For those geeks who consider board gaming their number one hobby, holiday gifts can be a minefield. Once someone is labeled as a hobby gamer, they become numb to the endless march of strange licensed Monopoly games thrown their way. But how can you blame the gift givers when the desirable games are so removed from mainstream consciousness? Strategy board games are a booming industry, but not one exactly at the peak of pop culture — they’re not even stocked on the shelves at most stores.
If you’re in the position of buying for a gamer friend (and you yourself are geeky enough to be reading MTV Geek) then you are that individuals’s last hope to deliver the goods this holiday season. Read on, and I’ll tell you exactly what is hot with the hardcore hobby gaming crowd this year.
Thematic Strategy Games:Game of Thrones andThe Walking Dead
Nothing is hotter than these two properties right now, making them both great themes for board games. It should be fairly easy to find out if your gamer friend is a fan, and If so, then these games will form the perfect intersection of geekdoms.
The Game of Thones board game is a timely choice, as the second edition just hit store shelves this week. In this new version, Fantasy Flight Games has completely re-done the graphic design as well as incorporating two existing expansions and some brand new content all in one box.
If your gift target is a big Walking Dead fan, then that poses a tough decision, albeit one that should not deter you. There are competing games published by Z-Man Games (based on the comic book, pictured above) and Cryptozoic Entertainment (based on the television show). Let your friend’s preferred media format guide your choice.
Runners up: Discworld games (Ankh Morpork or Guards! Guards!), Penny Arcade the Card Game: Gamers vs. Evil
Deep-Thinking European Strategy Games:Kingdom Builder and Ora et Labora
The two games pictured above are highly-anticipated new releases and stars of the recent Essen Spiel game convention. What distinguishes them from most other games at Essen, though, is that they are follow-up efforts to some of the past few years’ hottest titles.
Kingdom Builder marks the first time that designer Donald X. Vaccarino has broken away from his Dominion series. After revolutionizing the card game scene in 2008, Vaccarino has made a series of Dominion expansions, but gamers have been eagerly waiting to find out what else he has up his sleeve. Kingdom Builder will sell like hotcakes this holiday season just off of Vaccarino’s name alone.
Ora et Labora, on the the other hand, was designed by a man who already has a laundry list of hit games on his resume. German game designer Uwe Rosenberg is famous for Agricola (currently the #4 rated game of all time on BoardGameGeek.com) and Le Havre (rated #6). These are not games for the light at heart, though. Rosenberg’s games are the epitome of deep thinkers, so Ora et Labora will be the perfect gift for those who game because they seek true competition, not just a casual roll of the dice.
Runners Up: Eclipse, Quebec, Hawaii
For the gamer who already has it all, replace a title they love with an upgraded premium version. While we’re discussing BGG Top 100 rankings, we might as well cover Puerto Rico, the #3 ranked game currently celebrating its 10th anniversary with a deluxe edition.
This anniversary includes two existing expansions, but also spares no expense with high-quality components. Along with a graphical re-design, many cardboard pieces have been replaced with wood and metal versions. Where cardboard is still used, it has been upgraded to 3mm thickness for a sturdy feel. Trust me, when you’re this deep into the hobby, the quality of a game’s components add considerably the experience.
Runners Up: Carcassonne Anniversary Edition, Yomi Complete Set, Summoner Wars: Master Set
Another game that will move plenty of units this season because of its designer’s fame is A Few Acres of Snow. Designed by Martin Wallace, this game goes off the beaten path for historical war gaming. While most titles go to the well of World War II or ancient conflicts, Wallace chose to use the British and French struggle for domination of North America.
A Few Acres of Snow tops this list of war games not just because of Wallace’s name, though. It’s also garnering a considerable amount of praise from just about everyone who has given it a try. The game blends traditional military strategy with a deck building mechanic, an unexpected blend of game styles that seems to have worked out for the best.
Runners Up: The Combat Commander series (Pacific or Europe), the Commands and Colors series (Ancients or Napoleonic), Washington’s War.