The wild-west town of Showdown holds an annual shootist competition; luring the fastest guns in the
west. A crowd of bystanders line the dusty street as two mysterious strangers face off
in the blazing sun. When the six-shooters go off, which gunslinger will be left
Town Named Showdown is a card and dice game for two players. Steeped in
theme, tension builds as the gunslingers pace their way down the street
each turn. Bystanders gather in anticipation of the shoot-out; some are
there to help the gunslingers, others to hinder. Gear up with weapons
and health modifier cards to give your gunslinger the edge when the
both gunslingers reach the end of the street they "shoot" using their
pool of six-sided shooters - adding and subtracting for bonuses from
bystanders and modifiers. Hit your opponent enough times to remove him
from the competition.
The player with the most victory stars at the end of three shoot-outs is the winner!
Do you have a board game player in your life? Are they hard to buy gifts for? Have no fear, Scott is here! ...to help you choose the greatest gifts from 2015 for that special gamer.
1. Mysterium (Asmodee) $$
Mysterium is a social deduction game that plays like Clue meets Dixit. In it, players are psychic detectives seeking to learn who committed a murder. Fortunately, they have help from the ghost of the victim who can only communicate with the players via their dreams.
The dream cards are illustrated with images that (according to the ghost player) point towards whodunit which the players guess their suspect. Mysterium is a great party game for those gamers who are ready to move on from Clue and Mystery in the Abby.
Ghostbusters The Board Game is a light skirmish game based on the IDW comic (which is based on the movies) and pits the four ghostbuster players against spooks such as Slimer and the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man.
The game is quick to play and easy to learn. It features a great levelling system and comes with some very cool miniatures including the Ecto-1!
3. Castle of Mad King Ludwig (Bezier Games) $$ Secrets expansion $$
Based on the real castle built by the real mad king, players build their own castles by laying tiles to connect rooms but are driven by the whims of the King. If you like the first part of Betrayal at House on the Hill, then you'll like this game.
The game recently came out with an expansion - Secrets - which adds 30 more rooms to the base set.
The worst part of any zombie movie has never been the zombies, but the humans. Dead of Winter gets this part right. The players are survivors of the zombie apocalypse struggling to survive their first winter.
However, the game features an unique system that puts the players at odd with each other in order to complete their own agendas. When you aren't fighting off the undead, players are wondering which other players are going to stab them in the back. Good fun!
5. T.I.M.E. Stories (Asmodee) $$$ The Marcy Case expansion $$
T.I.M.E Stories is a story-telling game where players are time-travelling agents who attempt to unravel a mystery set in a specific time period. Along the way they'll meet strange characters and uncover clues and facts. However, the players won't solve the mystery the first time around, so they must travel back to the start of the story and follow the threads that will eventually led to the solution.
This unique game has been making a splash in the board gaming community. While the play experience is short and not repeatable, there are several other scenerios coming out soon - starting with the Marcy Case - a mystery set in the 1990's.
Spy Fall is an easy-to-learn social deduction card game in which one player is a spy and the other players are trying to deduce his location - which the spy doesn't know. It's a tense game of how to get information without tipping your hand that you are the spy. Great fun for parties!
8. Star Wars Imperial Assault (Fantasy Flight Games) $$$ Twin Shadows expansion $$ Ally and Villain packs $$
If you hadn't noticed, there happens to be a new Star Wars movie coming out this winter. While there aren't many games based on these new adventures (yet) there are plenty of ways to immerse yourself into the Star Wars galaxy through some great board games.
Imperial Assault uses Fantasy Flight's popular Descent game system to create adventures and campaigns. It's like playing a miniatures-based role playing game. The miniatures are top-notch and while a little complex to learn, is great fun once you get the hang of it.
This year Fantasy Flight released it's first boxed expansion for Imperial Assault - Twin Shadows - which takes the players to the desert planet of Tatooine where they can battle Tuskin Raiders and socialize with scum and villainy in the famous cantina.
While playable from the box, you can upgrade villains and allies like Boba Fett and See-Threepio and R2D2 with miniatures (sold separately) that include more abilities and adventures.
9. Star Wars Armada (Fantasy Flight Games) $$$ Expansions $$
Remember the ending of Return of the Jedi? Now you can play the battle of Endor on your kitchen table! Star Wars Armada captures all of the excitement of ship-to-ship combat with ships as large as a Star Destroyer and as small as an A-wing. It's simple to play and looks amazing on your tabletop.
The core game has been out for awhile, but there are some very cool expansions that just came out that won't break your Christmas budget.
Imperial Fighter Squadron expansion comes with a whole mess of teeny-tiny TIE fighters, Bombers and Interceptors. Plus new cards with pilots and actions.
The Rebel Fighters Squadron expansion comes with two squads of A-Wings, B-Wings, X-Wings and Y-Wings. Perfect for assaulting a Death Star or Starkiller Base.
Rogues and Villains expansion pack adds several smuggler and bounty hunters to your space-combat including the Millennium Falcon, Slave I, Hound's Tooth (Bossk!) and the Outlander.
What's a Star Wars battle without a Imperial Class Star Destroyer (or two)? Now Darth Vader can join the battle in his Star Destroyer from the original Star Wars (Episode V to you kids)!
Finally we have the "pickle ship" - the Home One expansion - as seen in Return of the Jedi. You can discover your own trap with Admiral Ackbar at the helm of this massive model!
10. Star Wars Risk (Hasbro) $$ Star Wars Black Series Risk (Hasbro) $$
If Star Wars Armada seem too daunting (and expensive) for your gamer, I suggest the new Star Wars Risk game. It also captures the excitement of the battle of Endor but also allows you to fight the ground troops too! In fact, this game is based on Star Wars: The Queen's Gambit - considered one of the best Star Wars games made before Fantasy Flight got the license.
There is a second version of this game that is slightly more expensive called the Star Wars Black Series Risk.
It plays the same as the other version but has upgraded components like models for the Millennium Falcon, Super Star Destroyer and Death Star II. Also it comes with little tiny storm troopers. This version is a little harder to find and, as far as I can tell, only available on-line.
NOTE: What's done can never be undone. This is the ominous message on the sticker that seals every game of Risk Legacy. It is a warning, but also a promise of an amazing experience.
When I was in high school, me and my friends used to play weekend long sessions of Risk. We would put together two boards and try to assault this double world. Invariably by Saturday night, I would lose and spend the rest of Sunday waiting for the game to end. I never played another game of Risk again... until I heard about Risk Legacy.
While the heart of the game is the same - use troops to conquer the world, that's where the resemblance ends. The troops are all different and unique - there are mechs and Mad Max-esque troops on dune buggies and even barbarians who ride badgers. These troops can be upgraded with abilities and advantages every time you play.
In fact, unlike most board games, Risk Legacy is meant to be played about 12 - 15 times to get the whole experience... which starts when everyone who plays signs the board. Write on a game board!? Sacrilege! Every time a game is played, the winner writes on the board. The player with the most signatures on the board gets advantages at the start of the next game.
The designer Rob Davieau had a brilliant realization that players bring history to the table and yet games never reflect this truth. Risk Legacy does. Winners and losers, grudges and rivalries all help form the game as player add permanent stickers to the board, change rules in the rule book, even tear up cards. Seeing a life-long gamer tear up a card is worth the price of admission alone.
The greatest innovation is the ramping of the game. There are several envelopes that are not opened until certain game conditions are met - much like achievements in video games. Once these are opened, new rules are added, factions change and the game play morphs in unpredictable ways.
Risk Legacy is a masterwork and no matter what your history with Risk has been in the past, should be played. All games should try to be like Risk Legacy, even if a little bit.
1-2 hours to play (per session)
66.97 on Amazon.com
Scott Rogers has been designing video games for over 20 years and is the author of Level Up! The Guide To Great Video Game Design and Swipe This! The Guide to Great Touchscreen Game Design. You may have played some of the games he designed including God of War, the Maximo series, Pac-man World, Drawn to Life series and Darksiders. He likes e-mail. Why not send him some at Boneyard0@aol.com
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