My son’s currently 2 going on tantrums–er–three, so imagining a nine-year-olds board game desires is going to have be extrapolated a bit. But!
I’d think you’d want something engaging and fun and interactive for a nine-year-old, but nothing too intricate or rules heavy. Something sleek, simple and fun. Ideally, it’d also be something easy enough to transition likely non-gamer parents into playing as well (since they’re likely to be frequent players as well). I’m sure you probably don’t want to spend a fortune on it either.
Sadly, that cuts out my first impulse of recommending TI3.
So! Classics! I think whatever set of Carcassonne you can get your hands on would suit just fine. It’s a good introduction to point scoring and placing meeples, yet there’s still a lot of depth to learning the game. Should last for years.
Spot It! (aka Dobble) might be worthwhile–a good party/performance game of speedily matching images that teaches and plays quick, and should be a level playing field (or even give a slight advantage to the younguns whose eyes aren’t quite so tired…whippersnappers!)
Sushi Go! I hear is a good, light card-drafting game that apparently plays as a slimmed down 7 Wonders. I say apparently because I haven’t played it, but so many people have recommended it recently I figure it must be worth some consideration.
If you really wanted to turn the kid over to the nerd side, you could land a copy of WOTC’s reprint of Dungeon! It’s a pretty simplistic dungeon crawl, but if anyone would enjoy it to its fullest, it’d be a nine-year-old boy (I know I would have pulled a N64 kid reaction if I had gotten this for Xmas when I was nine). There’s better games, sure…but there’s time for that. This one’s fun. Of course, skittish parents might take this one back to the store when they see the big demonic dragon on the cover…so maybe not the best idea.
King. Of. Tokyo. Can’t beat that for pre-adolsecent youth. Yatzee with big ol’ kaiju duking it out. Yes, there’s player elimination. It’ll teach him about humility. And hopefully also about the beauty of the rematch comeback.
Finally, Telestrations comes to mind as one of the better, funnier party game offerings a young person could appreciate. It’s Pictionary meets telephone. It’s best when the game is mostly ignored, and people just give in to the urge to draw ridiculous attempts at understanding the morphed clues that get plopped in front of them.
Just some thoughts. I’m sure there’re others, but these seem like solid bets.
Good on you for stepping up to the plate here–for making someone’s holiday more merry, and for sharing the gift of gaming!