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Table Top Tuesday: Writer’s Choice Holiday Buys 2011

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Seafarers' Christmas Gifts

Every Tuesday, Piki Geek partners with Play Unplugged to bring you a quick look at all the kinds of gaming that won’t give you arthritis in 20 years. Board games, card games, miniatures, table top RPGs – TTT’s got you covered.

It’s the holiday season! No matter what you celebrate, chances are if you’re reading this there’s a tabletop gamer in your life that you need to purchase a gift for. I asked Play Unplugged’s writers to share their number one tabletop gaming gift picks for the 2011 holiday season.

Here’s what we chose.

Mike Eaton – Ultra-Pro Play Mat/OOP Card Packs

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The season of giving is upon us – and if you want to get something for the Magic player in your life, I suggest a play mat. Find out what colors or cards your loved one enjoys, and look for an appropriate rubber-and-cloth mat. I never thought I would like them, but it’s a convenient way to keep all your cards in your own space at a crowded table, and, if you don’t keep all your decks sleeved, to protect them from the rigors of play! Also, if you happen to find an Ultra-Pro play mat that you know that special person will enjoy, there are often related card sleeves that match that design.

Another great gift idea for the Magic player in your life is a few older packs from a beloved era. If you know someone with a favorite card set from years ago (like, say,Tempest for me), and you manage to find a few remaining packs for a decent price (which won’t happen for Tempest – alas!), show him or her that you remember! A lot of gamers love nostalgia, and no matter what they pull from those old packs, they’ll find it a thoughtful gift. Also, if there’s a retro card game that person used to play that isn’t in print anymore, pick up an old pack as a stocking stuffer.

What might be really fun for all, if you have the time, would be to make a gift basket with a play mat, enough related sleeves for a 60-card deck, and a mix of old and new packs of cards – and stuff it with tissue paper for the recipient’s favorite mana colors. That’s a gift with a lot of thought put into it that the spell-slinger in your life won’t soon forget.

Andrew Lotz – Tamurkhan: The Throne of Chaos

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The holiday gift I’ve got my eye on is Tamurkhan: The Throne of Chaos, a Warhammer expansion book produced by Warhammer Forge and released just in time for end-of-the-year gift giving, along with a host of amazing resin miniatures to go with it. Many Warhammer 40k hobbyists may be familiar with Forge World, a sister company to Games Workshop that produces high-end, fine detail resin miniatures and elaborate campaign settings. While Forge World had a few Warhammer Fantasy pieces in their line of miniatures, the fantasy side of things was largely under-explored.

With the release of Storm of Magic for Warhammer Fantasy and the moves toward larger-scale games, Forge World started invigorating their fantasy line under the name Warhammer Forge. Tamurkhan: The Throne of Chaos is the first sourcebook that they’ve produced in the line. Given the amazing quality of the other recent books made by Forge World (most notably the two-part Badab War series, some of the most amazing fluff plus art plus expansion rules that exists for the 40k universe), Tamurkhan is sure to be a marvel.

Tamurkhan follows the history of the eponymous chaos warlord Tamurkhan the Maggot Lord as he waged a bitter war for glory with the dark forces of the Warhammer world. The book contains an extensive bestiary covering all manner of chaos monsters, a set of massive game rules, and most exciting: a complete Chaos Dwarf army list. The sample pages look great, and the various miniatures that Warhammer Forge has released in conjunction have been top notch. In all, I’d love to see this gift arrive in time for holiday festivals—maggots and all!

Enrico Nardini – Book of Vile Darkness

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Muwhaahahhaha! True, this season may be known the world around for giving, caring, sharing, and other thoughtless acts of altruism, but if Wizards of the Coast can hit their December 20th release date, it will also be known as a time of darkness, wormy decay, and dread in the world of Dungeons & Dragons. That feeling of fear that is making the hair on the back of your neck stand on end is a fear that can only come when dark forces draw near. Beware! The Book of Vile Darkness awaits and only madness and death lie within.

I first heard rumors of this product at D&D Experience 2011. It was exciting to hear that a favorite property from the 3.0/3.5 era of D&D was going to be re-envisioned for 4E. The Book of Vile Darkness is a supplement that is geared primarily for the DMs. It covers all manner of the darkest evil, things we would refer to as truly “vile.” This includes everything from new monsters, traps, and diseases, to sample encounters and skill challenges.

Players are not completely left out of this wicked good time. There are player options (contained in a prop copy of the titular artifact) for darkening your PC with all manner of vile baggage. One of the book samples shows a paragon path character option for becoming a demonologist. Plunging into the depths of my soul to study the dark arcane… yes, please! Oh and I can finally answer the Seussian question “Is there a quasit in my closet?” with affirmation (the demonologist gets a quasit familiar). Sign me up!

Scott Pyle – NuCoal Squad Box

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Most gamers make easy marks when it comes to buying them presents for the Holidays. Being an avid miniaturist and role-player, my wife has no end of choice when it comes to placing gifts under our Christmas tree! This year I would love to find some of the assortment of Heavy Gear miniatures from Dream Pod 9 when I unwrap the gifts come Christmas morning.

The latest faction from the world’s slickest mecha-makers is NuCoal, a powerful group of Badlanders possessing cutting edge Gear technology. These miniatures mark some of the finest mecha made to date. The 1/144th scale provides an excellent platform for gaming on the 4’ x 4’ table space common to most gamers, and allows for all sorts of neat terrain arrangements. The NuCoal features a Field Guide and six boxed sets of new miniatures ranging from the basic NuCoal General Purpose gear squad to the massive, transforming Hussar (available in both walker and hovertank modes). Like all of DP9’s stuff, these figures are multi-part metal or resin kits that require a good degree of modelling acumen to realize their full potential. When built and painted well they’re a joy to behold.

This quality and precision does come at a premium price. Like all Heavy Gearproducts, the NuCoal stuff is not cheap. DP9 does offer attractive starter kits that while expensive, do come packed with lots of mecha gaming goodness! If you’re a fan of sci-fi mecha miniature action, you might want to tell Santa to drop by DP9’s web site and have a look at the NuCoal offerings!

Jason Vey – Yggdrasil

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Let’s face it, folks – we’re all gamers here, which means most of us have a love of myth and legend, and of history to some degree.  That being said, if you didn’t know that most of our Western holiday traditions are patently ripped off from older traditions, you’re living under a rock, or you’ve been wearing blinders all your life. That’s not to say this kind of adopting of ancient traditions is a bad thing – indeed, it’s a time honored tradition known in religious studies circles as syncretization. People like to accuse Christians of being thieves, but really, Alexander the Great was a master of the “look at that statue… put a lightning bolt in his hand, would you? I knew it! It’s Zeus!” game long before Christianity came around.

So what does this have to do with a good holiday buy?

Well, folks, what better way to celebrate the Yuletide than by picking up an awesome board game by Z-Man Games that is directly based upon the Poetic and Prose Eddas of Snorri Sturlsson – the source of what we know about Norse mythology? That’s where the term “Yule” comes from, and it’s also where we get the concept of Christmas trees and Yule logs.

Yggdrasil is a cooperative game wherein each player takes the role of a Norse god, and you’re working together to prevent Ragnarok. It’s a shared resources game, wherein there are finite numbers of magic items, treasures, and artifacts that must be shared amongst the players while Loki (a villain, not a playable god), and the giants call forth creatures such as the World Serpent to bring about the end of days. You need to work together to beat them, but here’s the rub: the more players you have, the thinner your resources are spread, so the harder the game is.  Don’t think playing solo makes it easier, though – some of the treasures are best used by specific gods.

Yggdrasil is a game of shared resources, teamwork, and strategy, as well as competition. It plays fairly quickly, is for 2 to 5 players, and is a great game for a night’s fun. I can’t recommend it highly enough!

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