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Fanboy Comics’ Holiday Gift Guide 2015: Tabletop Games

The holiday season can be a stressful time of year. Amidst the craziness of booking flights to visit your family, preparing feasts, or simply maintaining your sanity while maneuvering holiday traffic, the last thing on your mind may be finalizing your holiday gift list. Fanboy Comics is here to help with the best recommendations for the must-play tabletop games from the year as suggested by our staff and contributors. Board and card games make a great gift for the geeks in your life, especially for the holidays where the requisite number of players is usually right around the corner. Whether competing against one another to unite the galaxy or working cooperatively to play a set of cards in the proper order, playing a game together is a great holiday event for the family. ~ Kristine Chester, Fanboy Comics Senior Contributor

Betrayal at the House on the Hill 2b1

Betrayal at House on the Hill
Publisher: Wizards of the Coast
Recommended by Ben Rhodes

If you have an hour to spend and three to six players (including yourself), Betrayal at House on the Hill is worth your time. Players take turns exploring a haunted house (on the hill), finding mysterious items and having disturbing encounters. Eventually, one of the players is revealed as a traitor (Even the traitor is surprised!), and the entire game changes. Now, the rest of the survivors work together to attempt to survive the house, traitor, and whatever foul creature(s) s/he has summoned. Every game plays out differently, with 50 possible and randomized scenarios and a board that the players build as they play. This is a bizarre blend of goofy and genuinely unsettling horror, which sets the stage for a wonderful narrative game. Your gaming group will love it.

Dark Stories 47b

Dark Stories
Publisher: Z-Man Games
Recommended by J.C. Ciesielski

Dark stories, not just for telling in the dark.

Dark Stories is a wonderfully morose game much like 20 Questions. The host reads off a one or two-sentence scenario, and it’s up to the players to decipher what can be a very complicated scenario. For players age 13 or over (Some of the scenarios can get “extra” dark.), the real fun is the infinite amount of players. The more deductions, the more fun for the group to play off of and build from other’s suggestions.

As described by publisher Z-Man, “Solve the puzzle! Ask questions, make guesses, and puzzle over these bizarre sequences of events as you reconstruct them piece by piece – alone or with friends. A creepy bit of fun that will quickly capture your imagination and spice up any party.” Another beautiful aspect is the ability for people to jump into the game whenever, so you don’t have to wait until the next round or game to get involved.

So, if you’re ready to be puzzled and intrigued, check out Dark Stories!

Fluxx c14

Publisher: Looney Labs
Recommended by Ben Rhodes

Fluxx is candy. Well, it is a card game for 2-6 players. Really, though, it is a fun, little game to play when you have limited time or between larger games. When you start, there is no way to win, but as you play, you add new rules, new goals, and watch as the game changes around you. The closest analogy I can think of is Calvinball. One turn, you will draw one card and play one card, and the next turn could see you drawing four cards and playing every card in your hand.

This is a wonderful, little game with more than a dozen themed versions that all have subtle (and unsubtle) changes to gameplay. You won’t spend a whole gaming session playing this, but it is a wonderful palate cleanser between longer games.

Hanabi 240

Publisher: Asmodee Editions
Recommended by Ben Rhodes

Hanabi is a cooperative card game that is surprisingly simple and fiendishly difficult.

2-5 players hold a hand of cards facing out, so you know what everyone else has in their hand, but not your own. The object is to play the cards in a specific order. On your turn, you may give limited information about another player’s hand, discard a card from your own, or play a card. Each has its risks, so communication and strategy are paramount.

I have played Hanabi with several different gaming groups, and every single time, we play it again. And, again. And, again. This is one of the most cost effective gaming gifts available.

Batman Love Letter a84

Love Letter: Batman Edition
Publisher: AEG
Recommended by J.C. Ciesielski

Holy Love Letter, Batman!

If you’ve never played the original Love Letter, not to worry, old chum. This is the same style gameplay, but you don’t need to worry about this being an expansion. This is its own game, and you play by Gotham rules.

Love Letter: Batman Edition is a game of risk, deduction, and luck for 2-4 players.

Earn Batman Tokens by eliminating opponents and by winning each round for a new spin on the classic Love Letter!

The most notorious villains in Gotham City have escaped Arkham Asylum, and it’s up to the Dark Knight to round them up and return them to their padded cells. If you’re a fan of quick-play card games that require some strategy or you’re just a Bathead, then this is a great game for you. Easy to pick up and play, and at only around $10, you can’t go wrong.

Quickly, to the Batmobile! A perfect game for the Robin in your life, too!

Star Trek Catan 628

Star Trek: Catan
Publisher: Mayfair Games
Recommended by Erik Cheski

To boldly settle where no sheep has gone before . . . okay, I just played Seafarer’s and made an empire out of three cities on a hot sheep tile and a long road to the 2:1 sheep trade, it was fun.

Anyway, I recently gave this licensed version a spin and I had whole lot of fun. The changes are mostly cosmetic, with Constitution-class starships replacing roads, outposts and starbases taking the place of settlements and cities, and you’re collecting dilithium, tritanium, oxygen, water, and food. The big gameplay changes are the character cards which grant special abilities that can change the balance of the game in fun and strategic ways. It took a bit of getting used to, but forcing trades and taking resources when you’d not otherwise get them gives people with less attractive placements a better edge into the game and allows for some crazy reversals.

The miniatures quality is pretty high, though a few ships were missing a nacelle here and there. It’s got enough new game mechanics to be worthwhile for Catan fans, and it makes good enough on the licensed property to bring Trekkers into the settling game.

Superfight 9b3

Publisher: Superfight Games
Recommended by Claire Thorne

Let me introduce you to my family’s latest party game addiction. Superfight, tagline “A Game of Absurd Arguments,” is a fast, fun, easy-to-play card game that will appeal to anyone with the desire to take over the world . . . or who just likes 100-story-tall, laser-shooting kittens.

Gameplay consists of 500 core deck cards that are split between characters and attributes (both strengths and weaknesses). From an initial draw of 3 characters and 3 attributes, each player attempts to create an invincible fighter from their hand, then debates their opponents to prove who is the biggest, strongest, and armed with the most terrible weapon. The group then votes on a victor.

The resulting duels are epically entertaining. Example: a Kindergarten class that breathes fire and is wearing jetpacks VS. a pirate swinging a shark on a chain while riding a Segway. (I’m voting for the Kindergarten class.)

Add on any of the numerous modifier decks and drastically change up the gameplay:

  • Challenge Deck – 100 Victory Conditions
  • Blue Deck – 100 Fight Locations
  • Orange Deck – 100 Geeky Cards
  • Red Deck – 100 Terrible & Offensive Cards
  • Green Deck – 100 Kid Friendly Cards
  • Walking Dead Deck – blood-splattered Walking Dead heroes, villains, locations, and scenarios!

Superfight comes with a basic rule sheet, as well as a variety of alternate rules such “Villain Battle,” “Battle Royale,” and “Pacifists.” We’ve found, however, that the game is infinitely adaptable to whatever rules your particular group of players wants to impose. Playing with younger players who are having difficulty debating winners and losers? Vote for the funniest combo instead. Having trouble keeping track of points? Abandon score-keeping altogether and just focus on the duel at hand.

The 500-card Core Deck is currently available at Amazon for $34.50; Modifier Decks are $15 apiece. Play more games!!




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