The 2012 Good Gift Games Guide

The 2012 Good Gift Games guide appears in The Morning News today. Here are the ten games featured:

Game Full Review Rules Purchase
Lords of Waterdeep Playtest PDF Amazon, Funagain
Morels Playtest Unavailable Two Lanterns Games website
Cards Against Humanity None PDF Amazon, or print your own set for free [PDF]
Flash Point: Fire Rescue Coming soon PDF Amazon, Funagain
Risk: Legacy defective yeti PDF Amazon, Funagain
Love Letter None PDF Amazon, Funagain
Escape: Curse of the Temple None Available on this page (click the flag in “Languages”) Currently: only available at brick and morter stores; eventually: Amazon, Funagain
Takenoko None PDF Amazon, Funagain
Kingdom Builder None Available on this page (click the flag in “Languages”) Amazon, Funagain
Friday Playtest PDF Out of stock everywhere at the moment, but Rio Grande Games told me they’d have more copies available in December. Watch this space.

Also: the Good Gift Games Greatest Hits.

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My Other favorite Games of the Year

The Good Gift Games guide focuses on games that are “easy to learn and teach, fun and engrossing to play, and that can be completed in 90 minutes or less”. I like games that meet these criteria, of course, but also enjoy the meatier stuff. Here are five of my favorite mid- to advanced-strategy games of last year or so.

Mage Knight Board Game (Wizkids, 1-4 players, 2-4 hours): I’m a huge fan of Vlaada Chvátil, and Mage Knight Board Game checks in at #11 on the Boardgame Geek top 50, so this was a no-brainer, I thought. Wrong! Figuring out the game requires like three or four brains, minimum. Like Through The Ages (also by Chvátil, and my current favorite game), Mage Knight is of Byzantine complexity, and yet everything fits together astonishingly well. And because each turn of the game feels like a tactical puzzle (not unlike the combat aspect of Dungeon Lords), the game work very well as solitaire. (In fact, many contend that it is the best solitaire game ever, an assessment I currently agree with). [Boardgame Geek | Amazon | Funagain ]


Photo by Eric Kouris.

Eminent Domain (Tasty Minstrel Games, 2-4 players, 45 minutes): I really wanted to put this on the main G4 list, but it fails the “must be fun on the first play” criterion, at least for non-gamers. But anyone who can make sense of the description “Dominion meets Race for the Galaxy” is in the target audience for this one. Yes it’s another deck-builder, but one that plays quickly and cleanly, and offers an experience similar to many more complicated card games without all of the overhead. This, along with Kingdom Builder, was one of the surprise hits of PAX 2012, for me. [Boardgame Geek | Amazon | Funagain ]

Eclipse (Asmodee, 2-6 players, 2-3 hours minutes): I’ve only played this once, and it was of the most boring experiences of my life. But! But I was bored because, not knowing what to do, I adopted the most conservative strategy possible, and the game punished me for my timidity. That’s a feature, not a bug, in a game such as Eclipse; as in other 4X games, such as Civilization, the goal is to explore, expand, exploit, and exterminate … not hide away in your corner of the galaxy and hope to go unnoticed, as was my plan. Eclipse presses a lot of my buttons — technology tracks, diplomacy, and light wargame elements — and so, even with only one play under my belt, I can already predict with confidence that it will become on of my favorites of 2012. [Boardgame Geek | Amazon | Funagain ]


The starships in both Eminent Domain and Eclipse (they use the same ones, for some reason). Photo by Mikko Saari.

The Castles of Burgundy (Ravensburger, 2-4 players, 60 minutes): I first played this at a friend’s house and, midway through the game, I pulled out my phone to order a copy for myself via Amazon. The game is similar to Troyes in that it uses dice, but has many, many systems to mitigate the effect of fluky rolls. The Castles of Burgundy looks more daunting than it really is; the core system is fairly simple, and the game is well suitable for mid-weight gamers. [Boardgame Geek | Amazon | Funagain ]

Ora & Labora (Z-Man games, 1-4 players, 2 hours): The latest from Uwe Rosenberg, and my favorite of his “worker placement trilogy” (which also includes Agricola and Le Havre). Ora & Labora struck me as more thematic than the others, almost to the point of feeling like a light civilization game rather than the straight resource-management, number-crunching, please-don’t-let-my-family-starve affairs for which Rosenberg has become known. [Boardgame Geek | Amazon | Funagain ]

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Other Opinions

Don’t trust the yeti? Here are the highlights of some other “2012 best game of the year” lists.

German Game of the Year:

Deutscher Spiele Preis (the “other” German Game of the Year award):

International Gamers Awards:

GAMES Magazine Awards:

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Where to Buy

I dunno about your hometown, but board game stores have recently been cropping up in Seattle like toadstools after a rain. Plug “games” into Google Maps and see what you get.

As for online, Amazon now carries just about everything I recommend. Funagain Games is one of the oldest board game retailers and remains one of the best. Others that I’d recommend include:

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Need additional info, or want a more specific recommendation? Don’t hesitate to drop me a line.

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4 comments.

  1. Question, my wife and I love Pandemic, and so I like the sound of Flash Point, but I’m worried it’ll be too similar. Another co-op save the day kinda game sounds good, but there’s no point getting a game that’s effectively the same right? Should we get it for Christmas (or technically, should I ask my parents to get us it for Christmas)?

    Maybe. I wouldn’t call it “effectively the same” as Pandemic, but they are close kin to be sure. I find Pandemic to be a little too abstract for my tastes, and therefore view Flash Point as more of a replacement for it than a compliment.

    Arkham Horror is a completely different “co-op save the day kinda game” experience, and it works fine for two, but it is considerably more complex than Pandemic. Also check out
    Ghost Stories. -MB

  2. I couldn’t find the Morels game on Amazon.

    It is only available for purchase via the Two Lanterns Games website. -MB
  3. Just wanted to say thanks for publishing this guide! It came in very handy for Christmas this year.

  4. […] defective yeti: The 2012 Good Gift Games Guide (James) […]

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