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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 2010
 

Twelve Stocking Stuffer Games
A dozen games for $25 or Less for 2010

By Demian Katz, Matthew Pook, Allan Sugarbaker, Mike Sugarbaker, Lee Valentine, and Andy Vetromile

It can be tough to keep up with the yearly flood of games, and even tougher to expand your gaming horizons into types of games you don't normally play. What better way to safely experiment than with OgreCave's staff showing the way? As our longstanding tradition dictates, we're starting this year's Christmas Gift Guide with gift ideas on the less expensive side – $25 or less. Use this first "Twelve Games of..." list to find great stocking stuffer ideas, or merely to explore new games you may not have tried just yet. If you can get someone else to buy said games for you for the holidays, so much the better.

As always, the cave dwellers of OgreCave have selected a group of entertaining gifts from the year that has been 2010. They trust you will use this list of gaming gift suggestions wisely, and not squander the opportunity to convert more upstanding citizens into members of the gaming elite... or give gifts folks will like, at least. Our selections of less expensive gifts for 2010 are...

 

PooPoo: The Card Game
WildFire/Sandstorm Productions, $9.95

Yes, we know – Poo: The Card Game sounds like a disgusting game, but this family-friendly title keeps everything bright and clean, with no fecal matter in sight – and cute, monkeys on every card! Several super cute monkeys have lost their tempers and decided to take it out on their cagemates by throwing their poo at each other. A monkey can dodge or deflect the mucky missiles, but when his fur gets too matted with muck he is out. In this game, the least messy monkey wins! Some coins or counters are needed to play, but Poo's cards are delightfully bright, breezy, and incredibly clean, making this suitable for kids of all ages who never got to chuck their ka-ka. For a game in which everyone has flung their dung, Poo plays very quick, so you will not be too pooped out to play again!
 

Space Hulk: Death AngelSpace Hulk: Death Angel - The Card Game
Fantasy Flight Games, $24.95

We never thought we'd see a Space Hulk title on the low price gift list either, but low and behold, Fantasy Flight has come through for us. Space Hulk: Death Angel is crammed full of cards and tokens which turn the original, dark future miniatures game of derelict spaceship delving into a cooperative card game experience. Death Angel closely approximates the Genestealer-hunting feel while representing the ship corridors in an abstract fashion, giving players an even stronger impression of marching their space marine squad into the unknown. Though not the best gift for the newbie gamer, seasoned strategic and miniatures gamers should enjoy the near-hopeless mission to venture into the infested ship's halls, clear out the alien horde, and maybe even survive.
 

Nile coverNile
Minion Games, $16.99

One of the most enjoyable new card games of the year, Nile has players competing to grow crops in Egypt. A couple of twists help to keep things exciting and competitive. Diversity of harvested crops counts more than sheer quantity in the endgame, so players must work hard to produce a variety of different plants... but only one player can grow each crop type at any given time, and planting a larger crop can wipe out an opponent's field, so competition is fierce. Add a plague of locusts for extra chaos and you have a pleasantly challenging light strategy game that plays quite differently depending on the number of participants. A good gift for all lovers of cardplay.

Think you can master the agricultural challenges of Egypt? Read OgreCave's full review of Nile to be sure.
 

Happy Birthday RobotHappy Birthday Robot
Evil Hat Productions, $24.95

Introducing the art and skill of roleplaying to younger players is always a daunting prospect, but under the guise of a children's story book, Daniel Solis has hidden if not an introduction to roleplaying, then one to co-operative storytelling that children and adults can enjoy together. Like all good books it starts with a simple premise: "There's a Robot, It's His Birthday, and His Friends Want Him to be Happy." From there the players take turns constructing sentences that grow over the length of the tale that will be Robot's birthday, using "And" and "But" dice and passing coins to increase sentence length. Happy Birthday Robot's rules are short and ever so simple, but they encourage the imagination helped by Rin Aiello's lovely illustrations that illuminate the book's engaging examples. You might buy Happy Birthday Robot to run with your offspring, but you will be playing this with friends too.
 

D&D Essentials: Starter SetDungeons & Dragons Essentials: Starter Set
Wizards of the Coast, $19.99

It's been nearly twenty years since D&D has offered a really solid introductory product, but it seems that this time around, Wizards of the Coast has pulled off a success. Unlike recent introductory products that have felt more like single-session demos than real games, this set offers enough content to build a couple of real adventures and get the player characters past first level. The reuse of classic Larry Elmore artwork on the cover serves as a nice nostalgic touch without getting in the way of the all-new content inside the box. Unfortunately, the set may intimidate some players since it doesn't go out of its way to simplify the game, but it still remains the best option currently on the market for initiating a new role-player into the hobby with a single gift.
 

Zombie DiceZombie Dice
Steve Jackson Games, $13.13

A little gem of a filler game, Zombie Dice puts players in the role of zombies out to munch the brains of screaming victims. It features 13 dice: some green, some yellow, and some red. Green dice are pretty safe, yellow dice not so much, and red dice are down right dangerous. Players grab three dice, roll 'em, and hope for brains. You set aside the brains and can keep rolling more dice until you choose to bank points equal to the brains you have munched or until you have rolled a total of three shotgun blasts to the face and lose all your points for the round. A fast, simple, press-your-luck game, with a bit more strategy, a better theme, and a lot more taunting and trash talking than many other dice games.

Have a gnawing hunger for more zombies? Read OgreCave's full review of Zombie Dice.
 

Ingenious ChallengesIngenious Challenges
Reiner Knizia/Fantasy Flight Games, $24.95

However you feel about the bulk of Reiner Knizia's work, the abstract Ingenious (aka Einfach Genial) is a thing of elegant beauty. This new collection of games, all inspired by the original, also makes a great gift for the hacks-minded, as it includes a fantastic set of bits: a deck of cards with a similar mix of color-symbol pairs as the board game, a small set of tiles with only one symbol each, and a set of dice with single symbols on each face. Once you've picked up your copy, we expect a mashup of Set, Rummy and Zombie Dice on our desk in the morning from each of you.
 

Forbidden IslandForbidden Island
GameWright, $15.99

Matt Leacock's follow-up to the hit Pandemic adapts the earlier game's basic system to appeal to a younger audience. Rather than fighting ever-spreading diseases, players are now teaming up to retrieve treasures from a rapidly sinking island. Each player has a special ability that breaks the game's core rules in a different way, and only through cooperation can the team members achieve their mission. Veterans of Pandemic may be disappointed by the simplified system in use here, but they are not the game's target audience. If you are looking to introduce the joys of cooperative gaming to a young or inexperienced player, Forbidden Island is a great gateway game, and it comes at an unbelievably reasonable price point for the production value.

Be sure to check out OgreCave's Gaming News Update episode with Matt Leacock at a Forbidden Island release party, and hear his thoughts on designing cooperative games.
 

Gun ThiefGun Thief
Buried Without Ceremony, $5 (print/PDF combo)

This simple storytelling framework from Joe McDonald, the author of previous Gift Guide honoree Ribbon Drive, could hold its own on the full RPG gift list. The titular thief makes his way through a world of trampy molls and authority figures, each of whom want to take his freedom, his life, or just his stuff. The GM-less rules for three players could fit on a postcard, and the whole thing can play in half an hour. For fans of sexy, down-and-dirty neo-noir, Gun Thief catches lightning in a bottle.
 

Hamlet's Hit PointsHamlet's Hit Points
gameplaywright, $20

This latest book from Robin D. Laws is not about how much damage Shakespeare's most famous character can take (after all, Shakespeare describes that himself through the course of the play), but about how stories are put together. By analyzing three stories that we should all know – Hamlet, Dr. No, and Casablanca, he breaks each one down into "story beats" that either drive the plot or the characters along and then examines how they affect the fears and hopes of the audience. While this sounds like a book for budding screenwriters (and it could be), Laws maps this method onto roleplaying by making the GM's plot the story and the player characters the audience. Readable yet thoughtful, this book will find you preparing a module in a slightly different light, and even how to monitor and control the hopes of and fears of the player chararcters in-game.
 

Pirate versus PiratePirate versus Pirate
Out of the Box Publishing, $24.99

If you're worried Pirate vs. Pirate is merely a reissue of Out of the Box Publishing's Ninja vs. Ninja with a different theme, fear not – the games are oceans apart. Two or three players start in the corners of a triangular board, each with his own crew of hearty little plastic sailors, and make haste across the sand for the treasure at the center. Using simple movement rules, each pirate crew must outmaneuver the others to either gather the most gold and silver coins, or sneak up behind the competition and cast them one by one to Davy Jones' Locker. Kids will love the colorful pirate caricatures and adults can appreciate the even footing offered by the depth of strategy in the light ruleset. Games take less than half an hour, you get several figurines born of cartoonist John Kovalic's quirky little characters, and no one actually has to walk the plank.

If you prefer ninjas over pirates, have a look back at OgreCave's Games of the Ninja feature.
 

Nay-Jay! boxNay-Jay!
Brand New Games, $19.99

Traditional card games are great fun to play around the holidays, but some of the best, like Speed, can only handle two players at a time, or like Uno, can go on for quite some time without ending. Enter Nay-Jay!, an over-caffeinated cross between Speed, Uno and Nerts that we first encountered at this year's NeonCon. Players compete to rid themselves of cards fastest by playing into the communal area, starting new piles as necessary and leaping at each chance to stymie opponents by switching their pile colors, heckling and misleading them verbally, or just getting there first. Best of all, Nay-Jay! sessions can take up to four players at once (or six with the expansions), and come to a frantic, breathless conclusion in as little as 60 seconds! If you know someone who likes to play for bragging rights, or just want a fun, active card game that's easy to learn, this could be the ticket.

See what else OgreCave discovered at NeonCon 2010 in OgreCave's NeonCon photo gallery.
 

That's the end of our first gift list for 2010, providing less expensive options for gamer gift-giving. You may want to splurge a bit, though, and pick up something with a larger ticket price. If so, have a look at our other 2010 gift lists for the slightly pricier items we'd recommend.
 

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