Holiday Gift Guide #3: Those Glorious Games!

Geek Culture Gift Guide Hacking the Holidays Tabletop Games Videogames

Whether they are composed of cardboard or put together with pixels, we love games. They have a way of challenging us and of bringing us together. Read on to find our favorite games of the past year, according to Jenny Williams, Z, Jonathan Liu, Tony Sims, and me. And, if you missed it, check our previous guides for our picks for toys and books.


12 Days Card Game
When it comes to tabletop games, the holiday season is seriously overlooked as a theme, even though it’s a time when many families get together … and play tabletop games. 12 Days is a holiday-themed, fast-playing, family-friendly, trick-taking card game designed by James Ernest & Mike Selinker and gorgeously illustrated by Echo Chernik. Get a jump on your friends and find a copy now, they’ll be hard to find when the game appears on an upcoming episode of TableTop. Available at your friendly local game store, buy it at Amazon, or through DriveThru Cards. (DB)


Mensa Mind Game Winning Tabletop Games
Every year, Mensa holds a weekend contest rating submitted tabletop games to see which five will receive the coveted Mensa Select seal for that year. This year’s winners contain some well known titles, and some more obscure ones. Any would be a great gift idea for the game lover on your shopping list. Read my rundown of the games to learn more and for purchase links. (JW)


Super Mario 3D World
Combining the addictive local multiplayer of the New Super Mario Bros. series with the free-roaming depth of Super Mario 3D Land, Super Mario 3D World is the must-own Wii U title of the season. With each playable character boasting slightly different speed/jumping capabilities a la Super Mario Bros. 2 and new power-ups like the Cat Suit and Double Cherry, it’s an undeniable blend of old school charm and new school design. Solid GamePad support, bonus modes and an inspired use of transparent pipes – which help keep the charming visuals at the forefront – all combine to make SM3DW an undeniable hit. [Review and promotional materials provided by: Nintendo of America] (Z.)


Pathfinder Adventure Card Game
The Pathfinder Adventure Card Game is a great blend of RPG and cards, letting you and up to five friends journey through the Pathfinder storyline, no DM required. As you play, your heroes level up and you can acquire better items, weapons, and spells. A series of 6 planned Adventure Decks (the first comes in the base set) gives you about 30 scenarios to tackle. Whether you’ve got six players (with the optional Character Add-On Deck) or a party of one, the Pathfinder ACG is an adventure worth having. Read the full review here. Buy it from Amazon, or get a subscription from Paizo. (JL)


Rocksmith 2014 Edition
Called “The fastest way to learn guitar,” this new version of Rocksmith claims to teach the player how to play real guitar in 60 days. While I cannot attest to that – yet – it is a ton of fun! I have been playing with it now for about 20 days and I do know the correct basics of guitar and I have never played a real one before. The game comes with tabs that when placed on a real electric guitar and hooked to the game console, turns the guitar into the controller for the game. The games play like regular music based games, but instead of basically learning glorified air guitar, the player is playing real guitar and learning how to play at the same time. Fun AND educational – how is that for a gift? Buy the Rocksmith 2014 Edition at Amazon. (TS)


PlayStation 4
The new consoles are out and, in our family, we chose to switch sides by giving up our old XBox and going with the PlayStation 4. While the two major consoles are similar in hardware power, we like that the PS4 integrates seamlessly with our Vita and is $100 cheaper than the XBox One. As for the other overly-promoted living room features like streaming Hulu, Netflix, Amazon, YouTube, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera, we can’t be bothered to care — we already have half a dozen devices that already do this. We just want to play games. They are very popular and tough to find right now, but try to buy it at Amazon or check out our favorite family-friendly launch title. (DB)


A board game that comes out again and again, both for people who love history and trivia and those who don’t, Chronology is a card game where everyone creates their own timeline of events through history. When were the Boy Scouts founded? What year was paper invented? Especially good for groups of four or more people, this game is relatively quick and everyone comes away learning something. Buy it at Amazon! (JW)

20 Express20 Express
It might not look like much at first glance, but 20 Express is a blast to play, and works with any number of players. You draw number tiles out of a bag, and everyone writes the numbers down on their train sheet, trying to get chains of numbers that go up and not down. The longer the chain, the more points you get. Extremely quick to teach and play, and everyone will be clamoring to try just one more time. Read the full review here. Buy it from Amazon. (JL)


The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds
A follow-up to SNES favorite A Link to the Past, The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds is the top-down adventure your 3DS has been craving. Smartly implemented 3D visuals showcase the vibrant dungeon environments of Hyrule and its dark analogue, and Link’s ability to flatten himself to a two-dimensional drawing only enhances the already polished puzzle-solving. A rental system that makes all your favorite items available early on and Play Coin-based hints further allow the player to set the pace of the action and tweak the overall difficulty, making it a good fit for gamers young and old. [Review and promotional materials provided by: Nintendo of America] (Z.)

Maximum throwdownMaximum Throwdown
Maximum Throwdown is a different sort of dexterity game. Instead of flicking things around a table or balancing blocks, you throw cards, trying to cover up your opponents’ cards while revealing points-scoring icons on your own cards. It’s like a extreme macho version of Flowerfall (also a great game). Read the full review here. Buy it from Amazon. (JL)

The Extraordinaires open

The Extraordinaires
Both a game and a learning experience, The Extraordinaires is an inventing game, where players design inventions for specific kinds of people and specific needs. Can be played alone, or in a group. Creativity and out of the box thinking are useful in this game. It is available on the Extraordinaires website. (JW)

Photo: Jonathan H. Liu

It’s not out for another couple of weeks, but Rampage was one of the runaway hits of GenCon and a personal favorite. You and three others play as monsters destroying a city. It’s a dexterity game where you throw trucks, hurl and eat meeples, and attack your opponents with your monster breath. It is outrageous fun and sure to be a very popular game. Pre-order it now at Amazon. (DB)


A budget-priced system that offers all the functionality of its big brother the 3DS/3DS XL — save, of course, the 3D visuals — Nintendo’s new 2DS is the ideal handheld for those looking for an easy, affordable way to make the jump into current gen portable gaming. Available in a pair of striking two-tone designs (with matching cases), the 2DS is a solid new addition to Nintendo’s long dominant handheld lineup that makes a great gift for gamers of any age. [Review and promotional materials provided by: Nintendo of America] (Z.)

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