November 26, 2010

Critical Gamers' 2010 Holiday Gift Guide - Board and Card Game Gift Ideas

Welcome to you one-stop index page for all of our Holiday Board Game Gift Ideas for 2010! The year has been boon year for gaming as boards games have truly hit a new golden age. We'll keep you in the know about all of this year's best releases.

We've organized our 2010 list as spectrum starting with the easily approachable family games all the way down the the strategic and tactical war games. There's bound to be the perfect gift idea for your specific gamer in mind somewhere here on this page.

And if you're looking for even more recommendations then check out our last four Holiday Gift Guides from 2009, 2008, 2007, and 2006.

Let's get started!

[Amazon, Funagain]
Family Game, Economic, Strategy Game

Fresco mixes many things together, and it does them exteremely well. Players have short supply of workers who they send out during the day to do various tasks from making chump change doing family portraits, to racing other players to the market place to buy paints. The ultimate goal is to acquire a smart combination of paints and/or mix them together into more valuable colors, and then use the paints to score victory points as they're applied to the roof of a chapel. A portion of the chapel is then revealed and the player scores victory points, and gets an economic boost.

In this sense Fresco is like the Award Winning Pillars of the Earth, but more refined and less confusing. The worker management in Fresco is far more interesting and the direct competition with players is almost night perfect.

Here are Fresco's official details:

"The ceiling in the cathedral is getting on a bit and is in urgent need of restoration. The bishop is awaiting important visitors and wants to show off his church from its best side. The players slip into the role of the fresco painters in this colorful family game and have to prove their abilities: But only the player who plans cleverly can win!

This fascinating game already contains 3 expansion modules which can be combined with the basic game in any desired manner to influence the scope of the game. Elaborately structured game cards, additional colored pieces and lots of bonus counters provide even more excitement!"

BetraylAtHouseOnTheHill.jpgBetrayal at House on the Hill
[Amazon, Funagain]
Cooperative, Modular Board, Highly Replayable, Horror

Despite it's cumbersome name, we cannot say enough about the Betrayal at the House on the Hill. This game has it all: cooperation. exploration. tension, streamlined combat. And oh the replay value!

Through the exploration of a modular board you and your fellow players will build the map of the mansion room by room, picking up useful items and discovering evil omens as you go. Everything is eerie but not too dangerous.. at least not until the haunting is revealed. That's when the betrayer is revealed! Depending on the omen card drawn, and the player who drew it, one player becomes the Traitor and one of fifty horrific scenarios will be unleashed.

This game was a huge success (despite some major misprint problems) when it was released in 2004 but it's lately become short in supply. Now Avalon Hill has reprinted the game, released it with new high-quality materials and tweaked the gobs of scenarios. Despite its age this reprint is one of the forefront releases of the year. The game is just that good.

Here's are the official details for Betrayal at House on the Hill:

"New spooky nights await you and your friends!

The creak of footsteps on the stairs, the smell of something foul and dead, the feel of something crawling down your back - this and more can be found in the exciting refresh of the Avalon Hill favorite Betrayal at House on the Hill. This fun and suspenseful game is a new experience almost every time you play - you and your friends explore "that creepy old place on the hill" until enough mystic misadventures happen that one of the players turns on all of the others! Hours of fun for all your friends and family.

Designed for 3-6 players aged 12 and up, this boardgame features multiple scenarios, a different lay-out with every game, and enough chills to freeze the heart of any horror fan."

[Amazon, Funagain]
Economic, Resource Management, Manufacturing, Auctions

Like the aforementioned Fresco, Constantinopolis is a game of the production and sale of goods. Here things are kicked up a notch in complexity. While as Freso is a good family game, Constantinopolis is the gamer's game execution of the formula and its done extremely well.

Players start with a building that produces some cheap goods, a bag of cash and a boat. Players then go through the turn order buying buildings, producing goods with their buildings and either selling them to the market place for more money, shipping them away on randomly drawn orders (to collect major money or victory points), or donating them to the citizens Constantinopolis for victory points.

The game has man nuances that support numerous paths to victory, which is a good thing becuase the buildings players can purchase are in very short supply!

We ultimately compare these economic games to Caylus and Pillars of the Earth. While Fresco refined the formula within the standard sort of mechanics, Constantinopolis added to it with balanced complexity.

Here's the official word on ConstantiGeorgePapadopoulos:

"Can you become the most famous trader in Constantinopolis? Effectively build up your trade district to produce goods, generate money, and earn fame points to ensure that your name stands above the rest!

Constantinopolis is a board game of economy and trade for 2-5 players. With light rules and a moderate play time of 1-2 hours, Constantinopolis is the perfect game for aspiring 7th century merchants.

Constantinopolis features a colorful game board and five detailed player sheets to immerse you in the intriguing world of Byzantine trade. With over 125 tiles and tokens, as well as more than 150 cards and 125 wooden pieces, Constantinopolis is an engaging and accessible entry into the world of European-style board games."

Space Hulk Card GameSpaceHulkDeathAngel.jpg
[Amazon, Funagain]
Cooperative, Card Game, Sci-Fi, Survival Horror

For when you absolutely, must play a cooperative, kill all the aliens, space hulk game and fast. This card game takes mere moments to setup and play. Coordination and timing are paramount, though still a lot of it comes down to the dealing of the cards. That might be its only fault - the randomness. But that also means it's replayable.

A great filler game between sessions or a game to kick off the night. Plus, it's small enough to fit in a stocking.

Here's the official word:

"Players choose from six different combat teams, each consisting of two Space Marines with different abilities. Each player receives three Action cards for each of his combat teams. After all of the Space Marines have fallen into formation, prepare for the first wave of Genestealers!

Action resolution keeps all players involved while the overwhelming odds inspire them to work together to survive. The Action Resolution Phase consists of each player revealing and carrying out their chosen Action. The lowest number card goes first, which means Attacks are resolved after Supports. Support tokens enable Space Marines to reroll, so make sure to cover your fellow Blood Angels!

The Genestealer Attack Phase happens after all the Actions have been resolved, so hopefully you thinned out the swarms since you have to roll higher than the number of Genestealers in the swarm to successfully defend. Finally, an Event card is drawn to spawn more alien adversaries. Once all the Genestealers have emerged from the darkness, its time to move forward, drawing a new location card. And then it's back into the fight!"

Defender of the RealmDefendersOfTheRealm.jpg
[Amazon, Funagain]
Cooperative Survival, Adventure, Fantasy Setting

2010 is the year of mainstream co-op titles, and this one is of the high pedigree. A similar vein as the neo classic Pandemic, Defenders of the Realm tasks the players to stave of outbreaks of monsters and villains while defeating roaming bands of baddies that trek through the fantasy setting.

The prize here is the refinements that have been made to the genre. Veterans of Pandemic know that one player can effectively take charge and plan out everyone's moves in a clear path to victory. Defenders adds self empowerment to the genre. You can and should work together, but there's nobody looking over your shoulder telling you what to do.

Here's the official word:

Our Liege is in desperate hour! From what grievous cause have these accursed races arisen? Orcs, Dragons, Demons and the Dead make haste towards Monarch City. The King and Countryside of Monarch City are in need of valiant Heroes!"

Will you answer the King's call?

In the ancient Citadel of Monarch City, the King calls to arms the finest Heroes to defend against a Darkness that engulfs the land. You and your allies must embark on a journey to defend the countryside, repair the tainted lands, and defeat the four creature factions before one of them enters the City, and they approach from all sides -- fast populating Orcs! fierce Dragons! Undead that bring terror! And demons! -- all tainting the land in their wake. There are several paths to defeat, but only one path to victory, and only the most valiant Hero will be named King's Champion.

Defenders of the Realm is a cooperative fantasy board game in which 1-4 players take a role as one of the King's Champions (Choose from Cleric, Dwarf, Eagle Rider, Paladin, Ranger, Rogue, Sorcerer and Wizard). You, as one of the King's Heroes make use of strategy, special abilities, cooperation, card play and a little luck in Defense of the Realm for a unique experience every adventure. But be forewarned! There is never time to rest. As each Enemy General is struck down in battle, the remaining dark forces only grow more difficult to vanquish and their march to Monarch City gets faster with each Hero victory!

Zombie State: Diplomacy of the Dead ZombieStateOfDeplomacy.jpg
Survival, Industry / Manufacturing, Killin' Zombies

Ah the surprise hit of the year, this title surly was designed on top of Mount Olympus. The designers seemingly asked the question: what happens when you mix Zombies with Diplomacy and Axis & Allies? Bammo. A game about leading your nation through an outbreak of the Z virus. How you deal with the threat is entirely up to do you. Do you take it head on? Do you push it toward the boarders with your enemies? Or do you evacuate your citizens and push for the cure?

The answer is entirely up to you and the chaos of a zombie outbreak. Seriously.. what could be better?

Here are the official details:

The world is too late. The virus known as MV1 has gone global. You, the leader of your people, have moved quickly to consolidate your local governments in hopes that you are not too late to carve some chance of hope out of what appears to be none. Rushing to develop effective technologies and retrain your military against this new threat proves difficult but is your only chance at salvation. Resources will prove important and become continually scarce as MV1 continues to sweep through your territory. Do you have what it takes to keep your people alive? Or, better yet, can you eliminate the threat of the walking dead from your territory completely? Many technologies lay at your disposal if you test them successfully, but the true strength of these technologies lie in the versatile combinations that you choose to use. Will you rely on military strength, physics and science, or research medicine to find a cure? Perhaps your survival lies in utilizing combinations of these technologies. Either way your fallen countrymen have only one form of diplomacy and that is that they are at peace only when they are feeding. Feeding on you and your people and spreading the deadly MV1 viral infection. Welcome to The Zombie State: Diplomacy of the Dead.

Axis & Allies Europe 1940AnAEurope1940.jpg
[Amazon, Funagain]
WWII, Strategy Wargame, Venerable Franchise

We love the latest and greatest A&A; games. Sure some of the components have sucked it up (getting rid of money, really?) but the maps, the units, the sheer scope have only gotten bigger.

Now we're diving down to zoom in on the multinational European Front. Tanks, massive amounts of infantry, an African side show, strategic bombings, full on amphibious invasions, the works.

And of course the main event. You can ( and we immediately will ) combine last year's A&A; Pacific 1940 with the new Axis & Allies Europe 1940 to make the largest, most involved, and most intricate A&A; game yet. Even bigger that the Monolithic Behemoth that is the Axis & Allies Anniversary Edition. So if you missed out on that limited run release, then just scoff off a laugh and pickup these baddies.

Here are the official details:

"With the invasion of the Low Countries and the allied evacuation from Dunkirk, the German army is poised to march on Paris. Axis and Allies Europe 1940, designed and developed by Larry Harris, builds on the success of the acclaimed A and A Anniversary Edition. France appears for the first time in Axis and Allies and will represent a new playable ally. Italy will be included as a second Axis power along with Germany. The UK, USSR and the US find themselves vulnerable at this early and uncertain point of the war. Two new combat units that debuted in Axis & Allies Pacific 1940, Tactical Bombers and Mechanized Infantry, will also appear in this game. Axis and Allies Europe 1940 will feature an oversized board that measures 35" wide by 32" high. With over 550 combat units, deluxe game components and local storage boxes, this game will raise the standard established by A and A Anniversary Edition. All new rules for neutral nations, naval & air bases, and convoy disruption will add even more depth and historical accuracy to this giant game. Finally, this deluxe theater-level game is designed to play together with Axis and Allies Pacific 1940. Together these two games will create the greatest Axis and Allies experience to date, with a combined board measuring 5' wide by 32" high and over a thousand sculptured combat units. Both games are designed to play alone or together to offer the 2-6 player global 1940 scenario, complete with weapons development, and national objectives. "

Dust TacticsDustTacticsBox.jpg
[Amazon, Funagain]
WWII, Tactical Wargame, Sci-Fi, Miniatures

While you may ooh and ahh over the walking tanks (a new technology path gleaned from salvaged UFO technology), the truth of the matter is that it's not a gimmic - this is one of the sweetest game systems around. The rules are easy to pickup and the combat is fast, furious.. and bloody. Oh man, it's a slaughter fest out there.

Like most other FFG tactical wargames the turns last until all of the units have been activated and then a new turn starts anew. Unlike other FFG tactical games, however, games are quick to setup and take under and hour to play. It's like someone spilled Memoir '44 all over a slick tactical wargaming IP from FFG. The results are epically sweet.

We have to warn you about one thing though. The glamor shots of this game include pictures of the prepainted miniatures edition of the game which costs *gulp* upwards of 200-300 bucks. The standard version includes all of the detailed modeling at a fraction of the price but the painting is left as an exercise to the player. Or, of course, you could just forget about painting like we always do and enjoy the game with the default plastic sculpts.. which are still some of the best looking models in a board game to date. The tanks even having moving parts!

Ok, enough gushing. Here are Dust Tactics' official details:

"1947. The Second World War rages on. Unfathomable artillery machines march across the globe, leaving a wake of destruction. In Antarctica, a secret research base forms the center of a covert battle between allied and axis forces. will you protect the secrets of this hidden base from the invading Allies or liberate its contents from the hands of the Axis?

Based on DUST comics world created by Paolo Parente, Dust Tactics introduces an exciting, alternate vision of WWII, with amazing machines, roughneck grunts, and stalwart commando leaders, each dedicated to the cause, patriots in the war for world domination.

This boxed set comes with two, ready-to-play armies, as well as a scenario booklet and modular board."

Battles of Napoleon: Eagle and the LionBattlesOfNapoleon.png
[Amazon, Funagain]
Tactical War Game, Historic Imperial Age, Base Set

Battles of The Eagle and the Lion is the first base set it what will probably be a long running franchise. It features 10 scenarios from the era and focuses on the English vs French conflicts. Other smaller factions play smaller supporting roles in this first set, including troops from the Kingdom of Hanover and Portugal. Future full-featured armies will follow in new expansion sets, so we shouldn't have to wait too long for the Prussians, Austrians and of course the Russians enter the mix.

Overall the system has been received extremely well. Case and point: this User Review on BGG. Sporting high-levels of production, clear and interesting rules, and a gaming system designed to be expanded upon, Battles of Napoleon could be one of the best wargames to pickup this year.

Here are the official details:

"For twenty years, from 1796 until the final defeat at Waterloo in 1815, Napoleon Bonaparte and his generals fought on the battlefields of all Europe. Battles of Napoleon is a gaming system that allows two players to recreate the most important historical battles the era. The Eagle and the Lion, the first game in the Battles of Napoleon series, gives you all you need to recreate many of the major clashes that saw the French and English armies -- sworn enemies -- face each other on the battlefields of Belgium, Spain and Italy. No less than 10 battles are featured, each of them based on a major historical event. In Battles of Napoleon -- The Eagle and the Lion, the two players control the French and English armies (sometimes supported by allies of other nationalities) in a specific battle. Planned as the first in a series of products that combine principles and mechanics from board and miniature games, each subsequent release will be standalone two-player games that can also be combined with others for larger battles."

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Posted by Critical Gamers Staff at November 26, 2010 10:50 PM

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