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Stocking Stuffers

Review Corner Writers

Posted by Review Corner Writers on Nov 16, 2016


The holidays are fast upon us – where the heck did the rest of the year ago? Wasn’t Easter like a month ago? Suspicions of some sort of time dilation conspiracy aside, it’s time once again to roll out the ol’ “Holiday Buying Guide” chestnut where our writers try to help you make smart gift-buying decisions. And this year, our goal is to help you stuff those stockings.

The cost of gaming continues to rise across the board, so to speak, and if you’ve already dropped a C-note on a big box board game for someone and need just a little something extra for around twenty bucks our Review Corner writers have you covered with these great ideas. These are our suggestions for small footprint, inexpensive games and accessories that should fit perfectly into the festive footwear festooning your fireplaces.

As a side note, remember that during this holiday season that there are lots of folks who don’t have the hobby-fueling disposal income that some of us are blessed with. Consider gifting one of these smaller games to a less fortunate family or to any of the toy drives that pop up this time of year. It’s amazing how much joy and laughter a good game can create, and that’s something everyone can use more of this year.

Michael Barnes
Review Corner Editor-in-Chief

Charlie:

Cockroach Poker would fit nicely inside that stocking alongside Bottom of the 9th. If you've lied even one time in your life, then this game's for you. Players are passing face-down cards depicting bugs and lying, or not, about what's pictured. You’ll be calling shenanigans or passing the buck and trying to avoid taking too many of the same type of card. It's hilarious and fun and super compact. At its price point it's an absolute steal.

Just because baseball season is over doesn't mean you should take your eyes off Bottom of the 9th. This small two player game features the tensest moments of an otherwise lackadaisical sport. It's the bottom of the 9th inning (surprise, surprise) and the home team needs a single run to win. It comes down to a set of three outs as players butt heads and seek to bluff and outwit. With a huge selection of fictional athletes, downright fun double-think, and a compact 20 minute playtime, this one's a winner. You can pull it out and hit the ground running in no time, getting straight to the action and intensity.


Michael:

Doctor Who fans in the US have been spoiled lately with lots of merchandise available, but almost all of it is from the “resurrected” show from the 9th Doctor on. All these youngsters who have no idea who Patrick Troughton is have become “Whovians”, and a large part of the classic 50-year old series has gone under represented. The Doctor Who Card Game was a pretty decent mass market-style design (from Martin Wallace, no less) but the more recent Classic Doctors edition makes it even better. It has all of the Doctors from William Hartnell to Paul McGann and it’s filled with tons of characters, locations, items and of course monsters from the show’s rich history. This is a terrific gift for any Doctor Who fan.

If you are looking to give a nice set of inexpensive brushes to either someone who’s just gotten into miniatures or a seasoned painter, Army Painter’s “Most Wanted” set is a great buy. You get three rock-solid synthetic brushes that nestle in neatly to an existing collection of tools without much overlap. The Regiment brush is perfect for basecoating larger areas but with the control of finer bristles, the angled Small Drybrush is a unique version of this staple brush, and the Insane Detail brush is actually pretty insane. It’s not as small as Army Painter’s Psycho Detail brush, but it is a little easier to use because it can hold more paint in the bristles.


Drew:

For stocking stuffers, you need games that won't break the bank, but will also fit in a stocking. One of the best is R. In this two-player game, each player gets a set of eight cards. You simultaneously select them and the higher card wins. But it's not just about numbers. Each has a special ability that can change up the game. So it's really about figuring out what your opponent will do and then counter that. But of course he'll do the same and counter what you put. Which means you should put that counter to THAT.... and so on.

Haggis is a delightful trick taking game for two or three players. It has all of the great strategy of partnership games with everyone on their own team. You can bid points if you think you're going to clear your hand of cards first. You can match cards into combinations of pairs, runs, or running pairs. And you can even throw "bombs" to play out of order and snatch piles of cards. This is a good choice for anyone that likes trick-taking card games


Nate:

Arriving in four different sets, the new Exceed Fighting System from Level 99 games is one of the punchiest, most compelling games of 2016. It is also very eligible to qualify as a stocking stuffer. Two players take one of up to sixteen fighter decks in a video-game-style matchup. Every card in your deck can be a powerful strike to damage your opponent, and many of them are special moves only your character can do. But those cards can also be used as currency to pay for moving and fresh cards, as special non-combat boost effects, or as "gauge," the powerful resource generated by successful hits. Exceed is far from the first game to successfully interpret the fighting game genre, but it is possibly the most direct one yet. It wastes no time getting to the good stuff, allowing players to dive in and get to know their fighter with a minimum of fuss. But there's still real depth here in learning how to use your character best and in the delicious hand management. Each set provides four fighters, and any of them would be a treat for people who love dueling card games.

If card games aren't your thing but you still want a stocking stuffer that will please both gamers AND their families, Hey! That's My Fish! is a miraculous design that can pit master strategists against preschoolers and grandparents and see both groups having fun. The "board" initially consists of a random layout of tiles representing ice floes, each with a value of 1, 2, or 3 fish. Players take turns controlling clans of greedy penguins as they slip and slide on the ice. You can move as many spaces as you want in a straight line, but as soon as you leave a tile, it gets removed from play. The ice cracks, splits and melts as you score, leaving shortsighted players stranded while the others gobble up the remaining goods.


Grace:

Ultra Pro Dual Deck Box

Monster Protector Triple Deck Box

Ultimate Guard Flip'n'Tray Case

One of the great things about gaming is that the hobby comes with a variety of sub-hobbies, such as trading, upgrading components, or making custom inserts, just to name a few. I spend an embarrassing amount of time on is organizing all my games and I think that many other gamers out there have a similar addiction to organization. This means that deck boxes make great small gifts. Not only do they come in a multitude of colors, there are a variety of styles too. Some of my favorites include the classic plastic Ultra Pro Dual, the magnetic flap Monster Protectors Triple, and the fancy Ultimate Guard with mini pull-out drawers. No matter which pick or what type of games your giftee plays, that deck box is guaranteed to get used. Unlike the tie tack.


Raf:

Fans of any kind of space opera will love to find Star Realms in their stocking. The art on the cards provides most of the setting, as this isn't a big box game that provides the feel of galactic conquest. Instead it's about getting going quickly and sending everything you've got across the table. Impressive combos can be built and turned into unstoppable engines of destruction. If the game has the potential to be a little unfair due to the trade row so be it. It plays quick and with another quick shuffle you can be up and ready for revenge.

If you are buying for someone that leans more toward fantasy than science fiction, then White Wizard has another game for you – Epic. This is a game about Dinosaurs fighting Ice Giants while Vampires raise hordes of feral Wolves from the ground. Players who want to get going quickly while they stuff themselves full of Christmas dinner can just grab the top 30 cards and go. More seasoned players may want to draft, or construct a deck ahead of time. Simple turns lead to powerful tableaus and an impressive array of synergies. While every color has its theme, there are plenty of opportunities for sharp players to combine colors into unstoppable forces.


Craig:

With the holidays (and a new Star Wars movie) on the way, now is the best time to give your special Armada player these two great new expansions. Both pack a lot of options into a small package and introduce a new way of playing Armada. Each of these flotillas brings unique support options to your fleet, whether it be sending repairs or command tokens to your capital ships, vectoring your bombers to their targets or hacking opposing ships' command dials, these tiny craft add big surprises to the battle and expand the strategic depth of Star Wars: Armada in fun new ways.

As a condition of my employment on the Review Corner, I'm required to acknowledge that some people play games which don't involve Star Wars, so if you're looking for a gift for one of those fringe gamers, go for Epic PvP: Fantasy. These quick, tactical fights allow two to four players to create a unique fighter, each combining one of four races and four classes to create their warrior. A game typically lasts less than thirty minutes, and this core set can even allow for a four-player tournament. Once this innovative system's gotten its hooks into you, two more expansions can double the amount of decks at your disposal, allowing for plenty of epic battling.


Teri:

If your giftee is at all interested in painting the miniatures in their games, these shades are the easiest way to elevate their painting. With a full range of colour (including blues, which are notoriously hard to shade) as well as the staples of Soft, Strong and Dark Tone (all of which work beautifully on virtually every colour other than blues) the versatility in this set as well as the easy useability (just apply and let dry), you can give the gift of killer painting technique in a bottle.

The worst part of Christmas morning is spending far too much time trying to wrestle toys from the plastic packaging (and all the tiny elastics, zip ties and twist ties used to bind toys into a presentable package) but this gift, which makes a great gift for both kids and adults, is pretty much ready to go as soon as you crack the cellophane. Players take turns either filling a dungeon with monsters or keeping them out, at the cost of equipment used by a particular character class. A quick playing, fun, strategic bluffing game, these two games are each standalone but can be played together (and gifted together!)

A game of stunning art, thoughtful design and cooperative play, The Grizzled is the perfect game for the seasoned gamer who appreciates a rich, thoughtful, historic and challenging game that is meaty but plays in a short period of time. Players take on the role of a specific soldier sent to fight the Great War, with the hopes that they are able to survive until the armistice, facing dangers, carrying traumas, living with injuries along the way. Making it even more perfect as the right stocking stuffer, the there exists a single card in the deck of challenges the players face together which, gleefully exclaiming "Merry Christmas!", giving a brief, but much appreciated reprieve to the players. A stocking with this game inside will be a Merry- and thoughtful - Christmas indeed.


Pete:

This is a fantastic game that I've been playing for ten years or more. This would be ideal for the kind of person who enjoys shorter, but relatively deep games. Citadels punches well above its weight class and can support very large groups while still being good with three or four. I still have the original copy I got back in 2001, which should be a huge indicator of its quality, since my game shelf is not unlike a revolving door.

This micro-deckbuilder has a very unique hook in the fact that the cards are double sided and can be flipped to the opposing side when upgraded. This is a superb little game that can be had for under fifteen bucks, and is a great game for people that like light card-only games and who enjoy games like Dominion but want something more portable and quick.

This year, I plan on buying several copies of this brilliant little game to send to my local friends because it is the single most requested light-medium filler game for my get-togethers, bar none. With so many different paths to victory, a brisk pace and easy to learn gameplay it makes for a great gift for those who might be interested in the big, epic space conquest games but simply don’t have the time or inclination to pursue them.


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