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12 Games for $20 or Less in 2007
 

Twelve Stocking Stuffer Games
A dozen games for $20 or Less in 2007

By Allan Sugarbaker, Mike Sugarbaker, Matthew Pook, Steve Kani, and Demian Katz

Roast the chestnuts and roll the dice, 'cause OgreCave has what you need: all the best gifts to give gamers this holiday season. For years now, we've been bringing you our recommendations of the best in holiday gaming giftage. As always, we kick off our "Twelve Games of…" lists with a collection of inexpensive items, possibly for stocking stuffers or an add-on gift, each for $20 or less. These gift-giving suggestions will serve equally well as a wish list, for anyone inclined to point friends and relatives toward these pages. Consider doing so, friends, or risk getting another sweater.

The cave dwellers of OgreCave have combed through the numerous releases from the past year to highlight those with the best potential for holiday merriment. Scroll down to browse the RPGs, card games, miniatures, and other goodies we found on-the-cheap yet worthwhile in 2007.

Zombie Fluxx
Looney Labs, $16 Zombie Fluxx display

In its tenth anniversary year, Fluxx returns to its nerdy roots from the wilds of specialty marketing with this chaotically awesome new version. The new card types Creeper and Ungoal, the first entirely new card types in the game's history, help tilt the Fluxx out-of-control atmosphere to an effectively zombie-ish feel, by spreading negative cards out across the table outside of any player's actions. (You might be thinking the negative cards were already there, but we mean explicitly negative, not just the fact that everyone hates Hand Limit 0.) It's not exactly a pulse-pounding horror game, and it isn't supposed to be - but besides just being Fluxx with more crunch, it has that certain "they're coming" je nais sais quoi that distinguishes real zombie gaming from, say, Lord of the Fries (which is still a great game). See also: our full review.

vs. Outlaws
Ronin Arts, $2.95 vs. Outlaws brochure

Just about everyone can get into a gritty western, and vs. Outlaws flattens the learning curve on its rules so low a sunblind cowpoke on a lame mule could get through them and be playing in minutes. This scrappy little RPG comes as a tri-fold brochure that can double as a small GM screen, with merely four of the six 5.5" panels containing rules. Refined from the simple system of vs. Monsters, character creation and gameplay are even faster, and like more complex wild west game Deadlands, playing cards are the task resolution tool of choice. By necessity of design, some things - bad guys, equipment, and such - are given minimal guidelines, but this minimalist approach actually encourages creativity for players and GM alike. For the price, vs. Outlaws provides more bang for your gift-giving buck, so load up those six-guns and give one of the few stocking-stuffer-sized RPGs to all your gaming posse.

Halo ActionClix
Wiz Kids, $10.99/booster Halo ActionClix booster

The biggest game release to date - of any sort - was the Bungie juggernaut Halo 3 (and some of us were excited, as OgreCave Audio Report listeners well know). The Xbox 360 title's first weekend of sales even eclipsed the sales of big budget movie releases ($60 per game adds up fast). Has Halo ActionClix done the same? Well, no, but the quicker Clix system has captured its share of players, and even more collectors. Marines, Covenant, and Flood are all represented, and true fans can seek out the bigger ticket Warthog humvee or Scarab tank. To change weapons, you simply swap figures with the appropriately armed alternate, and continue finishing the fight. Even for non-Halo initiates, many figures are good candidates for use in other sci-fi minis games or RPGs. We'll be shocked if there isn't an industrious gamer somewhere with a huge crossover battle setup, pitting Aliens vs Predator HorrorClix and Starship Troopers bugs against Master Chief and the marines. Cortana's boy is still waiting on an expansion of reinforcements, but in the meantime, there's alien religious fanatics and an infectious spore to eradicate. Mount up, marines.

Inn-Fighting
Wizards of the Coast, $14.99 Inn Fighting box

It seems like ever since the announcement of Dungeons & Dragons 4th Edition, everything Wizards of the Coast has released gets criticized as filler. But this seems unfair to Inn-Fighting, a nice little tavern brawl game - and admittedly, not a D&D rules supplement, but a D&D dice game instead. The idea is to gain Victory Points while keeping your character conscious. Truly trounce your opponents by beating up bystanders in the inn, and you must knock out another player's character to win. The components are top quality with great dice and beautiful cards. The only thing you need to provide are counters that will represent the hit points (we use pennies... we're old school like that). It's a quick and easy game that's a brawling good time.

Bendomino
Blue Orange Games, $15.95 Bendomino box

Okay, we've all heard the line "the classic game of (Game X), with a twist" used to describe games before, but never has it been a more appropriate phrase. Bendomino is dominoes with curved tiles - yes, they are literally dominoes with a twist. The curling, snaking path of gameplay adds a welcome dose of unpredictability as players decide not only which tile to play each turn, but which way it curves. The tile pips are colored as well, helping younger players recognize matching numbers. Additionally, a few popular variants are provided in the rules (adapted to the curved state of mind, of course). In all, fans of traditional games will find plenty to enjoy here.

To take a closer look at this twisted tile game, check out OgreCave's full Bendomino review.

Lone Wolf 1: Flight From the Dark - Collector's Edition
Mongoose Publishing, $19.95 LW1 collectors cover

The Lone Wolf series helped fuel the solo gamebook boom of the eighties and is deservedly considered a classic thanks to its distinctive fantasy world of Magnamund, its quick but involving game system, and the special thrill it gives as you gain new powers with each passing book. When the full text of the series went online a few years ago, it seemed that the commercial life of the books was over. Fortunately, Mongoose Publishing didn't let it end there, and the first adventure in the series is now back in print. Not content to publish the same old content available online, this new edition has been expanded to 450 pages by the author, features all-new artwork, and (nearly unprecedented in the gamebook world) is available in a durable hardcover binding. It's never been a better time to save the world from the Darklords; do it for Sommerlund, for the Kai, and (of course), for the lucky recipient of your gift.

Unspeakable Words
Playroom Entertainment, $20 Unspeakable Words box

The knowledgable Mythos investigator knows that certain names and words aren't meant for human minds to comprehend. Bu Mike Selinker have recklessly endangered gamers everywhere by designing Unspeakable Words, wherein players risk bringing forth the Hounds of Tindalos from the corners - of letters. Yes, players use letter cards to form words, Elder Gods, and other Lovecraftian entities for a score based on the number of corners in each letter. As with any Cthulhu-themed game, players have to struggle just to hold onto their sanity, represented by five green Cthulhu figures per player. After playing each word, players must roll a d20 high enough to avoid sanity loss. The bigger the point value of the word, the more likely it will damage mortal minds to play it (certain things, like the Great Old Ones, are worth extra points). Whichever player can manage to keep a scrap of his sanity while reaching 100 points claims victory, but remains forever scarred by what he was not meant to know.

More is written - not spoken - about this game in OgreCave's full Unspeakable Words review.

Pirates of the Caribbean CSG Limited Edition Tin
Wiz Kids, $3.99 (booster)/$14.99 (limited tin) Pirates of the Caribbean CSG tin

Just in time for the holidays, WizKids has released the latest addition to their Pirates constructible strategy game: The Pirates of the Caribbean - finally, an official, long-expected tie in to the popular Disney movie trilogy. The tins are eight inches by five and a half inches and feature one of four characters from the movie: Jack Sparrow, Elizabeth Swann, Will Turner or Davey Jones. Incidently, there is only one Elizabeth Swann and Will Turner tin per case of six so they may be slightly harder to get. Inside, you get ten ships, three terrain, five characters and/or treasure cards and one of four special edition krakens. Keep in mind, though: just because you bought the Elizabeth Swann tin doesn't mean you'll get the Elizabeth Swann crew card. Overall, an excellent value for your treasure hoard.

Kingdom Hearts TCG Kingdom Pack
Fantasy Flight Games, $19.99 Kingdom Hearts TCG Kingdom pack

Ever wanted to go on an epic quest to save multiple worlds, wield amazing mystical weapons, and above all else, fight alongside Goofy or Donald Duck? If we didn't lose you just now, you probably know all about Kingdom Hearts, and how it's the latest PC game to get a tabletop game adaptation thanks to FFG. Stroll to new World cards, defeat any Heartless your opponent has played there, call more Friend cards to help, rinse, repeat. Friend cards can be replaced with higher level versions, and if you're feeling your oats, you can take the fight directly to you opponent's Player card. Though you could take the booster approach to get into this shiny new collectible game, we recommend the Kingdom packs, which give you the same cards as a starter deck, a booster and two key packs. The Kingdom Hearts TCG makes a good gift for the Disney fan or younger player on your list, or anyone you're secretly trying to convert into a card gamer.

Beast Hunters
Christian & Lisa Griffen, $20 Beast Hunters cover

RPG experiences that can satisfy given just two players are few and far between, let alone games that are actually designed for two. If your quarry fancies a fighty game that can handle mental and social conflict too, with plenty of primitive, red-in-tooth-and-claw flavor (and ritualistic tattoos of power!), Christian Griffen's game Beast Hunters may be the sweet spot in a year wherein new-style RPGs tended either to go over $20 or just remain in draft form. Beast Hunters can support larger groups too, but remains a fiercely, refreshingly competitive addition to the landscape. Remember to shake hands first! (Those looking for a more collaborative game should consider Eric J. Boyd's The Committee for the Exploration of Mysteries, also $20 at IPR.)

Wings of War Miniatures
Fantasy Flight Games, $11.95 Wings of War miniatures

Fans of Fantasy Flight Games' World War I aerial combat title surely noticed this year's release of miniatures for the Wings of War core set, Famous Aces. Twelve miniatures are available, allowing gamers to pilot Eddie Rickenbacker's Spad XIII, William Barker's Sopwith Camel, and everyone's favorite, Manfred von Richthofen's Fokker DR I or Fokker Triplane. Each gorgeous figure is a beautifully painted replica in 1/144th scale, and each comes on a clear plastic stand with all of its stats on the base. A set of maneuver cards also comes with each model, all of which means that only one player has to own the core game while everyone else can bring their own dogfighter. Gamers could easily use the miniatures with other WW I rules, but if even having one miniature persuades you to buy the core game, you will have made the right decision.

Star Wars PocketModel CSG
Wiz Kids, $14.99 (Imperial Power-up Pack), $4.99 (booster) Star Wars PocketModel CSG - Ground Assault set

It feels like we've been around the block with this game: first it was Jordan Weisman's big parting shot at tabletop design (for now), then it was the Star Wars starship combat game we were so sorely missing, then it was "not really a card-model game," then it was... actually, we stopped there. But so what? As a card game, it's strong, simple to learn with a good amount of emergent complexity, and, for added gift-giving convenience, offers a playable two-player starter with almost no prequel crap in it. In an age of four-dollar, eight-card boosters for games that require $500 of accessories to play, the Star Wars PocketModel CSG feels like a pretty good value. For added breadth and depth, throw in a couple packs from the Ground Assault expansion - the only thing people love more than little Star Destroyers is little AT-ATs.

 

That brings our first gift list of 2007, with suggestions for those of a frugal mind, to a close. But what if you've got the ability to splurge this year? Better yet, what if someone else is planning to splurge while shopping for you? Simple: just look over our other 2007 gift lists to remember the other gaming goodies you've been lusting after.
 

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