Holiday Gift Ideas – Advanced Gamer
Is your friend a Board Game Fanatic loves playing the latest game for hours at a time and wants something with a bit of substance to it?
Well here are our top Christmas Gift Suggestions for the Advanced Tabletop Gamer to add to there growing collection.
Scythe was the best game of 2016, and in many ways, still hasn’t been beat. In this gorgeously illustrated steampunk reimagining of 1920s Eastern Europe, five players complete for regional prestige, resources, and territorial control of a hexagonal game board.
Although battling your friends with coal-powered mechs is a significant part of the game, Scythe is by no means a combat-centric slog. The game actively penalizes direct warfare, which might sound frustrating but makes the game all the more strategic and balanced. You’ll find yourself immersed in Scythe’s strategy and aesthetics as you plan each turn’s single action. For example: First you might complete a quest to steal food and money from local farmers, next you’ll build a mine to connect territories across the board, and lastly, you’ll sweep into a nearby Soviet territory to do battle and steal all their iron.
Here’s what happens when you insert the political dynamics of Star Wars into Brain Jacque’s Redwall series: You get Root, the best asymmetric strategy board game of the decade.
In Root, you and up to three other friends will battle to conquer the woodland as one of four (furry or feathered) factions. Will you choose the overextended feline Empire, a massive force struggling to dominate through sheer might? Or an aging warrior caste, the avian old-guard aiming to retake lost territory in spite of the limitations of their rigid code? Perhaps you’ll pick the simmering insurgency of downtrodden woodland critters: the rabbits, mice, and foxes sewing the bitter seeds of resentment and rebellion. Or will you go full Lando and become a wily rouge, raccoon agent and play all sides to your benefit?
Root has it all: soldiers, rebels, and rogues. Combat, resource management, and diplomacy. Players must balance the many and diverse needs of each unique and challenging faction while ensuring a steady accumulation of victory points, which are achieved through building structures, spreading influence, fulfilling quests, or establishing control of territories.
Wingspan is a breathtaking “engine” building game where you and up to five friends compete to coax flocks of birds into nature reserves. You’ll spend turns luring unique bird cards into one of 3 biomes, or playing each of the biome’s special ability—get food, lay eggs, or gather more birds. Each time you play a biome, your birds have a chance to use special abilities, often times creating long, clever chains of well-laid actions.
This game has more birds in than a Hitchcockian horror. We’re talking barn swallows, California condors, loggerhead shrikes, turkey vultures, and literally over 160 more—each with their own special abilities. You can play three separate games of Wingspan, and never see the same bird cards twice.
But despite all the variety, this game is one of the most well-balanced games I’ve ever played. Along with brilliant artwork and extremely high-quality components, the best part about Wingspan is discovering strange new avian engines to soar into victory.
With over 150 hours of game crammed into a 22-pound box, Gloomhaven is immensity incarnate. Filled with countless playable characters and baddies, rule books more like tomes than pamphlets, and an immersive story that stretches across the far corners of its fantasy netherworld, Gloomhaven is easily one of the best games of the past decade.
Gloomhaven is a cooperative role-playing game. You can think of it rather like a figurine-focused campaign Dungeons & Dragons—but even more combat-oriented, played with cards rather than stats and dice, and overlorded by the box instead of a player game-master. The game is broken up into nearly 100 scenarios, which basically boil down to sweeping through a dungeon and then making choices to advance the story, slowly opening up new locations, new loot, and new cards to modify each character’s abilities.
We loved the uniqueness of each playable character in Gloomhaven. They transcend the traditional D&D; tropes that are easy to grow tired of: healer, magic user, ranger, frontline bruiser, and so on. Each character in Gloomhaven has an odd mix of abilities that blur the lines between classic fantasy archetypes. The game also forces you to “retire” and switch characters periodically throughout the game, an act which would be devastating…if you didn’t already know how much fun the next character will be!
The 7th Continent
7th Continent is unlike anything before it. You’ll spend hours discovering and trawling across islands, deserts, ice-sheets, jungles, and more. Your goal? Either alone or with up to three friends, you’ll try to reveal the source of one of several horrid, mysterious curses calling you to this unknown continent.
The game isn’t just vast in scope and components (the core of the game is several hundred numbered and concealed terrain cards), it truly feels enormous. Each time you move north, east, south, or west, you expand the map. You’ll flip a new terrain tile, which can allow you to collect clues, fight enemies, or craft items to help you on your quest. As you exert energy exploring the continent, you will become fatigued (or freezing, wounded, or insane!), so you’re constantly on the hunt for food and rest.
All told I’ll happily recommend 7th Continent for any board gamer with the following two traits: a soul for adventure, and boundless patience for an eight-hour quest. Unfortunately, this is a game that’s hard to find, unless you’re ready to spend some major bucks on eBay.
Rising Sun is an absolutely gorgeous game of intrigue, alliances, and combat, set in a mythicized feudal Japan. Most fun with the full five players, Rising Sun’s antecedents are sure to be felt by veteran wargamers—there’s a touch of Game of Thrones: The Board Game, a sprinkling of Diplomacy, and a whole lot of Shogun in the mix. Play in Rising Sun is divided into three rounds, all of which start with a tea ceremony and end with battles in randomly selected territories across the board.
So what makes it so good? Unlike many of its precursors, Rising Sun is extremely fluid. During each of the three rounds of play, you can mobilize your soldiers to basically any corner of the board if you need. This dynamic ensures that you can’t ever solely rely on your physical or strategic might. Your enemies can gather anywhere. So you’ll almost always need to lean on deal-making with your ally, or at the very least enemies in détente.
While battles in Rising Sun totally lack randomness, each one is preceded by a blind bidding phase. These bids feel exciting and intense each time. They can often dramatically throw the balance of power, or drain you of your reserves for future fights.