A Tabletop Gamer’s Holiday Wishlist

The holiday season has arrived and if you have a difficult time finding the perfect gift for your nerdy friends or family members who love table top games here are five themed games that are worthy of consideration.

ZZombicideombies are the cat’s meow these days thanks in large part to the popular cable television show The Walking Dead. Zombicide is a miniatures board game that comes with 71 miniatures. Each round zombies spawn on the board adding to the horde so the game board can quickly fill up with zombie miniatures. This is a cooperative game where 1 to 6 players try to figure out how to accomplish a particular mission goal and control the approaching zombie horde in the process. Meet the victory condition and the team can celebrate a well-earned respite from the undead.

Recently, Zombicide Season 2: Prison Outbreak was released. It is a standalone game but can be used together with the base Zombicide game for a bigger, tougher gaming experience. An expansion called Zombicide: Toxic City Mall was also released and can be used with either the original Zombicide or Prison Outbreak or all combined. The recent additions incorporate new mechanics and scarier zombies such as toxic zombies (who spray toxic blood when dispatched), berserker zombies (who come at you at a faster pace), and zombie dogs, to ramp up the difficulty even further. Player characters also gain some new mechanics including companion dogs (dogs who can help your team by distracting zombies or attacking zombies) and zombivor ability (characters who have been bitten by zombies but not yet fully turned).

RoboRally is a sci-fi themed game for 2 to 8 players where each player controls a robot and then pre-programs that robot with a number of movement actions within a given time limit. The best laid plans often go awry quickly as the game progresses because robots have to complete their actions one-at-time each round and another robot can ruin the planned programming of another robot. Laughs are a plenty in this game as each player tries to reach the goals and still manage to stay alive in all of the chaos. RoboRally relies on good spatial reasoning skills for players which can be challenging for some people who may not be able to visualize the turns and movements of the robots in advance. Often times the games which are the most fun are the ones that do not go as planned. The first robot to accomplish the scenario’s goal is the winner.

Escape: The Curse of the TempleEscape: The Curse of the Temple
Adventurers like Indiana Jones always seem to find themselves in a temple and need to escape or risk being trapped forever. Escape: The Curse of the Temple allows 1 to 5 players the chance to be an adventurer trying to get out of a temple before being locked inside forever.  Escape is a frantic dice-rolling game where players place tiles representing the temple and work together as a team to find the exit, discover enough green gems, and all exit the temple before the temple door shuts in the 10 minute time limit that the accompanying soundtrack provides. Each player starts with 5 dice and they all roll those dice simultaneously and as often as possible. Depending on the dice rolls players can reveal a new tile, enter a room, or discover gems. However, one cursed mask symbol on each of the die means that dice can no longer be rolled until a golden mask is rolled on another die to counteract the cursed mask. Other players can assist in freeing up a locked die by offering one of their rolled golden masks to another player as long as they share the same room tile. Play continues until the exit tile is revealed and hopefully at that point enough gems have been discovered to allow for players to get to the exit tile and roll enough keys to exit safely. If everybody can escape, the team wins. If just one member cannot escape, the team loses.

There are a two expansions available which add some new mechanics to the game, Escape: Illusions and Escape: Quests. Escape: Illusions adds some new chambers which can change the temple’s paths in mid-game and it also allows for a 6 player option. Escape: Quests adds unique character abilities and special quests that players need to complete before they can leave the temple. For experienced Escape players, these are nice expansions to further enhance game play but for new players it is best to stick with the base game initially and introduce the expansions later.

King of TokyoKing of Tokyo
For fans of giant monsters invading Tokyo and fighting each other, King of Tokyo brings that theme to life. King of Tokyo is a dice-rolling, Yahtzee style variant game where 2 to 6 players duke it out for the right to be crowned the “King of Tokyo.” Players roll 6 dice for up to 3 successive rolls and the die results will generate attacks, healing, power, or victory points. Power cubes, represented by green plastic cubes, can be accumulated and later spent on cards which allow players an extra ability or an effect to alter the game, hopefully, in their favor. Monsters battle each other for supremacy either until a monster reaches 20 victory points or all opposing monsters are defeated.

There are two expansions available for King of Tokyo. The first expansion is the King of Tokyo: Power Up! expansion which introduces a giant Panda monster and special powers, called Evolutions, for each monster that can be unlocked whenever a player ends their dice roll turn with 3 hearts. Some of these Evolutions are permanent powers and some are temporary but all will give a unique advantage to the specific monster. The second expansion is the King of Tokyo: Halloween expansion which introduces two new monsters and adds a new mechanic of costumes that can be worn by various monsters giving them unique abilities and effects. Of the two expansions, the Power Up! expansion is a must have to complement the base game while the Halloween expansion is a nice-to-have.

Ogre: Designer's EditionOgre: Designer’s Edition
For the ultimate in unique board game gifts for a board game nerd the designer’s edition of Ogre is sure to impress. The game box alone measures 24 by 20 by 6.75 inches and weighs over 25 pounds with all of the components inside. It takes roughly 4 hours to punch out the game pieces and assemble them.

Ogre is a 2 player tactical war game set in the late 21st Century between restructured areas known as Combine, Paneurope, China, and Nihon. In the game a massive robotic tank called an Ogre is played by one player trying to destroy the opponent’s command post. The designer’s edition also includes GEV terrain boards which adds more complexity to battles. If you are new to the game you can start with the basic scenario and move to the GEV terrain maps and rules later. Despite the large game board size and massive amount of components, the game play is actually quite simple.

Ogre: Designer’s Edition is quite a value for the game’s breadth at the $100 retail price. The biggest problem will be finding enough space to store the game because it will surely be one of the largest games in any board gamer’s collection.

A large Ogre box on my dining room table.

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