the ball on the pitching arm. Then he pushes a button, and the ball is propelled toward home plate. The player whose team is at bat tries to get a hit by releasing the spring bat at the right time. The colorful metal playing field (22 inches by 22 inches) and the surrounding 6-inch-high metal fences have areas on them that are designated as outs or hits (the magnetic baseball will stick to the metal fences).

Golf for the home

Arnold Palmer's Inside Golf ($6) is a tabletop game that attempts to duplicate actual shotmaking conditions on the fairways. It is based a little too heavily on luck, and playing conditions tend to repeat themselves too frequently for the game to be a really exciting challenge to the older child or adult. But it is a big step in the right direction, for golf games have not kept pace with other sporting games. The set contains a nine-hole course, each hole carefully illustrated on 17½-inch-by-22½-inch cards. The players (two, three or four) decide which golf club to use on each shot, then turn over a card from a conventional deck and match it against a master chart to determine how the shot came off.

Electric vibrating games on the whole do not offer much of a challenge and make an awful racket. The Tudor Electric Horse Race Game ($7) is the most realistic of the various vibrating games. Four brightly colored horses are placed at the starting line, and at the click of a button, they are off. The horses jiggle through irregular channels on the track until one crosses the finish line. One drawback in the game is that in at least some sets the horse that gets in the lead first generally wins, and frequently it is the same horse every time. Older children and adults will quickly tire of the game, but the youngsters should have a lot of fun.