Updated: Sep 17, 2019
So this year Mike Barnes of Who Dares Rolls fame and I have decided to have a Christmas Crossover episode and put together our Gamer's Guide to Giving Gifts. These are short lists of great games across five interesting categories. So whether you're a gamer looking for a good suggestion to fit your collection or you're buying Christmas presents for your gamer partner, there should be plenty of choice in here.
Keep checking back for new lists over the next two weeks. Here we go, today's list, Stocking Fillers.
Stocking fillers is a tricky category, the options are so vast that narrowing it down to three was a herculean task. In the end I decided to go for simple games that really anyone can learn and play but that offer a good amount of replayability. These really are a lot of game in a small space.
Celestia - Blam!
Celestia is a push your luck game with absolutely stunning components, just take a look at the picture below… go on, take a look, I’ll wait… Did you look? Boom! Stunning right? The premise is simple, you and your fellow gamers are passengers on a bizarre airship where everyone on board gets a chance at being captain as you float between strange teacup islands. Each turn the captain rolls the dice and must play cards that match his roll. All the passengers then choose whether to stay on the airship and trust the captain or to jump ship and claim a treasure from their current location. If the captain has the cards the airship moves on and the next player becomes captain, if he doesn’t the airship and all of its passengers plummet to a fiery end. The game ends when one player scores fifty or more points.
Not only is Celestia beautiful to look at, but it’s also fun at a tiny price point. It’s easy to teach and play. The only caveat here is the rulebook, which is a fairly terrible translation (Google Translate maybe) but there are plenty of videos online to show you how to play if you get stuck.
Mike Says - This is one of those games that I’ve constantly heard great things about and never played, I love the look of it, it's got a great toy factor with the airship and the wonderful art and whimsical silliness of the whole enterprise is hugely enticing. So I put it on my Christmas list so hopefully I’ve not been too naughty this year.
Timeline - Asmodee
Timeline comes in around £10 and plays in about 5 minutes. It comes in many flavours with the most recent being British History. I recommend getting a bunch of them and mashing them together for maximum fun.
In Timeline the players each have a selection of historical events, inventions, films, books or songs in front of them and they must decide where they come on the Timeline. As players add cards to the line it becomes harder to slot your cards in. On your turn you play one of your cards, declaring where you think it fits in the current timeline, flip the card over, if you’re right it gets added to the line, if you’re wrong you get a new card. The first player to get rid of all their cards is the winner.
Timeline is a great game for anyone to play with plenty of thematic options to suit each gamer, however, once you pop you just can’t stop and you’ll want to own all the sets!
Mike Says - This is a great pick as indeed there's a Timeline for literally any interest though obviously Star Wars is the only way to go. I think we’re well overdue for the Game Of Thrones edition although perhaps it should be called deathline as you try and order the corpse strewn timeline into order of messy end.
Stak Bots - Dogeared Games
The ultimate stocking filler coming in at around £7. On your first play Stak Bots may seem like a simple chaotic card game but don’t dismiss it just yet… hang on… did you just look at the art and assume a small child had been let loose with clipart? Don’t look at the art either…
Okay, I can sense I’m losing you. It’s a game of FIGHTING ROBOTS! Ah ha, I knew that would get your attention. Each player begins the game with a stak of robots in front of them, this is their health, when the stak runs out they are dead and eliminated from the game, but it is also their fighting force. On your turn you’ll draw a card, then you can play a card, attack with the card on top of your stak or scrap cards from your stak to reveal new bots, in any order as often as you like until you chose to stop. Defeat all your opponents to reign supreme.
Once you’ve mastered the basics Stak Bots has dozens of different play modes known as Toggles which change how the game plays, allowing for vastly more strategic play. At last count Tom Norfolk had designed some 60 modes each changing the game in small or big ways, so 60 games for £7 sounds like a bargain to me! My personal favourite mode? Two Stak, what will yours be?
Mike Says - I completely dismissed this game when I first encountered it at a small local convention in the depths of a particularly chilly December. Fortunately Son No.1 who was in tow at the time had the good sense to drag me kicking over to the stall enticed as he was by the thought of battling robots, and I’m so glad he did. As Chris has said for such a small stack of cards there is a massive amount of game in this box, I love it, it's great and I always look forward to when Tom unleashes a new army of these vicious little tin bastards upon me.
Gah! How bigs a stocking! All of my picks should squeeze into a standard lapland supplied furry receptacle without too much effort and also serve the purpose of being those things that get found later on after everything else has been poked prodded and mucked around with. So yes these picks should do the job very well of the ooh I had this in my stocking I wonder what it is.
In a Bind - Stuff by Bez
This is the perfect little box of fun to find slipped into your stocking. Its quick, fun and guaranteed to be a hit with whoever is gathered at your post Turkey dinner table. It's a pack of cards and you simply pull one off the top and have to obey its instructions "one finger touching nose", "left elbow above shoulder", "two hands touching" or "this card on top of head" and so it goes around the table. The moment you can’t comply with a card's instructions it's game over. Infectious, stupid and bloody brilliant.
Chris Says - Having watched Mr Barnes attempt to play this game while conducting an interview with Bez I can attest that it's almost as much fun to watch as it is to play!
HMS Dolores - Bruno Faidutti, Eric M Lang
Another compact little box featuring a design by two the industry's best. Players are wreckers dishing up loot on a soggy beach somewhere utilising the classic ‘Prisoner's Dilemma’ each round you and a fellow player pull two bits of random loot and have to make a choice:Peace (I want the 2 in front of me)War (I want them all)First pick (I want just one, pick first)If you both split then you split, War and everybody loses, both first pick and all the goodies are gone. Its fast, it's silly and can be brutally cut throat and features the majestic art of Vincent Dutrait.
Chris Says - Small box, wonderful artwork, simple premise and two titans of game design, this has to be a winner.
‘6’ Andy Hopwood, Greg Carslaw & Jean-Paul Treen
Perfect for your stocking a tiny tin that contains 15 dice and the rules to play 6 wildly different and fun little games, featuring everything from dexterity, racing to push your luck. I still carry this round with me it's the perfect portable multi-game playing system and it gives a satisfying rattle when you shake it.
Chris Says - 6 was the first game Mike and I ever played together so it will always hold a special place in my heart. The true genius of 6 is that it opens up your mind, it's a game designer's kit almost as much as it is a game. You can play the six games in the box or use the components inside to design your own. Best of all this game comes from the minds of three of the nicest guys in gaming… they're nuts but they are super nice!
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