Gaming

Fantasy board game Christmas gift guide 2020 – from Pokémon to Dungeons & Dragons


Devil May Cry unplugged (pic: Steamforged Games)

GameCentral offers some alternative Christmas present suggestions from the world of tabletop gaming, including the Devil May Cry board game.

If you’ve been stuck at home because of lockdown, and the latest next gen gaming rush doesn’t appeal, you might consider getting to grips with something more hands-on this Christmas. We’ve already offered up our suggestions for the best video game gifts for 2020, but if you want something a bit more tactile for under the tree then these could be the perfect unexpected presents.

Board games have become increasingly mainstream in recent years but they can still be surprisingly expensive, so we’ve tried to pick out not only good games for first timers but some that won’t break the bank if you’re worried you won’t like them.

Included below are some of the best games that 2020 has to offer, in a wide range of categories including competitive card games and mighty miniatures. These should allow you to make the most of your bubble and give your family and friends something more interesting to play than just another game of Monopoly.

Epic Encounters – dragon in a box (pic: Steamforged Games)

The perfect set for newcomers and veterans of Dungeons & Dragons, Epic Encounters allows dungeon masters to spice up their game plan with a whole new pre-made box of content. It includes some really impressive miniatures, maps, and stories to give a new dimension to your games. The beasts are all pre-assembled and ready to go, but you could also take the time to add a personal touch and paint them.

The set includes exciting new interpretations of classic Dungeons & Dragons villains, including kobolds, goblins, and orcs and some epic bosses such as a stunning red dragon and huge icy frost giant. These encounters also come with cool double-sided play mats to make your battle even more immersive. Whether you add them to your existing campaign or play them as a one-shot adventure, Epic Encounters is perfect for a mulled wine-sodden GM on Boxing Day.

Price range: £32, ages 11+

Small World Of Warcraft – a little bit tempting (pic: Blizzard Entertainment)

If you know the name Small World, and have played before, you’ll love this set and if you accidentally bought this thinking it was the latest World Of Warcraft expansion you’ll still be happy. It’s actually a new and improved version of the Small World board game though, with branded World Of Warcraft characters and locations.

Small World of Warcraft is set in the fantasy world of Azeroth, where the races of the two main factions, the Alliance and the Horde face off, so there’s orcs, dwarves, trolls and the more familiar humans and elves. To win the game you’ll need to occupy and keep hold of legendary terrains and seek out powerful artefacts to help consolidate your position.

Small World of Warcraft looks great, with new artwork that captures the feel of the colourful fantasy Warcraft universe – anyone who loves overpowered Pandas or fishy Murlocks will enjoy a couple of hours playthrough. This is great as an introduction to both fantasy board games and the Warcraft universe and probably easier to get to grips with for younger players than the PC game.

Price range: £50, ages 10+

Play your cards right and you might get Zendikar Rising Gift Edition for Christmas (pic: Wizards of the Coast)

Collectible card game Magic: The Gathering has been around for 25 years now and if you haven’t already become addicted to opening booster packs and finding super rare cards now could be your time, with the release of the beautiful Zendikar Rising Bundle Gift Edition.

The cool ice shard aesthetic of the gift edition packaging may tempt you in but we suggest you probably need to be familiar with the game before investing in this. It would make an impressive gift for your favourite Magic fan though, who should already be familiar with the iconic plane of Zendikar and characters such as Jace, Nahiri, and Nissa. The set includes the new party mechanic, which is ideal for playing over Christmas.

Price range: £35, ages 13+

Heroes’ Feast: The Official D&D Cookbook – it beats cold turkey (pic: Wizards of the Coast)

What do you get the role-playing fan who has everything? A list of everything they didn’t even know existed! The new subclasses in Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything are a gift to all players looking for more depth in their games and are filled with encyclopaedic entries detailing the treasures of Dungeons & Dragons.

Dungeons & Dragons Annual is a great stocking filler and should be a critical hit with all ages, as it brings together everything that makes the series great in an accessible and attractive book. It’s a great entry point to learning more about Dungeons & Dragons, and tabletop role-playing in general, and there’s plenty of impressive artwork. There’s also handy tips on how to start or continue your adventure, with enough word searches and quizzes to make it feel like a traditional yuletide annual.

Iceland running low on yule logs? Don’t worry Heroes’ Feast: The Official D&D Cookbook has you covered. It might be just you and your extended bubble this Christmas but this has 80 recipes inspired by the magical world of D&D to choose from. Whether they like it or not your family will learn more about orcish and dwarven cuisine, as you cook up a Drow Mushroom Steak for granny. When dinner is done you can then sit down with a Chultan Zombie cocktail to celebrate the end of 2020.

Price range: £33 – £10, ages 13+

Devil May Cry: The Bloody Palace – plastic action figures (pic: Steamforged Games)

If you’ve already played and beaten Devil May Cry Special Edition on PlayStation 5 or Xbox Series X why not extend the battle into Christmas and beyond with the Devil May Cry board game? There’s no need for anyone to play the villain though, as destiny runs the game and you can play it with yourself if you prefer.

Multiplayer with friends and family can be fun but playing against the game allows you to familiarise yourself with the different aspects of each character. There’s a simple learning curve, despite all the hack ‘n’ slash, as you play as iconic demon hunters Dante, Nero, Trish. Chaining combos against hordes of demons to rack up style points works just like the video game, except this time all the action is on your dining room table.

Price range: £75, ages 14+

Pokémon Trading Card Game: Battle Academy – gotta catch ’em all (pic: The Pokémon Company)

If you still don’t know the correct counters for your Pokémon Go raids, Battle Academy is a good place to learn the basics of all things Pokémon. Designed for two players, it includes a great guide to the decks, so that your first game is easy to get to grips with. You can choose trainer favourites Charizard or Pikachu to lead your team, with the gentle learning curve meaning it won’t be long till you feel like a pro and are ready to use Mewtwo later in the game.

If you’re already a seasoned Pokémon trainer, and have some cash saved during lockdown, you might consider the stunning Sword & Shield Ultra-Premium Collection. This is truly a treasure chest of Pokémon goodies, with the two legendary wolves of Galar, Zacian and Zamazenta, given golden card form and shining metal accessories that’ll make you the envy of any Pokémon trainer.

Price range: £18 – £100, ages 6+

Blood Bowl Second Season Edition

Premiere League not what it used to be without the crowds? Can’t make the most of your season ticket anymore? If so why not try the fantasy alternative? This is the most complete boxed set of Blood Bowl, the legendary miniatures game of fantasy football. Not only does that mean you get everything you need in one box but there are some fundamental new rules changes to make the action faster and more exciting.

The box contains two teams, Imperial Nobility and Black Orcs, whose miniatures include things like the Goblin team named the Mighty Crud Creek Nosepickers. It’s all good, clean fun though and a useful segue into the wider Warhammer fantasy universe.

Price range: £85, ages 12+

Dune – out (long) before the movie (pic: Gale Force Nine)

The new movie, featuring Timothée Chalamet, is still stuck in quicksand thanks to the pandemic but these board game sandworms have been around for a lot longer. The board game version of Dune has finally been reissued after 30 years and has already found a new cult following.

This is definitely one for the competitive board gamers, and not necessarily newcomers to the concept, with a complicated, demanding style of gameplay. It replicates the themes of the original books better than most tie-ins though, with a cutthroat game of diplomacy and back-stabbing that’s the perfect excuse to avoid watching the Queen’s speech.

Price range: £34, ages 14+

Everdell – moderately Christmas themed (pic: Starling Games)

It’s not Christmas without some woodland animals to set to work collecting berries and twigs, preparing for the winter, and Everdell is perfect for anyone who ever enjoyed the Gruffalo.

The large cut-out ‘Ever Tree’ is Christmassy enough in itself but watch out for Rugwort the Rat trying to spoil your harvest. The endearing art and vertical play of Everdell makes it more than just an exercise in worker placement and the less violent themes mean it has broader appeal than some of these other games – although it’s probably still a bit complicated for young children.

Price £50, ages 13+

By Lucy Orr

Email gamecentral@metro.co.uk, leave a comment below, and follow us on Twitter.


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