The OGA Holiday Gift Guide - Part 2: Going to the Next Level
Now that we’ve got the basics out of the way, it’s time to go further down the rabbit hole. Here are some games I recommend as great gifts for those who may have already started getting into tabletop games and are looking to dive further in!
Codenames has been around for only two years, and already I’m betting it will be a classic. Teams compete using one-word clues to locate their “spies” in a grid of word (or picture, in some versions) cards. One person is a “spymaster” who gives the clues, while their teammates across the table try to guess correctly without revealing the other team’s spies. A strong aspect is that players can pop in/out of games, making this a great choice for parties and families. As with any game with huge mainstream success, I expect Codenames to receive a robust catalog of licensed retheming.
I’ve already done a full write-up on Century Spice Road, but I’m mentioning it again as it is that good. In this loosely-themed game, players are spice traders trying to collect point cards from a trade row. Yes, it’s a bone-dry game to describe, but it has addictive and easy-to-learn game play.
If someone likes the roll-dice-to-get-resources mechanism from Catan, or the strategy of card purchasing in Dominion, then Machi Koro may be a good choice. In this fast-paced card and dice game, everyone is building up a small city by purchasing building to bring in enough income in an economic race to be the first to build four landmarks in their “dice town.” A great game for families and casual play, it’s a five-minute learn-to-play and an easy 45-minute game.
The original 7 Wonders could be the “sixth classic” in the five I talked about in my last post. 7 Wonders Duel deftly remixes it into one of the best two-player games I’ve ever played. In fact, I may like it more than 7 Wonders, but I’m not sure yet. As in the original game, Duel is a drafting game in which players are acquiring cards to build commercial, military, and scientific developments to build their civilizations’ wonders (structures representing cultural achievement) and to acquire points. Instead of passing hands of cards to each other, drafting in Duel is picking available cards in a layered tableau with tough decision points and interesting options to explore.
Maybe someone has already dipped their toes into Pandemic, and wants to take that experience up a notch. Here’s Pandemic Legacy: Season 1, a game that evolves and remembers across a multi-session storyline that spans 12 months of game time. Decisions made in one game will carry over to the next, and secret cards and components are added during the campaign. This is a game you can binge on, and, just like any popular Netflix series, Season 2 continues the story.
My favorite “dudes on a map” game is Kemet, which I recommend to anyone who has played Risk (or anyone who hasn’t for that matter.) However, it is still in the middle of a reprint and doesn’t look likely to hit stores again until after the holidays. In that case, I recommend Cry Havoc from Portal Games. This game is a bit rules-heavy, so it’s for the serious strategy gamers. Players are asymmetrical factions fighting over a key resource on a planet. Think “unobtainium” and the basic story from the film Avatar, and you get the idea. However, Cry Havoc plays quite quickly, with many interesting decisions, and features a non-random card-based battle system that I’ve never seen in any other game.
The best way to try playing a tabletop RPG is to learn from someone who has already invested into it and is willing to teach. The second best way is to get the Dungeons & Dragons Fifth Edition Starter Set. This unassuming box has everything someone needs to dip their toes into D&D: a nicely-condensed rulebook, 5 pre-filled character sheers, a solid adventure that will last at least 4–5 play sessions, and a set of dice - all for under 20 bucks. It’s a no-brainer value wise, and a great taste without investing $50+ on game books (yet.)
What I’d want as a holiday gift, if I didn’t have it already…
Mechs vs. Minions is gorgeous, and is a ridiculous value for the production, too. Players are controlling mechs as they work together to battle minions (not those annoying yellow dudes) threatening their school. Mechs are “programmed” using ability cars that are drafted before a battle. As players complete scenarios, new ones are unlocked along with upgraded abilities for their mechs. This game is so freaking fun that I want to stop typing and play right now.
I wish you and yours a happy holiday season, and best wishes for the new year. See you in 2018.