Friday, December 8, 2017

Owlbear's D&D Holiday Gift Guide

The holidays are here, so you might be wondering what to get your gaming friends (or, let’s be honest… probably a little gift for yourself). The great news is that there is a whole plethora of D&D-related gifts for a wide variety of diverse gaming interests.

D&D RPG


The recent release schedule has had quite an array of books for the tabletop gamer. For players and Dungeon Masters alike, Xanathar’s Guide to Everything ($30) includes 32 new class paths and new spells for PCs, as well as offering an array of of advice for DM’s on encounter building, proficiencies, traps, and downtime activities. Volo’s Guide to Monsters ($34) gives DM’s new variants of classic, iconic monsters as well as includes other fantastic creatures that didn’t quite make it into the Monster Manual.

The most recent adventure offerings have included a variety of adventuring locales for gaming groups with a variety of play styles.

Storm King’s Thunder ($34) is sprawling Sword Coast campaign crossing the wilds of Faerun from Waterdeep to Anauroch and nearly all places in between. This sandbox-like adventure path has multitude of hooks and side quests all over its massive Sword Coast map.

Tales from the Yawning Portal ($34) brings back old-school dungeon crawls from prior editions, updating them for D&D 5th Edition. Classics include the Hidden Shrine of Tamoachan, the Sunless Citadel, White Plume Mountain, and the infamous Tomb of Horrors.

Tomb of Annihilation ($34) is the most recent offering with an Isle of Dread and Tomb of Horrors inspired campaign in Chult, updating the hex crawl style campaign for 5th Edition.

For fans of Critical Role, you can now play in Matthew Mercer’s world, the Tal'Dorei Campaign Setting (apostrophes included at no extra charge) for $26.

Or if Tolkien is more your thing, Cubicle 7 has converted its One Ring game to D&D 5th Edition rules with Adventures in Middle Earth. If you've wanted to play a low fantasy version of D&D, especially set in Tolkien's universe, this is probably right up your alley.

In the accessories category, there is the newly revised Dungeon Master's Screen Reincarnated ($10), the thick, folding cardboard D&D Adventure Grid (more than just a battle mat at $20) and the venerable, but still available D&D Dungeon Tiles: Wilderness Master Set ($18), soon to be reprinted along with the Dungeon and City master sets.

If you’re playing on the grid, you may want to pick up some D&D Icons of the Realms or Pathfinder Battles miniatures… and for the DM who has everything, there is the massively, huge Tiamat Ma’al Drakar miniature for about $100 from Reaper Miniatures. Can that thing even be called a “miniature”?

D&D Board Games


But it’s not all about D&D role-playing. Wizards of the Coast has expanded the brand into some really amazing board games.

Wrath of Ashardalon miniatures
For those who don’t have time for a regular rpg home game, or may be missing a Dungeon Master to run the group, Wizards of the Coast has a series of dungeon-crawl board games that might serve as a reasonable substitute. The most recent version is Tomb of Annihilation (not to be confused with the D&D adventure of the same name).

The Temple of Elemental Evil version introduced campaign play, which the prior versions lacked. However, Wrath of Ashardalon probably comes with the best variety of miniatures, including an amazing Huge Red Dragon. Not only are theses fun dungeon crawl board games, the miniatures themselves make these games a fantastic value if you also play D&D tabletop.

Assault of the Giants takes on the area-control board game with asymmetric play and features a beautiful Sword Coast game board and over a dozen giant miniatures. Even though the giant miniatures are not as large as the Icons of the Realms miniatures, they are still sizable enough for rpg play in a pinch. This also comes in a painted miniature premium version.

Betrayal at Baldur’s Gate reskins a D&D theme onto Betrayal at the House on the Hill. Fans of the original will almost certainly like this version (full review here).

Dragonfire brings Catalyst Games’ Crossfire deck-builder mechanics into the D&D world. This game not only offers cooperative deck building, you can also play campaign scenarios that allow your characters to progress similar to a legacy game. I will have to opportunity to play this title more extensively this weekend and I’m looking forward to seeing how it fares. Fans of the Shadowrun Crossfire game are bound love this D&D themed version.

Tyrants of the Underdark combines deck building with area control in an Underdark themed game board (my initial review here). Like other deck builders, you mix and match cards from different factions to give the game a huge replayability factor.

There are multiple paths to victory and the lead can swing wildly from player to player across turns. Victory points at the end are almost always very close, making the game play exciting to the very last turn. This is one of the top board games in my collection, and probably ranks just behind Roll for the Galaxy as my favorite.

Lords of Waterdeep along with its expansion Scoundrels of Skullport provide a solid worker-placement board game. Though it is now several years old, it is still in print and is well regarded even among the most jaded board gamers. This is also a great “gateway” board game for D&D groups that may not be as into the board game scene.

D&D Adjacent Games


Though not strictly D&D themed, there are several fantasy games that give a similar flavor.

If you are lucky enough to live near a 5 Below thrift store, keep an eye out for Magic the Gathering: Arena of the Planeswalkers for only $5 ($10 - $12 on Amazon)! This Heroscape-based game uses characters and creatures from the Magic the Gathering universe in an entertaining, squad-based miniatures skirmish game. But the best part is that it come with 35 miniatures. That’s a fantastic value at $5 or even $10.

It’s $5 expansion, Battle for Zendikar come with another 16 miniatures. That over 50 miniatures for between $12 to $18!!!  If you are really lucky, you can also find Shadows over Innistrad for less than $10 and add another 25 figures to that total! Hell, even if you hate skirmish board games, you can pick up 75 miniatures for under $30… and the game is pretty fun, too!

While not quite the stunning Planeswalker deal, Zombicide: Black Plague offers a zombie apocalypse with fantasy flavor. Zombicide has been so popular that it has generated many expansions, but this stand-alone version is probably the best, especially if you like the fantasy theme.

Speaking of fantasy re-themes, Defenders of the Realm generates the race-against-the-clock excitement of games like Pandemic, but instead of fighting disease, you are fighting orcs and dragons!

And lastly, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention one of the old-timer dungeon crawlers, Descent: Journeys in the Dark and its many expansions. Descent now includes an app from Fantasy Flight that allows all the players to play cooperatively against the game without the Overlord player. (Imperial Assault offers a similar dungeon-crawl-slash-race-against-the-clock experience, but in the Star Wars universe).

Final Thoughts


We're definitely in a golden age of gaming. Between D&D and other fantasy rpgs and board games, there are dozens of ways to get your fantasy kicks this year.
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