In compiling this Christmas wishlist I have tried to select a variety of games; multi player games, two player games, longer games, shorter games, area control games, worker placement games, games with cards, and so on. I have also picked games that are thematic, have high production values, and look good.
Twilight Imperium 4th Edition
Ok, I like big games and they don’t get much bigger than this. This comes with all the refinement of 3rd Edition, expansions and further refinements. It’s a huge strategy game of fighting for galactic domination through a combination of military might, political prowess and economic trade. It is beautifully thematic with quality components, and as I said huge, you do need a big table.
Play is challenging, cutthroat and deep, alliances will be made and they will almost certainly be broken as the balance of power shifts across the galaxy. Ultimately it is a war game, and although war can be military or economic, it is about conquest and building an empire. With so many different paths to victory and other variable factors no two games are ever going to be the same.
It’s not for the faint hearted though, it’s a game best with six players and will likely take just as many hours, but, if I wanted to get five friends together to play a six-hour game then Twilight Imperium would be my game of choice.
Fields of Arle
A two-player worker placement game by Uwe Rosenberg, and given I am always on the lookout for good two player games this fits very well. It is no surprise that this game has some similarities with Agricola, not just in the big box crammed full of high quality components, but in the theme of agriculture. This being said, it is a good thing that unlike Agricola it is not a game of constant struggle to avoid starvation and sometimes near impossible decisions.
Fields of Arle is much more laid back, and relaxed, but remains challenging and deep, and is not simply a rehash of a tried and tested formula. It’s longish for a two-player game, around two hours, but with so much going on in any game and so many different options to progress, no two games are ever going to be the same.
Unusual for great two-player games, it not so much about attacking your opponent or denying your opponent resources, it’s more about growing and building. Although this does make interaction low it does exist, and there is a reasonable level of competition between players.
Viticulture: Essential Edition
I’ve heard so many good things about Viticulture, but have yet to play it, so it’s on this list because it’s a game I have yet to play and really want to try. Essential Edition comes bundled with a variety of expansions and one or two refinements, making this pretty much the ideal version to obtain.
Two to four players (best with four) are competing to create the best vineyard and winery. The contents are high in quality and both contents and play is highly thematic. Play is through a combination of cards and hand management, and worker placement, the drawing of cards adding a luck factor that many worker placement games lack, whilst retaining the need for thought and careful planning. The blend of luck and strategy keep the game fresh and ensure each play will be different.
This is a carefully crafted game, by all accounts extremely well balanced and with interesting worker placement options and wide variety of possible actions. Keep those vineyards producing and keep those customers arriving at the winery.
A shorter game, one that is probably best with four players though is also very good with any number, and one that plays in under an hour. The rules are simple and easy to learn. The game is easy to play, is not complex, but is fast, interactive, and amazingly deep with decisions to take at pretty much every point in play.
With so many options, and different combinations of traits and climate factors, no two games are ever going to be the same. Players take a species, adapt it by adding traits like hard shell, or heavy fur, or long neck. These traits may help gain food, offer protection from carnivores, or protection from the cold. One player may have a species that is herbivore and horned, another has a carnivore that may prey on the herbivore.
How well these species do, whether they thrive or not, depends on their food supply, and on how well adapted or not they are to the climate which is a global factor impacting every creature in play. Simply put Evolution: Climate is a jewel of a game. The play of the cards tells the story of creatures which either evolve and thrive or are consigned to the evolutionary record of dead ends.
The addition of Climate adds global factors that can be used to change the whole game. No longer can that apex predator be so secure, especially if the climate swings towards an extreme, this adds greatly to the level of interaction and to the challenges and possible strategies facing all players. It's a beautiful game, both in presentation and play.
I did consider Scythe, I did consider Terra Mystica, but limited to a choice of five, it’s got to be Kemet. Why? Because Kemet is a massive blast of fun. It's probably best with four or five and typically a game with take around 90 minutes, so not overly long. The rules are fairly simple, and it is easy to learn, play is surprisingly deep, interactive, fast and challenging.
Each player takes an Egyptian tribe and uses powerful armies, mystical powers and creatures to push their tribe to domination and victory. At heart it is an area control game with a victory point win condition, of which there are plenty around.
What makes Kemet so special is the interactions between mystical powers and military conquests, and the many possible routes to victory, which may be challenged at any time by the play of an opponent. Progress towards victory will swing back and forth, as players try to adapt to changing circumstances, in what is a brutal game of attack and conquest, and quite probably later revenge.
Everything in Kemet is set up to make it highly competitive, from the options of developing mystical powers, to waging war, and the various combinations keep players engaged. It’s a really elegant game, with a set of clever mechanics which make it unique and a massive blast of highly competitive fun.