The Twelve Games of Christmas
One dozen games for about $10 apiece
By Matthew Pook and Allan Sugarbaker
Gentle reader, if you wake up every Christmas morning to something
wonderful hanging from the end of your bed (whoa there! We mean a
pillowcase or stocking full of goodies. What were you thinking of?), why
not hope for something extra special? That little something amongst the
chocolate and toiletries that will whet your gaming appetite? Something
fun, fer cryin' out loud. Well, this is the list just for you -- or
rather, for the loved ones in your life that will be supporting your
gaming habit this holiday season.
Rest assured that these suggestions have been painstakingly handpicked by
the staff here at OgreCave.com, and that all of them cost around $10 or
less (U.S. dollars, of course. Sorry Canada :-).
So, on to the list, in no particular order...
Ninja Burger: The Role-Playing Game
(9th Level Games & æthereal FORGE; $5.95)
Imagine a fast food delivery franchise that takes your order, knows where
you live, doesn't ask you to come to your front door to accept delivery
(because they can get past any locked door or security system) and does it
all with a personal sense of honor. This is the secret world of Ninja
Burger, in which you play an honorable ninja employed to deliver
hamburgers, fries and soft drinks, all with optional wasabi sauce (okay,
maybe not with the drinks), direct to the hands of your customers,
wherever they are, inside of thirty minutes. Or commit Seppuku.
For a deeper look into the greasy world of Ninja Burger, check out our full review.
(Hogshead Publishing; $6.95)
We couldn't get away with not including something dark and mysterious on
this list, and a worthy choice is this, the first RPG from Eastern Europe.
The latest in Hogshead's New Style line of innovative games, this
should interest every devotee of H. P. Lovecraft and Chaosium's Call of
Cthulhu RPG. Played in the style of Lovecraft's correspondence and without
a GM (or Keeper, if you will), it works as both the rules for game and an
example of the game itself. De Profundis has to be the most intriguing
entry on this list.
To look over the edge of madness, check out our full review.
(Cheapass Games; $6.00)
No stocking filler list would be complete without a Cheapass Game or two,
and perhaps the most enjoyable James Ernest game design of 2001 was this, a game
that had nothing to do with witches and certainly didn't let you burn them. Instead
the designer has put the fun into bringing pernicious women to trial on
silly charges with this card game. The art is all by Charles Dana
Gibson and quite beautiful, complementing the lawyerly feel of this game.
Gother Than Thou
(Savant Garde; $9.95)
Compete against other wannabe goths in Gother Than Thou, where
Crying Yourself to Sleep scores you big points. Similar in concept to
Slack Attack, this card game has you playing to be the epitome of
angst-ridden youth. Get the Eyeliner and the Boots, while trying to avoid Dire Fashion Blunders or a
Visit From Mom. Be the first one to reach 20 Goth Points and you win, declaring
yourself Gother Than Thou -- Thine -- whatever.
(Looney Labs; $5.00)
With the coasters in the bag and a handful of coins each, four can play
this game of combat and teleportation between the moons of Jupiter, and
the coasters really double as somewhere to rest your drink. Simple rules
combining with the Rock-Paper-Scissors method of resolution makes for a
fun and sometimes-loud game that can be played at your local watering
hole. A real beer 'n' pretzels game that should amuse your fellow gamers
and confuse any onlookers, which should always be a goal while gaming.
For a deeper look into Cosmic Coasters, check out our full review.
Battleforce Bravo: Wartime Adventure
(Deep 7; $3.95)
All right, so we're cheating with a game that comes as a PDF document and
has to be downloaded from a website, but the format allows this game to be
complete in just eleven pages. A World War II beer 'n' pretzels (but still
deadly) RPG based upon Hollywood's heroic all-action movies: Kelly's
Heroes, The Sands of Iwo Jima, Force Ten From Navarone, and the like.
The rules and advice for this game fit onto three pages, leaving room for
five ready-to-play scenarios. Now how you get this 1.35 Meg PDF document
into your stocking is another matter. ZIP disk?
(Looney Labs; $10)
Here we cheat and select a game released not this year, but
in 1997. A mind boggling simple card game that is not about anything
except game mechanics, Fluxx is really easy to learn, it's just that in
play, the rules change -- and that's the point of the game! The cleverness
lies in altering the rules in your favour so that you can play the right
cards to win.
(Placebo Press; $6.00)
With ever-so-slightly doctored photos from a roadside carnival,
Operation: Corndog puts players in the role of a carnie trying to
make more money than his rivals. Using Attraction cards like Big Slide and
Another Spinning Ride, each greedy carnie rakes in as much dough as he can
before the carnival closes. Cards such as Broken
Restraints and Extra Pukey can curtail the earning abilities of your
opponents' rides. Of course, fending off their underhanded tactics with
Hide the Body will be necessary -- can't trust them carnie folk.
QAGS: Quick Ass Game System
(Hex Games; $5.99)
In response to the number of over complicated game systems available, Hex
Games give a set of RPG rules that can be picked up and played within
minutes. More suited to the silly style of play, though there is no reason
not to play an epic game under these rules, QAGS introduces a unique set
of mechanics based around 'Yum Yums' or candy (such as M&Ms or Smarties),
that act as the physical representation of both experience and hero
points. Keep 'em and you can spend them, eat 'em and they're gone! So not
only is QAGS an RPG, but it's an exercise in strength of will as well!
US Patent No. 1
(Cheapass Games; $7.00)
Another Cheapass game, but this one is a racing and construction game with
a time travel theme. As the inventor of a time machine, nothing will salve
your ego but to go back in time and register it as the very first U.S.
patent! The aim is to create the ultimate time machine, destroy those of
others, defend against their attacks and still be on time for that
appointment at the Patent Office.
Pokéthulhu: The Adventure Game
(Dork Storm Press; $5.95)
Some say that the Pokémon cartoon and all its merchandising is
having an all corrupting influence upon our young today, but it simply
isn't so. Some ee-veel Americans have gone one better and used the
perfidious cartoon as the basis for a cocktail of decidedly non-Euclidean
proportions… Take the cartoon; add a dash of the Elder Gods, a dribble of
the Great Old Ones and just a twist of something eldritch, and what have
you got? Pokéthulhu: The Adventure Game, in which our young
wards raise, train and fight their own Pokéthulhu against those
of their friends or even against the dreaded Team Eibon!
Lost Identities (expansion for Chrononauts)
(Looney Labs; $3.00)
By adding 13 ID cards and 1 Mission card to the Chrononauts game,
Lost Identities brings wonderful new possibilities to the time
travelling fun. Notable among the new IDs is Crazy Joe, owner of the
Tiki-Hut at the End of the Continuum. What's his goal? Why, to have more
than 12 unpatched paradoxes in the timeline at once, of course. Though
that ends the game, he wins, and his Hut suddenly becomes packed with
And so we end our list, to which we could have added so many more great
products. Still, we hope to have provided some ideas of what to ask for
from potential gift-givers.
Still to come is another list of great games and supplements with a
slightly higher pricetag ($25 or less), so be sure to check back soon for
our picks of "premium" game goodies. Until then, keep the D20s and CCGs
dancing in your head, and if you see any sugar plum fairies, step on 'em
- they're worth 50 experience each.