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12 Games for Over $20 in 2007
 

Twelve Games Under the Tree
A Dozen Games for Over $20 in 2007

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

'Tis the holidays, and as we feel compelled to each year, OgreCave has brought together a list (which have checked twice) of games we recommend as Christmas goodies. This second 2007 list shows off our pricier selections of over $20, the presents that will make any gamer drool. Read on, and let OgreCave help you deck the halls with worthwhile games!

Ticket to Ride: Switzerland
Days of Wonder, $29.95 Ticket to Ride: Switzerland box

There's no denying that Ticket to Ride has become not just a firm favorite with hobby gamers everywhere, but with the non-gamers who try it as well. Yet with two or three players, the core game (and its sequel, Ticket to Ride: Europe) often feels as if everyone is playing by themselves. The latest expansion, Ticket to Ride: Switzerland, addresses this with a new board and a set of accompanying destination cards first seen in the Ticket to Ride computer game, specifically designed for just two or three players. Of course, the players will need the train pieces and cards from the core game, but this just means that this expansion is cheaper and comes in slimmer packaging. The gameplay is much, much tighter, with fewer trains each and the competition to claim routes all the fiercer, many routes formed by expensive tunnels, and players now able to fulfil destination cards that take their routes across the borders to the nations surrounding Switzerland. This is a great addition to the Ticket to Ride family and fans will enjoy coming back to the game with fewer players.

Battlestar Galactica RPG
Margaret Weiss Productions, $44.95 Battlestar Galactica RPG

The year's major licensed RPG, Battlestar Galactica shows that Margaret Weiss Productions has learned from producing the Serenity RPG and taken things a step further. This is the complete RPG for roleplaying in a perilous time for mankind, their home worlds of the Twelve Colonies devastated by nuclear strikes launched by their own mechanical creations, the Cylons. Now they have returned to destroy mankind and that includes the survivors fleeing in a ragtag fleet built around the Galactica, searching for fabled Earth and driven by religious and political tensions. Covering the series' first season only, the Battlestar Galactica RPG is part game, part sourcebook, providing everything a BSG fan needs to survive with the fleet or hit back at the frakkin' toasters.

Stonehenge
Paizo Publishing, $49 Stonehenge box

Give several famous game designers a box of plastic trilithons (you know, the Stonehenge archways), some druid figures and miscellaneous colorful plastic bits along with a board and a matching deck of cards, and what do you get? An anthology board game! (and an Ogre's Choice '07 nominee, to boot!) Five very different games (ranging from an abstract simulation of the electoral college to a ghostly wargame, with bidding, bluffing and racing in between) using a common set of components. You also get more than what's in the box - the publisher is encouraging players to develop their own original games using the parts, and quite a library is developing online. If that's not enough, an expansion (Nocturne) is available offering designs from more famous names and additional components to allow up to seven players to participate. If you can't decide on just one game this year, this can be the gift that keeps on giving.

Cash 'n Guns
Repos Production/Asmodée, $39.95 Cash 'n Guns box

If you've been to any conventions in the past year, you've seen gamers draw down on each other with foam pistols, without even signing up for a LARP. This is Cash 'n Guns, where the goal is simple: be the richest surviving gangster. Eight rounds of bluff-or-blam determines who takes the cash and who needs a coroner in this fast-playing party game for 4-6 gun-toting maniacs. Multiple game variants are included to boost replayability, and a Yakuzas expansion is due in 2008. The Cave Dwellers recommend a chaser of the Cheapass classic Spree to keep the looting theme going, or perhaps a little RoboRally to intensify the mood - and the alcoholic beverage of your chosing, of course.

Bliss Stage: Ignition Stage
Tao Games, $25 Bliss Stage: Ignition Stage

In the field of story games this year, it was the year of the ashcan - "90%-there" games that sought out their customer bases early, to benefit from their play and help support a culture of participation in the design process. This early edition of Bliss Stage is not an ashcan, exactly, but it does have rough edges and barely any artwork. Nonetheless, it's marvelously explained and, in its way, the most ambitious RPG of the year. Teenagers pilot dream-mecha through the psychic landscape of their alien-attack-ravaged world, literally using their relationships with others as their armor - with predictably disastrous results when they take damage. This is an intense, and intensely immersive, way to play with your friends. Still, though, if the thought of making a gift of something that isn't quite final doesn't sit well with you, you have lots of options in this space, including the quite polished Grey Ranks for more teens-at-war action (this time in occupied Poland), the multi-GMed noir detective fest Dirty Secrets, or the supercharged engine of the John le Carre-esque, Spione. (The latter is on lulu.com; look for the others at IPR.)

StarCraft
Fantasy Flight, $80 StarCraft box

Come on, you knew this was gonna be here. You also know, if you remember the history of FFG's video-game adaptations, that it isn't gonna feel like StarCraft the video game when it comes down to combat. And if you're really paying attention, you know that it doesn't matter: this game is this year's winning entry in the huge-galactic-strategic-throwdown sweepstakes. It's got an awesome sense of interplanetary scope and connectedness that was elusive when playing the "real" thing, and the resource-management and capacity-building parts of the game feel exactly right. So combat is a little abstract, so what? You still get to scatter Zerglings everywhere and make people nervous. For serious boardgamers, this is a serious gift and a great game on its own terms.

Tannhauser
Fantasy Flight, $60 Tannhauser box

Sometimes you just want to throw a grenade around a corner at some Nazi cultists. Or run around collecting items, let's say. Or even... respawn. These urges are natural and acceptable. Support them for someone on your list with Tannhauser, probably the most lavish and comfortable means ever devised to do something that's fundamentally sort of cheesy and dumb - just like that place in Vegas that does $80 hamburgers, only you'll be having a blast instead of feeling stupid and ripped off. There's even some real elegance to be admired in Tannhauser (we love the range system, simple and beautiful without making things too abstract).

Hear more about Tannhauser in this episode of the OgreCave Audio Report.

Secrets of Kenya
Chaosium, $29.95 Secrets of Kenya cover

At last Call of Cthulhu receives the treatment of Africa it has long lacked. A perfect companion to the Kenya chapter of Masks of Nyarlathotep that also stands on its own, Secrets of Kenya explores all aspects of the Crown Colony, from the places to be seen in Nairobi to the uplands and grasslands of the interior where even the lion is the least of the dangers to be found. Dig for the origins of humanity only to be caught by something worse, discover the reach of the Cult of the Bloody Tongue in its homeland, and travel up country to hunt the mysterious leopard men. This supplement includes a wealth of detail to go with its four scenarios detailing the mundane, the outré, and the Mythos forces free to range the Dark Continent far from the White Man’s gaze.

Last Night on Earth
Flying Frog Productions, $49.95 Last Night on Earth

A blast for B-movie fans, this easy boardgame is partially cooperative, partially competitive and quite a bit of strategy. The board is modular and allows you to set the game up in a number of different ways. There are a lot of cool scenarios included. The heroes are all the typical archeotypes found in horror movies: the jock, the drifter, the nurse, the priest and so on. They are pitted against the zombies, which one player controls. While this might seem rather unbalanced, the player who gets the zombies also gets some rather nasty surprises which evens things out. It even has it's own soundtrack, a CD of original horror-related music. With an expansion on the way, this game will continue to thrill zombie fans everywhere.

Not enough gory details? Then have a look at our full review.

To Court The King
Mongoose Publishing, $24.99 To Court The King cover

It's been described as the dice game that thinks it's a card game - actually, it might have been us who described it that way - but it can't be denied that the beautiful artwork of courtiers and royalty on the cards are one of the major attractions of To Court The King. In play, it's a matter of capturing cards with your die rolls, and using their exception-based powers thereafter, leading to comparisons to Magic and other CCGs. In the end, of all the games on our list, this Ogre's Choice Award winner may be the game with the most classic feel, for fans of an old-timey family-game experience or people inexperienced with games outside the Power Three (you know, Settlers, Carcassonne, and Puerto Rico).

Aces & Eights: Shattered Frontier
Kenzer & Co., $59.99

Aces & Eights coverIn this gorgeous hardback, Kenzer & Co serves up a spicy treatment - in full retro style - of the Old West that never was. The rules are old style and clunky, at their most basic a detailed game of gun fighting banditos and lawman, but at their fullest, a full blown RPG with rules for prospecting and cattle driving. At the game's heart is the entertaining gun fighting system - which has rolling initiative and uses a "shot clock" laid over a silhouette of the target to aim exactly where you want to hit. Even inaccurate shots might still hit, though not where you intended! And all this takes place in a West where an earlier War Between The States ended in a stalemate and the future of the Shattered Frontier is yet to be decided. Sure to please the roleplaying Wild West devotee, Aces & Eights: Shattered Frontier is the first RPG to really pick up Boot Hill's spurs.

Hobby Games: The 100 Best
Green Ronin Publishing, $27.95

Hobby Games: The 100 Best coverIn this very simple book, 100 of the hobby's most notable designers, authors, and publishers contribute an essay on what each thinks is one of the hobby's best games drawn from the latter half of the 20th century. Not just the most cleverly designed, not just the most notable, but also the most fun. The contents cover boardgames, card games, CCGs, miniature games, and RPGs discussed by the likes of Gary Gygax, R. A. Salvatore, Tracy Hickman, Greg Costikyan, Bruno Faidutti, Monte Cook, Marc W. Miller, Alan R. Moon, Sandy Petersen, Ian Livingstone, both Steve Jacksons, and many more, discussing games such as Axis & Allies, Cosmic Encounter, Ghostbusters, Fluxx, Marvel Super Heroes, and both Vampire: The Eternal Struggle and Vampire: The Masquerade. This is an incredibly readable tome, worth checking not just to see if your favorite game is included, but also to discover something new and worthy to play.

Our dice cups runneth over this year (they seem to every year, actually), so we couldn't resist giving one extra product the nod. An ogre can never have enough games, after all...

Classic Battletech Introductory Box Set
Catalyst Game Labs, $39.99 Classic Battletech box

Climb into your building-sized Mech and destroy all who oppose you, as you help determine the fate of the 31st century. Honestly, who hasn't heard of BattleTech by now? One of the first, and arguably the best, mecha-combat games, Classic BattleTech dispenses with the anime angst that some games blend in, going straight for the throat with both barrels and a salvo of rockets. Catalyst Game Labs brought back the boxed set approach, complete with plastic miniatures, full-color quickstart and main rulebooks, a miniature painting guide (!), a pair of full-color double-sided mapsheets, and all the standard goodies you'll need for piloting your BattleMech into the gritty reality of war. The world of 3067 needs MechWarriors like you. Get in there.

 

That's two 2007 gift lists down, two more to go. Make use of this list with your gift certificates and holiday cash - go on, splurge a little! - as none of the products here will leave you disappointed. However, be sure to look through our other 2007 gift lists for a more extensive study of the games you should be lusting after this season.
 

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