Episode 116: Holiday Gift Guide 2010

Release Date: Nov. 29, 2010

Running Time: 151 min.

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Here's our list. Check it twice. With over 50 game suggestions in 11 categories, you're sure to find a great game for someone this holiday season.

Complete Show Notes continue after the break.

 2010 Holiday Gift Guide

The organizing principle for this year's Game Buyer's Gift Guide is a simple one: quality and availability. All the games on the list have been published within the last 12 months or so and should be readily available from multiple brick and mortar and online retailers. IN a few cases, the games are only available in Europe, but not to worry, these games can be ordered from the German version of Amazon and can easily arrive in time for the holidays.

We have broken the list into 11 different categories: Euro, Deduction, Train, Card, Dice, Fantasy, History, Kids & Family, Party, Spooky, and Oddball Games

While the list is certainly not comprehensive, we're betting a lot of people on your list might enjoy games from one of these categories. If you decide to order a game from our list, feel free to let the shop or retailer know you heard about it on The Spiel.

We hope everyone has a great holiday season filled with fun and games!

Euro Games

Speicherstadt BGG  | Z-Man Games | Get Speicherstadt on Amazon

Rattus BGG  |  Z-Man Games | Get Rattus on Amazon

Fresco BGG  |  Queen Games  | Get Fresco on Amazon

Hornet BGG   Z-Man Games  | Get Hornet on Amazon

Deduction Games

Nuns on the Run BGG  |  Mayfair Games  |  Get Nuns on the Run on Amazon

Mystery Express BGG  |  Days of Wonder  | Get Mystery Express on Amazon

Train Games

Ticket to Ride: Nordic Countries BGG  |  Days of Wonder | Get Nordic Countries on Amazon

Settlers of America BGGMayfair Games  |  Get Settlers of America on Amazon

Card Games

7 Wonders   BGG  |  Asmodee | Get 7 Wonders on Amazon

Haggis BGG   |  Indie Boards & Cards | Get Haggis online

Nile BGG  |  Minion Games | Get Nile on Amazon

TZQ  BGG  |  Z-Man Games  | Get TZQ on Amazon

Bottle Imp BGG  |  Z-Man Games | Get Bottle Imp on Amazon

Ascension BGG  |  Gary Games | Get Ascension on Amazon

Fantasy & Adventure Games

Dungeonquest BGG  |  Fantasy Flight Games | Get Dungeonquest on Amazon

Defenders of the Realm  BGG  |  Eagle Games  | Get Defenders of the Realm on Amazon

Castle Ravenloft BGG  |  Wizards of the Coast | Get Castle Ravenloft on Amazon

Catacombs BGG  |  Sands of Time Games | Get Catacombs online

Dice Games

Lords of Vegas BGG  Mayfair Games  | Get Lords of Vegas on Amazon

Field Hospital BGGDiamond K Games 

It Happens BGG  |  Queen Games | Get It Happens on Amazon

Warlords of Europe BGG  |  Conquest Gaming | Get Warlords of Europe on Amazon


History Games

Founding Fathers  BGG | Jolly Roger Games | Get Founding Fathers on Amazon

Washington's War BGG  |  GMT Games | Get Washington's War on Amazon

Egizia BGG  |  Rio Grande Games | Get Egizia on Amazon

London BGG  |  Treefrog Games | Get London online

Kids & Family Games

Forbidden Island   BGG   Gamewright | Get Forbidden Island on Amazon

Dweebies BGG  |  Gamewright  | Get Dweebies on Amazon

Magic Labyrinth BGG  |  Playroom Entertainment | Get Magic Labyrinth on Amazon

Snapshot BGG   Amazon.de

RoadZsters BGG  |  Cepia Games | Get RoadZters on Amazon

Totemo BGG  |  Surprised Stare Games 

Fauna Jr. BGG  |  Amazon.de

Mosaix BGG  |  Amazon.de

Asteroyds BGG  |  Rio Grande Games | Get Asteroyds on Amazon

10 Days in the Americas BGG  |  Out of the Box Games | Get 10 Days in... on Amazon

Spot It! BGG  |  Blue Orange Games | Get Spot It! on Amazon

Duck Duck Safari BGG  |  APE Games | Get Duck Duck Safari on Amazon

Voll in Fahrt BGG  | Amazon.de

Crows BGG  | Valley Games | Get Crows on Amazon

Spooky Games

Betrayal at House on the Hill  BGG  | Hasbro (Avalon Hill) | Get Betrayal at... on Amazon

Mansions of Madness  BGGFantasy Flight Games

NOTE: Fantasy Flight just announced Mansions of Madness has been DELAYED until Spring 2011 due to production issues with the miniatures.

Party Games

Telestrations BGG  USAopoly | Get Telestrations on Amazon

Rock the Beat BGG   |  Playroom Entertainment | Get Rock the Beat on Amazon

Nanuk BGG  |  Steve Jackson Games | Get Nanuk on Amazon

Dixit   BGG   Asmodee | Get Dixit on Amazon

Train of Thought BGG  |  Tasty Minstrel Games | Get Train of Thought online

Fictionaire BGG  |  Days of Wonder | Get Fictionaire on Amazon

Anomia BGG  |  Anomia Press | Get Anomia on Amazon

Odball Games

Dominant Species  BGG   GMT Games | Get Dominant Species on Amazon

Onirim  BGG  |  Z-Man Games | Get Onirim on Amazon

Safranito BGG  |  Amazon.de

Kackel Dackel BGG  |  Amazon.de

Our Picks

Dave's pick for Stephen: Mansions of Madness BGG  | Fantasy Flight Games

Stephen's pick for Dave: Vinhos BGG  |  Amazon.de


Music credits (courtesy of Ioda Promonet) include:

We Three Kings   by Pink Martini  buy the track

Santa's on the Mainline  by The Christmas Jug Band  buy the track

Christmas Time is Here  by Thomas Mariott and others buy the track

It's Christmas For You, Too  by The High Strung buy the track

Santa Baby  by The Swingle Singers buy the track

Carol of the Manbarks  by Rump Posse buy the track

Sleigh Ride  by Laverne Butler buy the track

Angels We Have Heard on High  by Wes Edmonson buy the track

Bella Es La Navidad  by Gupo Son Sabor buy the track

Shoot 'Em in the Pants  by The Christmas Jug Band buy the track


I'm sure there are some goofs in there somewhere. Let us know if (when?) you find one!


Hey guys - great podcast.  Thanks for recommending my game, Train of Thought.  I thought I'd point out a rules clarification that might even make the game more enjoyable!

In the podcast you mention that the known word must be used as the first word of your 3 word clue - but it doesn't have to be!  It can be any of your 3 words!  This can make it easier.  

The spirit of the game states that each 3 word clue should be a mini phrase - as opposed to just saying the known word and then 2 unrelated words.  So in your example - from Rattlesnake to Watermelon - I might give these clues:

Fruit Rattlesnake eats

If a guess was Apple I might say as my next clue:

Large green apple

Which might get me watermelon, but you get the idea.

Regardless, I'm glad you're having fun with the game!  If you're interested in learning more about the process I took to get this game published you can read about it here: http://inspirationtopublication.wordpress.com.




Jay Cormier 

Thanks for the correction, Jay.

We learned the game from some folks at BGG con; we must have glossed over the word order when reading the rules. Whoops!

I see how allowing the word order to change could make it easier to form clues. Of course, the flip side is you now have even more choices to make as the clock ticks away...

Best of luck with the game. Great to see a new party game on the market that does something different.

Keep us posted if/when you have any news to announce.

Thanks so much for including Haggis in your gift guide - what a "wonderful, wonderful" surprise. ;)

Just so your listeners will have a heads up on the game's availability, I'd like to note that Haggis will be available at online retailers, primarily in the USA, before Christmas - but the quantities will be low. The current print run of 1500 copies is already sold out to distribution and it will soon be sold out at the retail level. So, if anybody wants to get the game but doesn't want to wait for the next printing (I believe we're looking at March 2011), they would be wise to pre-order now. 



Haggis definitely deserves more attention, Sean. Anyone who loves ladder-style games, including Tichu, would really enjoy it.

Thanks for the additional info on its availability throughout the holidays. Sounds like holiday shoppers should get their orders in early or they might have to wait a few months.


 Some great games in there :-)

Funnily enough I have just started playing Die Speicherstadt on Yucata.De and really like it. I'm sure it must be a lot more cut throat (and quicker) face to face.

I also happened to see Tien Zi Que on special offer at my local online store (if there is such a thing) so I've just picked that up.

Onirim sounds kind of interesting too.... lots of stocking fillers coming my way!

Speicherstadt definitely has a "take that!" kind of feel to it when you are playing face to face.

If you enjoy Mah Jongg, TZQ is a great 2 player variant. It's got it's own way to score, but it manages to still feel Mah Jonggy. OK, that's not a word. But it should be.

Onirim is an odd little game. Hoping to give it some more tries this coming week.


My list for your delectation- stand back; this one may sprawl a bit....

FOUNDING FATHERS- Like the designers’ previous effort 1960: The Making of the President, Founding Fathers pulls off the remarkable task of creating a game about historical politics that is packed with factual information, yet leaves the audience free to make up their own mind about some of the questions involved. That’s more amazing than it sounds in this polarized nation; players might be hard pressed to guess the biases and preferences of the designers yet are presented with so much information that it will inevitably stimulate conversation. Once again, the designers have given us not just a game but a practical historical text, lavishly illustrated and atmospheric enough to put you for two hours in a lamp-lit wooden room surrounded by frock coats and fervor.

FRESCO- I would have thought this was last year, having been a contender for the SdJ, but if you say 2010 it should be on this list. Beautifully produced, comfortable to play and with a refreshingly original theme, I still defend Dixit's victory but it doesn't mean this isn't a fine game. Even if the idea of victory depending on trying to get artistic types to get up early in the morning strikes way too close to home.

HANSA TEUTONICA- The year's shiniest pinball machine, this could probably be about almost anything. The theme goes about as deep as the title and the place names but it's a brilliant little machine with just enough whistles and bells to fit together for a satisfying contest. Players jockey for position on the roads between towns in the attempt to claim either position on the board or the special actions that become increasingly crucial to play as the board tightens up. 

INNOVATION- You don’t get out of the first age of this history of our alleged civilization before you realize that it has already reinvented the wheel. Innovation brings something new to card games, no mean feat here in the tenth age, and the result is the most pure fun I’ve had with a game in years. Civilization here takes the form of five differently-colored stacks of cards bearing a number of symbols. How the cards are arranged on the table determines how many of these symbols are visible which in turn determines a player’s vulnerability to the effects of opponents’ cards. Simple and addictive once you learn its vocabulary, every person I’ve played it with so far has immediately declared the desire to own a copy.

INVASION FROM OUTER SPACE- Flying Frog’s finest hour yet. More than a mere retread of Last Night On Earth, new perils like fire and the Netrunner-inspired Martian Tech (and thanks for the recent look at Netrunner, by the way) might just give it the weight to blow its predecessor off the table altogether. The charmingly garish heroes and setting pump up the cinematic atmosphere and there’s a surprisingly deep well of humor. It has never failed to create a genuine sense of story and the wackoid power of the Human Cannonball alone would earn it a place on this list.

LONDON- There are those rare moments when a game expresses a complex idea so cleverly through the limited media of cardboard and wood that it reminds me again that games are a true art form. In Martin Wallace’s loving history of the city of London’s recovery from the absolute devastation of the Great Fire, the true enemy is poverty. Building your city can ameliorate it somewhat and there are many ways scattered through the deck to get rid of it, all of them thematically sound and many of them not very nice. But running the city inevitably generates more, building a vibrant picture as the game continues of the strange mix of grandeur and squalor of the 18th and 19th centuries.

MYSTERY EXPRESS- I’m surprising myself here as I usually find Days Of Wonder’s output to be a bit like Disney films-  basically sound quality work but so obviously carefully manicured for targeting at a mass audience that I end up wondering if it might be more interesting if one or two of the rough edges had been left on. I also don’t have the same idée fixe that seems to grip many that the classics need to be reinvented or improved. After all, DOW’s last attempt to “fix” Clue, Mystery of the Abbey, was a bit of a mess. This time though the card rotation twist on Anthony Pratt’s ever dependable mechanic works better. It’s less random than it may first seem, but it still makes for damned hard work. Playing competently requires constantly watching and tracking the movement of every card; relax for a minute and you’ll have absolutely lost the plot. Whether that’s your idea of a good time is one thing, but you can’t deny that it brings the setting to twitchy life as you watch your fellow passengers like a hawk.

ROAD KILL RALLY- Something tells me the more subversive fandom I remember from my youth, in those days when J. R. “Bob” Dobbs first stared down the Reagan era preppies then picked their pocket when they blinked and Alpha Complex first came online with a sinister cockeyed grin, would have eaten this up with a greasy spoon. Today’s more conservative audience seemed to all but disown it on sight. Humor is what you can get away with though and Daniel George gets away with as much as he does here because he’s really telling somebody else’s joke. Come to think about it , every incarnation of this idea from the original 1975 film to the hastily-squashed coin-op game that followed it to the PC game Carmageddon 20 years later (“I’m comin’ ta getcha!”) has inspired outrage and censorship. My take, though, is that if you  need to replace the pedestrians here with zombies to sooth your conscience, as was done in the UK with Carmageddon and as some have suggested, you’re really looking for the thrill of violence divorced from any genuine responsibility which is exactly the mindset Death Race 2000 was satirizing in the first place. All of which would be academic if the setting here weren’t bolted onto a tight little race game in which success involves driving faster than you can see while dodging firepower from behind, hoping to evade the traps of the race’s indignant protestors. Exploding dice and ultraviolence may make this one to avoid for your more control-freakish gamer friends, though.

THE SWARM-  Although released some time ago in Europe, I include this here on the same basis the SdJ included Identik, that being that it only became available in the States this year. While the setting may confuse players unfamiliar with the source novel, The Swarm is a nice compact connection game that gets in, does its job and gets out in a tidy 3 or 4 rounds. Along the way it gives you the option to attack your friends with swarms of diseased crabs and what more can you ask of life? That it almost failed to make this list says more about the quality of the year than the game; a year in which this is a weaker title is a strong year indeed.

WOK STAR- The possibilities of the cooperative format continue to surprise in this lovingly produced title. The concept of timed play first seen in Space Alert is here stripped down to a sleek simplicity with an immediately understandable dice sharing system. The whole thing is a little physically awkward until you get the knack of hastily manipulating the discs indicating your ingredient inventory while everyone else simultaneously does the same, The result is a lean yet whimsical machine that would please a wide variety of players if they could only get their chopsticks on a copy.

Honorable mention to Martian Rails, which is a fine product that only misses the top ten because it is basically just Empire Builder in spaaaaace...

The games I would very possibly have on this list had I only gotten the opportunity to play them and which I would most like to see in a mysteriously abandoned box with my name on it are:

Washington’s War, the highly anticipated and apparently well-received reworking of We The People.

High Frontier, highly touted as a highly convincing space simulation, even if the stuff about the conniving Socialists does give me a bit of a giggle as I imagine something between Paranoia’s Commie Mutant Traitors and Dastardly and Muttley.

Dominant Species, GMT’s game of evolution which I saw played. Looks very serious and dry, but in a good way. Leaping Lemmings, from the same company, was one of this year’s disappointments though, so we’ll see.

Fabula, the fiercely awaited follow-up to Dixit in which one player becomes a storyteller while the others try to muscle in on being the main character. Games depending on a limited number of prewritten templates make me nervous but again, we’ll see.

Jump Gate, Games Magazine’s out-of-nowhere pick for top honor this year. Games has had a bit of a return to form this year. They never quite get to the giddy weirdness of their Playboy days anymore and they have an unfortunate recent tendency to run feature-length advertisements thinly disguised as articles (Pez, Google/Virgin etc.). But to be fair they are so far staying in print this time and they still have those occasional flashes of brilliance that keep me going to the newsstand. The traditional game reviews remain flatly written in comparison to the punchier computer game section though.

Industry, in which the mighty Ystari art department is finally let loose on Industria, a very good game that has been out of print for too long.

Last Call. The light filler about mixology due later this month.

Biggest disappointments- Defenders of the Realm, Castle Ravenloft, Leaping Lemmings, Lords of Vegas. Holy cats, I guess it’s a good thing Mansions of Madness got pushed back to next year; there’s already too much to keep track of now.

Say did you ever play your copy of Android from last year yet?



Nice list! 

I haven't had a chance to try Road Kill Rally, but I had several people recommend it to me over the past few months. I expect to enjoy Invasion from Outer Space also, since I really enjoy Last Night on Earth.

The Swarm looks intriguing, but the person at one of the convention booths who tried to explain it to us made it sound more involved and confusing than it probably is.

I knew nothing about High Frontier. Thanks for putting that one on my radar.

Still looking forward to trying some of the fantasy ones you say fell flat (Ravenloft and Defenders).Thinking I may find one or both under my xmas tree. :)

Re: Android. I have read the rules cover to cover on 3 separate occasions expecting to play shortly thereafter. Life intervened each time and we have yet to play. We are beginning to think we are cursed since whenever we try to play, something crazy happens to prevent us!

This has been such a great year that even the disappointments were enjoyable to play a time or three. Ravenloft  was a bit of fun; it's just considerably simpler than I had expected. Also it's scenario based, so a different game could yield a completely different experience. I had a pleasant enough time with it and it did scratch the D&D nostalgia itch; it just slipped off my personal must-buy list. I also missed the polyhedrals, Ravenloft uses only a single D20. Defenders is also fun with a blinding dayglo color palette; I had just hoped for something more original from the return of Richard Launius; this owes a startling amount to Pandemic. Lords of Vegas was fun until I got a little tired of seeing an hour of planned gaming made irrelevant by one gutsy die roll, which is to be fair the very thing some people seem to love about it. Only Lemmings was sadly flawed on a structural level. 

The Swarm is not involved and confusing. Each round starts with players choosing cards they will play that round each of which features one of six possible actions: Move and pick up facedown tiles with your ships, put 'em back face up with your researchers on a one-to-one basis to build a grid, smack your opponent around with your choice of crabs, orcas or tidal waves to take their points from them or drop a new research station on the edge of the board to build from. Each player also selects their run order and one of four special powers for that round. Four rounds; end of each round you score one point for every piece in your color occupying the largest contiguous network of tiles you've managed to build with a final scoring round that includes the connections you've built between the edges and the center of the board. Give or take a few bits and bobs, that's pretty much it. It's harder to explain the bizarre theme than the rules. ("Well, the tiles are ice samples you're taking from the ocean floor because it's being eaten by mutant alien worms... ah skip it, just hook as much stuff up to the big eye in the center as you can...")

Nice to be ahead of the FAIL curve once in a while! :) Here's the vid.