11 Ways to Tell You've Got a Gamer on Your Christmas List

Family-playing-board-game-007We understand that having a gamer in your life can lead to confusion during the holiday season. Chances are you've found yourself walking into a store, or looking at Web sites you never knew existed, and are wondering if someone is playing some sort of elaborate prank on you. So we've taken it upon ourselves to explain some of the oddities you might be experiencing this year with that gamer in your life, and hopefully make this a joyous and bright Christmas for all.

So here are 11 ways to tell if there is a gamer on your Christmas list, and a little help in figuring out what exactly it is they are talking about, or would like under the tree this year.

deck-components1—They keep talking about "Deck-Building" but you're pretty sure you've never seen them pick up a tool...ever.

It's okay, you're not imagining things. They do like to build decks, but they're not referring to an overgrown porch; they're talking about cards. Deck-building games are all the rage these days, and chances are your gamer likes them. Games to check out include: Dominion, Ascension, and the DC Comics Deck-Building Game. Here are some other deck builders!

2 —They appear to talk in a strange, secret language that mostly involves random letters and numbers : RPG, CCG, LCG, d12, d6, etc.

Most trades/vocations/sub-cultures have a certain vernacular, and gamers are no exception. Here's a few quick tips to help decipher this code: G = Game, C= Card, and d = die/dice. So in the examples above, we've referred to Role Playing Games, Collectible Card Games, Living Card Games, and 12- and 6-sided dice.

iron die3—They make your kids roll a d20 for initiative to see who gets to open the next present under the tree.

In this case, you've got a serious RPGer in your life (See #2). Sometimes a roll of the dice can be a non-objective way to resolve a dispute. Just don't let them get carried away with modifiers, or equipping support items and spells. If you want to get on your RPGer's good side, a nice custom or metal set of polyhedral dice should do the trick... Just don't ever touch them, and whatever you do, don't roll them! Ever!

4—They often refer to playing with a hidden identity, being a spy, and/or a werewolf.

Chances are they're talking about the last time they played The Resistance or Werewolf, or some other game that requires them to hide their identity from others in order to win. You shouldn't be too concerned, unless they start wearing dark sunglasses even at night. Or unless, of course, you find multiple counterfeit passports in their underwear drawer. You may want to look into the newest sensation in this genre, "Two Rooms and a Boom." You can't buy it yet, but you could print and cut the cards from the DIY print and play files. Anyone who's ever gone through that process will surely appreciate the thought AND the effort put into that gift!

plush log

5—They repeatedly refer to a certain group of people they keep calling "Settlers" and can't stop making "wood for sheep" jokes.

A word of warning here: (this may come off as snobbish) but if this describes a person you know, and they claim to be a gamer, you could be dealing with a poser here. Settlers of Catan, while a fine game in its own right, is just a few clicks up from Monopoly in the "Oh, I like board games... I've played..." category. Regardless, there are plenty of iterations, accessories, and Catan-themed gifts out there, to satisfy the unquenchable thirst of any die hard Settlers fan.

6—They measure everything in mm (millimeters).

Looks like you've got a real miniatures/wargame fanatic on your hands. You've no doubt seen them more than once with their nose deeply inserted into a 2 inch—errrr...make that 5.08 mm manual for games like Warhammer 40K (pronounced 4DK for some reason), or hunched over a table meticulously painting the highlights into every knuckle  of their Eldar Bowman's fingers, or writing thesis-length back-stories for why that particular figure has a small grass stain on its left knee. You may consider getting this gamer some art supplies, like nice model paint, or fine-point paintbrushes. Or some financial counseling so they can move out of your basement.

warhammer_fb_larp_russia_by_ghunnar-d4t4uau7—They spend countless hours constructing foam weaponry and mastering their dueling skills.

These are classic tell-tale signs of a LARPer. (We'll help you out: "Live Action Role Player.") This form of gaming takes the stakes to a completely higher level by adding in actual, physical activity to the gaming experience. Many folks who LARP can be found in the woods on weekends camping out, battling nasty orcses, and looking rather stylish while doing it. LARPers generally appreciate any accessory, medieval garb, or foam weaponry that would go well with their character's taste or clan's colors. If you want to be more practical, some camping gear, and bug spray (aka magical mist of repulsion), comes in handy, too. A word of warning: Do not attempt to go all Pinterest and make your LARPer some "snazzy" cardboard weapons or armor; such things are frowned upon by this crowd.

8—They're always discussing "Streamlined Mechanics" but the guy who works on your car is some clumsy dude named Bill.

In the gaming world the term mechanic is used to describe the way a game plays, the actions a player can do on a turn, and the way game pieces or cards interact with each other in a game. Streamlined mechanics are a way of referring to a game that is simple to play and learn, without a lot of in-depth mechanics, or actions to slow the game play down. If your gamer is into games that are streamlined, you might want to check out some simple, but fun, games like Council of Verona, or Coup. Find Coup online here.

ZombieMeeples1a9—They have a mega hypochondriac obsession with the Measles. 

They're not obsessed with the Measles; they're saying Meeples. Meeple has been slowly usurping the terms Token and Pawn for some time now. A standard Meeple is essentially a wooden representation of a person. But of late we've seen everything from Truck-eeples (in The Great Heartland Hauling Co.) to Canoe-eeples (in Paradise Fallen) to awesome monster-eeples and adventurer-eeples (in Dungeon Heroes) and even Lincoln-eeples (albeit hat-less ones, in Pixel Lincoln). If your gamer likes trinkets and such, any of the games we just mentioned will add some unique Meeples to their collection. You can also find tons of customized/painted Meeples on sites like Etsy and Ebay.

10—They don't work in HR, but they're constantly bringing up "Worker Placement."

Worker Placement is an increasingly popular game mechanic (see #8) that involves placing Meeples into certain areas of a game board to perform a certain task or gain a resource to hurtle you toward victory. If you've got a worker-placement fan, they probably already have Agricola or Stone Age, but they'd love a copy of T'zolk'in or Viticulture to add to their collection. Get Tzolik'in here.

POLLOCK_1950_Lavender_Mist11—They repeatedly confess their LOVE of abstracts, but they've said they think Jackson Pollock is a hack.

While this may seem confusing, we're unfazed by this apparent dichotomy. Abstracts are once again a specific genre of games that are, well...non-specific. They usually involve moving random pieces around on a board until someone wins for whatever reason. Very rarely do they have a theme or any sort of story-driven explanation as to why you're doing what you're doing, but they are also generally highly strategic. If this describes the games your gamer is into, go grab a copy of The Duke, RIGHT NOW! Find it online, right here!

We certainly hope that this list has been both entertaining and helpful to you. If there's something we didn't cover, let us know down in the comments!

Don't forget to sign up on the right to receive our posts via email and check us out on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube. You can also download our monthly Podcast on iTunes!

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Kickstarter Weekly—Oct. 9, 2013

Hey gang! We apologize that we haven't been bringing our usual steady flow of content the past 10 days or so, but life has been a little topsy-turvy for us—but we're getting our ducks back in their rows. In the meantime here's a look at some projects over on Kickstarter we think you should take a look at!

Featured Campaign!

Star RealmsStar Realms - Robert Dougherty

Star Realms is a pet project of Rob Dougherty and Darwin Kastle, two highly acclaimed MTG tournament winners. Star Realms is a 2-player deck-builder that is expandable to multi-player just by adding another deck for each 2 players who want to join the game. Unlike most deck-builders this one is a head-to-head combat style of game: less purchasing of Duchies, and more slugging it out.

It's way easy to get into at $15 for one deck (2-player version) but for an extra $10 you get a bunch of cool promos and freebies thrown at you! You can check out the full campaign, right here, and you have until Nov. 2 to get in on this one!


Castle RisingCastle Rising - Lost Games Entertainment

A very slick-looking strategic and economic board game. Players will seek to create the most prosperous kingdom, by building structures, training units, and gathering resources. The funding goal is pretty low on this one and they're already over half way there!

It's a little pricey to get in on this one if you're in the US because they're shipping from the UK; a pledge of $66 USD gets you the game, and you have until Oct. 26 to check out the campaign here.

PandantePandante - David Sirlin

Gambling - Lying - Pandas. In this amalgamation of poker and liar's dice, players play a poker-type game in which everyone lies about their hand. If no one calls them out on it, their hand is what they say it is.

A pledge of $35 gets you the basic version, and there is a deluxe version that runs $250! The campaign ends Nov. 7, and you can check it out here.


Sneak Preview!

Monsters and MaidensMonsters & Maidens - Clever Mojo Games

In a game for players 8 and up, this dice-rolling press-your-luck game looks like dicey fun for the family!

A pledge of $15 will score you a copy of the game, and the campaign (although not yet live) can be found right here!


Thanks as always for reading! We hope to hear from you out there on the internets - Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and our Podcast!

Are you backing any of these games? Are there any out there we're missing out on!?

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Blogiversary Giveaway #3!

We've definitely had a lot of fun the first two weeks of this month, giving away some great games to our great readers. It's like Christmas in July here on TOG, and we're loving it! This week is no different, and we are beyond excited about the game we're giving away! Well, what is it?

This week we're partying, like a boss.

A Boss Monster that is!!

That's right: This week's giveaway is a free copy of the Kickstarter smash hit Boss Monster: The Dungeon Building Card Game!

In December we interviewed the guys of Brotherwise, creators of Boss Monster, and they have joined in the party this month and generously supplied us with this copy to give away as a part of our month-long blogiversary celebration!bossmonster So, how do you enter to win this prestigious award? It's simple: Just subscribe to the blog, and you're in! Already subscribed to the blog? Well, you're in!

While it's not required, we would appreciate it if you shared this post with your friends, family and all those folks you have contact with via social media! We're super excited to be able to give away all of these great games this month, and the more you share our contests with your social circles, the more prizes we'll be able to give away!

There is a little bit of fine print: Once again we can not offer this to folks who live outside of the US or Canada. All of our funds are going towards producing the new podcast, and can't squeeze the extra funds to ship the boss too far.

You can order a copy of Boss Monster right now, right here. And it will be on store shelves the week of July 29. Or you can enter here to win it a few days early from us right here at TOG! You can find out all things Brotherwise at bwisegames.com

Thanks so much for reading our blog; it truly is awesome that you read, and we hope you understand that giving away a few games every now and then is just a very small way of showing how much we appreciate your readership!!

Don't forget to check us out on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube. And don't forget to subscribe!!!

An Interview With Kyle Gabhart, Designer of Arctic Scavengers!

ArcticToday’s interview is with Robert K. Gabhart (but he goes by Kyle), designer of Arctic Scavengers—the very first deck-building game to come out after that...other...mildly popular one. We’re super excited he agreed to answer some questions from us. And awaaaaay we go! Tell us a little about yourself.

Well, I’m a Pisces; I enjoy candlelight dinners, and long walks on the beach.

 You’re from Texas. My (Firestone) wife is, too. Why are you people so stinking obnoxious about being Texans?

Never ask a man if he’s from Texas, because if he is, then he’ll come right out and tell you.  And if he’s not…well, why embarrass him?

The truth is that Texans are a proud bunch because we have just a little bit more awesome inside of us than anyone else seems to have. We have our own electric grid, we are the only state that gets to fly our flag at the same height as the US flag, and we only remain in the union out of pity for the rest of you.

So, Arctic Scavengers: Were you working on a deck-building game before Dominion came out? Or was it designed after you played Dominion? Tell us the design story of Arctic Scavengers.

So Dominion was only the 5th designer board game that was even introduced to me.  A buddy introduced me to the hobby in November of 2008.  My initial games included: San Juan, Ra, Pandemic, Manila, and Dominion.  Dominion particularly piqued my interest.

The truth is that the winter of 2008 / 2009 was a very difficult one for me.  For years I struggled with chronic, severe back pain and then in December of 2009 I was diagnosed with Ankylosing Spondylitis (AS, a rare form of arthritis that is similar to Rheumatoid Arthritis). That led to a bit of depression and an intense need to pour myself into something.  So I poured myself into creating a euro-ish game set in Feudal Japan.  That was in January 2009.  Then in February, after several games of back-to-back Dominion, it dawned on me that Dominion could really benefit from a more tightly woven theme and more direct player interaction.  Starting at 11:00pm one night, I proceeded to work on the core mechanics and structure of Arctic Scavengers (AS) in a marathon design session consisting of pencil and note cards.  By 7:00am the next morning I had the bulk of what became the base game.  Roughly 70% of what went into the base AS game was designed during that initial night of crazed inspiration.

What made you decide to self-publish the 1st edition?

I wanted to see the game come to light sooner rather than later and I didn’t have any existing connections in the industry.  I looked around at a few publishers and no one really seemed very eager to accept design submissions, so I figured I would just go ahead and do it myself.

ArcticCardsWe noticed that the Rio Grande Games version includes the HQ expansion. What does that add to the game?

The HQ expansion really opens up the play possibilities.  There are Tribal Leaders, which grant unique player powers (The Cannibal eats tribe members for food, The Mentor can use a Refugee to modify any action, and The Organizer has a special draw action), Buildings (Bunker, Hydroponic Garden, Armory, and Pharmacy) that the Engineer mercenary can construct back at your base to enable hand management, A Medic mercenary that enables you to acquire medicine through hunting and serves as a counter to Sniper Team attacks, and there are gangs that bestow end-game points based upon accumulating certain resources.

How has your faith affected your journey as a game designer?

Interesting question. Game design is a creative activity driven by passion, and it borders on being a spiritual experience for me. I have been blessed with an immense passion for games and with a spark of creativity and wonder. As for the game design journey itself, my faith has helped me to not sweat the small stuff and leave the process of how and when things unfold in the far more capable hands of my Lord and savior. His timing is perfect and his perspective is far broader and more informed than my own. Things will happen when they need to happen, and in a way that is far more awesome than they would if it were all up to me. This awareness frees me from a lot of the stress and anxiety that could potentially exist as a game designer and publisher.

Do you have a game group you play with regularly? (Besides your wife and 6(!) kids, of course.) Which recent game has come out of left field and surprised you with how good it is?

I try to get over to the Dallas Games Marathon as often as I can.  Usually that is once every couple of months.  I also have a couple of guys that I collaborate with on game designs. Finally, my wife and I host a game night at our house several times a year. So I wouldn’t say that I have a regular group, but I do find lots of opportunities to play games. That having been said, it is true that I have probably logged more games of Zombie Dice, Martian Dice, San Juan, and Pandemic than most of the designers of those games. These are favorites of my family and so we play them an inordinate amount of time.

What are your five favorite games—and what do you love about them?

The Resistance – Bluffing, acting, and shifting alliances

Galaxy Trucker – Controlled chaos

Agricola – Farming and making babies

Tichu – Wishes, Dragons, and Bombs

Arctic Scavengers – They put my name on the box!!!

So do you have any upcoming designs you can share with us?

I have a game that I designed a month BEFORE Arctic Scavengers that is just waiting to see the light of day.  It has a euro-style economic engine and victory point system with an American-style combat system. It’s set in Feudal Japan and manages to fit into the 60-90 minute window.  It’s called Kingdoms of Rice, has absolutely STUNNING artwork, and will be Kickstarted (Lord willing) this summer.

One-Word Answer Questions! (Short phrases are allowed if necessary)

Favorite Pixar movie? KnickKnack

Favorite Dr. Who episode? When?

Favorite comedian? Louis CK

If you were one of the Three Amigos, which one would you be? Martin

Favorite Proverb? Proverbs 27:14

Thanks so much, Kyle! Go check out his game—it's a solid addition to the deck-building genre! Thanks for reading! And make sure you check us out on Twitter, Facebook, and now Instagram!

Come on Ride the Trains!

Trains3Dbox1-271x300Alderac Entertainment Group, which has recently been dominating our posts, is at it again with some big news today. This coming summer they will be releasing the long-awaited US edition of Trains. Trains was a surprise Essen success—selling out on the first day—and gamers have been clamoring for another printing ever since! From the AEG Website: "This English edition of Trains, designed by Hisashi Hayashi, features updated graphics, artwork, and streamlined card abilities. With extensive replay value, Trains is one game you won’t want to leave the station without!"

They've also posted the complete rulebook for your reading pleasure.

Thanks for reading our blog, we love it when you tell your friends, families, heck...even your enemies about us! Don't forget the Facebooky, Twitter things!

Presidential Meeples!

So, a few months ago we reviewed a great little deck builder of presidential proportions called Pixel Lincoln. They're plugging away on production and unfortunately we don't have a release date to report. But they did leak out a photo of the production sample Lincoln Meeples on their Kickstarter page, and I have to say they look AWESOME! Lincoln Meeples - 3 centimeters tall, by 2 centimeters wide

When we reviewed the game it was a print on demand prototype version so we had to use our own tokens to mark our movement in the game.  And a game like this, while it doesn't rely solely on ascetics, it certainly was born of a theme, and having a glimpse of the meeples we can see how they're going to add to the game play experience!

We interviewed Jason Tagmire and President P. Lincoln last year, and you can read it here!

You can also read our full review of Pixel Lincoln here!

And you can check out the Pixel Lincoln website and pre-order your copy right here!

Thanks for reading! Check us out on Twitter, like us on Facebook, and be sure to answer our question of the day! 

4 Score and 8 Bits Ago - A Pixel Lincoln Review

- by Jeremiah A few weeks ago we interviewed Jason Tagmire, the mastermind behind the eagerly awaited Pixel Lincoln, the sidescrolling, deck-builder of presidential proportions. Shortly after the interview we were sent a prototype copy of the game to review, so here it is, our review of Pixel Lincoln.

The Setup - The setup of the game is unlike most deckbuilders. Instead of simply creating a pool of cards that you'll choose from, you're also deciding which baddies you'll face. The game consists of two levels, each level consists of a deck of cards that includes items, secret items, enemies, characters, checkpoints, a mini boss, and a boss. Once you've compiled your two levels the decks are set to the right and the first five cards are revealed making a row from left to right. Players then choose which level they will start on by placing their Lincoln meeple to the left of the first card of the level. Players are then given a starting deck of 10 cards (five starting movements, and five starting weapons), and a player # card with 2 life cards that are placed underneath it; then each person shuffles their decks, draw 5 cards from it, and the game begins.

Game Play - On a turn players decide whether to use their cards in one of two ways: by equipping them, or using them for money. If the card is equipped, the player gains the attack power, the action/movement, or special ability of the card. If they choose to spend money, they gain the money value of the card. By spending money you can collect a card in your level that is a movement or item/weapon and add it to your deck. By equipping weapons or movements you can defeat or jump over enemies as you move through the level. Defeating an enemy places that card in a score pile, and usually triggers a favorable action for the player who defeated it... Usually. Players move along the level, and as soon as one player's Lincoln makes it to the level's draw deck, any cards that are behind all of the players in that level are discarded. The leftover cards are moved back, and more cards are then revealed. This accurately and nostalgically represents the side-scrolling of those great video games we grew up with.

End Game - As you hit the three checkpoints in each level, they trigger certain game effects. Each checkpoint allows players a few options, such as drawing an extra card, exiting the level, or culling a card to their score pile. When the second checkpoint is reached, it's replaced with a mini boss, and when the third checkpoint is reached it's replaced by a boss. Defeating the boss on each level ends the game. Players then count their scores.

Winning the Game - Each card has a point value in the lower right-hand corner, as well as a suit along the bottom left. At the end of the game players count up their score from the score pile, as well as their player deck. If they've collected characters along the way, and if they have cards that match the required suits, those characters will also award additional points. This works well because players who don't beat the bosses still have a good fighting chance to win the game!

My Thoughts - What a fun romp! The feeling of actually playing an Old School side-scroller is seamlessly fused with the deck-building mechanics of some of today's great games. Pixel Lincoln manages to bring together some of the best elements of my present day pasttime and my youthful social awkwardness!

The art and universe of the game are unique, original, and full of quirks. It seems completely normal that President Lincoln would be battling puking turtles, luchadors, plague doctors, and laser sharks, with weapons like chicken cannons, sausage link whips, and beardarangs. I mean...why not? The full version of the game includes a level editor, which should be very, very handy. One playthrough we noticed that the two levels weren't very balanced, and if you were stuck in level two, all the good cards were going to the players in level one. I also see a lot of room for expansion in this game; I would love to see more, and different types of, abilities and triggered effects on the enemy cards as they are defeated. At the end of the day, Pixel Lincoln is not the most strategic of card games, which levels the playing field in a way—players are at the mercy of the levels and the cards they have at hand. But it's still fun to play! Here's to hoping you've got enough fire power, because don't look now, that luchador is throwing a hot dog with the works at you!

You can now pre-order your very own copy of Pixel Lincoln right here.

Thanks for reading!