12 More Games of Christmas
One dozen games for $25 or less
By Matthew Pook, Mike Sugarbaker and Allan Sugarbaker
Christmas Day is half way through, and you're full of cheer and turkey,
with nothing before you but an afternoon of holiday movies on TV, the
annual family game of charades and plenty of gifts or under the tree.
What could their colorful wrapping paper conceal? Hopefully a decent game
or supplement that you can get your teeth into until the first gaming
session of the New Year. Of course, the chances of that go up
dramatically if you told everyone to look at OgreCave's gift lists and
Our first list was the less expensive games ($10 or less), the stocking
stuffers. This list has the more subtantial game items ($25 or less),
the ones that can make your other Christmas loot pale in comparison. As
before, you might like to show this list to your loved ones to keep
their well-meaning purchases from going too far astray. Perhaps you'll
be getting something other than a pair of socks from Aunt Pat this year.
Well, there's always hope.
Let the suggestions commence...
The Complete Griselda
(Issaries, Inc.; $17.95)
There is gaming fiction and there is gaming fiction. This anthology of
twenty-eight short stories, penned by Oliver Dickinson, should serve as an
excellent introduction to Dragon Pass, the setting for the classic RPG
RuneQuest. Told in the style of Damon Runyon, these are full of
gentle humour and irony, and relate the exploits of the tougher than
nails heroine, Griselda, along with those of her more criminal
associates. Such exploits are what any group of players gets up to,
making this an enjoyable read for any gamer.
If fantasy isn't your fiction of choice, 2001 has also given us two good
anthologies of horror. For the zombie-lover, there is Eden Studios' The Book of all
Flesh; and if Delta Green or Call of Cthulhu is your
thing, then we should tell you about Pagan Publishing's latest,
(Steve Jackson Games; $24.95)
Every gamer likes a good dungeon crawl, and with Munchkin you can take
yourself back to that style of gaming made popular by a certain First
edition game. The cards in the deck represent a dungeon you and the
players explore in a game where nothing else matters except your most
powerful weapons and equipment, your level, and of course, killing
monsters. A silly game that captures the flavor of the first dungeon
you delved into.
Friends & Foes (expansion for Lord of the Rings); $21.95
(Fantasy Flight Games/Sophisticated Games; $21.95)
Take an already excellent game, Lord of the Rings, wherein the
players work together to destroy the One Ring before Sauron can get his
decrepit mits on it. Add in two more location boards (Bree and Isengard), more magical
intervention cards compliments of Gandalf, special one-use ability cards
for each of the five hobbits, and a whole deck of Foe cards to overcome.
What do you get? A great new set that truly expands the Lord of the
Weird War II: Blood on the Rhine; $25.00
If Deadlands mixed the Wild West with horror, Weird War II
mixes World War II and horror, with a liberal splash of the D20 system
for good measure. Players are troops on the ground in Normandy in the
days after the D-Day landings. The war takes a gruesome turn, as
courageous G.I.s battle against the occult horrors and magic that the
Nazis can throw at them in order to stem their advance. This game
stretches the possibilities of the d20 System and can be run as a
straight WWII RPG without the horror. But where's the fun in that?
Grave Robbers From Outer Space
A card game that has you constructing your own fifties B-movie and
attempting to destroy those of your opponents, this is low on game-play
and mechanics, but high on atmosphere. The mechanics are all too simple,
but the cards are a scream with camp quotes, excellent illustrations and a
running gag or two about poor Billy's body parts and the ever present
Little Fears, the Roleplaying Game of Childhood Terror
(Key 20 Publishing; $20.00)
The darkest game on this list as it deals a strong subject -- that of
childhood fears. In Little Fears, the "imaginary" things that
keep children awake at night are all too real, lurking deep in
Closetland from whence they can creep forth into the shadows. Since
these are the fears of a child, the child determines how tough each minion
of Closetland actually is. Children must defeat these minions if they are
to overcome their fears. With simple mechanics, Little Fears conveys
a complex worldview. This is a deep and disturbing book, yet written with
such care that author Jason Blair warrants our praise.
Suppressed Transmission Vol. 1 & 2
(Steve Jackson Games; $19.95 each)
Each week at Pyramid Online (worth subscribing to, by the way), Ken Hite
serves up a dose of alternate history, conspiratorial musings and high
weirdness on everything from Antarctic Space Nazis to the Esoteric
Truths hidden in Shakespeare's plays and a lot else besides. Each volume
contains some 34 essays reprinted and annotated from their online
versions in easy to digest formats. Not just entertaining to read, but a
cornucopia of ideas for your own games and campaigns. There's something
for everyone in both of these volumes. Yeah, that's two gift
suggestions, isn't it? Consider it a bonus.
A set of two starters goes over our $25 limit, of course, but if you are
looking for something truly different and slightly mind-twisting, you'd
do well to look into this. This difficult-to-describe figures-and-cards
game - scaled-down, glammed-up BattleTech? Skirmish miniatures with an
army of one? Insanely convoluted rock-paper-scissors? - gets the full
run-down in our recent review. Of all the new CCGs this season, Z-G
probably has one of the best out-of-the-box two-player experiences.
To dive into the Z-G world more thoroughly, check out our full review.
(Cheapass Games; $7/deck)
The latest BRAWL expansion is all that and then some, for fans of fast
action and tactics. Just remind someone how cool it always was to play Speed when
you were kids, and bring up how neat it would be if there were any actual
strategy to it. If that doesn't work, tell them it takes less than a minute to
play, and they'll be hooked for sure. All three decks of the anime-themed
Catfight set should run you about $24, not including shipping from the
Cheapass online store. (Rumor has it that some very foolish WotC retail stores
have deep discounts on BRAWL - they're talking about this all over the cheapasses
mailing list, so we don't feel too bad telling you.)
(Rio Grande Games; $19.95)
This year's double winner of the Spiel des Jahres and Deutchen
SpeilePries should let you know that something good is going on. But be
not afraid - this is not a punishingly complex German throwdown. Build
your small town by matching up tiles and building roads, making sets
that score points. Carcassonne is fairly quick and involving, plays as
well with four as it does with two, comes with beautiful components, and
is cheap, cheap, cheap. Perfect for families.
(Journeyman Press; $19.95)
All that stands between you and escape from Any-Town, USA is one big horde
of shambling undead. That's right, zombies have arisen and its up to you
and your trusty shotgun in this tile-laying, town-exploring, zombie
blasting race to the heliport. This simple game comes with a whole hundred
zombie figures and that still isn't enough! Lots of gruesome fun and no
that Journeyman Press is defunct, this huge hit of a game really -- and
we mean really -- needs resurrecting. All together
(Kosmos/Rio Grande; $19.95)
Of all the Kosmos two-player square-box games I've seen, this one's the
most fun. Play cards from your hand to place bridges between tropical
islands. Get the majority of the island's bridges and take control of
the island, knocking your opponent's bridges off. It's finely balanced
between luck and skill, and works a treat for two players - and two
players only. Great for couples who can handle a little friendly
(Wingnut Games; $16.95)
Ever wanted to save the world while wearing spandex? No?! Well, have you
ever felt like making a total mockery of the superhero genre? Us too.
That's where Stuperpowers Deluxe comes in. With superpowers like
Adhesive Snot, Prehensile Nipples, or Bake Pound Cake in 30 Seconds, your
"hero" is set to face villains of all sorts. Unless they use the Become
Anyone's Ex-Girlfriend power. Best of luck, buddy.
That's tweleve games plus a bonus track, all excellent suggestions for
gifts. Now, some of you out there might be lucky enough to have generous
grandparents or even (dare we say it?) a good paying job. For you lucky
elite, we've a few suggestions beyond the $25 limit.
Slightly Beyond the $25 Limit
(Atlas Games; $27.95)
If we had to break the $25 limit, it would be for this, the RPG of the
hack & slash computer game from Human
Head Studios. Written by Robin D.
Laws, this is the game of all Vikings, all day, all night. Rampage,
pillage and bury your axe deep in the head
of your enemy, as the forces of Loki must be opposed at every turn. Breaking from RPG tradition, this is a game in
which points are scored by both players and GM, and there really is a
winner at the end of every session!
Sound like your sort of axe-swinging fun? Ours too. Check out our Rune feature for a
closer look at the game.
(White Wolf Studios; $25.95)
Though the last to be released, Adventure! is first in the trilogy of
games continued with Aberrant and Trinity. Set in the early 1920s, this
is a game of pulp action and low powered superheroes. Though Adventure!
serves as the trigger for the events in the other games, the game is
equally strong without them. Characters are members of the Aeon Society,
exploring the world and righting wrongs that have come about as a result
of their inspirational creation and the efforts of nefarious individuals. Scrape
together some change for the extra $.95, you'll be glad you did.
Return to the Temple of Elemental Evil
(Wizards of the Coast; $29.95)
A return to the original First Edition AD&D campaign, The Temple of
Elemental Evil, but this time updated to the new D&D3e.
This campaign pack takes the players from 4th to 14th level and should provide months
of play in the process. Twenty-five years ago, an ancient evil threatened
the World of Greyhawk, but was thought to be vanquished for good a decade ago.
Yet the evil has returned, and once again the players must explore the old temple
as well as the foe's new, far more dangerous base of operations along the
rim of a volcano. The lesson learned? Always stick a fork in the bad guy
to make sure he's done.
So there you have it, the second part of our Christmas Gift Guide. We
hope you found some useful suggestions of gifts, either to give or
receive. And should you need help trying a few products out, just give
us a holler.