The PC Gamer Christmas Gift Guide
Like computer games, but flatter and made of woodpulp, boardgames are now entering a second golden age. And while you might argue that their digital equivalents have bettered them in some ways (scoring is a lot easier with a PC to do all the maths for you, and toddlers can't insert bits of computer games in their noses) there's nothing quite like getting a bunch of your mates round a table and shouting, "No! YOU'RE a Cylon!" at each other for hours and hours and hours.
A cooperative disease-curing board game? It sounds tame, but Pandemic is actually a tense exercise in logistics. Players act as different specialists (dispatcher, scientist, researcher, operations expert, or medics), hopping across the globe to eradicate outbreaks and the spread of four viral contagions. Only good teamwork, communication, and planning ahead can prevent the death of millions.
Amazon US: $30 / Amazon UK: £27.50
A PC Gamer favorite. Legacy not only trims the classic all-day map-gazer to a more respectful 120-something minutes by adding parallel victory conditions, it introduces bold, brilliant changes that permanently change the board itself as you complete games. Faction abilities, map modifiers, and events are introduced as games are won, making Risk: Legacy an excellent investment for a group of friends. It’s a genius approach to redesigning a classic game: make it more slightly more complex, but roll out that complexity gradually as players play the game. Also, one of the factions has bear cavalry.
Amazon US: $46.92 / Amazon UK: £40
This well-funded Kickstarter game is expensive, but it's the best current take on cooperative zombie board gaming, and an absolute improvement over 2007's Last Night On Earth. It rests in that same happy valley between complexity and simplicity that Pandemic dwells in—a tiled board with 10 scenarios of varying difficulty, six-player cooperative play, easy combat instructions, and well-designed rules for automated movement and management of zombies means you don’t have to spend two hours memorizing a manual before getting started.
Amazon US: $71 / Amazon UK: £62.29
A brilliant game of bickering, betrayal and robots for up to six players, BSG sees players take on roles from the TV series to defend the dwindling vestiges of humanity from the ruthless Cylons. Except, one or more of the players may be Cylon agents working to sabotage the spaceship and divide the crew. What follows is a frantic struggle aganst calamity, made all the more fraught by in-fighting and power-grabs among the players as paranoia and persecution take hold. We've been playing it for years now, and humanity has never once prevailed - but that's never made it any less entertaining.
Amazon US: $37.75 / Amazon UK: £35.04
Another game of extra-terrestrial calamity, Space Alert is often compared to FTL: Faster Than Light, and vice versa. Here, players receive instructions as to incoming threats and have to quickly plan their complicated collaborative action plan in advance, and then execute it in real time. Things go wrong. Like, everybody-dying-in-the-vacuum-of-space wrong. The time pressure, memory challenge and chaotic cooperation ar enough to fray even the most hardened crew's organisation skills, making for a raucously enjoyable evening of space-death.
Amazon US: $42.45 / Infinity Games UK: £46