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Christmas Gift Guide 2010 (11/26/10)
PAX East 2010 report (4/9/10)
Christmas Gift Guide 2009 (12/4/09)
Games of the Ninja 2008 (12/5/08)
Christmas Gift Guide 2008 (11/27/08)
Screams from the Cave 2008
(11/7/08)
Ogres' Choice Awards 2008 (9/12/08)
Christmas Gift Guide 2007 (11/30/07)
Ogres' Choice Awards 2007 (8/17/07)
GAMA Trade Show 2007 report (4/27/07)
Christmas Gift Guide 2006 (11/30/06)
Ogres' Choice Awards 2006 (7/28/06)
Christmas Gift Guide 2005 (11/29/05)
Christmas Gift Guide 2004 (12/10/04)
Night of the Living Gamer
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12 Games for $25 or Less in 2008
 

Twelve Stocking Stuffer Games
A dozen games for $25 or Less for 2008

By Allan Sugarbaker, Matthew Pook, Andy Vetromile, and Demian Katz

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 Things We Think About Games cover

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 Catan Dice Game box

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 Where the Deep Ones Are cover

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.

 

Red November
Fantasy Flight Games, $24.95 Red November box

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 3:16 cover

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.

 

Zombie Cinema
Arkenstone Publishing, $20 Zombie Cinema cover

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 Fishing for Terrorists 2.0 box

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?"

 

Rorschach
Bucephalus Games, $19.99 Rorschach box

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 Battle for Hill 218

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 Monty Python Fluxx cover

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 Lord of the Fries 3e box

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.

 

Yetisburg
Paizo Publishing, $19.99 Yetisburg box

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.
 

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