2013 Holiday Gift Guide—Stocking Stuffers

coupcoverThis section of of our Holiday Gift Guide is for small games that can fit inside a stocking. Most of them fall into the "filler" category, but some of them have deep gameplay that belies their simple packaging.

HeartlandThe Great Heartland Hauling Company—Breaker, Breaker! Welcome to America’s heartland. It’s time to grab your trucker hat and hit the open road. In The Great Heartland Hauling Co., players will travel the heartland picking up cargo and selling it for profit. Clever design and great thematic gameplay! It's between printings right now, but you can preorder from the Dice Hate Me Games Web site.

MSRP: $20

Ages: Box say 8 and up, but we've both played this with younger kids.

Review: http://wp.me/p2hTk7-A5

ThrowdownCoverMaximum Throwdown—In Jason Tagmire's card-flinging free-for-all players choose a team (deck of cards). Then they start throwing down... Literally. Each card has special icons that either score points or give special powers to the player who threw them, but if someone covers your cards you lose those powers and points! A fun and unique card game for all!

MSRP: $19.99 (Find it online)

Ages: The box says 12 and up, but that seems way high. Should be fine with 8-year-olds and up.

qwixxdicetowerQwixx—This is a wonderful, fast, easy-to-explain dice game that's completely portable. It's a great filler, and would definitely work with nongamers. We've even played with my 5-year-old. Don't hesitate to pick this up.

MSRP: $11.95

Ages: 8 and up, though younger should work fine with just a little coaching.

Review: http://wp.me/p2hTk7-SG

coupcoverCoup—Coup just came out in a retail release. And you should buy it. There's so much bluffing in this game. So much intrigue. So much awesomeness. The actor Wil Wheaton even encouraged readers of his blog to read MY review of the game.

MSRP: $14.99 (Find it online)

Ages: 10 and up.

Review: http://wp.me/p2hTk7-EP

HanabiHanabi—This is on my (Firestone) short list for Game of the Year; it would easily fit on the Gamers' Game list, but is here based on size. You have a hand of cards that you only point away from you. The other players are trying to give you clues about your hand, while trying to figure out clues about their own. And the whole point is to lay down cards in the various colors, in numerical order. It's fantastic.

MSRP: $10.95 (Find it online)

Ages: 8 and up

Review: http://wp.me/p2hTk7-RH

veronaCouncil of Verona—The first title in Crash Games' Pub Series, a series of games that can be played anywhere. Council of Verona packs lots of game play into a tiny box. It features a good deal of bluffing and intrigue. And fits nicely into any gamer's stocking!

MSRP: $14.99 (Find it online)

Ages: 13 and up

duke expansionThe Duke: Robert E. Howard Expansion Pack

If you're gamer doesn't have The Duke, you should seriously go buy them a copy... Like right now. And what would be a better addition to that game, and a perfect stocking stuffer than a sweet four tile expansion pack featuring the legendary characters from the work of Robert E. Howard!? That's right you can bring Kull, Soloman Kane, and even Conan the Barbarian to fight along side your Duke and hack and slash your way to victory!

MSRP: $9.95 (Find it online)

Ages: 13 and up

Review: (of the Duke) http://wp.me/p2hTk7-122

12 days12 Days

A card game that has an obvious holiday theme, so it seems obligatory that we should add it to the list of  games that should be stuck in stockings! 12 Days was also JUST featured on the latest episode TableTop featuring geek hero Wil Wheaton, if you want to see it being played, click here (Just be aware they use a lot of cuss words -that are mostly bleeped out- on the show)

MSRP: $15.95 (Find it online)

Ages: 8 and up

Stay tuned for our final entry: The Gamers' Games! Thanks for reading!

Qwixx—A Review of the Spiel des Jahres Nominee


By Firestone There were three games on the nominee list for the German Game of the Year award (or Spiel des Jahres). We reviewed the eventual winner, Hanabi, last week. But what about the others? Well I don't know anyone who owns Augustus, so we might not get to that one for a while. But I did manage to snag a copy of the third nominee—Qwixx. Was this dice-fest deserving of a nomination? Should it have won? Let's find out!


Designer: Steffan Benndorf

Play time: 15 minutes

Number of players: 2-5

Recommended age: 8 and up—but I've played it a 5-year-old who can hold his own with some coaching.


6 standard 6-sided dice: 2 white, 1 blue, 1 yellow, 1 green, and 1 red.

1 score pad



Each person grabs one sheet from the score pad, and then you choose a start player. Easy, innit?!



Before we did into gameplay, I need to explain the scorepad, since that's where the game really happens. As you can see from the image, the numbers move from left to right, with red and yellow going from 2 to 12, and green and blue going from 12 to 2. As the game progresses, you'll be crossing off these numbers. The kicker in this game is that once you cross off a number, you can only move to the right to cross off subsequent numbers. So if you start with a yellow 4, say, you'll never be able to go back and cross off 2 and 3. You can always skip numbers, too, so you could cross off 4, and then 6 in a later turn—but you're never crossing off that 5.

On a person's turn, he or she rolls all of the dice, and announces the sum of the two white dice aloud (or everyone can simply look at those dice...). Everyone in the game can then take that number as a "wild" color and cross off the corresponding number in any available color. It's completely optional. Then the active player can choose one of the white die and pair it with one of the colored die to create a "color number" he or she can use to cross off on the sheet. So the active player will be able to cross off up to two numbers, and each other player will have the option to cross off one number.

If you are unable—or unwilling—to cross off at least one number on your turn, you have to check one of the four boxes on the lower right of the core sheet. These are Failure boxes, and are each worth -5 points at the end of the game.


If you have at least five numbers already crossed off in a color, you are allowed—any time you roll the correct number–to cross off the rightmost number, and then the lock symbol next to it. This locks that color, and you remove the corresponding color die from the game. The game continues until either two of the colors are locked, or one person fills in all four of their Failure boxes, in which case the game ends immediately.

The scoring based on how many numbers you've crossed off in each color, not the value of the numbers. One is worth 1Vp, two is worth 2 VPs, three is worth 6, four is worth 10, and so on... You add up the positive, subtract five for each Failure, and the winner is the person with the highest score!

The Verdict

Look, there aren't huge, strategic decisions to be made here. It's a filler, and a family game—that's why it was up for the Family Game of the Year Award! I like that there's something to do on everyone's turn—and that he decision on other people's turns is actually important. You can just blindly cross off the number on your pad that matches what was just rolled. But will that limit you when it's your turn, and force you to possibly take a Failure? Small decisions, but decisions nonetheless. Yes, it has dice and luck, but it manages the luck in an interesting way.

My family likes the game quite a bit—even my wife! The boys especially love rolling the dice into my dice tower. The 5-year-old still needs some help making decisions about whether to cross something off, but he's still able to play just fine. And after one game he knew how to start counting up his score and putting the correct number in the correct box.

My gamer friends liked it, too—even the ones who hate dice! It's a filler game that's truly filler length; this will be in my game tub for a long, long time.

If I had one complaint it's that there's only one score pad in the box, when it would clearly fit two. Yes, this would increase the cost, but you're already charging me ~12 for six dice and a score pad—I think you can throw another pad in...



Put It on the Table! This game would work with any group: kids, family, youth group, nongamers, and gamers. It's very cheap, and there's no reason not to have a copy of this at every game night.

The Final Verdict

This has been a hit with every group I've played it with. It's cheap, fast, portable, and fun. Pick up a copy!

Spiel des Jahres 2013—And the Winner Is...

HanabiBy Firestone The winners of the coveted Spiel des Jahres (Game of the Year) and Kennerspiel des Jahres (Gamers' Game of the Year) have been announced. To celebrate, let's set off some fireworks...

In a delightfully surprising move, Hanabi won the SdJ award—the other nominees were Qwixx and Augustus. Hanabi is a co-op card game where you're trying to put on the best fireworks display. It's also one of my favorite games of the last year.

The Kennerspiel award is for a deeper game, though it's still aimed at families, so it kind of straddles the line between light and meaty. Winner Legends of Andor is als0 a co-op game—but one I've not yet played. The other nominees were The Palaces of Carrara and Bruges—I've played Bruges and it's a solid middle-weight Feld game.

Keep an eye out for our review of Hanabi later this week! And we'll have a Bruges review up soon, too. Thanks for reading, and make sure you sign up to follow the blog via email----->. This week we're giving away a copy of Sunrise City from Clever Mojo Games!

Award Announcements: The Spiel des Jahres, Kennerspiel des Jahres, and Kinderspiel des Jahres

By Firestone

HanabiThe biggest awards in boardgaming were announced today.

First up is the big one: The Spiel des Jahres, which is the German game of the year. This is a highly sought-after prize, as a win here can mean big sales—look at Ticket To Ride!

There are only three nominees:

Qwixx, by Stefen Benndorf

Augustus, by Paolo Mori

Hanabi, by Antoine Bauza

I've played Hanabi, and it's terrific.

They also released a list of "recommended games"—kind of a consolation list of games they think you still ought to play.

Libertalia, by Paolo Mori

Divinare, by Brett Gilbert

Hand auf Herz, by Julien Sentis

Escape: The Curse of the Temple, by Kristian Amundsen Østby

La Boca, by Inka and Markus Brand

Riff Raff, by Christoph Cantzler

Rondo, by Reiner Knizia

Mixtour, by Dieter Stein

Yay!, by Heinz Meister

I've played Escape: The Curse of the Temple, and Libertalia, and the latter is one of my favorite games of last year.

BrugesThe Kennerspiel award is for more complex, gamers'-type games. The nominees are:

Bruges, by Stefan Feld

Legends Of Andor, by Michael Menzel

The Palaces of Carrara, by Wolfgang Kramer and Michael Kiesling

I've played none of these. The recommended games for this category are:

Terra Mystica, by Jens Drögeüller and Helge Ostertag

Tzolk'in, by Simone Luciani and Daniele Tascini

I've played Tzolk'in, and you can check out my review of it.

And finally, the Kinderspiel des Jahres—the children's game of the year—nominees:

Mucca Pazza, by Iris Rossbach

Gold am Orinoko, by Bernhard Weber

Der Verzauberte Turm, by Inka and Markus Brand

And the recommended games:

Kakerlakak, by Peter-Paul Joopen

Kuddelmuddel, by Haim Shafir and Günter Burkhardt

Move & Twist, by Kerstin Wallner and Klaus Miltenberger

Pingi Pongo, by Peter Neugebauer

Bim Bamm!, by Lukas Zach and Michael Palm

Baobab, by Josep Maria Allué

Linus, der Kleine Magier, by Wolfgang Dirscherl

Mix Fix, by Andrew Lawson and Jack Lawson

Madagascar Catan Junior, by Klaus Teuber

Star Wars—Battle Of Hoth, by Bastiaan Brederode and Cephas Howard

I've played none of these...

Which ones have you played? Were there any glaring omissions in the nominees? Which ones do you think will win?

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