Tis the season for gift guides! As you may have noticed, EVERYONE does a holiday gift guide, but there is a significant dearth in post-holiday gift guides. What do you do for those last minute gifts, or how do you fill out your orders so you can qualify for some free shipping? That’s the niche that Boards and Bees has filled since 2013, giving YOU some great ideas for gifts in the post-holiday slump. Here’s a quick recap of the topics we’ve covered over the years:
- 2013: Small games to fill out your gift cards.
- 2014: Games to replace those mass market games some well-meaning relatives gave you.
- 2015: Games to help you meet your New Year’s Resolutions.
- 2016: Print-and-play games for last minute gifts.
- 2017: The Twelve Days of Christmas for board gamers.
This year, let’s build a Gamer Tool Box! This is a box of odds and ends that you can take with you to a game night, and use for various purposes. Give this to the gamer in your life, and I bet it will become a staple.
The first thing to consider is THE BOX. I’d like to suggest a wooden cigar box, lined with felt in the bottom. Why? It has a lid and a clasp, and you can take everything out to make a dice tray. Of course, you can use any box that fits everything you want to include, but why not go the extra step? You might have some success finding a box like this in your local thrift store, but it’s not too difficult to find them online either.
Ask any gamer what the single most important board game accessory is, and they’ll probably say BAGGIES. I have absolutely no data to back that up, but let’s assume that the scientific community agrees with me. They’re good for storing all the little bits in, and typically you’ll want them when you’re first storing a game. I don’t know about you, though, but it seems like at least one baggie always goes missing during the course of a game. So have a supply of baggies in your box to cover any that disappear or that inexplicably rip during the course of setup or tear down. These can usually be acquired at various craft stores for pretty cheap.
Condensation from drinks can be a problem on a gaming table. I mean, it’s a horrible feeling to set a card down right in a puddle, then frantically try to wipe it off while the owner of the game stares at you in horror. You could include some coasters, but how about a COLLAPSIBLE CUP HOLDER instead? Functionally, it accomplishes the same thing as a coaster, and has the added benefit of being able to hold your drink upright instead of worrying about a stray elbow knocking it over and causing even worse problems than that condensation puddle.
If you’re just sitting around without anything to do, it’s always nice to be able to pull out a game. And what’s a more better thing to pull out than a DECK OF CARDS. It’s probably the most flexible game system in the world, too – it’s portable, can be pulled out anywhere, and there are practically an infinite number games that can be played with them. They’re pretty cheap too, but if you really want something durable and resistant to the aforementioned condensation puddles, go with plastic. My favorite brand of these is Copag – as the friend of mine who introduced them to me said, “They shuffle like a dream.” Seriously, check them out sometime. You’ll never want to go back to regular cards.
DICE. You have to have dice. Get a set of dice, or better yet, make your own set from weird and unusual dice you find in different places. Like these dice within dice. Or pencil dice. Or these curlicue dice (that can be yours for only $350). Go nuts.
Since Carcassonne came out in 2000, the humble MEEPLE has been the gold standard in player pieces. I’d suggest including some custom meeples in your tool box to help liven up some games that are just using boring player pawns, even cubes to indicate who players are. And if you don’t use them in the game itself, you can set them up as the audience so you can feel like you’re competing for a crowd.
Back when I first started logging my plays, I carried around a NOTEBOOK AND PEN to every game night. It was nice, because I could track who I was playing with, what we played, scores, teams, memories, etc. I found my old one recently, and enjoyed remembering some game plays that happened nearly ten years ago. Most notably was my infamous only play of Talisman – we played a four player game, and I wrote down a 7. This was done in the first half hour, and I was enjoying it enough to think I was going to give it a seven. That 7, however, is crossed out, and beneath it is a 6. That is also crossed out and replaced with a 5. Then a 3. Then a 2. That’s where I settled, but it was interesting to see how my opinion of the game deteriorated as I played. So include a notebook and pen so the recipient can save some of their own memories.
I saw this idea on BGG, and I liked it enough to include it here. Include some PIPE CLEANERS in various colors. These can be used to indicate player colors in those games that don’t give you any way to remember who you are or remind others. The benefit of pipe cleaners is that you can then sculpt them into different shapes, being all artistic and stuff. You could also merge them all together into mega first player token.
How do you store resources during a game? Some games, like Century: Spice Road, include storage solutions, but most don’t. So get some SILICON BAKING CUPS. These are portable, stackable, and easy to use when you need a place to put all those cubes in during your Eurogame.
I hate first player rules. Some are OK, but in general, people try to do something stupid and thematic – the last player to have been on a mountain, or the last player to have murdered someone. My suggestion – ignore those rules and just use a SPIN-4-IT. This is a metal finger that rests on a nub, and spins to figure out who can go first. It was out before fidget spinners were a thing, and is just as engaging as well as being much more functional.
My final suggestion is to include a TURTLE. No, not a real turtle. What kind of monster do you think I am? No, just a figure of some sort that you can put in front of a player with severe analysis paralysis to indicate to them that they are incredibly slow. Mine, shown in the image above, came from Meeple Source, but it doesn’t look like they sell them anymore. I had a friend go out and buy a bag of plastic turtles for our game nights once, and they were just kept handy for anyone to use. So do what you will, but something like this is a fun thing to have on hand.
Above all, be creative when putting something like this together. Let me know if you have any other ideas. Happy (post) holidays to you, and thanks as always for reading!