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Top Five Last Second Presents


There's no way I'm the only one who leaves Christmas shopping until the last second, right? I know a few people who buy things throughout the year, gradually building up a repertoire of gifts and such for loved ones, but that's not my style. I'm more about the whole "How on Earth is it Christmas? It was just July! It's too soon. I can't cope..." sort of jam. And with this, I'm pretty experienced with last-second purchases of gifts for those I care for without scrimping on heartfelt consideration. So, without further ado, here are five last-second Christmas presents for that board gamer in your life. They're all superb choices for gamers of any calibre, but different enough for at least one to resolve your last second purchase problems!

Muffin Time - A Take That Game For The WHOLE Family

TomSka's ASDF movies on YouTube are a quality hit for younger audiences. Insanity, lunacy, turtles, the videos have it all. There's no historic lore needed to get them, but each one has callbacks to the previous without feeling inaccessible. So how does that translate into a board game? You throw in Big Potato's flair for party games and a shed-loaf of take that!

Muffin Time is coined as the game where anything can happen, and it quite often does. The game hosts a whole eclectic selection of cards that do a whole lot of madness. Take that is what it sounds like - you play cards to do damage. You've got to aim to have 10 cards at the start of your turn to win, and there's a lot of ways to manage this.

On a player's turn, they'll play a card or draw a card. Action cards will outright ruin peoples' days or gain you cards. Reaction cards are played in response to this, and trap cards are played in waiting to catch someone out! Many of the cards are based around the happenings during a games night. Any movement, action, or choice puts you at risk of trap card's repercussions or an action cards effect. Wear a hat? Go to the loo? Be too tall? Sooner or later, someone will cash in on that.

Why Muffin Time?

So why's this a top choice for a last-minute present? Well, putting it bluntly, it's audaciously accessible. Whether you're an ASDF expert or fresh into the anarchy, the cards do what they say on the tin. In fact, it's so accessible that you'll get the game's pretence from the concept alone. And it has a wide player count, too! Whether you're just a duo or running with up to six players, the chaos can ensue and fun can be had!

Here To Slay - A Lovely RPG Themed Set Collector

Unstable Unicorns is a well-established take that game. Collect unicorns, play some take that, win. It's tried, tested, and has unicorns. All the staples of a winning formula. So their creators, Unstable Games, clearly know how to implement it. However, their most recent game takes this formula and gives it more than just a fresh lick of paint. Here To Slay is a competitive, super light set-collection-come-role-playing game. You play as an anthropomorphic critter within a role of classic heroism, collecting together a band of heroes. The aim is to either assemble a squad of six unique classes or to successfully slay three monsters. It hosts some take that, some wonderful artwork, and just enough dice-based combat to make things spicy!

The game starts with you choosing a party leader - that's you! Your leader will give benefits from the off, making your play different ever so slightly to others'. After that, you play the game collecting heroes, items, spells and some less desirable things. Card effects can be activated upon a dice roll, and are beneficial to players who make use of them. Where things get even more interesting is with the monster cards! Slaying a monster gets you more than glory and a step towards victory - they have unique benefits, too!

Combat is on a die roll, and there is value to work within whilst playing. Too low a roll and you may have to sacrifice a hero, but there's an expectation in itself to beat a score to defeat the monster. But it's not just monsters to be wary of. You're rival parties, fighting for glory. There's scope to challenge an opponent to prevent them from playing their most recent card, and in some situations, it can make or break for victory!

Why Here To Slay?

This is a game I received as a Kickstarter, and is one I'd highly recommend as a gift regardless of that! The production quality is wonderful, and there's scope for expansions within it too with more critters entering the fray. But my main reason for this being a superb last second present isn't just how easy it is to pick up and play. Oh no! The game is conveniently also a great amount of fun. There's superb competition throughout the rounds and a real sense of urgency to prevent opponents from playing cards. You'll play, be bitter, be smug, be defeated, and defeat others, all within 30 minutes. And then? You'll probably do it all again! Undoubtedly one of my top family games from this year!

Fort - A Lighthearted, Crunchy Deck Builder

Do you remember building dens in your garden with your mates? Kitting it out with branches, toys, and snacks before sitting in there until the sun went down? Well, Fort by Leder Games is literally that. You build a fort, invite your friends around, and stack pizza and toys.

You play as a specific child with two specific best friends. These friends, and all others collected throughout the game, are used as cards with specific effects or resources on them. As you play you'll collect pizza and toys, which can be placed in specific stash slots, or saved in your bag. These, in turn, can be spent to upgrade your fort and enable you unique benefits.

When playing kid cards, these are the ones you're choosing to hang out with. But children are fickle, choose not to play with someone from your hand and they'll be up for another player to claim! It's a balancing act of choosing who to utilise and who to put at risk. All cards have two actions associated with them, and at least one must be completed. Your private one is for you alone, and the public one can be utilised by everyone if you do it. They'll copy you as the leader!

Why Fort?

The whole aesthetic is centred on being a kid. You'll make up rules, have lookouts, be a copycat, and see worth in other kids' specific benefits. Like picking and choosing who you play with. Or which action to partake in; spending kids as resources to keep them happy and prevent them from being taken. But why's this a superb last-minute present? Well, it's lightweight but has a superb theme, tactics, and replayability. It doesn't last very long at all and is easy to pick up and play. A real surprise for us, and a great gift!

Any EXIT Game - All The Fun Of The Escape, In A Box!

I'm a massive fan of escape rooms, having clocked at least 30 in real life. You enter a room, there's a scenario, and you have an objective. How well you do is based on the time taken to escape and clues needed to do so, and these vary from room to room. Some are linear, some vast and spread out, but all have an exit. How well you get out is down to how well you can cooperate to solve puzzles, riddles, and crack locks. So how have I been getting my fix between get-togethers at the escape rooms? The EXIT escape rooms by Kosmos.

There's something really lovely about these games in that, you have to experience only one to know you'll love them all. The puzzles are well thought out, the scenarios are thematic, the clues are logical but require some abstract and thematic thinking. It all just works, but to explain that to someone else is difficult, as these run the risk of spoilers. Most these games are one time use games, as elements are used or spent in the play process - and there's always the risk of remembering solutions.

However, it's fair to say that it's more of an experience than a board game. You wouldn't go back to a real-life escape room to do the same room again. That would be ludicrous, and costly! These games are designed to inspire experiences and discussion points, create memories and force you to think laterally... Not to be on the table routinely!

Why The EXIT Series?

So why is this a great last second present? Number one, escape room experiences are brilliant. That alone is enough for me. Number two, you're effectively buying them a memory, an event, an exciting exercise in cracking codes and deciphering clues! They get to be the hero and save the day. What's more, is that these EXIT games vary in difficulty and so can be tailored to the recipient's confidence. Whether they're veteran Houdinis or first-time escapees, there's an EXIT game present for them out there. You just need to be last minute enough to pick one for them!

Century: Golem Edition - The Deck Builder For Everyone!

So far we have plenty of take-that and clear cut backstabbing in this list. Surely that's not all Christmas is about? Where's the lighthearted pleasure in spending stuff to get stuff to spend on more stuff? Where's the existing at the same time without the need to ruin their day? It's right here. Century: Golem Edition by Plan B Games is that gentle deck builder. It boasts a low level of accessibility, a high level of engagement, and an easy to grasp concept. Spend crystals to get cards, to get crystals to get cards. And, as an added bonus, it is beautiful.

The concept behind this one is that of a deck builder. You'll build a repertoire of cards to use in order to convert values into higher values. Simple, right? There's also a second type of card that does no conversions - it's for points alone. These feature huge golems on them (hence the name) and only have point values on them. Your aim is to collect these and have the most points to win, but to do this you'll need the merchant cards to convert.

There are some whopping great card combinations you can acquire too, and they aren't hard to come by. The right hand may result in a lowly blue crystal becoming three mighty pink gems in two rounds! And then come the profits. Before you know it, you'll be buying and selling gem stocks and sitting on a crystal empire... Though you can only have 10 crystals at any one time, so don't count on it.

Why Century: Golem Edition?

Compared to the excitement and ferocity of the other suggestions thus far, why is this gentle giant a perfect last-minute present? Well, I was the recipient of this as a last-second present. It's an incredibly light game, so as an avid hobby gamer I should have liked it at most. It shouldn't have been tactical or meaty enough for me. But it was! I dare say this is even the perfect gateway gift for nongamers because of how easily it can be grasped and mastered!

What better way to get the family gaming than with a game you can learn, and begin to master, in under an hour? And, as you've no doubt guessed from this list, it's also gorgeous! I'm very visual and love an aesthetic game with a table presence. Century: Golem Edition is stunning. The production is stupendous and it's an all-around winner for us!

Editors note: This blog was originally published on December 16th, 2020. Updated on November 17th, 2022 to improve the information available.