Gamers and geeks are notoriously hard to shop for. Most of us are prone to impulse purchases, so if we see something we want, we get it. That means if we don’t already have it, odds are that we either didn’t know about it, or just haven’t had a chance to get it yet. And while not true across the board, many of us are afraid to ask for what we really want, in fear that you’ll get something “close” but totally miss the target. For example- Assassin’s Creed: Unity and Assassin’s Creed: Rogue are both brand new games, both are available on one version of consoles or the other, and both have a 50% chance of not being the right one (One is for XBox One and PS4, the other for XBox 360 and PS3). So how do you make sure that you’re getting the latest and greatest that the gamer in your life really wants? Ask the experts, and when in doubt, go for something new!
In this guide I’ll highlight several board games, video games, and my favorite tabletop games as of late, as well as some nifty gadgets. These are the kinds of things that I would want for Christmas if I didn’t already have them, or things that I don’t have but really really really want. Hopefully, they’ll serve as great recommendations for you in holiday shopping for the gamer in your life.
Buying for somebody that has a Wii U? Then your job might be really simple: Super Smash Brothers is an absolute must-have title. For the Zelda enthusiast, Hyrule Warriors is another recent release, but it’s not necessarily an auto-buy; based off of the Dynasty Warriors series of games and starring the Zelda cast, it doesn’t play like any other game starring Link. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it’s just not your traditional Zelda game.
If you’re looking for an FPS (First Person Shooter), Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare is the latest and greatest title out there. The multiplayer content is the same tried and true format of all the previous Call of Duty titles, but I do really enjoy the single player campaign. If you’re buying for someone who already has that one though, I would suggest a pre-order of Battlefield: Hardline; a cops-and-robbers setup built on top of a more tactical framework, I’m really looking forward to that one. It doesn’t actually release until March, but that just means that nobody has it yet. Buy it, print the receipt, and wrap it up in a gift card holder; they’ll never see it coming!
As far as adventure titles go, Assassin’s Creed is back in the spotlight with two new games. As I mentioned at the top of the article, Assassin’s Creed: Unity is made exclusively for the newest gaming consoles (PS4 and XBox One), while Assassin’s Creed: Rogue shows some love to the PS3 and XBox 360. Of course, there’s nothing stopping you from playing both if you have consoles from both generations.
Dragon Age: Inquisition is my pick for a current RPG title. I haven’t had a chance to play this one yet, but everyone I know who has is absolutely hooked. The reviews I’ve read are very positive, and hint at depth far and beyond the previous games in the series.
In the realm of strategy games, I wish I could recommend Civilization: Beyond Earth; but it’s not my go-to title right now. Instead, I think Endless Legend is the way to go. Endless Legend has a lot of neat features that Beyond Earth just seems to be lacking – Unique units for each faction, an actual story behind the game, and lots of novel twists on things that other games have been afraid to experiment with. Granted, I haven’t seen all of it yet, I just downloaded Endless Legend yesterday morning, but so far it looks like what will be keeping me up ’til 2 or 3 AM for the next month or two saying “just one more turn” to myself over and over again.
Whether you’re trying to liven up a party or have a pleasant family night at home, you can’t go wrong with pulling out a board game (unless it’s Monopoly, in which case everyone will hate each other by the end of the night). There’s too many good ones out there to highlight them all, but I’ll list a few good ones here:
King of New York – This one is a sequel to King of Tokyo, one of our family’s favorite games. Players assume the role of a monster attacking the city, and fighting all the other monsters for prove themselves as the king. Develop new superpowers, destroy buildings, and manipulate the military into helping take out your opponents, there’s a lot of new ways to win. Also includes a T-Rex wearing a cowboy hat. Just saying. 2-6 players (best with at least 4).
Sentinels of the Multiverse – If destroying the city in the process of claiming it as your own isn’t your style, how about saving it from the evil mega-villain of the day? Sentinels of the Multiverse is a fully cooperative game, where each player acts as a super hero straight out of comic books. Players are teaming up to navigate potentially hazardous environments as they attempt to stop everything from alien warlords and robotic factories gone wild. If your gamer already owns and enjoys Sentinels, then consider one of the several expansions to the game, such as Rook City, or the new Shattered Timelines set. 1-5 players, the fun increases along with the player count.
Trains and Trains: Rising Sun – Almost every gamer I know has played through Dominion and its’ expansions at one time or another. Trains plays in a very similar fashion, an on-the-fly deck building game where players purchase cards from a communal pool. In Trains, you’re competing to build the best rail line, so there’s a physical board to go along with the cards for players to connect stations and build routes on, and also allows for a real-time view of the game score. Perhaps I enjoy Trains so much because I played it before I tried Dominion, but I’m hinting really hard to Santa that I would like Rising Sun this year! If your gamer plays Dominion and likes it, I HIGHLY recommend both of the Trains games. (2-4 players)
Warhammer: Diskwars – For the Warhammer player tired of painting, or always carrying around easy to break plastic figures, Warhammer: Diskwars brings the same Warhammer Fantasy setting, story, and armies to life in a much cheaper and more transportable form. A rebranding of a classic game format, I’ve heard great reviews of this product from everyone I know that plays it, and I’m trying to carve out some time to play it soon myself. For players that already have the core set, consider adding one of the recent expansions: Legions of Darkness or Hammer and Hold. Intended for 2 players, but supports up to 4.
Warhammer: Conquest – Diskwars caters to the Warhammer Fantasy players, but Warhammer 40k players aren’t left out in the cold either. Warhammer: Conquest is a relatively new card game in which two opposing armies battle for supremacy over an entire star system, one planet at a time. Conquest plays similar to Magic: The Gathering and other collectible card games, but rather than buying pack after pack of cards in hopes of finding the one you’re really looking for, the Living Card Game format gives players all the cards they need in each expansion, making it a much more sane, balanced, and reasonable system. 2 players only.
Role Playing Games
RPG players don’t often need a whole lot of new stuff. Usually, their upkeep consists of refreshing their stash of Mountain Dew and Cheetos (I’m one of them, I’m allowed to say that). But there’s always room for something new if you know what to look for.
Dungeons and Dragons – D&D has been re-released this year. While there’s nothing stopping players from continuing with their 4th edition (or 3.5e, or 3e, or 2e…) campaigns, the new books have been relatively well received and always come with great new material in them. If you’re not sure that your gamer is ready to make the jump to the new edition, or if they haven’t played D&D before, consider the D&D Starter Set, which contains everything you’ll need for an introductory adventure under the new rules system. Alternatively, if they’re committed to moving to the new rules, the Player’s Handbook is a must-have for every player, the Dungeon Master of the group needs the brand new Dungeon Master’s Guide, and it certainly wouldn’t hurt to have a copy of the Monster Manual available to the group. If those are already accounted for, consider picking up a premade adventure module, like the Hoard of the Dragon Queen, or The Rise of Tiamat – each contains all the info the Dungeon Master needs to launch right in to a session without having to invest a lot of time and effort in creating a story from scratch.
Other RPGs: If D&D isn’t the right setting, or if you’re just looking for something new, perhaps consider a sci-fi universe. There are multiple (compatible) Star Wars role playing games available, such as Age of Rebellion and Edge of the Empire. Or for your favorite Browncoat, consider giving them something rather gorram shiny like the Firefly RPG.
Regardless of the system, just about every RPG player needs dice. While many players already have a favorite / lucky set, if your favorite gamer is missing one or two out of their set, or is still using the primary color explosion assortment that came in an intro game, you might look in to getting them a new set from Chessex – there’s lots of cool colors and designs to choose from. Most role playing games require the 7-die sets, with one each of several different configurations. IMPORTANT: The new Star Wars games use custom dice that aren’t made by anyone else.
I would have to check my pulse if I didn’t find a way to recommend Star Wars: X-Wing Miniatures as a gift purchase. X-Wing has been my favorite game now since I started playing it a year ago, and it’s still a new game every time I play it. Alternatively, if Star Wars isn’t the right genre for your gift, Star Trek: Attack Wing provides a different feel while being based on the same core rule set (If you’re looking for an impressive gift, try the new Deep Space Nine model, and the newly released Dungeons and Dragons: Attack Wing is said to be quite an improvement on the same system, and the models are great!
Now, if you’re buying for someone who already has some of the figures for the above games, and you don’t know which ones they have and which ones they don’t, maybe some accessories would be the way to go. Perhaps a playmat for Star Trek / Wars, to set the scene? And nobody realizes how much help it is to have a laser line of sight tool in those games until they have one and try it out, unlike regular laser pointers, this projects a straight line that can let you see in advance if a particular game move is legal or not without having to worry about bumping game pieces around to get a ruler in there. It’s a priceless tool for any tabletop gamer!
Of course, being a tech guy, I can’t leave out the gadgets.
Logitech Wireless Solar Keyboard K750 – I love having a wireless keyboard; it reduces clutter, and gives me lots of mobility around the room (I use a TV for a computer monitor at home). The only down side is that I’m constantly replacing AA batteries. But this keyboard eliminates that problem, because it recharges itself with light! Buy two, and send me one!
Energizer AA Charger with Batteries – Because not every gadget can be solar powered. I use rechargeable batteries for my keyboard now, as well as my XBox controller, TV remotes, and so on. I’ve got a handful more batteries than I need for all my devices, so that there’s always a fresh set ready to swap in when needed.
Google Chromecast – This is an excellent addition to your home media setup – it allows anyone connected to your WiFi network to stream videos and music to the TV just by plugging it into your TV. It’s absolutely great for parties, because everybody can contribute to the playlist!
If you have questions about any of my recommendations above, or if you want to discuss whether or not any of it is appropriate based on the age or type of gamer you’re buying it for, feel free to reach out to me via Facebook. I hope this guide gave you a few helpful hints for your holiday shopping!
– The Tabletop General