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Holiday Board Game Gift Guide 2014

Teenager and Adult Games

My new category this year is Teenager and Adult Games.  These games are a bit more complicated than my Family Games list and may include scarier or more historical themes.  The games are more challenging and sometimes involve direct player conflict.

1.  1775: Rebellion

I am not usually a fan of war games, but something about 1775 really drew me in since the first time I saw it.  The game comes from the incredible company Academy Games.  Players are either the Continental Army and the Patriots or the British and the Loyalists.  Both sides are trying to control the colonies, provinces, and territories of North America.  With three or more players, the players form teams with one player controlling one of the main factions.  The Native Americans, German Hessians and the French may come to the aid of the players.

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Through the use of strategic card play and movement players gain or lose control of the colonies.  Battles are quickly resolved through the use of custom dice and when a player controls and entire colony or territory they place a flag.  The game ends when the Treaty of Paris is signed.   Whichever side has managed to place the most flags wins.

1775: Rebellion has solid game play, amazing components, and the game length just right. It’s a game that families can play together, school children can use as a fun way to learn about the beginning of the American Revolution, and couples can enjoy as a light war game. Luck and card draws may keep heavy war gamers away but even they can enjoy the blend of Euro and thematic game mechanics. It a game that I know will stay in my collection based on theme, fun factor, and ease of play.

2. Arcadia Quest

Arcadia Quest is the newest game in my collection, but quickly becoming a favorite.  This dungeon crawl adventure is a campaign style board game where each player controls three unique heroes trying to reclaim the city of Arcadia.  They face not only the monsters that have taken over the city but the other players as well.  Each quest players accomplish levels up their characters with better equipment and abilities.  Beware; the monsters get better as well.

The components and artwork are outstanding and the game play is solid.  Arcadia Quest takes the basic game play of other dungeon crawls and streamlines them.  The monsters only react to what players do; they don’t have their own turn.  Players’ unique abilities are straightforward and easy to understand.  There is also a fun “exploding dice” mechanic, which allows players to gain more hits per turn.  All of this makes for a quicker; more start forward dungeon crawl distilled down into the most fun elements.  There are also many great “how to play videos” that make it easy to learn the game.

3. Quantum

Space themes are popular and it is not always easy to tell which will be good or even great games.   The beautiful components, artwork, and dice manipulation of Quantum really drew me to the game.

Each die represents a starship in the players fleet.  The number of the die, determines the ship type.  Sixes are quick, but won’t hold up in battle.  Ones are great in battles, but very slow.  Each ship also has a special power that can be used once per turn.

Quantum reminds me of chess as players maneuver their ships into the exactly the right position.  When they do they may place their Quantum cubes on the board.  At the same time they must balance movement and placing with the need to research.   Research allows players to gain valuable skills, such as free movement abilities or better abilities in battle.  Of course  players must watch out for, and battle the opponents.   The first player to place all their quantum cubes wins.

The rules are simple, but the strategy is deep in Quantum.  This actually surprised me when I first played.  I think I was expecting to have a much harder time learning how  to play the game.  Instead I found learning to play easy, but understanding the strategy will develop with more plays.  This is what makes Quantum fantastic.

4.  Splendor

Okay, I admit, I was a little turned off by Splendor when I first heard of it.  I was thinking it was another Eurogame, so much like the others.  I really did not understand the hype…. but then I played it, and know I understand.

Splendor is an absolutely beautiful game.  The artwork on the cards is beautiful.  I really like looking at the cards during the game.  The gem tokens and so nice to hold and look at.  These are really amazing poker chips, that aren’t needed but add a fun factor to the game.  The rules for Splendor are easy to learn and teach.  As with many great games, the difficulty comes from the strategy.

Splendor is a joy to play.  The Theme of Splendor is that players are Renaissance merchants buying gem mines, means of transportation, and gem shops.   I really enjoy the engine building aspect of Splendor as you obtain gem chips and cards that help you get even higher value cards or help you catch the eye of nobles who may stop by your shop.

Splendor is a game that you can quickly teach, but each new play will be rewarding as you learn more and more about the games strategy.

5.  Star Realms

Earlier I said that while the space theme is popular so you should not be surprised I have another space-themed game on the list.   Star Realms is a two player, space combat, deck-building game that is both affordable and portable. If you want to add more players, just add a second deck!

In Star Realms, player has a personal deck of cards to represent their space armada.  Each turn they try to gain trade, combat, authority, and other important powerful effects with their cards. Players are trying to build up their armada in order to reduce their opponent’s score (Authority) to zero.

Star Realms offers simple rules, stunning graphics, gorgeous artwork, faction specific card synergies, and a fun player versus player combat system.  There is even a free app you can download that teaches you the game and lets you try before you buy.

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Happy Gaming and Happy Holidays!

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