November 22, 2008

Critical Gamers 2008 Holiday Gift Guide - Strategy Board Games

For more great gift ideas across all genres of games please see our
Holiday Gift Guide Index.

In part two of our Holiday Shopper Guides we look into gifts for the Strategy Gamer. These are the folks who grew up playing Chess, Stratego, and the classic Diplomacy, and are now ready for evolved games with better themes and potentially deeper gameplay.

Most of these games are for the more serious gamer who in their mid-teens and up. If you're looking for a title to fit the younger generation or pickup a mainstream game then you should checkout our 2008 Family Games Holiday Gift Guide, which lists some greats games that are more relaxed and interest a wide range of player types. For Rodin.jpgthose of you looking for strategy war games: we ask you to checkout our War Game Holiday Gift Guide for 2008 which runs down our list of the best war gaming gifts for this year.

But those who want some great stand up strategy games then look no further. We've got quite a list here, including many critically acclaimed award winners that'll satisfy any strategy gamer when they tear off the wrapping paper come late December.

Tribune.jpg Tribune [Amazon, Funagain]

Tribune puts you in the world of ancient Rome, vying for power of the various political and military powers who run the city. Despite its gameplay depth, the title is quite easy to pickup and start playing. In many ways the title is similar to Pillars of the Earth (which made this same list last year); turns of Tribune center around player's careful judgment on where to place their workers. Depending on where workers are placed, players will draw and earn cards to later play to attempts to win over various political and military factions of city of Rome. Controlling a faction provides passive bonuses to other elements of your game - which is great news until another player appeases that faction with a stronger force than your own - and you lose control.

The main goals of each game differ depending on the number of players who sit at the table. They can include numerous things like controlling the most military forces - which were awarded by faction appeasement and playing cars - or by earning enough money, or controlling specific factions at points in the game. All these things gaols are attained through the careful placement of workers, well-timed card plays, and reacting to your opponent's own moves.

Tribune is a top notch game produced by Fantasy Flight Gamers - a top notch publisher with a reputation for producing some of the best games with the best pieces. We cannot recommend this game enough.

PowerGrid.jpgPower Grid

[Amazon, Funagain]

The 2004 hit release Power Grid is a game everyone talks great things about, but for the longest time nobody could find it on shelves.. Currently ranked the #3 board game of all time on BGG, this title finally opened up to a new audience this year with a nice reprint from Rio Grand Games. This was fantastic news for gamers, and also makes it a fantastic gift idea for two reasons: Most newer gamers might not have the title, and because it's such a title to play.

Power Grid is all about drafting power plans from a common pool, and placing them in strategic areas deliver power to cities by converting various types of raw resources into energy. Problem is - as soon as you purchase a power plant, a new, more efficient power plant replaces it in the pool, making it available for your opponents. A small cold war develops of knowing when to put money down on a new plant to support your needs, and knowing when it's safe to open up new, efficient plants for your opponents.. or holding off on purchases until an opponent opens one up for you.

And The various fuels available for the plants varies throughout the game, and become more expensive, which keeps players thinking about diversifying fuel types and upgrading to newer, more efficient plant as time goes on.

Once fueled, the plants will feed energy to various cities. Depending on where you've place the plants, that could net you gobs of money, which you then fuel into the next round of plant bidding and fuel purchases.

Power Grid has won awards from Games Magazine, Spiel des Jahres (German Game of the Year) and the International Gamers Awards, and it's produced by one of our favorite publishers: Rio Grande Games.

Acquire.jpg Acquire
[Amazon, Funagain]

Acquire is like Monopoly, but fun. The game is themed around tycoons sinking money into real estate to expand their empire. Players sit with a row of hidden tiles in front of them, akin to a 'hand' of ties in Scrabble, which can be played to connect tiles on the gridded board. When connections become large enough, they become companies which every play can invest in.

Tile placement is restricted to certain areas of the board by the tile type, so the player created companies grow at different rates, and in different directions. Players vie for ownership over particular regions of the board. When two companies grow to intersect each other, then a corporate takeover occurs a payouts are given to those folks in majority control of the newly formed company.

The rules are relatively simple and clean, yet the gameplay is deep and elegant. Othello-esque in many sort of ways.

As in Power Grid, Acquire is a title from years ago that simple ran out of stock. Avalon HIll celebrated it's 50th Anniversary this year, and they celebrated this milestone - in part - by brining Acquire back to store shelves this year.

The game has had fans through all runs of the title, and though some of the original runs of the game have superior pieces (and sell for over three times as much on ebay), Acquire still remains one of the most solid strategy games in our collection.

Imperial.jpgPrior Selections

Just in case this year's selections didn't fill your engine, here are our selections for Strategy Games from the 2006 Holiday Gift Guide and the 2007 Holiday Gift Guide.

Be sure to check out our other gift ideas in the Critical Gamers' 2008 Holiday Gift Guide Index.

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Posted by Critical Gamers Staff at November 22, 2008 3:21 PM

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