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Christmas Gift Guide 2010 (11/26/10)
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12 Board Game Gifts in 2010
 

Twelve Boxes for Christmas
A dozen board games gift ideas for 2010

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

What's that you say? You're ready to commit to a larger, possibly more complex game as a gift this year? Or maybe you just want a new game or two for your own boardgaming shelf? By now, you should know the Cave dwellers of OgreCave have you covered each holiday season. Whether for the board gamer on your list or for your own gaming needs, here's some strategically selected gift suggestions from 2010:

 

10 Days in the Americas
Out of the Box Publishing, $24.99

10 Days in the AmericasArmchair world travelers have another indulgence for their wandering ways in the form of the 10 Days game series. Each player must complete a ten-day trip plan, swapping out one destination or transportation tile at a time from a few face-up options – much like an extrapolation of Gin Rummy. In this latest set, prospective travelers will reference the map board that covers North, Central and South America and the Caribbean to make sure their trip plans are possible. The first player to plot out an entire ten-day journey by foot, plane, or the new cruise ships, wins the game. Gamers who can adjust their strategy on the fly will find 10 Days in the Americas to be quite a trip.
 

Lords of Vegas
Mayfair Games, $45

Lords of VegasWe always trust Mike Selinker and James Ernest to come through with strong game mechanics that fit the theme, and with Lords of Vegas, they've done it again. Players are Las Vegas developers, competing to create the best, most profitable casinos along a section of the Strip. Dice and counters mark each developer's areas of influence, which determines the flow of cash and victory points each round. No single approach is a surefire win each time – being aggressive and moving in on a rival development can pay off, as can a lucky die roll or two. That's Vegas, baby!
 

Castle Ravenloft
Wizards of the Coast, $64.95

Castle RavenloftLong is the shadow that Count Strahd von Zarovich has cast over Dungeons & Dragons, so the opportunity to face the fearsome vampire once again will be relished by many gamers. This finely appointed cooperative boardgame lets stalwart adventurers venture into the crypts below Castle Ravenloft to thwart the evil vampire lord's plans. Its mechanics are a streamlined version of Dungeons & Dragons Fourth Edition, making for simple rules, but this is a tough game to beat – the danger never lets up, and who knows when strange things might happen or the Count himself might strike! The cooperative element is balanced by everyone taking turns to trigger traps and control the monsters, so there is no need for a referee. Also a great introduction to D&D 4E, the Castle Ravenloft Board Game offers challenging play against a relentless foe, true to the misty realm of dread itself.

If you think running through the halls of a monster-filled castle sounds like a good time, you're not alone. Read OgreCave's full review of Castle Ravenloft.
 

Irondie
Irondie.com, €23.80/starter

An assortment of IrondieAs collectible game fads go, collectible dice games didn't get far. But for the right gamer, an Irondie set could be the perfect collector's item. Dice fanatics will drool over the odd, pseudo-futuristic shapes of solid metal, six-sided dice, which are easy to read despite the strange configurations. There's even a combat system, where each die has different abilities according to shape and color (yes, Irondie really is a game). Note that only nine dice are in each starter blister – one of each shape – and each package is comprised of a single color of dice. Between that and the Euro conversion rate, this makes Irondie a bit of a luxury item. But a true dice addict won't care about the inconveniences, wanting only to wield these unique cube-like items in as many different games as possible.
 

The Speicherstadt
Z-Man Games, $45

The SpeicherstadtThis game has players running warehouses over the course of a year, competing to earn the most victory points by managing resources efficiently and avoiding fires. While it features the expected Eurogame wooden cubes and revolves around a central auction mechanic, the game is made distinctive by its use of cards. The resources up for auction each round come from a deck that is ordered to reflect the passing seasons. There aren't many duplicate cards in the deck, and each season is characterized by different options, so the game has a strong sense of progression, and players are forced to think on their feet since the same opportunities rarely present themselves twice. While this probably isn't a great gift for beginners, it may be a good choice for experienced strategy fans – it's a bit distinctive, but chances are they haven't heard of it yet... unless they read our review earlier this year!

Thinking of plying your wares? Then be sure to read OgreCave's full review of The Speicherstadt.
 

Claustrophobia
Asmodee Editions, $64.99

ClaustrophobiaIf Space Hulk and Hell Dorado had a child with simple rules it would be Claustrophobia. The year is 1634. New Jerusalem is under assault from the forces of Hell. A warrior priest called the Redeemer is sent into Hell along with a chain gang of condemned criminals to teach the demons a lesson. The game features fun, fast gameplay and wonderful components, including 17 pre-painted miniatures. Claustrophobia is played on a varied map composed of large, full-color tiles, creating tremendous replay value. The designer, Croc, and the publisher, Asmodee Editions, release new scenarios regularly for free on the web, keeping the game fresh. You could do much worse than to get Claustrophobia.

Think you might descend into Hell this holiday? Don't answer that. Instead, read OgreCave's full review of Claustrophobia.
 

Thunderstone: Wrath of the Elements
Alderac Entertainment Group, $29.99 expansion

Thunderstone: Wrath of the ElementsThose of you who know Thunderstone (possibly from our review) should have already sought out this expansion to the fantasy-themed deckbuilding game. As the leader of a group of dungeon delvers, you are out to destroy the monsters in the local dungeon to win the famed Thunderstone. The game is one part fantasy combat combined with one part recruiting your team and equipping them, in a card drafting format. Thunderstone's biggest downside is a lack of great storage for the game's cards, an oversight Wrath of the Elements addresses with room to spare. For those who own the main game already, the 340 new cards in Wrath increase the challenge of the game and the already substantial play options of Thunderstone.

See if you'd like to join the expedition – read OgreCave's full review of Thunderstone: Wrath of the Elements.
 

Gosu
Moonster Games and Asmodee Editions, $29.99

GosuGosu (short for "Goblin Supremacy") is a unique style of game. It is not a deck-building game or a CCG, but it is driven by card drafting and card combo mechanics. From a common deck of 100 goblins, players draw hands and begin to draft goblins into their armies. Each army will be a maximum of 15 cards at any one time. There are 75 distinct goblins plus 25 more duplicates to form a deck of 100 cards. The game has great artwork, though the fonts are pretty small. It also has a nice mechanic that feels something like a single deck CCG draft where every card enters play the second you draft it. Gosu is reasonably priced and portable. It's a really different sort of game that could find a happy home with fans of deck building games and CCGs.
 

Dixit
Asmodee, $34.99

DixitA picture is worth a thousand words, but in Dixit you can't afford to be too chatty. Following in Apples to Apples' footsteps, it uses a deck of surreal, hand-painted images – goldfish-filled crystal balls, cyclones springing from the hand, and rabbits in knightly armor, to name a few. Actually, naming them is your job: three to six players take turns being the active player, who secretly chooses a card from his hand and gives it a title. Everyone else takes from their hand a card they believe could be mistaken for that name. These are shuffled and revealed, and everyone secretly votes for the card they think belongs to the active player. If some players, but not all, get it right, he and those who chose it receive points – he wants his title to be suggestive enough to garner some votes, not obvious enough to get all of them. Votes for incorrect cards give the owners points. Dixit is an excellent inroad for getting kids to game, think, and create, and handicaps aren't generally necessary for any but the youngest players. It's clean, harmless fun.
 

Innovation
Asmadi Games, $24.95

InnovationAt first blush, Innovation is a little less than winsome with its plethora of big blocky colored icons on big blocks of color. Get the cards under your hands, though, and get them moving with the game's mechanics of directional splaying, and the game's beauty and depth shine through. Pile up resources to buy your way up the technology chain, manage them to minimize vulnerability to other players, score achievements, and make unreasonable demands of the other players. Innovation is, well, innovative – and arguably does Civ-in-a-nutshell gameplay better than any of the competition.
 

Sid Meier's Civilization: The Board Game
Fantasy Flight Games, $59.95

Sid Meier's CivilizationTruly, it is morning in Ameritrash. There are games of SidCiv's scope out there that might be more elegant, but who could resist a mashup of FFG's greatest hits – including designer Kevin Wilson's criminally underrated WarCraft Board Game and some highlights from StarCraft – into a sweeping, epic civilization builder plus some nice, detailed dice-chucking fights? No one Santa wants to know, that's who. In our ogrish experience this one has been quick to learn, tight and tense to play, and scrumptiously flavorful.
 

Dominion: Prosperity
Rio Grande Games, $44.95 expansion

Dominion: ProsperityNothing says "holidays" like rejuvenation, and nothing rejuvenates a game quite like a whole mess of treasure. The card-drafting CCG-ish game Dominion, having faded a bit from obcession to fond favorite, needed this shot in the arm. Prosperity is borderline-ridiculous in the amount of money it puts into Dominion decks, but borderline-ridiculous is an improvement over some of the cartoonish interactions introduced by the prior two expansion sets. Above all, Prosperity feels like a return to the basics of what makes Dominion fun: buying stuff, making your friends groan with anguish, and buying more stuff. If you know a former Dominion fiend who's cooled off on it, Prosperity might just do them the favor of restoring their past investment to an active presence on their game table.

 

That's the end of our third gift list for 2010, providing more "centerpiece" gifts to wow the crowd in your gaming circle. But we have many other suggestions if you don't see the perfect gift yet. Check our lists and look at other 2010 gift lists for the slightly pricier items we'd recommend.
 

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