Nothing says ‘holidays’ like gaming with the family. If I’m not mistaken, most of us should shortly find ourselves at a kitchen table, stomachs full, fighting through the urge to nap just so we can beat Aunt Kate or Uncle Jim for the first time in the annual game of Ticket to Ride or Catan. Unfortunately for me my favorite games aren’t quite so holiday friendly. With three small children and relatives that don’t really have too much interest in high level strategy games, I’m afraid I’ll spend most of my time playing dinosaurs or watching Paw Patrol. But don’t get me wrong, I am not at all opposed to getting a good old fashioned strategy game gifted to me. Below is a list of games I would not only like to find under the tree, but ones that I can also whole heartedly recommend for you or that serious gamer in your life.
Board game publisher Board & Dice knocked it out of the park last year with their euro hit Teotihuacan. Their follow up euro this year, Trismegistus, by the same designer allows players to step into the role of historic philosophers as you try to create the perfect formula. The driving mechanic of the game is dice drafting, a tried and true mechanic many have come to love. But draft carefully, because it’s not just the symbol on the die that matters, it’s also the color and the quantity of matching die. The choices you make will determine the resources available to transmute and the formulas you can fulfill.
The game is definitely one of the heaviest released this year. Each turn will have to be carefully calculated because the number of dice you actually draft is quite low. If you enjoy planning multiple turns ahead with the added challenge of variable options this game is definitely for you. The components are high quality and the sheer amount of variability will surely keep the game fresh for the foreseeable future.
Paladins of the West Kingdom-
Shem Philips has done a tremendous job creating a coherent, yet varied gaming settings. First was his North Sea trio, headlined by Raiders of the North Sea. His second series is set in the West Kingdom. Paladins is the second title in the series and has been getting a lot of buzz. While the rest of Shem’s games are quite approachable and fall into the gateway game category, Paladins is substantially meatier.
Players will be selecting one of three paladins from their hand each turn, returning the other two to the top and bottom of their deck. With the ability and workers their paladin provides they will trigger a number of different actions on their player board.The game is incredible balanced with three separate tracks each dependent upon the others. The action selection in the game reminds me a lot of Orleans, another of my favorite strategy games. The box size and price definitely make this a big bang for your buck.
A classic staple for many of us gamers was the game of global domination, Risk. While it has become quite apparent for me and many others that the game is clearly flawed, there is no denying the joy that comes from muscling your opponents around a map with nothing more than dominance on your mind. Unfortunately Risk is too random, unbalanced, and a little too mean. Inis is basically a Celtic version of Risk without any of those problems.
Each round players will draft their available actions from a deck of cards. These will determined how much attacking, exploring, recruiting, and building you can do that round. And while combat is an important part of the game, it’s not at all necessary or even encouraged. Players can win one of three ways; ruling over other players pieces, being in regions with sanctuaries, or being spread across the map in a sprawling manner. The game is tense and the most cunning player will almost certainly walk away victor.
Great Western Trail-
Who hasn’t dreamed about being a cowboy? Great Western Trail just makes the whole idea of cattle hoarding so much more appealing. As a cowboy you will be collect cattle cards that you need to deliver all the way across the board to Kansas City. Along the way you’ll have the opportunity to make several stops to make more money, acquire more desirable cattle, and even hire helping hands. While the game’c concept is fairly straight forward, there is really a lot to chew on in this one.
This is a game that I am really eager to teach to a non-gamer, because I really do honestly feel like the turn structure and the theme make the game very appealing. The game starts slow and simple, with a few stops along the trail, but as players build their own buildings then decisions will begin to become more complicated and players will need to manage their money and cattle even more diligently. This is a game I can recommend without hesitation.
One of the most popular and highly regarded games of the last decade is Terra Mystica. It had zero luck and little interaction, allowing the winning player to truly feel like the deserved their victory. The game also featured 14 different factions that each played completely differently, allowing players to experiment with a number of different strategy’s each game. The major complaints behind the game were always directed towards the game’s strange/nonexistent theme.
Well I’m happy to say the follow up, Gaia Project, does everything right. It kept the best parts of Terra Mystica while fixing all the issues with a new space theme and technology tracks. The game is super crunchy with round goals known by all players from turn one. The board itself will begin to feel very tight as players edge each other out for access to the available planets. If you’re not careful you’ll quickly find yourself between a rock and a hard place, and as a serious gamer, there is nowhere else you’d rather be.
Be sure to swing by Game Grid and snag one of these amazing games to give to that special gamer in your life. But if worse comes to worst, maybe just use the holidays to treat yourself and your game collection to something new and crunchy.