November 15, 2006

Critical Gamer's Holiday Gift Guide 2006 - WoW TCG, Board Games, and Party Gaming Gifts

Be sure to checkout our
2007 Holiday Gift Guide!

The Holiday Season is approaching all-too quickly. Soon the malls will be a swarm of ravenous consumers elbowing their way to the top-shelf merchandise.

In an effort to keep the world civil, here's our guide that will help you get around all of the holiday shopping mayhem.

Not all gamers are the same, so we've segmented our guide into a series of gamer stereotypes. Face it, when someone asks for Voltron for Christmas they mean the Lion Voltron, and they would be quite disappointed to unwrap the cheesy Car Voltron on Christmas morning. This guide will help you avoid such unpleasant mistakes by getting the best-fit gift into your loved-one's gaming hands come December.

We started things off with The Family Gamer, who's tired of television dominating their evenings and is looking for a game to throw-down on the dining room table after Wednesday's Prince Spaghetti Day. The Party Gamer wants to entertain her adult friends following dessert at a Dinner Party, or spice-up a New Years Eve with a humorous preamble activity that makes everyone laugh their gourd off. The Trading Card Gamer strives the mold a deck of cards into the best extension of his personality, and play in a community of other gamers doing the same. The Warmonger enjoys pushing plastic military figures to secure a hill and rolling dice to win the day on the tactical battlefield, while The Strategist is about a checkmate in 5 moves, or playing a game of worldwide CIA cloak and dagger.

Now all you have to ask is yourself: for whom am I buying a present for? Then read-on for some great gaming gift ideas:

SettlersOfCatan.11.15.06.jpgThe Family Gamer (Monopoly, Life, Sorry!, Scrabble)

The Settlers of Catan [Amazon, Funagain]
First off, if your gift recipient doesn't own a copy of Settlers of Catan, then your shopping is complete. Get them one - Stat. Settlers is hands-down the biggest Eurogame on the block. Almost ten years old now it's proven to be the gateway title for the masses as they move into the modern gaming era. This includes us, too, as Settlers was the title that awoke the sleeping gamer inside our little repressed souls.

Settlers provides a fresh look on Monopoly so well disguised that you might not realize it's there - but this time it's fun. If your friend happens to already own a copy of Settlers, then pick-up a the expansion that was just released: Catan Event Cards. It's cheap enough to be a stocking stuffer, and recent and low-key enough that they probably don't already have it.

Carcassonne: Big Box [Amazon, Funagain]
Carcassonne is perhaps one of our favorite games (our review), and Rio Grande Games just released a version with the original and its four expansions in one big box. The game plays like a puzzle meets Othello, and like that title Carcassonne is easy to learn and yet takes a lifetime to master. You can't go wrong with this one.

Ticket to Ride: Marklin [Amazon, Funagain]
Collect Cards, lay track, and carve-out your empire of steel across the German countryside. This latest installment of the Ticket to Ride franchise was released this year, and it has already climbed it's way to a permanent location atop our gaming stack.

Wildwords [Official Website]
For the Scrabble player in your family check out the independently developed Wildwords, which flips the Parker Brother's original on it's head and shakes-lose the sanity in its pockets.

ApplesToApples.11.15.06.jpgThe Party Gamer (Taboo, Cranium, Scategories)

Apples to Apples [Amazon, Funagain]
In our humble opinion Apples to Apples puts most other party games to shame, making Cranium's latest Pop 5 seem like a clunky dinosaur of a Game-Design past. This is one of the most popular party games in America right now, and it's for good reason.

Players of Apples to Apples match a crazy combination of word-cards to make a judging player laugh. Each round a point is awarded to whomever played the "best" word. It's really as simple as that. This isn't a battle of wits like Trivial Pursuit, or a battle of drawing skills like Pictionary. This is 'appease the high overlord by making him laugh (usually), and win all the points." How could that not be fun?

If the person that you're shopping for has already picked-up a copy of Apples to Apples, then maybe you can give them one of the expansions: Party Crate Expansion ONE [Amazon, Funagain], or Party Crate Expansion TWO [Amazon, Funagain]. Each extends the games with 500+ new cards, which makes the potential number of word combinations one billion, six hundred seventy million, four hundred thousand and forty two - or something like that.

Time's Up! [Funagain]
What's this? Someone slapped a marketable box around our favorite free impromptu party game "Celebrity!" for your consumer purchasing pleasure? Now we admit that's it's hard to mold wrapping paper around our ethereal game Celebrity and still make it look all nicey-nice bow-wrapped under ye old Christmas tree. And since we love Celebrity so much it's hard to truly shun Time's Up! boxed version for being the what it is - a great game. This one is definitely a close second behind Apples to Apples in our book.

Time's Up! also has two expansions of its own, cunningly named Time's Up Expansion Set #1 [Funagain] and Time's Up! Expansion Set #2 [Funagain].

WoWStarter.7.3.06.jpgThe Trading Card Gamer

The great thing about Trading Card Games is that even if someone owns some of the cards of a particular set, only the truly rich own every card. That means unwrapping new booster packs (each contains 15 random cards) is ALWAYS fun -- boosters will always provide cards that were missing from a collection, or at least give the player more cards to trade-away for that one card they've sought after for weeks.

World of Warcraft TCG
Everyone is going bonkers for the WoW TCG and for good reason. It's really really good (our review) The WoW Trading Card Game is based off the worldwide smash hit World of Warcraft massively online computer game (which now has over 7 million subscribers - a population larger than a lot of soverign nations), and it's something almost every TCG player has an interest in, or at lesat some curiosity, about getting into on the ground floor.

::The WoW Beginner:: WoW Starter Deck, 3 Booster Packs
If you're buying WoW for someone who's new to the title, then please checkout our article "World of Warcraft TCG: Exactly What You'll Need to Get Started Playing" (link). Essentially it boils down to this: You pick up a Starter Deck [Amazon, ToyWiz] which will act as the player's base deck of cards, and two to three Booster Packs [Amazon, ToyWiz] so they player can trick-out their deck to their liking.

::The WoW Veteran:: Booster Packs, Booster Boxes, Onyxia's Lair Red Deck
But if you're shopping for someone already obsessed with the WoW TCG, then you might want to look into getting a lot of Boosters Packs - which are also sold in bulk prepackaged Booster Boxes [Amazon, ToyWiz]. Or you could grab one of the game's new Onyxia's Lair Raid Decks [ToyWiz], which adds a new dynamic to the world of TCG gaming. The Raid Deck allows friends to play cooperatively - instead of the standard player versus player gameplay - as they attempt to tackle a foe bigger and meaner than any one player could ever hope to defeat themselves. The first Raid Deck (coming out right now) is the fire breathing Black Dragon Onyxia. Also cool and noteworthy: she comes with a treasure chest of rare collectible cards that the players unwrap once defeating her. And don't be afraid that you might give a duplicate gift to someone who already has a raid deck - the treasure cards are a random subset of some very rare cards, so players will want more than just one raid deck so they can add the cards to their collection.

Magic: The Gathering Time Spiral
If your shopping for someone who has a history of playing Magic: The Gathering, then a nice treat was released for them this fall. The latest block of M:TG cards incorporates the the very best cards of all sets prior. A veritable all-star lineup of Magic: The Gathering's past.

The original Time Spiral Block was released a few months ago, but the same Booster Pack rule which applied to the WoW TCG also applies to it's grandpa Magic: The Gathering -- a few fresh Time Spiral Booster Packs [Amazon, ToyWiz] are something every Trading Card Player wants, because who knows what rare cards await inside. Time Spiral Boosters are also sold in Boxes of 24 Boosters [Amazon, ToyWiz].

BattleLore.9.11.06.jpgThe Warmonger (Axis and Allies, Risk, Memoir '44)

BattleLore [Amazon,Funagain]
This is absolutely the latest, greatest Wargame out there right now. In fact, it's so "latest" that it's not even out yet. Battlelore is set to ship this November- so if you preorder it now then you'll most-certainly get it before the Holidays. (edit: Battlelore has been released, and is available at both Amazon and Funagain!)

What makes Battlelore so good? First off: it's a pedigree of design; it uses the same base combat system shipped in the proven and award winning games: Battlecry (American Civil War), Memoir '44 (WWII tactical combat) and Commands and Colors (ancient warfare). As the latest installment to the series Battlelore brings the system into the world medieval combat during the Hundred Years War, and slowly evolves the setting into a wargame with a slight fantasy tinge. We like how fantasy is slowly introduced and isn't the backbonefor the system, which means there's something for everyone there. Second: Battlelore is a gift that keeps on giving. You're not just buying a board game, but a very approachable and yet highly dynamic wargame system. The publishers have even created an online scenario editor, which means players will be able to download new scenarios posted on the Internet to keep the game fresh for a long time. Third: The prerelease hype for this game has been phenomenal. Everyone who's had their hands on the title seems to enjoy their day. Finally: Battlelore is produced by Days of Wonder, a publisher that screams quality gaming.

War of the Ring, Twilight Imperium and World of Warcraft Expansions
If you've noticed that your loved-one already has their heads-down in a particular war game then you might want to check in on some this year's high-quailty expansions. Battles of the Third Age [Amazon, Funagain] expanded the incredible War of the Ring game set in the Lord of the Ring universe. The World of Warcraft Board Game expansion Shadow of War [Amazon, Funagain] just shipped, and the interstellar battleground that is Twilight Imperium is slated for its Shattered Empire expansion [Funagain] this November.

YINSH.11.15.06.jpgThe Strategist (Chess, Stratego, Diplomacy)

YINSH [Amazon, Funagain]
An abstract placement game that's one part Othello, one part Go, and one part Absinthe, YINSH is definitely the game for the headscratcher in your family. The game is one of six in the Project GIPF series of abstract placements games that can be played individually or combined together to create an entirely new game experience -- If the person likes YINSH then you just gave them 5 more games they can go explore on their own. And why wouldn't they like YINSH when it's won awards up the YANSH, including: GAMES Magazine Abstract Strategy Game Nominee 2006, GAMES Magazine Best Abstract Strategy Game 2005, MENSA Best Mind Game 2004, Spiel Des Jahres Recommended 2004, and the International Gamers Awards Best 2-Player Game Nominee 2004.

Twilight Struggle [Funagain]
An award winning two player game that pits the USA versus the CCCP in their historical cold war showdown. If your recipient is a modern history buff, then this game delivers the goods.

Blue Moon City [Amazon, Funagain]
This four player title was just released as a sequel to the critically acclaimed Blue Moon card game. In Blue Moon City players compete to rebuild a fallen city set in the fantasy-themed world of Blue Moon. The game is simple to learn, yet there's gobs of strategic layers within which make the game a very enjoyable experience to play over, and over, and over again. We're loving it so far, and we definitely see the potential that Blue Moon City will be atop of our stack of games for quite a while.

Good luck shopping for the Holidays. Stay away from those crazies out there!

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Posted by Critical Gamers Staff at November 15, 2006 11:17 AM

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