If you have a devout gaming nerd on your holiday list, consider putting one of these beneath their Festivus tree this year.
D&D Starter Set: Dragons of Stormwreck Isle (Wizards of the Coast, $20)
The latest D&D gateway drug. For under twenty bones, this set is designed to get new players up and running quickly. You get a 32-page rulebook for playing characters level 1–3, 5 ready-to-play characters with character sheets, a 48-page adventure book, and 6 polyhedral dice. Having gotten started in D&D with the original red box (sniff, sniff), I've always had a soft spot for these starter sets.
Cy_Borg (Free League Publishing, $53)
For those who like their grimdark front-lit with neon and burning chrome, the cyberpunk-horror answer to Mörk Borg is here. Like its fantasy sibling, Cy_Borg is a punky, audacious work of art and design. Also, like Mörk Borg, that means this is a game that some will passionately love and others will equally hate. It's a book, a world, you really have to want to flesh out beyond what appears here as its lovely bones. Much of the rulesets, and even the worlds, are similar (e.g. the doom-dealing "Miserable Headline" rolls replace "The Calendar of Nechrubel," and the megacity of Cy and Mörk Borg's Land of Tveland share many similarities). Mörk Borg is a game that I will likely never play, but I love the book as an artifact and have found it inspirational to my gaming obsessions in general. I covet Cy_Borg for the same reasons.
Grave Mutations (Joseph McCullough, $20 PDF, $30 POD)
The great wizard of Frostgrave, Joseph McCullough, has put together a massive collection of mutations that you can roll up and use in your games in the Frozen City. Mutate or die!
One thousand unique mutations to bring a heavy dose of random weirdness to your games of Frostgrave! From extra limbs, animal heads, and ink spray to insect vomiting, powerful static discharge, and bodies of stone, each mutation changes the figure in some mechanical way. Whether you've been cursed by a witch, dropped in a toxic pool, bombarded with gamma radiation, or just drunk the wrong potion, you've now got the perfect table to roll on to see what happens!
The Great British Baking Show Game (Ravensberger, 2-4 players, Ages 10+, $25)
A simple, fast, and fun real-time pattern matching game based on the wildly popular Netflix baking show. In three rounds (Signature, Technical, and Showstopper challenges), 2-4 players look at a recipe card with a pattern of ingredients (Crumb, Filling, Icing, etc). Racing against the clock, each player goes through their special deck looking the proper matching ingredients to build their bake. Bakes are judged on three levels (Soggy Bottom, Great Bake, Hollywood Handshake) and points are awarded. The baker with the most points after the 3 rounds wins. The game doesn't have a lot of depth, but is fun if you know and like the show, and it's a great, light family game.
Dice Men (Unbound, $40)
In the world of British tabletop gaming, there are few people who've had a bigger impact than Ian Livingstone and Steve Jackson (not to be confused with US game icon, Steve Jackson). In this hefty, heavily illustrated tome, the two share their story and the story of the company they founded, Games Workshop. It all began with them selling Dungeons & Dragons from the back of a van and ended up with a company that's traded on the London Stock Exchange. Note: This book was crowdfunded and backers are now receiving their copies. It is only available for pre-order now and will be available in Feb. 2023.
Undaunted: Stalingrad (Osprey Games, 2 players, 14+, $85)
Osprey Games' phenomenally successful, award-winning WWII deck building series, Undaunted, gets its most ambitious installment in Undaunted: Stalingrad.
Undaunted: Stalingrad is a platoon-level, standalone campaign game with branching narratives that expands the series' scope and challenge beyond anything that's come before. Featuring more than 300 unique illustrations by Roland MacDonald and 150 evocative mission briefings written by acclaimed author Robbie MacNiven, immerse yourself in this campaign at the heart of the war.
This massive hulk of a game pits German and Soviet forces against each other on the harsh, frozen streets and the fierce close-combat fighting of Stalingrad during the fall/winter of 1942-43. The Undaunted series is known for its many clever game mechanics, like its Fog of War cards (useless cards designed to bog down your deck), having to spend good cards to use as initiative, and the ability to both move and shoot if you have two of the same card in your hand. The Undaunted system, brilliant to begin with, has been refined over Undaunted: Normandy, Undaunted: Africa, Undaunted: Battle of Britain. Undaunted: Stalingrad takes the series to an entirely new level and has already been hailed by early players and reviewers as a tabletop masterpiece. This is boardgame (and general-interest wargame) design at its finest. Here is a thorough and funny video review from No Pun Included.
Real Terrain Hobbies Builder's Kit (Muse Kits, $199)
Neal of Real Terrain Hobbies has distinguished himself as one of the more ambitious and pro-level terrain makers on YouTube. And when that happens, sponsors and potential product partners begin throwing themselves at you. One such partnership is with Muse Kits. Working with Neal, Muse has created Builder's Kit: Fire and Hammer for game crafters (and diorama makers, model train enthusiasts, and others). The kit is stuffed with building materials, modeling supplies, essential tools, paints, brushes, and lots of other goodies — 12 pounds of hobby tools and supplies. This is a great starter terrain-building kit for those new to the hobby or as a restock for experienced modelers. A promotional video for the kit can be seen here.
Dungeons & Dragons Campaign Case: Terrain (Wizards of the Coast, $57)
Back in August, I covered the D&D Campaign Case: Creatures. The companion to that product is Campaign Case: Terrain. Where the former offers vinyl creatures clings that affix to weighted poker chip-like pucks, this set includes map tiles and various terrain elements on clings. With these two kits, you pretty much have everything you need to run a very visual 5e campaign.
Many Worlds Coffee & Tea for Gamers (Prices vary).
It was inevitable that someone would brand beverages and snacks for the tabletop gaming hobby. Many Worlds has done this with their lines of coffees and teas marketed to gamers. The bags have beautiful fantasy artwork and each bag comes with gaming goodies like 5e compatible magic and treasure cards and a set of polyhedral dice. Is it gimmicky? Yes. Will a gamer who drinks coffee or tea love it as a thoughtful present? Also, yes.
Also see the last few holiday guides for more gift ideas: