Every year, we spend most of our free time playing games. Buying new games. Painting minis. Rolling dice. Wearing game-related T-shirts and bookbags and whatever.
We love games, and we want you to help spread the love. (And if you’re getting a little something for yourself this Christmas, we won’t tell. Promise.)
What should you get a gamer for Christmas? For Crit For Brains’ 2020 holiday gift guide, we threw together a list of items from things we reviewed, saw, played, heard about and drooled over. (And a few things we made ourselves.)
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Rolling a 20 is fun. Rolling a straight-up CRIT is even better. Yes, these dice say “CRIT” on the 20 face, and we must say, these dice are super cool. (We should know. We made them.)
Is Marvel: Crisis Protocol a good game? You bet it is. And this might be the best value in a starter box we’ve ever seen. The core game comes with 10 extremely detailed models (five iconic Marvel heroes and five infamous villains) as well as dice, tokens and all the stuff you’d usually find in the starter for your usual minis skirmish game. It’s pretty great to start with Spider-Man, Captain Marvel, Iron Man, Captain America and Black Widow out of the box. And with Ultron, Doc Ock, Red Skull and more, the villains ain’t bad either. But the game doesn’t skimp, also offering a TON of terrain for which you’d usually have to shell out another 50 bucks. But a trash can, street lights, street lamps two cars and a freaking Daily Bugle newsstand also come in the box. You’re ready for superheroic smashing right out of the box.
Looking for a fast-paced card game? Try out Dungeon Mayhem, which is a fun and funny and fast deck game from Dungeons & Dragons. You pick a character and do battle with your friends. It’s quick to pick up and super fun to play. The base game has four heroes, but we actually prefer the sillier Monster Madness box (which has six monster characters and an organizer with space for every card released so far) that serves as both an expansion and as its own base game. We’ve, uh, bought them all.
Live to Tell the Tale: Combat Tactics for Player Characters
What are the best tactics in a game of D&D? While the lords of online forum have been advising and debating this question for, well, the history of the internet, The Monsters Know What They’re Doing writer Keith Ammann knows best. After all, he’s been writing about tactics for awhile. So he compiled all his thoughts in Live to Tell the Tale, a book for D&D players. (You can also check out his Dungeon Master book, The Monsters Know What They’re Doing.)
Whether you’re hungry for adventure or just plain hungry, this book from D&D provides recipes for all kinds of delicious food. Make your next in-person session (when you finally feel safe doing that) into a real tavern feast with recipes for elven bread, magical cocktails and lots more.
If you’re not sure about getting Gloomhaven (or its sequel Frosthaven) or its hefty price tag, you would do well to try out Jaws of the Lion. It’s basically the light version of the component-heavy Gloomhaven, and the price is much lighter, too. But it’s not rules light. Just component-light. Honestly, Gloomhaven is super-intimidating for someone not willing to make that time or monetary investment, and Jaws of the Lion is there for people who just want to experience the game’s very cool mechanics, story and miniatures. (Oh, and it works as a Gloomhaven expansion, too.)
We may have become obsessed with this board game, wherein you assemble a fellowship of sorts and seek out the shadow growing across Middle Earth. The action is fun. The minis are fantastic. The game boards are gorgeous. But best of all, the game is operated by a companion app from your phone or tablet, and it makes running the game super easy by automating monster tactics, counting damage, logging XP and doing so much more. Every new map is randomized, and player choices effect the branching storyline. And for solo gamers (or people who just don’t feel comfortable playing with other people right now) the game makes playing by yourself a breeze. There is even DLC for the app to give you access to more storylines, and several expansions (especially the major expansion box, Shadowed Paths) add more heroes for your fellowship, more enemies to fight and new stories to play. We cannot recommend this game enough.
We’ve loved Infinity, the sci-fi minis skirmish game, for a long time, and we’ve gotten back into it again with the new Infinity N4 rules set. Oh, and this faction pack. Starmada is basically the game’s space cops, and these gorgeous models are a whole lot of fun to paint and even more fun to play. What’s also nice is this “action pack” contains more models than your usual faction starter set, and you can hit the table running with a full army.
This isn’t an all-new and all-different Call of Duty game, but the fifth entry in the Black Ops series has refined a lot of its sure is a lot of fun. The campaign is intriguing and honestly the most fun I’ve had playing a CoD campaign. The multiplayer mode is huge and varied. Zombies is frenetic and, well, just kind of wild.
The latest official 5th edition D&D adventure hardcover from Wizards of the Coast is filled with things to do in the familiar frostbitten north of the Forgotten Realms. You can play through the entire thing as one big story, take your adventuring party up north from time to time or take some of the book’s excellent game elements and transplant them into any campaign. It’s a good book. (Just read our spoiler-filled review.)
Released as a four-part comic book miniseries by IDW and Oni Press, the entire series isnow available in a collected edition, complete with the series many amazing variant covers. Morty wants to play D&D but he has no idea how to play. But his grandpa Rick? Rick nows everything about D&D, so the mad scientist takes it upon himself to teach him. But, y’know, Rick’s a jerk. It feels like a great episode of Rick & Morty, and the book knows its D&D stuff, too.
Looking for new options for your D&D games? The iconic witch Tasha has you covered. Subclasses. Spells. Artifacts. Some killer puzzles. There’s also some new rules variants such as group patrons and sidekicks as well as parleying with monsters and guidance on hosting a session zero. It’s great for both players and DMs.
Xbox’s two new systems offer a lot of the same: They’re super fast, and they play the same next gen games as well as, uh, the same old games via backwards compatibility. There are a few differences: The Series X costs $200 more and can display games at 4k. The Series S cannot do 4k and does not have a disc drive. Because it has fewer internal components, the Series S is also quite a bit smaller.
Like the Xbox, the PS5 also has two versions, the regular PS5 and the PS5 digital edition without a disc drive. You also get loads of next gen games on a super fast system with incredible graphics. Plus there’s the new DualSense controller with haptic feedback, adaptive triggers and a built-in microphone. Rad.
This one’s been out for awhile, but if you don’t have one yet (or if you can even find one), we highly recommend it. You can play familiar Nintendo titles such as MarioKart 8, Super Mario Maker 2, Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and Super Mario Odyssey as well as a ton of familiar releases such as Minecraft and Diablo III. The beauty of the Switch is that it’s mobile, and if you don’t care about playing via your TV, you can get a Switch Lite for $100 less. Not bad.