Last week we took care of your holiday shopping list for kids and families. Now it’s time to tick off the gamers on your list. Wait. That didn’t come out right…
Here are a dozen gift ideas for the tabletop connoisseur, in rough order of size from stocking-stuffer to “omg you shouldn’t have”:
The Mind is an intense co-operative game where players are trying to play numeric cards from their hands in ascending order. Oh, we forgot to mention, there’s no talking allowed--which should take care of the bossy-boots in your gaming group. Each round there are more cards to play so the difficulty reaches an insane pitch by the final rounds. Order.
Lost Cities: Rivals is a great bidding game for two to four players. You can tell your gamer friend it’s what happens when Lost Cities and Ra have a baby--which is pretty well the truth. Reiner Knizia designed all three, and the result is an easy-to-teach and play filler. It’s hard to find good bidding games for two, so there’s another selling point. Order.
Keyforge is Richard Garfield’s newest contribution to card-playing and whether your friend is a M:tG fanatic or a total CCG n00b you really can’t go wrong with this eminently playable game where the object is not destruction but creation: players race to forge three keys from Æmber, the game’s currency, which is generated by cardplay in lots of different ways. The big twist is that the game is not a CCG in the traditional sense. Instead, each deck is a unique assembly of 36 cards drawn from a pool of about 150. So, no deckbuilding or booster packs; you have to learn to play each deck for its own strengths. Keyforge will never replace Magic, but it has landed with a big “bang” and even if your gamer friend has some decks already they’ll welcome getting more--no worries about doubles here! Order.
Welcome To… has a full review here but if you’re looking for a short game with tons of replayability and able to accommodate literally dozens of players at once you’ve found the right place. Welcome To… is like Yahtzee in that players have to make choices every turn which they record on their individual sheets, except (a) the choices are based on cards, not dice, (b) everyone plays at the same time, and (c) the best choices are much less obvious (and arguably more interesting). Order.
Century: Eastern Wonders: For a full review go here. This is a classic “Euro” with players taking the role of traders in an archipelago of islands which all produce different kinds of goods. The player who trades most efficiently will win. If your friend has Century: Spice Road this makes the perfect gift because the two games can be combined to produce a great hybrid experience. Order.
Cryptid is for the logician or logic-puzzle-lover in your life. Players race to identify the space on the hexagonal map which is the home of a mysterious beast. The map consists of different terrains (mountains; deserts; forests, etc.) and has landmarks of various kinds. Each player starts with a secret and unique clue which narrows the location down a little bit (for instance, “two hexes away from a lake); only one hex on the map satisfies every player’s clue. Players take turns guessing the location by quizzing each other. Eventually one player will be able to narrow down the possibilities to the lair. There is plenty of replayability; the board is modular and there are dozens of different setups to choose from randomly. Cryptid stretches your logical and spatial reasoning to the limit and chances are your friend has nothing like it in their collection. Order.
Space Base: check out a full review here. If you’re looking to go a little past Catan this should be your next stop. Superior to Machi Koro in its pacing and variety, Space Base is a race to 40 points by amassing an armada of ships which generate resources and activate powers on various rolls of two dice. It should be better-known and more celebrated than it is. Order.
Heaven & Ale: You can get a more in-depth review here, but the tl;dr is that Heaven & Ale is a medium-to-heavy Euro with a medieval theme, a rondel-style mechanic, and many paths to victory. Definitely not a gateway game, so don’t buy it just because your buddy loves beer. Order.
Menara is that rare beast, a co-operative dexterity game with strategy, sort of an anti-Jenga. You and your friends must work together to build a temple in the jungle from an array of randomly-shaped tiles and coloured pillars. The result is beautiful to look at and feels so good when you win. And if things collapse, well, you can always start over from the beginning. Order.
Ex Libris was reviewed back in March (here). This is a lighthearted game which is more thinky than it looks. Each player is trying to amass the most prestigious library by visiting various locations every turn to acquire batches of books that just fit onto their shelves--in alphabetical order, no less. Certain books are more valuable to each player than others--and some books are worth negative points to everyone. The problem is, each batch usually contains stuff you want AND stuff you don’t want, so you have to figure out which will do you the most good. The gameplay is very easy to explain and there are cool-shaped meeples galore. Order.
Spirit Island has sailed into the BoardGameGeek top 25 on the strength of its unique theme, great graphic design, challenging gameplay, and the number of ways you can play. You and up to three friends play nature spirits trying to keep your island from being defiled by encroaching European settlement. Each nation presents its own challenges--the Prussians expand quickly, for example, while the English love to build. Player-spirits use deckbuilding-type abilities to make their unique Power decks more powerful as quickly as possible. And expansion is also available. Definitely not for the faint-hearted. Order.
Endeavor: Age of Sail is one we just wrote about and should bring a huge grin to your gamer BFF, because the huge box is full of stuff--and a spiffed-up version of a cult favorite from 2009. Two to five players race to amass the most prestige over seven turns by sailing all over the world, trading, settling, conquering...the whole shebang. Easy to teach and play, the new edition has an Exploits module that adds some more historical flavour. Order.
There! All your holiday gift-giving worries are over. Next week we return to our usual format. À la prochaine!