In no particular order, here are my top recommendations for the 2015 holiday season! (Or anytime, these are all too good to restrict to one month out of the year!)
1. Lumberjanes Vol 1: This all-ages series quickly became one of my favorites! It follows a diverse group of girls at a summer camp, but they encounter all kinds of strange, supernatural events and creatures. The scouts earn funny badges named after famous females, such as Joan Jett, and each issue includes a mixtape listing from one of the characters. Lumberjanes won two Eisner Awards, was nominated for a GLAAD Media Award for Outstanding Comic Book, and is in the works for a TV adaptation.
2. Hyrule Historia: If you're a fan of the Zelda gaming series this is a MUST HAVE. It's an insanely detailed guide to every game and character in the series. There are character sketches and concept art, details from the games, and a timeline showing how each game is connected. This is a gorgeous hardback and perfect for a coffee table book and reading before the new game in 2016!
3. East of West Vol. 1: This brutal and violent series takes us to a dystopian Wild West United States as the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse are reborn. But they're missing one: Death. East of West follows the Horsemen as they manipulate followers of The Message while searching for Death, who is carving a wake of destruction in retribution for the loss of his human bride. [Mature]
4. Out of the Abyss DnD 5e Adventure: This campaign is set in the Underdark, a nightmarish subterranean labyrinth populated with demonic, horrifying monsters. While this is a difficult campaign and not recommended for new players or DMs, it's fantastic for players looking for a scary and rewarding new campaign. There is a huge variety of NPCs and encounters with a great mix of roleplaying and dungeon crawling. Perfect for working on as the days get shorter and the nights get longer this season!
5. Bitch Planet: This biting sci-fi satire from Kelly Sue DeConnick is probably the one I've thrust upon friends the most. Take the most riotous 70s' prison exploitation film plot, set it in space, and then populate it with diverse characters that are all well-written and nuanced, then add a little Margaret Atwood-eque dystopian patriarchy with non-compliant women being jailed and you've got Bitch Planet! It's violent but hilarious and deliciously feminist. [Mature]
6. Munchkin Expansions & Variants: Let's be honest here, I LOVE Munchkin. It's so wacky and funny and the fact that it's not terribly complicated makes it perfect for casual gamers and parties. While Munchkin Chthulu and Apocalypse are my favorite variants, the classic edition and the other ones are super fun! Because they can all be played together, there's no limit to how crazy this game can get so you know that any edition will be an absolute blast!
7. Rat Queens Vol 1: Speaking of DnD, this series feels right out of the best campaign! The adventuring group known as the Rat Queens sets off on a rather mundane quest to slaughter some goblins as punishment for their drunken brawls, but things get murderous when a group of assassins comes into the fray. Who are the assassins and who sent them? Each of the Rat Queens has secrets, but can they move past those to defeat their foes? These women are all extremely well-written and diverse, plus their partying, fighting, and trysts make for a highly entertaining romp! [Mature]
8. Pandemic: This award-winning board game requires players to work together to find a cure and eradicate different strains of deadly diseases, before they destroy humanity. Each player has different skills and abilities based on their randomly assigned role and together they must travel the world building research centers, sharing information, and treating infections. The expansions are solid too, adding new diseases, roles, and choices for players.
9. Black Science Vol 1: This gritty sci-fi follows Grant McKay, a scientist who developed a tool for interdimensional travel called the Pillar. Of course it goes terribly wrong and Grant's team and his children are sucked repeatedly into different alien dimensions. As they fight outsider attackers and repair the Pillar, it may be the internal struggles that will doom them all. [Mature]
10. Star Wars Force and Destiny Beginner Game: By now you've seen Episode VII (or you haven't, but don't worry this is a spoiler free zone! Full disclosure: I cried from sheer awesome). The Star Wars RPGs are a great way to immerse yourself even more into the universe! If you've never played or are looking to introduce some friends or family into the fold, this Beginner Game is the perfect thing! It comes with a learn-as-you-go adventure, pre-generated characters, and dice so everything is ready for 3-5 players to start immediately. It's set during the Galactic Civil War and, unlike some of the Star Wars RPG sets, does include lightsaber-wielding Jedi! This is perfect for Star Wars fans and people looking to start playing RPGs but aren't sure where to begin.