Twelve Stocking Stuffer Games
A dozen games for $25 or Less for 2008
By Allan Sugarbaker, Matthew Pook, Andy Vetromile, and
If you're at all unsure of what you'll pull out of that stocking, let
OgreCave advise the gaming-impaired who will be doting on you this
holiday season. For several years, we've
been bringing you our carefully-selected recommendations of the best in
holiday gaming giftage. Once again, we ease into the gift suggestions
with the first "Twelve Games of..." list, a collection of the less
expensive items, possibly for stocking stuffers or an add-on gift, each
for $25 or less. Keep in mind, this guide will serve equally well as a
wish list to steer your relatives away from completely random CCG
selections, and far away from holiday socks. Use us to help you, or open
holiday gifts at your own peril.
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. We've boosted the price cutoff just slightly from
past years, but if $25 is too much, it wasn't a serious gift-giving
intention anyway. Scroll down to browse the RPGs, card games, and other
goodies we found on-the-cheap yet worthwhile in 2008.
Things We Think About Games
Gameplaywright Press, $25
You probably think about games of one kind or another every day, but do
you really think about them? If so, and even if not, then
Things We Think About Games is exactly the book you want. This
collection of sayings and thoughts about games touches on every type,
including board games, card games, roleplaying games, and computer
games. Each thought is delivered in a single thought provoking sentence,
such as "You cannot convince someone who is not having fun that he is,"
and "Make your rules easy to reference." Collected from gaming and other
luminaries such as Ken Hite, John Kovalic, and Wil Wheaton, every one of
the thoughts is to the point and in turn will delight, provoke, and
irritate readers. With over 100 of these game thoughts, this book will
keep the reader thinking right through next Christmas.
Catan Dice Game
Mayfair Games, $12
In the Catan Dice Game, just as in the classic Settlers of
Catan boardgame, players compete to use resources to build roads,
settlements, cities, and knights, and thereby score the most points.
Instead of using the famous hex board, this pocket-friendly variant uses
specially marked dice which are rolled to create the resources and then
used in the right combination (1 wood and 1 brick still buys a road, for
example) to improve the Island of Catan. As a player builds round the
island, each has a game map to mark off each improvement he makes until
everyone has played 15 turns. The game plays quickly and easily, is easy
to pick up (intuitively so for devotees of the board game), and a whole
lot less intimidating than the original board game. Lastly, for the
Catan addict who needs a fix, the game can be played solo.
Where the Deep Ones Are
Atlas Games, $19.95
If the idea of combining Lovecraft with Maurice Sendak's Where the
Wild Things Are has you smiling, you're a twisted soul - and the
target audience for this Cthulhu children's book. Ken Hite retells
Lovecraft's The Shadow Over Innsmouth in this cute, fishy, and
slightly disturbing hardcover, rendered in full, oozing color by Andy
Hopp. Max in his wolf costume is replaced by Bobby in his squid-thing
costume, and you can see where this is going already, can't you? Not
really a kid's book, Where the Deep Ones Are is for the Cthulhu
fans, who will chuckle at the hidden meanings found lurking on every
page. This demented project is sure to amuse any true Lovecraft aficionado, and bring an evil smile on Christmas morning.
For more sanity-testing knowledge on this strange tale, have a look at OgreCave's Where the Deep Ones Are review.
Fantasy Flight Games, $24.95
In case the gnomish reputation for all things substandard hasn't yet
gelled, Red November shows the race can't float a decent sub.
They'll sink one in this steampunk fantasy, though: Everything that can
go wrong does. Floods, jammed hatches, torpedoes - each player's
half-sized hero does his part to keep the crew one step ahead of
disaster on their descending deathtrap. Stay alive (sober, even - grog
helps them work better) one full hour and help arrives; fail and the
kraken (or asphyxiation, or flames, or...) get the team first. Take
your time on your turn using the countdown track, but running out the
clock means events catch up to you and the next player may have to clean
up your mess. A compact box boasting pretty plastic pawns, delightful
artwork, a mounted foldout board, and a wicked, built-in sense of the
absurd make it a marvelously frustrating game.
3:16 Carnage Amongst the Stars
Box Ninja, $20
War has never been simpler than in this little RPG with big tactical
elements. In 3:16, you play a grunt sent off to stop the alien
incursion on one bug-infested hell hole after another. Survive long
enough and kill enough alien beasts and you can make it off-world to
earn medals and a promotion, and the time to reminisce about comrades
lost - or forget the ones you blew apart with a stray grenade! The
simple rules and mechanics never get in way of the slaughter or the
roleplaying - players are able to flesh out their characters in
flashbacks that might just save their butts in the present. As the
members of the 3:16th Expeditionary Force rise in rank and delve into
the truths about the campaign against the bug-eyed monsters, 3:16
Carnage Amongst The Stars proves to be a viciously dark take on the
military genre that would make Paul Verhoven proud!
The OgreCave crew spoke of 3:16 in a bit more detail (and a lot of other things) in this episode of the
OgreCave Audio Report.
Describing itself as a "Story Boardgame of Survival Horror", Zombie
Cinema is actually a storytelling RPG that uses a board to determine
how far the characters are into the narrative of the zombie apocalypse.
When the game begins, the corpse cortege is only a rumor, but as the
characters clash over the increasingly dangerous situation they've
gotten into, there will be disagreements and the losers will fall into
the clutches of the brain munchers. As the zombies run rampant, it's
almost every man for himself, for a survivor is really going to need
a few friends if he is going to last. This is a race against the
encroaching undead horde that is as tense as any Romero movie - only better,
because the players write the script!
Fishing for Terrorists, Version 2.0
Slugfest Games, $10
In this amusing variation of "Go Fish" players are government agencies
trying to capture matching sets of terrorists. In addition to the normal
"Go Fish"-style gameplay, there are special action and counter-action
cards to add extra levels of strategy and unpredictability. This new
expanded edition features full-color artwork on high-quality cards, a
better deal for the money than many comparable games of this size and
format. Perhaps most importantly of all, it's the perfect opportunity to
ask that burning question: "got any Cultists of Invincible Anarchy?"
Bucephalus Games, $19.99
Everyone's heard of the inkblot tests - look at the patterns, see what
they make you think up. Rorschach takes the idea a step further
by inviting players to look at a selection of inkblot cards together,
and vote on which one best matches a random theme (such as "Which is
most likely to eat you?"). When the votes are revealed, players who made
the same selections exchange colored tokens. The game continues through
multiple rounds of inkblots and questions until someone gets a token
from every player. Much of the fun comes from asking your friends just
what the hell they were thinking - "That so doesn't look like a
badger holding an umbrella." Just wait - with the full allotment of
eight players, it'll happen.
The Battle for Hill 218
Your Move Games, $9.95
It's always nice to find a fully contained game that's easily
transportable and quick to play. The Battle for Hill 218 has
players wage war over a particular hill, with victory awarded to
whichever side can claim the enemy's base on its far side. This
two-player game arms opponents with identical 26-card decks of army
units, each with certain placement and attack capabilities. Each side
must defend its base while maintaining supply lines to keep fighting the
good fight. Played in just 15 minutes, this is a cool game to keep on
hand for playing inbetween other games, while waiting in line, or just
hanging out at the coffee shop. Quick battle, anyone?
For a report from behind the battlelines, check out OgreCave's Battle for Hill 218 review.
Monty Python Fluxx
Looney Labs, $20
It was an inevitable combination, and now gamers can use Monty Python
Fluxx as the excuse to break into random Python songs and obscure
episode references. The Creeper cards introduced in Zombie Fluxx
(winner of Best Card Game in our Ogre's
Choice Awards 2008) return, but in lesser numbers, and a few Goals
will require one in your possession to win. Though most of the cards are
in homage to Monty Python and the Holy Grail, other Pythonisms
make their way into gameplay as well, adding laughter to the overall
Fluxx chaos. Gamers who need a clear and visible victory
condition on the gameplay horizon at all times - well, they've already
told you Fluxx isn't for them. For the rest of us, Monty
Python Fluxx is yet another version of a great time.
Lord of the Fries: Third Edition
Steve Jackson Games, $24.95
The now-classic Cheapass Game title gets the royal treatment in this
updated version of Lord of the Fries. You know the story: you're
all zombie employees at Friedey's, the Fast Food Restaurant of the
Damned. Players roll or call out food orders, which must be filled using
cards like "Drink", "Sauce", and "Fish Meat". A new menu of "green
cuisine" is included, bringing the game's total to eight, though
everything still remains entertainingly unappetizing. The hilarious
spirit of the original game is complimented by tokens to track points
and smooth gameplay - in all, this is the best version yet of an
essential gaming experience.
Paizo Publishing, $19.99
A divided nation.. an inevitable war... the famous battle at Yetisburg.
Subtitled "Titanic Battles in History, Volume 1", this reimagined
version of the famous Civil War battle would indeed be titanic. By
pitting Yetis and Mastodons against their brothers from the North or
South, a battle of the ages (mythologies?) was waged. Originally
conceived by Paizo staff mishearing each other at a restaurant, this
two-player strategy game is a good time waiting to be had. If loving
this concept is wrong, we don't want to be right.
That's the end of our first gift list from 2008, providing inspiration
for gift-givers on a budget, or those looking for that little add-on gift. But what if you've got means to pony up something pricier? Or what if someone else with cash is planning to
shop for you? No problem: just look over our other 2008 gift lists and see the larger-ticket items we'd recommend.