Sometimes our favorites just don’t fit into a category. Or, sometimes a game is extra special to us and we want to call attention to it. This page is filled with our writer’s personal picks for great games that would make great gifts.
Ruel picks: Steampunk Rally : Amazon link
I’ve never been much of a steampunk fan, but after a single game of Steampunk Rally I was off to the library to brush up on my Jules Verne and H.G. Wells. Any game that can singlehandedly change my opinion of a genre is worthy of being my staff pick.
A card-drafting, dice-rolling racing game featuring terrific art and quick turns, Steampunk Rally is an absolute blast from beginning to end. The theme is beautifully incorporated into the game, with 16 real-life inventors to choose from as you try to keep your flying jalopy together long enough to cross the finish line.
Alex picks: Three Kingdoms Redux : Publisher link
[Ed. Note: Apparently Alex is into the hard-to-find games. You’ll have to google it…]
A first time design from a pair who decided start a publishing company, Three Kingdoms Redux is a marvel of ingenuity, hard work and professionalism. Nothing about Three Kingdoms Redux would leave you to believe it’s the result of a first timers. The art is splendid. The board is lavish and appropriately spacious. Even the box is impressively compact. Just holding it in your hands and you can tell that a lot of care and attention went into its creation. So much so that it puts the efforts of more established publishers to shame.
Actually playing the game and you’ll be met with an intense bidding game set in during the Three Kingdoms era of China. Shifting alliances, specialized generals, and military conquest only begin to describe this beast of a game. It’s lengthy and is 3 players only, but setting aside the time and group to play Three Kingdoms Redux is more than worth the effort.
Nat picks: Survive: Escape from Atlantis : Amazon link
I’ll be honest- Survive: Escape from Atlantis is always going to receive a special mention from me. It’s my favourite two player game by a country mile and in my top ten group games. You’ve got a bunch of little people, your opponets have a bunch of little people and you need to escape a sinking island. Not only is the water to contend with, there are also all manner of sea beasties waiting to gobble up unsuspecting paddlers. Survive is a game of strategy and frustration where you try to win by any means necessary. In a game with more than two players, it also takes on a wonderful social element as you try not to become too much of a target. There aren’t many rules so it’s easy to introduce to new players and has some adorable mini expansions which add different creatures and game play elements. Beneath its bright and colourful packaging lie dastardly depths.
Jen picks: Arcadia Quest : Amazon link
Theme! Minis! This is simply a fun, player vs. player, dice rolling bash-fest. Players control three heroes each through a campaign to dethrone the evil vampire lord and reclaim the throne of Arcadia for their own. Players battle each other and the monsters to complete quests and progress through the campaign. There is nothing too serious here (even death isn’t permanent), except the fun.
The minis are great and ripe for painting, if that’s your recipient’s thing. Yes, there are lots of expansions and more miniatures available, but you don’t have to spend any extra money to have a great time. The base box has plenty going on. The campaign is replayable, you can mix and match different scenarios each time, and you can choose different heroes each time you play it through. Buy it for people who just want a fun, dice-chucking, head to head romp through a fantasy world with awesome components.
Jason picks: Mission: Red Planet : Amazon link
Another semi-Old School recommendation, this is the “Two Bruno’s” greatest collaboration – Faidutti and Cathala. This tactical and somewhat quirky steampunk adventure on Victorian Mars mixes role selection and area majority elements with some delicious spite! With saboteurs blowing up ships and femme fatales working their wily charms to undo your best laid plans, this can be one chaotic romp. However, it moves surprisingly smooth, has plenty of action and never outstays its welcome. And Fantasy Flight’s recent 2nd edition release includes out-of-this-world astronaut meeples. If the gamer on your list likes deduction, bluffing, scheming and outright shenanigans with plenty of surprises, this updated classic needs to be on his/her shelf.
Jon picks: Roll for the Galaxy : Our review : Amazon link
Roll for the Galaxy is a dice game with very little luck. Players are building a space empire of planets (which give new dice) and technologies (which allow for better manipulation of those dice). Each turn players assign their dice to perform different tasks, and each player can only choose one phase to activate. Workers perform their actions only if a phase has been activated, so there is always tension (and a little gambling) around whether a phase will occur. Roll for the Galaxy is a quick game to play, and it’s not as difficult to learn as its predecessor, Race for the Galaxy. Roll for the Galaxy looks great, plays quickly, and offers great decisions. This is my favorite game of 2015.
Wolfie picks: Pandemic: Legacy : Our review (of the original Pandemic) : Amazon link
Pandemic has landed on our gift guide pretty much every year since its inception in some form or another, but this year’s Legacy might be the definitive version. No need to worry if your giftee doesn’t own the original; you can play the base, unaltered game of Pandemic out of this box as many times as you like until you’re ready. When you begin the campaign, you’ll launch into a thrilling adventure wherein each game you play affects every future game permanently. Cities will start to riot and become destroyed; characters will gain both new abilities and damaging scars, and you can master certain diseases making them easier to fight off. That’s just the stuff you know about from the start, though; as you play, you’ll discover new rules, new challenges, and new things-I-can’t-even-talk-about. Stickers will get stuck in the rulebook, cards will get added into the mix and literally torn to pieces, and boxes with unknown contents will be opened and revealed. The plot is filled with twists and turns and is as exciting as any TV show, and as you play each Month of the campaign, you’ll really feel like you’re desperately managing a long-term global crisis. I can’t rave enough about this game, and it’s been rapidly shooting up the ranks for a reason, as of this writing setting at the number 3 spot on BoardGameGeek.com.
Well folks, that’s it for this year. If you’re still searching for that perfect gift, feel free to check out our past guides here, which apply now just as much as they did back then. Merry Christmas, and happy holidays!