'Tis indeed the season for festive goodness and wanton purchases. With Black Friday and Cyber Monday barely behind us, the question needs to be posed: if you failed to do your Christmas shopping last week, what now? Never fear. Now that we've exhausted the cheaper options, it's time to delve into the eclectic, the eccentric and the all-out weird. We're creating a series of outlandish, original and just plain crazy gift ideas suitable for, well, pretty much anyone. As long as they enjoy good things. We can't help you if your friends have bad taste. This article is all about:
Gifts We Wish Someone Would Get Us
I gave my picks an appropriately USgamer-ish theme. I present to you: Board Games That Would Make Great Video Games.
Descent: Journeys in the Dark Second Edition
I actually already own the base game for this, but I have two of the new expansions on my wishlist for Christmas, so it totally counts. Descent is a really interesting game because while it markets itself as a dungeon crawler -- which implies hack and slash, loot whoring cooperative gameplay in my book -- it's actually more of an asymmetrical competitive strategy game, in which one "Overlord" player takes on up to four "Hero" players in a variety of scenarios which can optionally be linked together into a story-based campaign with character progression on both sides.
Somewhere between the theme-heavy nature of American board games and the mechanic-and-strategy-heavy nature of Eurogames, Descent is one of the few board games in my collection that can satisfy most types of player, and for my money that's something to be treasured. It's a really enjoyable game with a great combat system, and it would lend itself particularly well to video game adaptation. In fact, in many ways, a video game adaptation would be desirable simply to have fewer cards and chits floating around the table, but there's something inherently satisfying and enjoyable about getting around the table for something like this with friends.
Castle Ravenloft/Wrath of Ashardalon/Legend of Drizzt
I lump these games together because they're all part of the same series and make use of the same mechanics. They're board game adaptations of the 4th Edition Dungeons and Dragons rules, with an emphasis on combat and exploration rather than role-playing. Again, though, they're not straight hack-and-slash, loot-whoring games; they make use of some interesting mechanics, and you have to deal with a severely limited selection of abilities to complete an adventure. Better make sure you're really sure you need to use that Daily power before you fire it off.
While dungeon crawlers aren't anything unusual in the video game space, these games' use of scarcity -- particularly with regard to the ability to heal and make use of special abilities -- puts me in mind of things like roguelikes and related games such as Desktop Dungeons. They're highly challenging games that would lend themselves well to digital adaptation.
My regular board gaming group refuse to play this ever again after our last attempt at playing the "short" game took approximately eight hours to complete. This was largely due to analysis paralysis on the part of several of our players, but it still nipped the opportunity to play a number of other games in the bud, which was a shame. This isn't to say it's a bad game, however -- far from it! -- it's just long, particularly if you play with five people like we did.
Mage Knight is particularly interesting as a board game because it works as well -- if not better -- as a solo game as it does as a competitive or cooperative multiplayer offering, if only to reduce downtime. Its mechanics are peculiar, interesting and deep, too, combining strategy game-style movement and combat with deckbuilding as you collect abilities and make use of them to try and optimize each turn. Again, the simple opportunity to reduce the number of chits and cards on the table by adapting it to digital format would make it a solid video game -- throw in the various multiplayer scenarios, and you have a great turn-based strategy game that could easily rival some of the greats.
A Large-format 1080p Television
Now that I have joined the next generation of consoles, I feel like I'm really missing out on the most lively conversation PlayStation 4 and Xbox One have to offer: Endless, bitter, acrimonious arguments about resolution, upscaling, and perceptual image quality. Until those platforms build up some decent libraries, screaming at each other about pixel counts is the definitive next-gen experience! Sadly, I only have televisions capable of 720p resolution, so I don't get to join the angry throngs. Everything I play looks totally fine on my televisions because there are no shenanigans required. Oh, if only I too could become swept up in the tidal wave of graphical rage! Sadly, I'm forced to judge next-gen games strictly by other considerations, like "fun" and "quality of design." It's tough to justify investing in a pricey new TV when I already have two that work perfectly well. Maybe one will fall off Santa's sleigh as he's winging his way overhead.
An iPad Mini
At the other end of the size spectrum, I could definitely go for one of the new high-resolution iPad minis. My first-generation iPad is getting too creaky to run games, and playing too long on an iPhone's tiny screen is known to cause blindness in lab rats. The mini strikes me as the perfect balance of screen size, weight, and other matters of ergonomics. The classic iPad is fine and all, but for extended gaming sessions (or, let's be honest, sessions of movie-watching or reading comics or any number of things that don't involve work) the smaller, lighter system seems ideally compact without being so cramped that my eyes start punching themselves in despair after extended use. I suppose a similarly sized tablet from another manufacturer would work, too, but at this point the hidden cost of all the iOS apps I've invested in make the real cost of moving over to a non-Apple device far more dear than paying Apple's up-front premium.
My old Saturn and PC Engine collection
When I start thinking about all the anger about screen resolution and the secret money traps of microtransactions and platform-specific purchases, I start to pine for the old days when you'd just buy a new game, stick it in your console, and play. Sadly, a financial hardship a few years ago forced me to divest myself of my entire collection of previous-generation games, and I'm really feeling their loss lately. Some of them are easy enough to replace - NES and Super NES software is all over the place, even if it's super-inflated compared to when I had to sell things off. But those consoles that excelled primarily overseas, like Sega's Saturn and the NEC TurboGrafx-16 (aka PC Engine)? They're a real pain to recover without making forays into foreign lands. But then again, I guess I'd need yet another TV to make proper use of those games. Old-school hardware demands old-school CRTs, not modern flat panels. Maybe I should ask for a second apartment for Christmas so I can fit all this stuff in there.
A Wii U-Compatible Back-Up Hard Drive
This is the perfect gift, in that it's something I can never bring myself to spend my own money on. The Basic Wii U (it was the only one I could find on shelves last year!) is hobbled with just 8 GB of memory, only about 3GB of which can be used to store downloaded games. That's not even enough to download the free Wii Fit U trial. So at the same time the Wii U is functionally impaired without that expanded storage, I wonder just how much I would actually use it. I don't play many Wii U games as it is, there aren't a lot of compelling downloadable only titles on the system, and it's not like Nintendo runs a lot of discounts for the retail stuff.
This is the perfect gift, in that it's something I can't currently bring myself to spend my own money on.
Seriously, these floors are gross.
The Planetary Omnibus
Long ago, when Mike was still in that college thing that amounted to little, Warren Ellis and John Cassaday tore his mind asunder with an exploration into comics. Planetary is the story of three adventurers looking into the weirdness of their universe, all backed by the Fourth Man. It was and remains, one of my favorite comics of all-time. It's been released in hardcover and Absolute editions before, but this omnibus collects the entire series for a reasonable $50 on Amazon. Sure, it's not out until Jan 2014, but you can preorder it for a comic-reading loved one.
Persona 4 & Persona 4 Arena: Official Design Works
I love art books. I like seeing the design process and I just love great character designs. Hell, I have a Pinterest dedicated to great character designs I find around on the internet. Though I'm not as deep into the Persona series as Pete, I do see the character work of Shigenori Soejima as amazing. Every time I look at his designs, I just want to grab a pencil and start drawing myself. (Disclaimer: this has not actually led to an improvement in drawing skill.) Udon has been kind enough to translate two art books featuring Soejima's work: Persona 4 Official Design Works and Persona 4 Arena Official Design Works. Like the rest of Udon's art books, they keep of the high quality you'd find in the Japanese art books, in a language you can actually read.
Bond 50: The Complete 23 Film Collection
I'm cheating a bit here. I already own last year's version of this, which includes all 22 Bond films minus Skyfall, but this year's version includes Skyfall in the mix. I love the idea of remixing a concept. Of taking an idea and viewing it through different lenses to see what you find. That's why I enjoy franchises like Bond, Gundam, Kamen Rider, Super Sentai, etc. Each is full of different takes on the same idea. With the 50th anniversary of James Bond, there's an entire collection celebrating the entire series. You get the good with the bad here, but there's just so much good! If you're a Bond fan, this set is an absolute must-have.
M.A.S.K Jedi Mind Trix Custom Build Backpack
Dear Santa, I would like to think I've been excellent this year. I've written lots of articles, attended plenty of events and stoically avoided making an embarrassment of myself. For Christmas, what I'd really, really like is a laptop bag capable of supporting my beast of a portable desktop. A 17" laptop and every modern handheld in existence can weigh on one's spine. The Mind Trix Custom Build Backpack appeals not only to my aching musculature but also my innate sense of vanity. Yes, I do want to specify exactly how the lining should look. If I'm going to have a symbiotic relationship with anything, it's going to be with an attractive specimen.
While Sony and Microsoft’s next gen consoles have stolen all the limelight of late, there's another up-and-coming system I'm looking forward to. It's called the Retron 5, and as you might have gathered from its name, it's not next gen. Indeed, it's the opposite - a many-generations-ago system. Created by Hyperkin, better known for their many contemporary and retro gaming accessories, Retron 5 is so named for its five different ports that enable you to play NES/Famicom, SNES/Super Famicom, Genesis/Megadrive, Game Boy, Game Boy Advance and Game Boy Color cartridges.
What I particularly like about the Retron 5 is that it has its own fully programmable controller, but also has slots for each console's original joypads, should you want a fully authentic experience. It runs games through HDMI, so no more wobbly old RF pictures, and the system upscales images to fill the screen. All of that sounds like something I really want - and that's why I'm talking about it here. The only bad news is that its original early Dec release has been pushed out to March of next year. But I can wait. And I'll certainly be doing a full review of it when it finally arrives.
Warhammer Gaming Room
This is nuts, but hey – it’s a wishlist, right? I love playing Warhammer 40k, and by that I mean the real-life tabletop game using painted models.
I just find the physicality and social nature of it completely different to video gaming, and I also like the fact that battles can rage for many hours. The downside, however, is the space you need to play, and it’s something that neither my friends nor I have. So we have to rent out space at our local gaming store, which is not ideal and often results in games being cut short… plus we can’t play any music, knock back the kind of inebriants that help smooth out arguments over those particularly tricky blast template measurements, or indeed get loud over those aforementioned game-making moments.
So that’s all I’m asking for. A Warhammer gaming space with a nice 6 x 4 table that I can finally send my Deathwing army into glorious battle! For the Emperor! Etc etc etc…
Robotron 2084 Coin-Op
There aren’t many arcade machines I want in my home, since I can play emulated versions of them on my TV perfectly well. But there’s something about Robotron 2084 that makes it best appreciated in native form, standing in front of it, using its two stubby joysticks to destroy endless armies of robots.
The game is my all-time favorite: a slice of genius shooter that’s very simple in concept, but an absolute beast of a game in practice. It’s got very few frills, which is what I think makes it such a classic game. It’s the pure essence of a shooter: huge firepower, overwhelming odds, and do-or-die greed bonuses that you need to grab to earn the extra lives you need to keep going. I tend to get bored of games easily, but Robotron is one that I can always play.
So yeah. Robotron 2084 cabinet please.
Need more gift ideas? Check out our other lists!