And we're back! This week on A Gamer's Guide to Giving Gifts we tackle the tricky subject of what to buy a gamer. As usual Mike B from Who Dares Rolls joins me on this difficult quest and offers his (lack of) insight into my picks as we continue down the rabbit hole. See something you like? Just click on the title and you'll be whisked away to somewhere you can buy it. Right, on with the show!
Picking games to appeal to “a gamer” is like trying to pick out your shoes without knowing your size. So instead of picking “one-fits-all” titles I went for titles I've enjoyed over the last twelve months.
The Networks - Formal Ferret
I love TV, there's so much good stuff out there right now that when I heard there was a game that would let me run my own TV station I was hooked. The Networks plays out over five seasons, you are the CEO of your own fictional network, you have to hire stars, land ads, develop shows and take the painful step of cancelling your beloved, underperforming shows.
But don't feel too bad, even when you cancel Firefly or Community the show goes to the reruns so there might still be hope (there isn't but we can all wish right!)
Due to the issue of copyright the shows and stars are generic but the game is still fun. There are plenty of decisions to be made and with a full complement of players you might have to fight for your lineup. Highly recommended for the gamer who loves the small screen.
Mike Says - This one has rightfully received a lot of buzz this year and all of it justified. This nails its theme wonderfully with a cheerfully satirical wink at the TV industry and the shows we love. I’ve always adored the movie Network which scarily has become more and more relevant with each passing year and now you too can unleash your own ‘mad prophets of the airwaves’ helm a Game of Thrones knock off or cancel Firefly all over again just because you can.
Thunder Alley - GMT Games
NASCAR in a box. Do I need to say more? This little racing game has a very unique movement system which can take a little getting used to but once you do you'll be away and racing for poll position.
From GMT Games Thunder Alley has a very concise rulebook which can be a little unintuitive but, if you can get past that, the game itself is fairly simple to play and full of fast paced action.
Thunder Alley scales from two to seven and plays well at most player counts. Recommended for gamers who like fun, even if they normally hate racing games.
Mike Says - I keep hearing this one being mentioned I guess I need to track down a copy and give it a whirl. I do love a racing game, Formula D often finds its way to my table mostly because I can play a roll and move game and still retain a thin veneer of dignity. I’d also highly recommend the recent Flamme Rouge which itself has some unique and cool mechanics.
T.I.M.E Stories - Space Cowboy Games
T.I.M.E Stories is a “Choose Your Own Adventure” book brought to life as a board game. Like the Legacy games that are currently steamrolling their way onto every table in the land, T.I.M.E Stories is a once and done type game, once you solve the central mystery you can't play again until you buy one of the expansion packs. That does make T.I.M.E Stories an expensive three hours but it is also a wonderful story telling event that I'm glad I was a part of.
The game itself is a rather successful implantation of time travel, not something you would think would work in a board game. The first mystery, Asylum, is set in the roaring 1920’s with a Lovecraftian horror theme.
Recommended for gamers who like theme and story above all else.
Mike Says - This was massively divisive upon release with much growling surrounding the one play and done format, if you can get over that then there's a lot to love here. For fans of “Choose Your Own Adventure” then this is an essential experience. It manages to capture those books and the old point and click adventure games of my youth fantastically. Having played three of the adventures I will say that the Asylum story is still by far the best but I doff my cap to Space Cowboys for not being one trick ponies as each successive adventure has offered uniquely different stories and styles of game play being anything from action adventure to fantasy dungeon delving. This is also the first game that actually manages to capture the feeling of time travel and it has a quantum leap feel to proceedings with a dash of ground hog day as you find yourself reliving the same day again and again slowly unravelling the mystery. It is very niche and roleplayers or those looking to tell a story will get the most out of this and i dig the hints sprinkled throughout the expansions of a bigger story slowly being revealed.
It's certainly not for everyone but as a crazy one of a kind experience this delivers on what it promises.
Snowdonia - Surprised Stare Games
This one still continues to just be a massively satisfying design that I return to time and again. Race to build a train track up the famous welsh mountain by clearing rubble and building stations and laying track. This has just a heap of real solid design choices purring away under its bonnet , love the weather system the and the unique design of the cards around the board that randomly dictate the challenge each game. This is a great mix of worker placement and euro that thunders along like Stephenson's rocket. If you’ve never played this you're really missing out and due to its modular design Uncle Tony has produced numerous cool and thematic expansions that change up the gameplay in really cool ways. This would be my desert island board game its one of those that just gets better and better each time I play and is never the same experience.
Chris Says -Trains on a Welsh Mountain, sounds dreary but somehow Tony Boydell turned this theme into one of the most highly respected games in recent history and one that has stood the test of time.
Blood Rage - Cool Mini or Not
This was one that could be easily written off as just a box of cool toys but it's so much more than that. Yep it does have a heap of stunning mini’s and cool monsters and beautiful art from Adrian Smith but it's also a solid design from Eric M Lang. Like Snowdonia this is a grower that features some really clever mechanisms and a great theme and a longboats worth of emergent play. A lot more Euro than Ameritrash this manages to balance between the two and really comes into its own on each successive play.
Chris Says - Mike's love affair with Eric Lang continues… Blood Rage is hitting every top ten list I read. Eric Lang can't do a lot wrong at the moment so maybe I'll just have to hop aboard the hype train too… will you join me?
Eldritch Horror - Fantasy Flight Games
Now for some out and out ameritrash horror. Eldritch horror just represents the big brash american board game experience in a box. You and a group of friends against Lovecraft's unimagined horrors on a global scale. This is a huge sprawling game of telling the story of your investigator as they slowly lose all their mental faculties when faced with numerous nameless horrors. Its long, it's bloated and even a bit clunky (however this does a grand job of streamlining the previous Arkham Horror) and its further bloated by the many expansions now available which you should of course add. This is a game that rewards players willing to savour the epic evening long stories they’ll be telling before the inevitable messy demise. Its essentially the cuban cigar of board gaming.
Chris Says - This bad boy was going on my “Extravagant Games” list so I wholeheartedly agree with Mr Barnes. Eldritch Horror walks a wonderful line between simple and complex. Everything you can do on your turn is super easy to remember, but the wide range of effects that could happen are just endless. It's a game of epic storytelling and I agree that you should own everything for this beast and then play it all the time! I'm gonna go play it right now!
Next time on A Gamer's Guide to Giving Gifts
Chris Bowler is the lead author at Unboxed The Board Game Blog and The Duke of the Blood Keep. He also runs the UK Gaming Media Network and in his spare time he likes to… yeah… like he gets spare time!
Gaming since birth Chris enjoys a vast collection of Board, Card, Miniature and Role-Playing games, with eclectic taste in both Style and Theme.
Mike B is the founder of Who Dares Rolls, Host of the sporadic Who Dares Rolls Podcast that nobody listens too and occasionally produces videos on the WDR You Tube channel that nobody watches.
Mike displays almost no taste or appreciation of the finer points of game design despite this potentially debilitating personality defect he continues to critique board games.