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Christmas Gift Guide 2010 (11/26/10)
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12 Boardgame Gift Ideas for 2008

Twelve Boxes for Christmas
A dozen boardgame gift ideas for 2008

By Allan Sugarbaker, Mike Sugarbaker, Matthew Pook, and Andy Vetromile

The only thing better than giving - other than getting, of course - is giving a great game for the holidays. As we have for eight years now, OgreCave has brought together a list of quality holiday gifts to give (or request, if you prefer). This third list is all about the boardgames, resplendant in their big, boxed glory, all from 2008. As always, each item has been through our holiday disassembly line, where our ogre crew inspected and sampled each morsel of game, so OgreCave has verified the tasty gaming goodness in each of our suggested products.


Rio Grande Games, $44.95 Dominion

If you like building card decks without buying a metric ton of something with "trading" or "collectible" in the title, Dominion makes good use of its mechanics. You want what every small fantasy kingdom wants: a bigger kingdom. Using your starting hand, draft new cards from several decks in the common pool. Some increase the coffers for purchasing more cards; others offer abilities like card theft or better hand management; and still others are things and places worth victory points. Usually the cards that score VPs aren't good for much else, so a balance must be struck between those that are useful during the game and the ones that actually win it when the supply runs out. Which sets to go for? That changes every game depending on the decks the group wants - maybe they don't like the Spy's power or want more treasure. 500 well-rendered cards ensure high replayability.


Ticket to Ride: The Nordic Countries
Days of Wonder, $50 TTR Nordic Countries

Last year we recommended Ticket to Ride: Switzerland as the perfect gift for the TTR devotee looking for a tighter game for just two to three players. The downside was that you had to have one of the core games - Ticket to Ride, Ticket to Ride: Europe, or Ticket to Ride: Marklin - and its components in order to play. This year we suggest Ticket to Ride: The Nordic Countries (previously only available in Scandinavia) which offers the same tight two to three player game as the Switzerland board, but comes as a complete standalone game rather than as an expansion. It is also a better game than the Switzerland board offers (where too many routes are replicated in its Destination Tickets), providing a tight contest. Spend the holidays trying to claim the train, tunnel, and ferry routes across and between Denmark, Finland, Norway, and Sweden, and even into Russia, above and below the Artic Circle - including an incredible nine-train route to Murmansk!


Twilight Creations, Inc., $19.95 Humans!!!

For years mankind has had the apocalypse all figured out - the dead might rise and go on a brain munching spree, but some humans always get away to survive and begin again, after blasting their way through a score or more of the corpse cavalcade. If only the humble zombie could master the Surface-to-Air Missile and bring down that pesky escape helicopter... Not this time, but at least in Humans!!! the dead can get some payback. You might have been a lawyer, a wrestler, or even a cheerleader before, but now you're one of the walking dead out to score points and get to the top of the corpse pile by hunting down the remaining living and either eating or infecting them. Not only is this an inversion of Twilight Creation's classic Zombies!!! boardgame, but the rules allow the two games to played together, leading to one big Humans!!!-Zombies!!! mash-up!


Z-Man Games, $34.99 Pandemic

Cooperative games have made a comeback in recent years, and cooperation is required in Pandemic, as there's nothing less at stake than the human race. Two to four players globetrot to intercept four diseases (solitaire play is unofficial, but perfectly possible). The map has 48 connected international cities, and the deck has a card for each. Colored cubes mark the diseases' progression, and a location overloaded with markers spreads infection to nearby areas. Collected cards cure diseases but are needed for travel, too, and workers must balance putting out smaller fires with maintaining the big picture. Everyone's role lets them break a different rule: The Dispatcher helps pawns move, for example, and the Scientist cures disease more cheaply. Too many outbreaks, or exhausting the deck, ends things in failure. Games are tight and down to the wire, and players actually hold their collective breath as Infection cards are drawn. The fun is just as contagious as the game.


Key Largo
Paizo Publishing/Titanic Games, $39.99 Key Largo

With just ten days to grab all the sunken treasure they can before the big storm rolls across Key Largo, three to five players send divers to scour wrecks (decks of cards) for gold, goods, and artifacts... and the occasional sea monster. The right equipment helps at the right moment, but island shops offer several services. Explorers choose these locations daily, in secret, and resolve them according to who selected that spot. If everyone hires divers, the labor pool demands higher wages, and selling the same booty gluts the market. Employ thieves to steal treasure for you or ply old seadogs with drinks to gather the scuttlebutt on the most valuable decks. A complete deck of event cards adds optional fun and unpredictability, and timing and second-guessing rivals is paramount to scoring the biggest payday as the hurricane washes up. It's simple but deep (ahem) family-friendly fun.


Battlestar Galactica
Fantasy Flight Games $49.95 Battlestar Galactica

If the show seemed claustrophobic, sit down to Battlestar Galactica: The Board Game. Taking roles from the series, each with specific advantages and drawbacks, three to six shipmates keep the fleet one step ahead of the mechanical Cylons. Some personae are shape-changing robots or sympathizers, though, working against the crew in a cat-and-mouse game. If the fleet jumps to Earth, humanity wins, but if any of several disasters befall the Galactica - boarding parties, ship damage, loss of population or supplies - all is lost. Characters launch themselves in vipers to protect the fleet, vie for the presidency, seize leadership of the battlestar, and condemn suspicious crewmen to the brig. Players use skill cards each turn to solve crises, which promise added difficulties, but skills also repair or activate important ship functions. All the intricacies are under the hood, leaving a fast and playable game of paranoia and betrayal in your hands.


Ninja versus Ninja
Out of the Box Publishing, $24.99 Ninja versus Ninja

Quick, cute, and addictive, Ninja versus Ninja is a two-player game of positional strategy involving little plastic ninjas - how could this gift go wrong? Each player controls one of the dojos, and wages a campaign of harassment and destruction against the other dojo (which is apparently right next door). The two goals are to either gain points from surviving missions into the opposing school, or to wipe out all of your opponent's ninja by landing on them. The game's pair custom dice, permanently impaled on tiny ninja swords, are reason enough alone to to insure proper balance. Playable in under 20 minutes, this is a great little game to have on hand during the holidays - leave it set up and ready, and you'll be surprised how many spontaneous ninja grudge matches take place.

This game has infultrated OgreCave before, as part of our Games of the Ninja 2008 feature. If you're quick enough, perhaps you can view them without being spotted.


Alderac, $70 Tomb

Wow, an expensive dungeon-crawl board game with lots of randomly-drawn locations, items and monsters? What an innovation! But seriously folks: for all that we might make fun, Tomb is one big, heavy box that aims to succeed by that much more excess than the competition, and the fun factor just seems to magnify right along with the scale. The magic is in the opening sequence of placing threats, traps and treasures into the dungeon face down, trying to lard up good spots for yourself and not get waylaid by the other players... but the magic's also in drawing and choosing your adventuring party, stocking them up with goods, and losing them... and it's in roaming around the board and stealing stuff from other parties and getting ganked by traps. This is one big-ticket board game that's already proven its replay value.


Z-Man Games, $70 Agricola

You wouldn't necessarily think a game called "farmer" would be entertaining, but Agricola (Latin for "farmer") is a good time. The simple concept is to become the most successful farmer by the end of the game, which is achieved by gathering resources, completing menial tasks around your farm, and raising crops and livestock. Each player uses husband and wife tokens, selecting an available activity for them each round. Not getting enough actions? Have some kids! But plan to feed those new tokens, or those times of famine will haunt you as negative points. With its time limit of 14 turns, Agricola concludes faster than some comparable strategy titles, and compresses the best laid plans into multiple sessions of frenzied farming. Optional occupation cards can also be added, giving each player a random special ability, increasing replayability with a new experience each game. There's even solo rules for those times you can't get the gang together. For strategy boardgame fans, the pricetag is worth the chance to till the soil and slop the hogs.

We selected Agricola as Best Boardgame in this year's Ogre's Choice Awards. Click through for the full winners list.


Battue: The Walls of Tarsos
Red Juggernaut, $24.99 Battue: Walls of Tarsos

The original Battue was a solid enough strategy game that it garnered an Origins Award nomination (as well as one for the Ogre's Choice Awards). It seems only natural that Red Juggernaut would develop an expansion set, and as one would expect, Walls of Tarsos provides new options. Capturing a tower in the city now grants the victorious player a game-long special ability. Six Ivory Horde figures ride into the game, possibly swaying the balance of power in new directions. Two player games are most strongly affected by Walls of Tarsos, as many new tiles and cards push players toward combat. Added emphasis on controlling territory also forces the issue, making the city of Tarsos a bloodier, angrier place, and a vacation spot for gamers.

Our scouts have had a good look at this expansion, and have more intel in our full Battue: Walls of Tarsos review. Have a look at their report.


Formula D
Asmodée, $59.99 Formula D

Racing has always been a tricky subject to properly capture in a tabletop game, but the original Formula De nailed it - and then went out of print. Now Asmodée has rewired the dashboard and changed the tires on a new version of the game, Formula D. Compatible with tracks for the original game, the new version still uses different dice for each gear, but adds more realistic cars, drivers with varying abilities, and special speed tracking cards for each player with mini-gear shift mechanisms. Formula D even ventures into street racing territory, with car customization, fuel injection, and more. Able to accommodate up to ten racers, this boardgaming ride has been fully pimped out, and is sure to entertain even the most casual player this holiday season.


Munchkin Quest
Steve Jackson Games, $49.95 Munchkin Quest

Two dungeon-crawling games on the same list? Yes indeed, as Munchkin Quest has a decidedly different, unabashed worldview taken straight from the successful card game series: kick down doors, kill stuff, grab treasure, and backstab your friends. This is more dungeon looting than crawling, as players compete to advance in levels by slaying beasts and gathering treasure, hoping to be the first to reach tenth level and escape. Wheel and deal with your fellow players to get their help or avoid their sabotage, and assist the monsters when it suits you - you wouldn't want to let the other Munchkins get too far ahead, would you? Just don't die at the same time as everyone else, or the monsters win! Designed by Steve Jackson and illustrated by John Kovalic, Munchkin Quest is full of full-color cards, pre-punched double-sided dungeon room tiles, stand-up monster tokens, and more.


Remember: any of these suggestions could make the perfect gift for the right gamer on your list. Whether you pick up a few for yourself - well, that's your business. Don't forget the other excellent gaming gift ideas we listed in our other 2008 gift lists. You wouldn't want to miss out on any of the fun.

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