Gift shopping for the nerds and geeks in your life can be a challenge. Just figuring out what they're talking about can be hard enough without having to find something to fit their peculiar interests. Luckily, Merlyn's is among the premiere purveyors of nerdy, niche, geeky, odd, and esoteric hobbies and in these days of frantic holiday shopping, each member of our staff is bringing you their own list of great geek-out gift sure to satisfy your pop-culture conscious comrades. You've already seen Chris', Mike's, and Skyler's awesome picks, and now it's time for me to weigh in on my top 10 holiday gifts to get at Merlyn's (in no particular order).
This is one of those games I'll recommend to almost anyone. Between it's easy-to-learn rule-set, awesome deck-building mechanic, and rich, rewarding strategy, Star Realms offers a fantastic game experience that works just as well with two players as it does with three or four and has enough cards in the core deck alone to feel fresh every game.
Lost in R'lyeh:
Cthulhu has found his way into quite a few games over the last couple years, but it's doubtful that any game is as faithful to H.P. Lovecraft's original stories as Lost in R'lyeh. Oversized tarot cards faithfully depicting Lovecraft's short story, "The Call of Cthulhu" serve as the medium through which an awesome game of desperate escape, paranoid backstabbing, and inescapable insanity is played.
Call of Cthulhu 7th Edition:
Speaking of Cthulhu, one of this year's most exciting release for me was the long awaited 7th edition of the insanely great Call of Cthulhu RPG. There really hasn't been another role-playing game that has captured Lovecraftian-style horror so perfectly as this game continues to do. And with a freshly revised set of rules for quicker, more streamlined play, the folks at Chaosium continue to do the Elder Gods proud.
Vinyl Battle Mats:
These are among the ultimate luxuries for a role-playing gamer. A high-quality vinyl mat with a square grid on one side and a hex grid on the other, game masters can draw out floor plans and maps with wet-erase markers and use the grid to play out combats for not just RPGs, but plenty of other strategy and tactics games as well. They come in two sizes and with either 1 or 1.5 inch squares.
Minecraft Foam Sword & Pickaxe:
Minecraft is a multi-generational game that has captivated both 30-year-olds and 10-year-olds alike. Hitting stuff with foam weapons is, likewise, something both 30 and 10-year-olds can enjoy. So for a Minecraft enthusiast of any age, one of these awesome-looking plastic and foam weapons may just make the perfect gift.
Savage Worlds (and it's many settings):
Another awesome "fast & furious" RPG with a simple and intuitive dice system that sets itself apart by the sheer number of unique and diverse settings it supports. From zombie cowboys to werewolf Nazis to outer-space explorers to high fantasy heroes to Eldritch horrors, this game can support almost any role-playing experience you'd care to try. It also happens to have one of the most affordable core rulebooks I've ever seen from a major RPG.
Warhammer 40K Starter Sets:
Possibly the most iconic of all miniatures games, Warhammer 40K is a complete hobby experience with models to assemble and paint, rules to master, and a rewarding (and a little goofy) strategy game experience to top it off. While these sorts of games can be a bit pricey, Games Workshop offers some fantastic and affordable starter sets with all the miniatures and rules you and a friend need to start playing. There's also a host of starter army deals to begin to bulk out a neophyte's collection.
Star Wars Book & Model Sets:
For many, model kits can offer a truly rewarding experience that culminates in a satisfyingly tangible reminder of your efforts. And what could be a better reminder than an awesome-looking Millennium Falcon or R2-D2 you made yourself? These high-quality, laser-cut wood model kits are perfect for the Star Wars loving creative-types on your list.
Black Panther TPB & Comics:
Written by the incredibly influential and talented author, Ta-Nehisi Coates, this fresh take on Black Panther proved itself perhaps the most popular and widely acclaimed comic series of 2016. You can pick up the full first story arch in either trade paperback book form or in individual issues 1-6.
Star Wars RPG - Edge of the Empire:
Fantasy Flight Games has been coming out with hit after hit lately. And one of the games that helped start that trend was their excellent Star Wars Role-playing game, with Edge of the Empire being the first of now three distinct settings for the game. With it's own unique, narrative-driven dice system and in-depth character creation, this game perfectly captures the lore and spirit of Star Wars. While Edge of the Empire is my favorite of the settings, representing fringers, smugglers, and bounty hunters on the outskirts of the galaxy, there are also two other, equally great settings for the game, Age of Rebellion and Force and Destiny.