Everyone is coming up with a gift guide, and most of them I just tend to shrug and either pass by or stop and take a quick look. You usually see the same recommendations of games that fall into the same categories. But the one I had to listen to was from Low Player Count, because those guys always produce some really quality content. And they had a neat approach to the guide.
I hope they don’t mind, but I am going to borrow some of their categories from them and make my own gift guide recommendations, with a few added on at the end. Hope you enjoy!
Game for a New Gamer
Kingdomino – Forget the classic gateway games and look to this game by Blue Orange as being the ideal gateway game. This is perfect regardless of age and experience with gaming, and introduces some excellent mechanics that will appear in other games as they explore the hobby. For the price paid, there is an incredible amount of fun and strategy to be found in the box. Arguably, Queendomino could fill this position as well even though it adds just a little more to the game.
Game for a Returning Gamer
Century: Spice Road – This game encapsulates some simple mechanics and packs them into one fun experience. You work on hand management, resource management, and engine building while trying to race the other players to trigger the game’s end and score the most points. This game has a lot of easy-to-grasp mechanics that will allow them to ease back into the hobby while hopefully reminding them what they initially enjoyed about playing games. Another good candidate here is Clank! A Deckbuilding Adventure.
Kingdom Builder – This is the game that will always be on my shortlist of “desert island” games, as this is one that is real easy to get into yet it contains so much depth and replayability even without the addition of expansions. Kingdom Builder is a great game for gamers that are new as well as seasoned veterans to the hobby. For many, Donald X is applauded for Dominion. But I find that this is the game that stands the test of time.
Game for a Gaming Couple
Trajan – This was a tough one to decide, flipping between 2-player only games and ones that play really well with 2 but can also play more. Ultimately it was down to this or The Castles of Burgundy as stand-out games that are deep games with rich strategy, several paths to victory, and play in a reasonable time with 2 but are also great with 3-4. You can’t go wrong with either choice, and Castles is the friendlier game for the budget, but the personal mancala board and dice-free approach of Trajan makes it one worth seriously considering.
Game for a Budget
Hanamikoji – Pound-for-pound, this is the best value on the market out there for any board game. Period. This is that perfect travel game, the perfect stocking stuffer, even the perfect game for a new or returning gamer. It is 2-player only, making it a great game for a gaming couple. I can’t recommend this one enough, being my favorite 2-player-only game (since War of the Ring is technically 2-4 players) and it is at a price that is fantastic. This is a must-own game that will present the most agonizing decisions about when to use each of your four actions and what to use them with. It still blows me away how great this little game is.
Game from your Favorite Designer
Viticulture: Essential Edition – This was a tough one, as I didn’t know if I had a single must-have designer. And then I realized that Jamey designs most of the Stonemaier games, and his company is on my short-list of favorite publishers. And while I really enjoy Scythe and I think Charterstone is going to be incredible, the best game of his that I can recommend is Viticulture. It plays great from 1-6 and delivers a fun, satisfying worker placement experience in a thematic way.
Game from your Favorite Publisher
Lignum (Second Edition) – Since Stonemaier appeared under favorite designer, it only made sense for my other favorite publisher to get the nod here. Capstone has hit nothing but home runs for me so far, with Lignum prepared to cause major disturbances on my upcoming Top 10 list. I would gladly recommend all of their games I’ve played so far, but this remains the top of the heap so far from Clay over at Capstone. It might be a little heavy and intimidating to some gamers, but there is a fantastic experience waiting inside this box that everyone should try.
Albion’s Legacy – Any of the Lynnvander/Jasco Games Legacy-series of games would fit this role well, but my personal favorite is the Arthurian one that started it all. It is the longer and fiddlier of the games, but it is always a blast to play and it has incredible challenge for a co-op game. These games are never going to compete with the Pandemic or Forbidden Islands of the world, but they are by far the superior cooperative experience in board games. These are the best games that no one is talking about, and I look forward to seeing how their upcoming Gastony Legacy turns out.
Game to get if Money Wasn’t a Concern
War of the Ring Anniversary Edition – I hadn’t even considered this one until Travis mentioned it on the podcast, but as soon as I heard it I knew there was no other option out there. When this was coming out in 2016, they had a limited run of 2000 copies running around $400 with shipping included. My understanding was that this was a one-time thing, but it came with everything painted, a larger board, a special box, a hardcover rulebook and companion guide, unique dice, and updated player references. This is now going, on the secondary market, for around $750-$1000 with the special 1000-copy release of Lords of Middle-Earth expansion for about $400-600 on the secondary market. Which means the current run of Warriors of Middle-Earth, at $130 plus shipping, is an absolute bargain if you jump in now for one of the final 400 copies to reserve. Bottom line: If I had $1500 to drop on a game, it would be to pick up the Anniversary Edition, Lords of Middle-Earth deluxe expansion, and order the Warriors of Middle-Earth set to round out a set of beautiful Tolkien goodness. It might hurt, but it would be the gem in the collection of any Tolkien enthusiast who happens to think this is the best game ever created.
Game to get if Time Wasn’t a Concern
Lisboa – The easy answer here would be Mage Knight, but I wanted to feature something a little less conventional for a pick. Lisboa is a game that, like Mage Knight, has a long set-up time. Like Mage Knight, it can play 1-4 players. But unlike Mage Knight, this game shines with other people at the table with you. Vital Lacerda made a masterpiece of a game which honestly can be boiled down to “play a card, draw a card” for your turn. It is what comes as a result of playing a card that makes this game so great. Besides, the artwork on this one is downright impressive.
Expandable Game to Get
Lord of the Rings: The Card Game – No surprises here, I am a huge advocate for this game. Others might steer you toward the newer model (Arkham Horror) or a competitive model (Netrunner or Legend of Five Rings). Yet others might push you toward X-Wing, Armada, or Imperial Assault as the ultimate game with an unimaginable amount of content to purchase. Yet Lord of the Rings: The Card Game remains the one I enjoy above all of those. It is an excellent solo game, gets better when playing with others, and you don’t have to feel obligated to rush out and buy everything. This is the sort of game you can expand a little at a time, slowly building your pool of cards while exploring new quests and revisiting old ones with your new decks.
Collectable Game to Get
Final Fantasy Trading Card Game – Let’s be honest here, there is something inherently flawed about the collectable game system. It is a money sink and a half because it takes a lot of packs to chase down the cards you need. It is what ultimately drew me away from Star Wars: Destiny. So why feature this here? Because some people really enjoy chasing those rare cards. And I really have been enjoying the Final Fantasy Trading Card game lately, using the cards a friend owns. With five different starter decks and four sets of cards, there is a lot out there. The system itself of the game is fun and the characters bring back lots of fond memories. If you are, or were, a fan of the Final Fantasy franchise and you want a game to collect cards from, this is the one I’d choose…especially now that they have the Final Fantasy VI characters in Opus 4. And while you can include up to three of a card in a deck, this one doesn’t demand you do so which makes it easier from a gameplay perspective than Destiny was.
Meeple Realty or Broken Token Inserts – I’m the sort of gamer who uses baggies and tosses the standard cardboard inserts in the box. They are usually not good anyway. But I have recently seen a few inserts that truly help in setup, teardown, and with the overall experience during gameplay. The Big Damn Crate, for instance, for Firefly: The Game was a great investment because it saves a ton of time, table space, and makes it all really awesome when stored. Games like Scythe, Mage Knight, Caverna, A Feast for Odin, Terraforming Mars, War of the Ring, and many others have inserts you can purchase which will improve the quality of your experience. Is it a good investment for a game you don’t play often? No, but it’ll help some of the games in your collection hit the table more often due to better storage and organization which is invaluable.
Game-Free Gift Idea
Heavy Cardboard T-Shirt and/or Patreon – Depending on your gaming tastes and/or interests, you can fill in the blank. Low Player Count has stuff you can buy. Lots of podcasters and YouTubers out there have a Patreon or other avenue to show support. For me, the top-of-the-list of ones I would support is Heavy Cardboard. What is cool about them is they have some great-looking shirts, mystery swag boxes filled by Edward and Amanda, and more. And they now have it so you can either pledge monthly on Patreon or do a one-time annual pledge to support them and get some things in return, such as access to their slack channel at the $5/month level or access to their teaching notes for games at the $10/month level. But really, it is just great because you can help show them the support they deserve for what they are doing for the gaming hobby as a whole. Find out more at http://pledgehc.com/
So there you have it, some ideas to get for those gamers in your life. Leave a comment and let me know some of the games you’d nominate in these categories (or, in the case of the final two, what non-games!)