The Tenth Annual Post-Holiday Gift Guide

What? Ten years? Yes, ever since 2013, I have put up a post-holiday gift guide. Everyone else does a holiday gift guide, so why not have something for afterwards. Here’s what you may have missed in the last ten years:

  • 2013: What to do with your extra gift card money.
  • 2014: What to do with those mass market games given to you by well-meaning relatives.
  • 2015: Games to complement some popular New Year’s Resolutions.
  • 2016: Print-and-play games as last minute gifts.
  • 2017: New lyrics for the Twelve Days of Christmas, and games to match.
  • 2018: How to build your own gamer toolbox.
  • 2019: Games for the next twelve Chinese New Years.
  • 2020: Making your own edible games.
  • 2021: A gaming travel guide.

This year, I’m basing the guide on Jolabokaflod (Christmas book flood). This is the Icelandic tradition of giving books on Christmas Eve, and staying up all night to read them. As this is POST holiday gift guide, I’m going to propose an after Christmas leikflod (Google Translate tells me that “leikflod” is Icelandic for “game flood”). This is where you get games based on the books you got for the the book flood. My understanding of the Jolabokaflod is that people usually get new releases, but for purposes of this list, we’re going with older stuff. Here we go.

image by BGG user coneal

Call to Adventure is a 2019 game designed by Johnny and Chris O’Neal, and published by Brotherwise Games. It’s an adventure game where you’re taking story cards and trying to complete challenges through a rune rolling system – these are basically just tokens with blank or rune symbols on them. d2s, if you will. You’re trying to fulfill your destiny in the game. It’s interesting, though I’ve only gotten to play with it once. The reason it’s on the list, though, is that it has two book-based expansions, one based on The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss, and the other based on The Stormlight Archives by Brandon Sanderson. I haven’t read either, though they’re on my list. Maybe that makes this combiation perfect for our leikflod.

image by BGG user Henning

Daniel Dafoe’s 1719 novel Robinson Crusoe is often referred to as one of the first English novels, and has remained a classic three centuries later. It’s served as the basis for a few games, the most popular of which is probably the 2012 game, Robinson Crusoe: Adventures on the Cursed Island. While that is very likely the most thematic of the RC games, I haven’t played it so I’m instead going to recommend Friedemann Friese’s 2011 solo game, Friday. This is a deck-building game where you’re trying to use your cards to beat challenges and get better cards in your deck, remove bad stuff, and prepare to face the pirates in the final round. Back in 2014, I played this game every Friday for a year, and just played it again for the first time since then recently. I still enjoy it.

image by BGG user W Eric Martin

Children’s and Household Tales was originally published in 1812, but has since come to be known as Grimm’s Fairy Tales. It was a collection of fairy tales by Jacob and Wilheim Grimm. The collection included such classic stories as Rapunzel, Cinderella, and many others. The 2018 game Gingerbread House (Phil Walker-Harding, Lookout Games) is based primarily around Hansel and Gretel, though with cameos by a number of different characters from many other fairy tales. It’s a tile laying game where you’re collecting cookies while trying to lure people into your clutches, presumably so you can eat them before they eat your house.

image by BGG user W Eric Martin

Back in the late 90s/early 2000s, there was popular book series that has since faded into relative obscurity. It followed the exploits of a wizard named Harry Potter, a kid raised by non-magic folk after his parents were killed by a dark wizard named Voldy-something. The books were made into some moderately successful films, and also a few games. One of those is Harry Potter: Hogwarts Battle (Forrest-Pruzan Collective/Kami Mandell/Andrew Wolf, The Op). It’s a deck-building game that follows the general arc of the books – for each progressive game, you add more content to the system. It’s not terribly brain-taxing, but fun if you’re a fan of the series.

image by BGG user W Eric Martin

If you were anything like me growing up, you read a LOT of Choose Your Own Adventure books. If you’re not familiar, they were stories told in the second person, and allowed you to make choices that would guide the direction of the story by sending you to different pages in the book. I can’t remember all the books I read, but I’m pretty sure House of Danger wasn’t one of them. Still, that’s the first one that got a board game (designed by Prospero Hall, Z-Man Games). The game is VERY similar to the books – you choose a path, then go to another card instead of turning pages. It also comes complete with some brutal endings, so be forewarned if playing with kids.

image by BGG user W Eric Martin

In 1928, HP Lovecraft’s short story “The Call of Cthulhu” was published in the pulp magazine Weird Tales. It spawned what has come to be known as the Cthulhu Mythos, a great legendary series of horror stories about the so-called Great Old Ones. Lovecraft himself explored the concepts in more stories and books, and his work has inspired even more authors and even game designers to build off his work. Mansions of Madness 2nd Edition (Nikki Valens/Fantasy Flight Games) is one of many Cthulhu games on the market, but it’s one of the best. It’s a story-driven game that uses an app to tell you what’s going on. It’s very creepy, it’s modular, and it’s a good one for getting your Cthulhu fix.

image by BGG user DrChek

Robert Louis Stevenson is probably best known for writing Treasure Island, but his 1886 novella Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde was a landmark in gothic horror. The story is very familiar – a scientist named Henry Jekyll invents a potion that gives him the alter ego of Edward Hyde. Jekyll is very mild-mannered, while Hyde is cruel and murderous. The story was the inspiration for Mystery Rummy: Jekyll & Hyde (Mike Fitzgerald, US Game Systems/Eagle-Gryphon Games). This is the third in the series of Mystery Rummy games, and one of only two that is based on literature (the other being Murders in the Rue Morgue, based on the story by Edgar Allan Poe). Jekyll & Hyde is a two-player only game, with extra points being scored for having played cards into melds that match the current personality.

image by BGG user Camdin

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Lewis Carroll’s classic 1865 novel, is notable in that it helped bring an end to didacticism in children’s literature. In other words, it was one of the first really popular books for kids that had nothing to do with trying to educate them, it only sought to entertain. Over the past century and a half, it has never been out of print, and has inspired all kinds of media. There have been a few games based on the property over the years, but I’m recommending Parade (Naoki Homma, Z-Man Games). It’s a fairly quick card game where you’re trying not to score too many points by collecting citizens of Wonderland. It’s a fun game, though not much more than the art gives you that sense of the theme. I have not tried out Wonderland’s War, which just came out this year from Druid City Games, but it also may be worth a look.

image by BGG user ColtsFan76

Before publishing The Pillars of the Earth in 1989, Ken Follett was primarily known as a thriller writer. However, his historical fiction has become some of his best known work. It was so popular in Germany that Michael Rieneck and Stefan Stadler designed a board game called The Pillars of the Earth (KOSMOS), which was released in 2006. Pillars the game was one of the first in the current wave of worker placement games that started with Caylus in 2005. It introduced a randomizer element for turn order that was pretty unique. The game is a lot of fun, and beautiful to look at.

image by BGG user Bsobol1

Brandon Sanderson is unquestionably one of the most popular fantasy and science-fiction writers working today. His Mistborn and Stormlight Archives series have been big hits, and he still finds time to work on numerous other projects.The Reckoners series, which began with Steelheart in 2013, is a set of young adult fiction novels set in a kind of post-apocalyptic world where a bunch of people gained super abilities. These abilities, however, turned them incredibly evil, and with no competition, they just took over. The books follow a group of resistance fighters who calls themselves The Reckoners. It’s a great series of books that inspired its own board game called The Reckoners (Brett Sobol/Seth Van Orden, Nauvoo Games). This is the only game on this list that I haven’t actually played, but I really want to because I like the books so much.

image by BGG user W Eric Martin

OK, so this last one is not based on a book itself, but I think it’s a perfect game for our leikflod. The game is called Bring Your Own Book (Matthew Moore, Gamewright), and it’s a party game based on the Apples to Apples model. Everyone brings their own book (hence the name), and each round, a prompt is drawn. Players then have a minute to find a passage in their book that fits the prompt. If the prompt is “Part of a Royal Proclamation” and you have Where the Wild Things Are, you might say “Let the wild rumpus start!” Or, if you have The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, you might say “This must be a Thursday. I could never get the hang of Thursdays.” Or, if you had Hamlet, you might say “Methinks it is like a weasel.” You can be as creative as you want. The game itself is not super great because it is so subjective, but it is a fun activity to pull out in order to get people reading.

That’s it for this year’s Post-Holiday Gift Guide. I hope you enjoyed it. I’ll be out for the rest of the year, and hopefully will be back on the 1st for the annual presentation of the Spiel des Jesse. Thanks for reading!


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