These games are for the hobbyists in your life, the ones who have lunch groups and weekly game nights and don’t mind learning a few fiddly rules or spending a bit longer than an hour to finish a game. These games are probably a bit too complex for your average non-gaming family members, but there’s a lot of strategy and depth to explore.
Euphoria: Build A Better Dystopia : Our review : Amazon link
Euphoria oozes with theme, from its beautiful (and plentiful) components to its smooth combination of dice rolling and worker placement. Keep your drones happily working on, oblivious to the dystopia you’ve created for them as you use them to score victory points. Before you know it, you’ll be making jokes about how your workers are blissfully unaware of their pitiful existence. Muahahaha.
Food Chain Magnate : Publisher Link
[Ed. Note – this game is currently awaiting a reprint and sorta hard to find, so… good luck] As publisher, Splotter Spellen has reached almost mythical status. Releasing a new game only once every 3 to 5 years probably has a lot to do with it. And once a game has sold out you can only hope for a reprint multiple years down the line or shell out hundred of dollars for a second hand copy.
Enter Food Chain Magnate, the latest game from Splotter Spellen. Take on the role of CEO of a fast food restaurant chain in the American 50’s in an effort to make the most money. The game is long, unforgiving and completely engrossing. This is the ultimate gamer’s game and anyone receiving it as a gift would be over the moon.
Elysium : Amazon link
Elysium is a card game in which players are trying to earn the favor of the gods by writing the most epic legends. The one who succeeds will win a place alongside Zeus in the pantheon of the gods. As you turn your cards into legends and earn victory points, their powers are lost to you. The game requires a balance between converting cards into points and preserving future point earning opportunities.
This game (a 2015 Kennerspiel des Jahres nominee) provides brain burning choices, complex strategies, and tension as you try to craft the perfect combinations. It’s best for groups that will play it regularly, as familiarity with the cards favors experienced players. The art is gorgeous and the theme of Greek gods should satisfy lovers of fantasy, classics, and mythology, as well as those who simply prefer their games to be about anything other than medieval farming or Orcs.
Marvel Dice Masters : Our review : Amazon link
Perhaps a difficult one to recommend only because it involves a not insignificant investment that you could be passing on to the recipient. Otherwise, this is an easy suggestion for that hardcore gamer on your list. I prefer the Marvel IP so I can build teams comprised of all my favorite super-heroes – with Captain America leading them onward, of course. But you can also find DC comics, Dungeon & Dragons and even Yu-Gi-Oh. In any set – or mixing and interchanging them – this collectible dice game provides almost limitless experimentation and strategy. The starter sets for each release are very reasonable and include everything you need to play the game. However, you’ll also want to include a couple dozen booster packs – also reasonably priced at $1 each. While you could still wind up spending a sizeable chuck of change, the system does de-emphasizes the power of rares and ultra rares to an extent, so you don’t need to mortgage your house to be competitive, a welcome change from other collectible games. If you’re giving to that hardcore player who goes all in, Dice Masters will warm his/her heart better than a mug of eggnog.
Power Grid : Amazon link
Power Grid is over ten years old now, but it remains one of the freshest and most interesting economic games I’ve played. Power Grid is a fascinating race: players bid for power plants, buy resources to power those plants, and connect cities on the board to form their power network. A novel turn-order mechanism keeps players drafting off one another, not wanting to shoot to a lead too early while also keeping options open for a final push. This one takes about two hours to play, but it is always worth the time.
XCOM: The Board Game : Our review : Amazon link
This game landed with quite the splash at the beginning of the year, but as often happens the excitement of GenCon and Essen flood the wires and the early games are nearly forgotten. Well, let’s not forget XCOM, a frantic semi-real time cooperative game in which the enemy is controlled by an app. Each player takes on a completely unique role to plan and enact the defense of earth against a steady alien invasion. One player manages the satellites for communication, one researches new tech, one handles the budget as well as global defense, and one commands the soldiers to defend the base and complete missions. The app throws a variety of obstacles at you at a rapid pace and in varying order, keeping you on your toes, and each player must contribute or everything will be lost. It’s frantic, tense, and a whole lot of fun – and for all the miniatures in the box, isn’t that steep of a price.