Last-Minute Gift Guide
by Lyle. 12/20/2021
Whether you’re looking for one last thing to put under the tree, or something new to spice up family vacation time, you can’t go wrong with these in-stock games.
Oath: Chronicles of Empire and Exile
Oath combines strategy, politics, and storytelling in a delicious board-gaming brew. By the numbers, Oath is an area control game with an emphasis on deal-making and card management. However, once played, it reveals itself as a fantastic storytelling engine, at once political and personal, and capable of developing complex plots that span multiple games. The key to the storytelling is the campaign engine, which sits somewhere adjacent to a game like Risk Legacy. Oath’s legacy mechanics are completely reversible, so don’t worry about marking up the board or tearing up the cards. Instead, it uses the various suits of cards to ascribe a narrative to the many games you’ll play. For instance, if a player wins by heavily utilizing the Hearth suit, then at the end of the game, more unique cards from outside of the game matching that suit will be shuffled into the game. As each suit denotes a specific playstyle, this means that the meta of the game will shift as various players win using different strategies. From a storytelling perspective, this shows the culture of the society you are playing adapting to the dominant perspectives within it. This is far from the only persistent mechanic within the game, as the reigning monarchy will also change hands based on who won the prior game, and the winner will have the opportunity to preserve sections of the map from game to game, potentially building a great military fort to defend, or a prosperous market to profit from. Oath is the kind of game that lives in your head for weeks after you play it and leaves you yearning for one more game in your vast campaign.
MicroMacro: Full House
Have you ever wanted to play Where’s Waldo, but instead of searching for a man in a striped shirt, you’re solving a crime? MicroMacro gives you a gigantic poster full of thousands of tiny details depicting Crime City, a magnifying glass, and a collection of cases, and puts you to work. It’s the kind of game that you can easily play with your family, with your kids (a few of the cases have mature themes but they have warning labels), or with a partner. The rules of the game are pretty simple, you’ll be given a premise, for instance, a dead body staged to look like a suicide. Then, several small puzzles that require you to identify specific parts of the poster which are relevant to the case. As you progress through the individual puzzles, a narrative will start to coalesce, until you complete the final puzzle and solve the case. The cases have plenty of variety, some are easier and can be completed in ten to fifteen minutes, while others are much more complicated and could take thirty minutes to an hour. The shorter ones have simple narratives, for instance, the tutorial mission tasks you with finding a man’s stolen sombrero. However, the harder the case gets, the more complex the plots become, and several are well written and genuinely gripping, despite the silly characters and farcical situations displayed on the cards. Almost everybody will find something to love in MicroMacro, from the well-developed plots to the excitement of finding a clue buried in the countless details of Crime City.
Fiasco Box Set
Fiasco is a wonderfully unique roleplaying game that sees you playing cooperatively with your friends to tell a farcical crime story in a single session. Unlike many other roleplaying games, Fiasco has no Game Master; instead, everyone combines their wits to tell a fun and exciting story together. The new box set edition makes the setup far easier, as the character-creation mechanics are now printed onto cards that each player can deal to themselves or other players at the table. Each player will end up with a relationship with the players to their left and right: they could be romantically entangled, one could be powerfully jealous of the other, or one might even be the other’s boss. In addition, each relationship will also be supplemented by a need, object, or location, to add some more definition to the characters. After character creation, the game is split into two acts, with the first act typically establishing the character dynamics, world, and the thrust of the plot, and the second act paying off the setup of the first act. Each act comprises two scenes per player, where the player the scene focuses on gets to decide whether they would like to establish the scene, creating the setting and opening dilemma, or resolve it, taking an outcome card to determine whether the scene ends well or poorly for their character. In addition, if they choose to establish, the other players will get to decide the resolution of the scene, and if they choose to resolve, they leave the establishment up to the rest of the table. By the time act two begins, each player will have collected two outcome cards, and will flip them, revealing potential twists and turns (referred to by the game as tilts) that the plot could utilize. In the second act, the players will incorporate the tilts into their narratives, until every player has played another two scenes, at which point the players resolve the plot and end the game. If you love playing wacky characters and watching scenes that go terribly wrong, you’ll enjoy creating your own cinematic crime story with your friends in Fiasco.