Don those caps and be your very merriest – because Holiday Season means there will be more gift shoppers coming into the store. WGBs (Wandering Gift Buyers) will be wending their way through your aisles, with their eyes boggled as they realize just how many games there are – and that finding that perfect new game for their loved one is maybe not as easy as they thought coming in. Luckily, they have you – the knowledgeable staff of their friendly local game store. Perhaps more than any other time of the year, hand-selling games and matching up a great title with the right shopper is the key to success. If you’re lucky, their description of the recipient or (joy of joys) an idea of what games they already have and enjoy can help guide you. To that end, let this list help guide you and your staff on these great games – and who will love them most.
Just released this September, The SPILL has been compared to Pandemic and Flash Point Fire Rescue in delivering tense co-op challenges, though perhaps a bit simpler and more approachable from a rules complexity point of view. It is a visually intuitive game, as are its mechanics. The danger of the unrelenting oil dice cascading down the impressive four-way dice tower every turn is ever present and the drama of the game is high until the last drop of the dice. As a reverse tower defense game, it may also put people in mind of Castle Panic, along with its ability to engage families as well as strategy gamers. The dice drops, while making for good drama, may not delight players who prefer more perfect information and control – but if they are looking for a gripping, edge of your seat challenge they can share with gamers of any level, The SPILL is an excellent choice. SND 1008, $49.99
The Night Cage:
Looking for something creepy/cool? The Night Cage, a tile-laying game where your flickering candlelight both creates and destroys the world around you as you move, is not to be missed. A cooperative game for 1 to 5 players, this game is unmatched in creating an atmosphere of dread and menace at the table, playing off our subconscious fear of the dark. It has a specially composed 50 minute soundtrack linked in the rulebook for an added spook factor and players often switch off the lights to play by candlelight. It’s THAT kinda game. It will appeal to those who enjoy games like Final Girl, Betrayal at the House on the Hill, Mysterium or Nyctophobia.
The Night Cage also has an interactive tutorial through DIZED. This digital app (Dized.com) walks players through the game AS THEY PLAY, as if a live demo person was in the room, which makes it easy to learn and may create more confidence for a Holiday buyer. Over 30k sold in year 1 and going strong. SND 1007, $44.99
On the lighter side, there’s boop. The most recent title from Smirk and Dagger Games is about kittens jumping on a bed and bouncing other cats out of it. (I KNOW, right?) The game features a quilted cloth game board that sits atop of the back of the box to form the bed and 32 cute wood kitten playing pieces. It is flat out adorable. Yet, this is not a “kid’s” game (though they will enjoy it too). Boop will challenge the most hardcore abstract strategy game players with its deceptively simple mechanics and deep strategic underpinnings. Computer learning has not shown up a first player advantage or important gambit to ensure a win. Really? In this game about kittens?? Players are trying to line up cats, three in a row. But the challenge is that cats repel each other, making that very challenging to do. Kinda like herding cats. Obviously, this game will sell itself to cat lovers, families, and anyone drawn in by the cute, pudgy face on the box. As a two-player game, couples will love it. But the fact that is a deeply strategic game means that lovers of Chess, Tak, SHOBU, Onitama, Santorini or any other great abstract strategy game will love it too. Challenging and irresistible! SND 1009, $34.99
Speaking of great strategy games, SHOBU remains one of the top 30 ranked abstract games of all time on BGG.com. The entire rules can be learned on the back of the box, and starts off as simply as checkers – but halfway through becomes a brain-breaking dual akin to three-dimensional chess. SHOBU has the timeless feel of a centuries-old game. It is elegant in play and styling. Crafted of wood, rope and river rock, the game enhances the room and is often left out on the table, so it is an easy recommendation for lovers of classic living room games like Pylos, Quarto, Quoridor or Abalone. SND 1005, $34.99
Family Fun Stocking Stuffers:
Don’t ignore the power of the impulse buy or a quick upsell to include “a little something for the stocking.” At just $15 or $20, your store has any number of great titles. Move a few to the counter and suggest an added purchase of a family fun title. Consider Holiday favorite, ROLL for your Life Candyman! (SND 0033, $19.99) which provides speed-dice rolling mayhem, candy cane grabbing thrills and cookie-crumbling arena combat for all ages. Play with real gingerbread for added fun! Or The Deadlies (SND 0070, $14.99), which can be easily described as Uno with a much bigger mean streak. Get rid of all your cards as soon as you can, while they do their damnedest to load you back up. Treacherous and fun. Or choose any of the other titles from your small games shelf – but suggest that fun little extra and you will move them!
Wishing a joyous, fun-filled season of gaming to all.
Curt Covert is the owner of Smirk & Dagger Games. After 19 years, we’ve just recently become an overnight success.