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Don’s 2014 Holiday Game Recommendations

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It’s been a great year of board games, card games, RPGs, and gaming in general in 2014. Board gaming is one of my favourite ways to spend time with friends and family. If you’re looking for some last minute gift ideas or possible future gifts for the gamers in your life, here are the games I really enjoyed this past year:

Light Game – Sheriff of Nottingham (Arcane Wonders)

As I noted in my review, Sheriff of Nottingham is a great ‘beer-and-pretzels’ style game. Each player is a merchant trying to get their goods (legal or illegal) past the Sheriff and into the market. The Sheriff is trying to suss out which merchants are lying in order to bring illegal but highly valuable goods to the market. Each turn the players are tying to convince (or bribe) the Sheriff into letting their goods pass, which leads to a lot of conversations along the lines of, “If there are five chickens in this bag, why can’t I hear any clucking?” or “Would a small contribution to the Sheriff’s retirement fund allow an honest merchant like myself to pass?”. A light fun game that is a great opener to a game night.

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Heavy Game – Fire in the Lake (GMT)

The fourth game in GMT’s COIN (Counterinsurgency) series of games, Fire in the Lake deals with the Vietnam War. In this heavy, card-driven game players take the role of either the North Vietnamese (NVA), the Viet Cong (VC), the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN), or the United States (US). This game features a great push/pull design where each player must work with their counterpart (NVA/VC) vs. (ARVN/US) but each player’s victory condition puts them at odds with their counterpart. The game utilizes real historical events and figures on the cards increasing the immersion of the game. Each decision you make during this game will have you thinking.

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Family Game – Splendor (Asmodee)

Splendor is an elegant euro-style game where players are gem merchants vying for supremacy. Splendor offers many things I look for in a family game. It is easy to teach since there are only three things a player can do on their turn. Players can either take gems to purchase cards (representing things needed in the gem business, mines, transport, jewelers, etc.), purchase a card for their tableau, or reserve a card for future purpose. While the rules are simple Splendor offers a lot of variety and replayability since you never know which cards will be available in a given game. There are also ‘noble’ cards representing the patronage of nobles who will support the first merchant to meet their requirements. Splendor is also a relatively short game (roughly 30 minutes or so) which given the hectic schedules of many families makes it appealing for some family together time.

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Party Game – One Night Ultimate Werewolf (Bezier Games)

One Night Ultimate Werewolf takes the traditional Werewolf game (played in rounds with a large group, usually at a convention with a moderator) and condenses it down to one 10 minute round. Each  player is given a role and is either a village member or a werewolf. After everyone has secretly looked at their role, the free smartphone app can be used as a moderator. During the night various roles open their eyes and take actions, some roles switch cards, other roles look at cards, etc. Once all the roles have taken their actions, everyone wakes up and players have 10 minutes to deduce who is a werewolf. At the end of 10 minutes players vote and that player is killed. If it’s a werewolf, the villagers win and if it’s a villager the werewolves win. The deduction, bluffing, and cajoling make this a quick fun play that supports up to 10 players and can be played multiple times in a row. A great party game and the free app that removes the moderator means everyone gets to play!

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Two-Player Game – Battlelore, 2nd ed. (Fantasy Flight Games)

Battlelore 2nd edition is the most recent implementation of the Commands & Colors system from Richard Borg. It features two armies from Fantasy Flight Games Terrinoth setting (Runewars). It’s a miniatures game where two players vie for supremacy on a map that is generated by each player picking an objective. A fun, fast miniatures game with plenty of strategy and tactics, it’s easy enough for casual play with a friend but offers plenty of options for those who want a more in-depth game. Players can play with pre-built armies or construct their own from the forces available. The addition of the ‘Lore’ (magic) to the Commands & Colors system is also a lot of fun and helps add variety to each game. This is an excellent two-player game and a good introduction to the Commands & Colors system which is used in many well-regarded games.

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Stocking Stuffer- Jaipur (Asmodee)

Jaipur is a light, two-player card game where players are trying to win the favor of the Raj by being the best trading merchant in Jaipur. Players will vie for the most valuable set of goods while trying to manage their hands, the camels, and the marketplace. An easy-to-learn and fun game Jaipur is small enough to fit comfortably in a backpack or small back letting you take your gaming on the go!

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These were some of my favourite games during the past year. I hope these recommendations help you in your gift-giving or give you some new ideas about games you’d like to play!

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  1. Today in Board Games Issue #249 - Merry Christmas from TiBG! Gangster Dice - Today in Board Games - January 4, 2015

    […] Don’s 2014 Holiday Game Recommendations – Initiative: Tabletop […]

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