The 2010 Dice Hate Me Holiday Gift Guide
The holidays are upon us and tis the season to be gaming! Friends and family will soon be gathered near, and what better way to celebrate than to grab your dice and pour some cocoa? Every year, I always make it a point to have a few games under the tree for others; not only do they make great and unique gifts, but after they’re unwrapped you get to play them. Bonus!
The blessing and curse of giving games as gifts is variety. There are a lot of games out there to choose from, and pairing the right box with the correct beloved can sometimes be trying. Worry not, gentle readers – use the Dice Hate Me Holiday Game Guide to aid you in your shopping the next few weeks. Each one of these has been hand-selected and personally-tested to guarantee goodness. May you always roll sixes and may your resource cubes be plentiful. Happy Holidays!
Best Two-Player Game for the Wife Despite the Ghastly Murders
It’s winter in London. The gaslights are lit, and the snowy, winding streets of Whitechapel are all aglow. Nothing could feel more like Christmas, except for that little matter of serial murder. That’s right, Jack the Ripper is at large, and some of London’s most famed denizens are hot on his trail. In this taut, cerebral, two-player whodunnit, one gamer takes on the role of Jack, while the other tries their best to catch the killer before he escapes into the shadows and out of Whitechapel for good. Each round, the players randomly control a group of eight characters with various abilities and try to outwit, outsmart and outlast their opponent. This game is especially good for significant others; although there is direct competition between the two players, there’s rarely any animosity when one pulls off a particularly cunning plan.
Mr. Jack is a board game for 2 nemeses by Bruno Cathala and Ludovic Maublanc, and retails for $32.
Best Scalable Game for People Who Game with One to Three Friends
This card game, based on the stellar classic board game Puerto Rico, incorporates resource management and rotating player roles to create a game that provides flexible tactics, multiple strategies, great replay value and perfect scalability. In San Juan, each player selects one of five roles each round and uses the role abilities to gain cards that can be spent to construct buildings to improve their city. The buildings are one of two types – production facilities that produce one of five goods that can be traded for more resources, and violet buildings that grant the player special abilities. Each building is worth a set amount of victory points, and those points can be modified by other buildings in the game. After someone has put out 12 buildings, points are tallied and the winner is usually my wife. This delightful game appeals to many different types of gamers, is perfect to take on trips, and plays just as well with 2, 3 or 4 players.
San Juan is a card game for 2 to 4 amigos by Andreas Seyfarth, and retails for $24.
Best Game With Dice for Players Who Hate Dice
Take it from the master of bad dice karma, Roll Through the Ages is a dice game that evens the odds. Another “small” resource allocation game based on a larger resource allocation game, Roll Through the Ages is the little brother to the gargantuan Through the Ages. In this game, each player is trying to build the grandest civilization in the world. In order to do so, players roll six-sided dice from a pool with sides that represent food, workers, money, goods and hazards. Players can choose to press their luck by re-rolling some dice each turn, but they may end up with a food shortage or suffer a drought or other such unpleasantries. Players can use their dice to do such things as feed their people, build monuments or enlarge their cities, which give them more dice (and, therefore, more people to feed) to use in future turns. The game is fast-moving and the components are superb – the large, wooden dice are a joy to throw down every round. Roll Through the Ages can be played solo, and plays just as well with 2, 3 or 4 players.
Roll Through the Ages is a dice game for 1 to 4 emperors by Matt Leacock, and retails for $24.
Best Stuffer for The Stocking
Those who read Dice Hate Me regularly or follow the Twitter feed know that my gaming group throws down with this card game quite often. It is the perfect blend of skullduggery, backstabbing and bargain basement pricing. Monopoly Deal has all the flavor, properties and gaming sensibilities of regular Monopoly, with the exception of two things: 1) It’s fun, and 2) it doesn’t take 4 hours of your life and steal your soul. Check out the Dice Hate Me review and see why Monopoly Deal is the most fun you can have getting kicked in the groin on Christmas Day.
Monopoly Deal is a card game for 2 to 5 moguls by Hasbro, and retails for about $5 just about everywhere on the planet.
Best Game for When You Never Want Relatives to Speak To You Again
To call this the most insidious, nasty, backstabbing game that has ever graced my gaming table would be an insult to other insidious, nasty, backstabbing games, such as Diplomacy. Lifeboat is a reason to punch someone straight in the face, all wrapped up in the guise of a pseudo-card game. Why would I recommend such an obvious antidote to holiday cheer? Because it’s more fun than you can shake a knife at, and it is guaranteed to get rid of unwanted house guests before they overstay their welcome and eat all the ham. In Lifeboat, players take on the role of one of six characters trapped at sea, each with two stats – size and survival. Size determines how much weight you can throw around if you get in a fight on the boat, and survival is how many points a player earns if their character survives until rescue. Each round, the person in the front of the boat picks up some limited provisions, chooses one, and then passes them on down until the person in the back gets the last. The player in the back also has some power, though – they control Navigation cards at the end of a round, which can determine whether someone is tossed overboard or gets thirsty. Everyone in the boat can make a choice each round; they can row and try to influence the Navigation cards, they can attempt to mug someone and steal one of their possessions, they can try to swap seats with someone, or they can do nothing and like it. Needless to say, there’s a lot of jockeying for position, formations of secret and not-so-secret alliances, and multiple backstabs. To make things interesting, every player also is dealt two cards that tell them who in the boat they love or hate, which can grant them bonus points for that character’s survival or death. Throw some weapons into the provision cards and some fun stuff such as Chum that calls sharks when someone is thrown overboard, and you’ve got yourself a very lively and very heated party. This is the game you want to break out on New Year’s Eve after the drinks have been flowing; torches and pitchforks are optional.
Lifeboat is a game for 3 to 6 rogues (more with expansions) by Jeff Siadek, and retails for $16.
Best Game for Aunt Sally Thinksalot
Another dice game on the Dice Hate Me Holiday List? Great Scott! It’s true, this fun little parlor game might make you curse the dice one round and cheer them on the next. Game play is super simple: roll the five dice, up to three times on a turn, and try to make the best “hand” possible to score poker chips of various, increasing values. The dice pips are colored in red and black, and possible hands can include everything from a pair or flush, to a large straight, to the coveted YamSlam, which nets the largest point-value chip in the game and lets the player roll again! As the title of this entry suggests, YamSlam pretty much negates the dreaded analysis paralyisis from which some players suffer, guaranteeing a fast-moving and lively time for all.
YamSlam is a dice game for 2 to 4 high rollers by Blue Orange Games, and retails for $20.
Best Game for (Literally) All Ages
This little “party” game has slowly and surely become the underground hit of the past year. The biggest surprise from the “party” designation is that this is a truly magical and special game that can be played at any party, whether it’s a drunken Twelfth Night gathering or an 8-year-old’s birthday bash. Dixit succeeds in engaging most anyone at a get-together because the game play is completely wide open, and the only limits are, truly, one’s imagination – a perfect accompaniment for the wonder of Christmas Day. Check out the in-depth Dice Hate Me review of Dixit and find out why every player should have this in their library, and why the brown ones are crunchy.
Dixit is a party/card/imagination game for 2 to 6 storytellers by Jean-Louis Roubira, and retails for $28.
Best Game for Mom That She Might Actually Play
This modern classic board game has quickly positioned itself beside perennial favorites Settlers of Catan and Carcassone as a mainstay of most mainstream gaming libraries. It’s often touted as a “gateway” game – a game that can bridge the gap between the usual suspects of Monopoly and Bridge, and lead to players discovering a whole world of gaming goodness outside their local Toys “R” Us. The benefit of Ticket to Ride is that in the past couple of years, it has been readily available in Toys “R” Us. For those who have never played, the game is very simple: players collect cards depicting trains of various colors in the hopes of putting down sets of trains so that they can build routes between cities, scoring points. The routes are designated on the large, colorful game board, and players mark their routes with little plastic trains. Once most routes are claimed, they can’t be claimed by other players, making scoring more difficult as the game progresses. The main game mechanics are similar to Rummy or any other set-collecting card game, which makes it beyond easy for Mom to immediately understand while she’s busy basting the holiday goose for you ungrateful lot.
Ticket to Ride is a board game for 2 to 5 engineers from Days of Wonder, and retails for $50 (but you can get it much cheaper online).
Best Game to Ask Santa To Get Because It’s Sold Out
The would-be Dice Hate Me Game of the Year is on this list not to taunt those of you who didn’t pre-order one of the 1,000 copies before the rest sold out in a day, but to remind everyone that this game should be sought out, despite the lack of availability. Now, I’m not one to ever feed the twisted capitalist machine of supply and demand on eBay, but I will say this: If you have a gamer in your life that has just about everything else out there under the sun, you may want to kick old Santa a case of good Scotch and try to get your hands on a copy of Alien Frontiers. It won’t be easy; as of this writing I found three copies online, each averaging $90 a piece, but if you absolutely, positively need a present that’s going to make a hardcore gamer’s eyes bug out, this is it. As a much saner alternative, perhaps a nicely-wrapped gift certificate guaranteeing delivery of the second printing once it hits Clever Mojo Games in late March? Pre-orders for the second printing aren’t available just yet, but they will be. Keep watching Dice Hate Me and Clever Mojo Games for the latest news. In the meantime, check out why this is the game that Santa should be putting under your tree – if he still has the juice, that is.
Alien Frontiers is a board game for 2 to 4 astronauts by Tory Niemann from Clever Mojo Games, and retails for $49.99.
Best Game for the Little Cultist
Yes, yes, it’s Christmas, but no Christmas shopping list would be complete without a little eldritch horror thrown in. More than any other game in the Dice Hate Me library, Arkham Horror draws the most curiosity from those who haven’t played and the most endearment from those who have. Essentially a cooperative boardgame that spins a tense, terrifying tale each time it is brought out, Arkham Horror revels in the horrific world of 1920s writer H.P. Lovecraft’s Cthulhu Mythos. The game is set in the fictional town of Arkham, Mass., where myriad monsters from beyond time and space lurk in the shadows. Players take on the roles of would-be investigators, delving into the macabre and mysterious happenstances afflicting the town. Racing against time, the investigators seek out clues in which to close the ever-spawning gates that lead to Other Worlds before the sanity-sapping Ancient Old One whom the creeping critters serve is awakened. If an awakening occurs before the gates are sealed permanently, the investigators have no choice but to make one final, terrifying stand to protect humanity – a stand in which they are not likely to survive. The storytelling aspect of the game and the fact that the investigators are drawn together against unspeakable, nigh-unstoppable terrors often brings any gaming group quickly together, whether they are best friends or strangers. For that reason – and many others that simply have to be experienced – Arkham Horror makes the perfect game with which to huddle around a roaring yule fire with your near and dearest.
Arkham Horror is a board game for 1 to 8 investigators by Fantasy Flight Games, and retails for $48.
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