Hello again, Gamers! It’s that time of year already. Or finally, depending on what kind of year you’ve had. If yours has been anything like mine you’ve been shuffling bills and home repair and family needs and then all of a sudden, you’re dodging Whamageddon and Mariah Carey on the radio and realizing you’re behind on all the shopping. Never fear! I have scoured my game library, my friends’ shelfies, and my convention hauls (pun not intended but I will roll with it!) to bring you some interesting, entertaining, and possibly offbeat tabletop game gifts that will earn you all the bonus points. Without further ado, let’s jump in:
For a Quick Dragon Slay: Dungeon Draft, Upper Deck, 2-5 Players
Draft Heroes and Weapons with your Gold and use them to defeat Monsters and complete Quests to gain all the glorious XP you can grab. Play your cards right and stack your bonuses before grabbing the glory from your quests and slaying the different dragons. This card drafting game is easy, breezy, and full of monsters. Gameplay is less than an hour, easy to learn for unseasoned players, and can teach younger players about hand management. Very airplane friendly and fits in a convention bag small pocket, which is always a plus.
For a Family RPG Run: My Little Pony RPG Series, Renegade Games
Gather your kids, youth group, Girl Scouts, and more to teach them how to roleplay in this RPG that I’ve been assured “Is better than it has any right to be, and honestly, I’m bringing this to college with me” by my (college aged) kid. This kid has been a board gamer for nearly 20 years now, so I trust that judgement even if I am not the RPG type myself. Many of us know how beneficial RPGS can be to young players and how different flavors of game can draw different types of kids. MLP is different than your general hack-and-slash dungeon dive: For starters, in this game of magical friendship, you’re all on four hooves. Kick off your group’s imaginations and stretch your boundaries some and get the next generation of Girl Gamers interested in your dice collection while you’re at it. They make great stocking stuffers, you know.
For a Travel Friendly Treat: Forest Shuffle, Lookout Games. 2-4 Players
A deceptively simple set collecting game that really grew on me (Ha!). Players start with picking a tree and then use the open draft to draw animals, insects, and plants into their forest. Play carefully to chain up bonus actions and tailor your forest to maximize your points. Not just for nature lovers, this one kept us guessing on most scores right up to the end. I love a game where the tide can turn at the last moment and everything comes together. The double-sided cards add a twist that upends your own plans as the draft pool changes from player to player. Gameplay is about an hour and sometimes longer while everyone gets the hang of it.
Underestimated but Never Boring: Steampunk Rally Fusion, Roxley Games, 1-8 players
I wrote a review on the original Steampunk Rally HERE, and the sequel is no less chaotic in fun. Steampunk Rally Fusion is a stand-alone dice based racing game that can be combined with the original Steampunk Rally for extra track choices and a larger pool of parts (and easier play for larger player-counts). With the Fusion course, you get an entirely new energy source as you rocket through the track, trying to roll faster and better than the competition and be first across the finish line without losing too many parts. Choose your favorite historical inventor and remake their legacy by building the best racing machine you can grab the parts for. There is also a Deluxe Edition that gives you wonderfully tactile metal cogs not included in the original edition. Gameplay averages an hour for 4 players, longer if you are teaching the game and everyone isn’t rolling all at once.
For the Cat Lovers: Calico, Flatout Games/AEG, 1-4 Players
A puzzle-tile laying game of quilting and kitties! What’s not to love about this colorful game? Players compete to make the coziest quilt to draw forth all the snuggling, snoozy cats. Each quilt has different color and pattern rules to follow, buttons to sew on, and cats to attract to your quilt. I suggest a sunny spot in a window, but we all know cats are very particular and like to defy expectations. Each cat prefers certain colors or patterns; draft and place tiles carefully to keep your kitties happy. Included scenarios and possible rule restrictions add even more complexity and pressure to your board, which can make this a game that appeases the appetite of those who like heavier challenges.
For a Slightly More Euro Flavor: Rebuilding Seattle, WizKids, 1-5 Players
“The great fire of 1889 has burned down most of downtown Seattle, and you are the city planner tasked with rebuilding it.” If you want to know how that fire happened, go take the Seattle Underground Tour. It’s hilarious yet informative. The information I learned there two years ago kept me smirking all through this game’s demonstration at Gen Con earlier this year. This is a tile placement/grid management game of building Seattle the way you want it laid out. Players are city planners trying to make the most of their plans, keep the population happy, and manage their resources well enough to bring iconic landmarks to their city layouts. The retro art, the clean layout, and the balancing act between income, expansion of amenities, and careful grid layout gives this game some heft. Playing time is around 90-120 minutes.
And For Those Who Like to Play with Food: Sushi Boat, Japanime Games, 2-5 Players
Become a customer in a conveyor belt sushi restaurant and “eat” yourself silly, scoring points based on your set collection skills and your memory. The memory thing is a challenge. I don’t even know what I ate last weekend but ok, bring on the stacks of sushi. If that doesn’t fill you, there are also side dishes available. Matching plates and different types of sushi consumed will boost your points because variety is the spice of the game— I mean, aside from the Wasabi Challenges. Hopefully I can keep these all straight! Just keep telling yourself that memory games are good for the brain. Coincidentally, so is fish. So come hungry and don’t forget to tip your wait staff! Gameplay is about 30-60 minutes depending on player count.