Thoughts and Ramblings

The Gaming Gang Last Minute Holiday Buying Guide 2012

As you may have heard on our latest show, Elliott and I shared some ideas for last minute gift ideas for the gamers in your life. So without further ado here’s a selection of titles we feel nearly any gamer of various stripes should have on their shelf (or in their stocking)…

smallworldSmall World from Days of Wonder

Small World is inhabited by a zany cast of characters such as dwarves, wizards, amazons, giants, orcs and even humans; who use their troops to occupy territory and conquer adjacent lands in order to push the other races off the face of the earth. Picking the right combination from the 14 different fantasy races and 20 unique special powers, players rush to expand their empires — often at the expense of weaker neighbors. Yet they must also know when to push their own over-extended civilization into decline and ride a new one to victory.

Small World’s design emphasizes the playful fantasy theme with rich details and components that beg to be played. The game includes: Two double-sided game boards, one for each of four possible player configurations, 14 Fantasy Races with matching banners & tokens, 20 Special Power badges, a variety of Troll Lairs, Mountains, Fortresses, Encampments, Holes-in-the-ground, 2 Heroes and even a Dragon, along with Victory Coins, 6 Player Summary Sheets, a Reinforcement Die, Rules Booklet and a Days of Wonder Online Access Number. ~ Elliott

Twilight StruggleTwilight Struggle from GMT

There’s a reason why Twilight Struggle continues to rank in the top three spots on BoardGameGeek. Don’t let the wargame look fool you as TS is a masterfully presented two player game of the cold war from 1945 – 1989 where ideological control of the world seesaws back and forth. The title provides an excellent narrative with every play and encourages new strategies and approaches making this loaded with replayablity.

This is very likely Elliott and my favorite game to bust out with two players!

If you haven’t added Twilight Struggle to your collection, or have no interest in giving the game a try, I have to wonder why you even visit this website in the first place… ~ Jeff

Settlers of CatanSettlers of Catan from Mayfair Games

One of the most successful games of all time, Settlers of Catan is a trading and building game set in the mythical world of Catan. Players roll dice to determine which resources are generated each round and then must strategically trade those resources with other players to get what they need to build their settlements, cities, and roads.

With multiple ways to gain victory points and a board that changes in every play, Settlers of Catan is a game that can be played hundreds of different ways. The base of a hugely successful franchise, with multiple engaging expansions, Settlers is the core game of many collections, and is a wonderful way to spend time with family and friends. ~ Elliott

Smash Up from AEGSmash Up from AEG

What looks like a deceptively simple card game involving the mash up of any two of eight factions, fighting over bases, turns out to be a meatier crowd pleaser with an interesting level of strategy. How can you not like a game where you can have pirates and dinosaurs versus zombies and leprechauns?

Easy to get into and start playing, Smash Up is the sort of title where you find yourself wanting to play “just one more game” before the night is through!

Smash Up looks great and can be enjoyed by even the least enthusiast non-gamers you know.

Descent Second EditionDescent: Journeys in the Dark Second Edition from Fantasy Flight Games

Recently becoming my favorite dungeon crawl game, Descent: Journeys in the Dark (Second Edition) is a board game in which one player plays the role of the treacherous overlord and up to four other players take up the mantle of courageous heroes. During each game, the heroes embark on quests and venture into dangerous caves, ancient ruins, dark dungeons, and cursed forests to battle monsters, earn riches, and attempt to stop the overlord from carrying out his vile plot.

With danger lurking in every shadow, combat is a necessity. For such times, Descent: Journeys in the Dark (Second Edition) uses a unique dice-based system. Players build their dice pools according to their character’s abilities and weapons, and each die in the pool contributes to an attack in different ways. Surges, special symbols that appear on most dice, also let you trigger special effects to make the most of your attacks. And with the horrors awaiting you beneath the surface, you’ll need every advantage you can take…

Featuring double-sided modular board pieces, countless hero and skill combinations, and an immersive story-driven campaign, Descent: Journeys in the Dark (Second Edition) transports heroes to a vibrant fantasy realm where they must stand together against an ancient evil. ~ Elliott

Dystopian-Wars-Edition-1.1Dystopian Wars from Spartan Games

Yes Virginia, there really is a miniatures game which doesn’t require heading to the bank and taking out a loan in order to get started. Combined with a rather reasonable cost for the rules and two faction starter boxes, Dystopian Wars brings fast playing rules, an interesting backstory and steampunk setting, as well as fantastic looking minis together to make for an exceptionally attractive package.

The fact you don’t have to jump into every aspect of the game – naval, land, and air battles – in order to get a huge kick out of the system means you can keep more green in your wallet (or devote it to even more minis) while you play with what you like. ~ Jeff

Star_Trek_Fleet_CaptainsStar Trek: Fleet Captains from Wizkids

Explore The Galaxy With Your Own Fleet

Warp into action with WizKids/NECA’s latest installment to the Star Trek franchise! Designed by Mike Elliott and Ethan Pasternack, this stand alone strategic space exploration/ship-to-ship combat game will primarily focus on the eclectic Star Trek ships as they explore space and battle their opponents.

Featuring 24 precisely crafted 3D HeroClix starships and over 300 cards, this game is a must-have for any Star Trek fan! Star Trek: Fleet Captains is a game for 2-4 players as they assume the roles of Federation or Klingon commanders and compete for sector supremacy!

So ready your phasers as we expand into the final frontier …and beyond! ~ Elliott

Marvel Heroic Roleplaying: Basic GameMarvel Heroic Roleplaying from Margaret Weis Productions

Could an RPG bring the Marvel Universe to the gaming table without A) insulting the intelligence of gamers and B) avoiding the pitfalls of previous attempts? The gang at Margaret Weis Productions proved it can be done and not only is the core set an interesting approach to a superhero based RPG, the addition of event sourcebooks such as Civil War makes this the must have game for fans of The House of Ideas!

Although maybe not the best fit for those who’ve never played an RPG, the rules aren’t overly daunting and provide something new in the genre. ~ Jeff

NemosWarNemo’s War from Victory Point Games

Jules Verne’s classic novel Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea tells the story of Captain Nemo and his astounding ship, the Nautilus. Set in the year 1866, this amazing electric-powered submarine travels throughout the seas tacitly on missions of research and exploration, but it isn’t long before two captive crew members, rescued from the wreck of a Nautilus attack, Professor Aronnax and Canadian whaler Ned Land, realize that Captain Nemo’s motives are far more complex and possibly sinister.

Can you command the Nautilus on its year-long cruise to destiny? Can you fend off giant squids? Discover the South Pole, the Arabian Tunnel or the lost city of Atlantis? Can you scourge the high seas and create enough fear in the great maritime powers to free the colonial peoples of the world from their yoke? There really is a whole world to explore and master when you are adventuring in Chris Taylor’s amazing solitaire game: Nemo’s War. ~ Elliott

CFG07001-Mistborn_Cover-Sales_PageMistborn: The Adventure Game from Crafty Games

After more than thirty years of playing RPGs people might assume I’ve seen it all. Thankfully, that’s never the case as there’s always something out there which is fresh and new. A great case in point is Mistborn! Fans of Brandon Sanderson’s series will slip right into the setting and the system offers quite a few wrinkles to make this more than just a same old, same old fantasy RPG. Add to this the involvement of the author himself in the production of the game and you know this title is going to have the Mistborn setting down pat.

Alex and Patrick at Crafty Games even went the extra mile to publish the RPG in a hardcover format which slips right into your bookshelf next to your copies of the book series without missing a beat. ~ Jeff

MTG: Duels of the Planeswalkers 2013Magic: The Gathering Duels of the Planeswalkers 2013 from Wizards of the Coast

If you’re like me and miss the good old days of sitting down and playing some M:TG with your friends but don’t miss spending an arm and a leg to get your hands on the hottest and rarest cards then Duels of the Planeswalkers should be just what you’re looking for! Kick back, at your leisure, to learn the new Magic rules and take on a seriously strong A.I. as you look to advance through the campaign and tackle stand alone challenges in order to add more powerful cards to your deck.

You simply can’t go wrong with this excellent addition to your PC, X-Box 360, PS3, or iPad gaming! ~ Elliott

Thunderbolt-Apache LeaderThunderbolt-Apache Leader from Dan Verssen Games

A near perfect solitaire wargame which puts you in the fictional role of a combat air patrol wing commander in the midst of a slew of historical and hypothetical campaigns around the globe. The action is fast and furious and, while there’s a wealth of game factors to take into account, that info is always right at your fingertips. A multitude of aircraft and weapons systems are modeled so your pilots will be loaded for bear but they’ll need every last missile as your foes are many.

The game system provides such an excellent narrative during each campaign (bringing a near RPG-like element to the proceedings) you’ll practically be able to hear your pilots regaling each other with daring deeds and “oh so close” moments of tension! ~ Jeff

Shadows of EsterenShadows of Esteren from Agate Editions and Studio 2 Publishing

The French RPG finally made it to American shores with an English translation and the first book in the series, Book One: Universe, is a gorgeous tome! This just might be the finest looking roleplaying game of 2012. For gamers looking for a low fantasy setting with a touch of the gothic this is certainly one to pick up. Although the system isn’t prefect and the setting feels a bit on the generic side there’s more than enough really great to make this worthy of a purchase!

Especially suitable for experienced roleplayers who like to go heavy on story and mood, while ditching the constant die rolling, Universe is just the first of four French language books to introduce gamers to Tri-Kazel and the monsters and mysteries which await a band of intrepid adventurers. The character creation process focuses on who the adventurer is as opposed to simply what they are. Surely a system with the more mature gamer in mind, Shadows is sure to be one of your RPG finds of 2012. ~ Jeff

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Jeff McAleer

Founder, editor-in-chief, and host of The Daily Dope and other TGG media. Jeff tackles any and all topics but his main gaming focus is war and strategy, RPGs, and miniatures. He's also a fan of independent and small press comics. Plus, Jeff is certainly never at a loss for an opinion...

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