2023 was as good a year for tabletop games as it was for video games, with great excitement surrounding Disney's new card game Lorcana and growing interest in all the classic brands and several new ones.
Although the tables at my local Dungeons & Dragons club now glow with OLED devices, the real draw of tabletop gaming remains the interaction with physical objects and real people. But with games and systems that are much more interesting than a family game of Monopoly or Risk.
As we approach the end of the year, I took a look at some of the season's standout titles that would act as Christmas gifts for veteran players and newcomers alike.
Marvel: Crisis Protocol Core Set
While Disney executives may be concerned about the long-term future of the MCU, this is unlikely to cause problems for Crisis Protocol or any other projects on the table. In Marvel Crisis Protocol, players command elaborate miniatures of iconic characters. With its splendid craftsmanship and immersive gameplay, this set promises adrenaline-pumping clashes that will captivate Marvel enthusiasts and board game aficionados alike. It is already riding a huge wave of popularity as it is now constantly played in every gaming cafe I know.
Available now: £99.99
Horizon Forbidden West: Seeds of Rebellion
Steamforged are the absolute masters of taking video game IP, with its complex digital landscapes and detailed lore, and converting it into a tangible, exciting boardroom experience. His new adaptation of Horizon Forbidden West proved to be a fascinating tabletop experience when I previewed it in Manchester last month.
With its impeccable art and components that reflect the video game's artistic style and setting, this iteration of the board game is essential for fans and still fun for those uninitiated in Aloy's world. While you won't be able to get your hands on it until 2025, you can give the Kickstarter away and watch those stretch goals come crashing down.
Book now: £Dependent on commitment level
Disney Lorcana – Rise Of The Floodborn and Disney 100 Rise Of The Floodborn Gift Set
I've never seen another desktop IP become as successful as quickly as I did with Lorcana. It combines Disney's storytelling prowess with the thrill of trading, collecting and playing cards. The latest addition, Rise Of The Floodborn, introduces over 200 new cards, essentially doubling the existing card pool for deckbuilding and gameplay.
No amount of eggnog and pies will make Santa bring you the Disney 100 Collector's Set unless you're prepared to wait outside a Disney store in a huge line at 4 am. These boxes include six stunning foil cards featuring alternate art from Disney's Lorcana: The First Chapter and Rise Of The Floodborn. They are illustrated by real Disney animators and are only available as part of this limited collector's set, which has fans going crazy.
This rapid growth shows that the foundation is firmly in place for Lorcana to go hand in hand with competing games like Magic: The Gathering and Pokémon, which have been around for much longer. Lorcana is not only engaging and moving, but also increasingly complex while remaining accessible to its younger audience.
Available now: £49.99
Tour Ticket: Legacy – Legends Of The West
Sometimes seen as the meat pie of the tabletop gaming world, Ticket To Ride can be a little dry, but it's also warm and familiar and has a bit of spice. With this subseries, the franchise presents an evolving narrative as players build train lines across the United States in a new 12-game campaign.
Set in the Wild West, you are challenged not only strategically, but also with decisions that weave unique stories. The first few games as you progress are quite short and you will probably spend more time unpacking the contents of the box, but as the campaign progresses the games lengthen and still manage to be accessible and exciting for younger players. A refreshing take on a classic, it's time to manifest your tabletop destiny.
Available now: £99.99
Magic: The Gathering – Doctor Who
There's nothing that scares me more in life than seeing Jon Pertwee in Day of the Daleks as a kid. Tapping directly into Dr Who's strong vein of Christmas nostalgia, Magic: The Gathering launched the definitive Christmas crossover for the show's 60th anniversary and Magic's 30th anniversary.
The cards include Davros and a selection of older and newer doctors, going back to the original, William Hartnel. Each Doctor receives classic TARDIS window cards and special variants, which depict the show's characters with special stylized art deco artwork within a beautiful blue TARDIS frame.
Available now: Doctor Who Commander Deck – £37.95
Pokémon Trading Card Game MEGA Pokémon Motion Charizard
Not for the faint of heart, but a breeze for anyone about to start building an epic-scale army in Warhammer, this highly detailed and posable brick-built Charizard includes 1,663 plastic parts. It's a shame Lego doesn't have the Pokémon license, but this is the next best thing and the fact that it's a moving animatronic design is really cool.
With flowing lava and flapping wings, I can't think of a better Christmas dinner table centerpiece. But it's so complex that you'll probably still be working on it well into the new year. But hey, this is great value, for its rather hefty price tag.
Available now Motion Charizard: £166.99
Warhammer's Surprise and Legions Imperialis From Red Gobbo: The Horus Heresy
Embrace the spirit of festering festivity with this greedy mini Red Gobbo. He is ready to deliver not only candy canes but also a explosive Surprise your favorite inhabitants of the Warhammer world through the chimney. I love these small-scale dioramas that arrive every year and every Warhammer painter looks forward to tackling them at their painting table as the nights get longer.
If this little guy isn't small enough for you to grab your magnifying glass, then how about the task of painting an entire army on an epic scale when the long-awaited Legions Imperialis set arrives on your doorstep in the new year. I would suggest that this is the way Warhammer was always designed to be played, as you can squeeze a smorgasbord of death and destruction onto any table when things are so small – from Space Marines to Titans to heavy tanks. Although getting a 3,000 point army can cost upwards of £500.
While my favorites, the Eldar, haven't gotten a look at this big box yet, it's your chance to play against the Space Marines you've been avoiding since 1998. The Horus Heresy with the Imperialis Legions includes two armies divided between the Legiones Astartes and Solar Auxilia, with dozens of infantry, squadrons of armored vehicles and even two War Dog Titans.
The One Ring RPG: Tales from the Lonely Lands
During the 1980s, there wasn't a Christmas that didn't involve a foray for myself and the family into the Middle Earth Role Playing Game (MERP). Now, like south London, the Lone Lands of the One Ring are a desolate landscape of dilapidated roads and shadowy hills. Ancient castles and inns with an evil appearance are sighted, as the hand of the Dark Lord penetrates deeper into the soil and psyche of humanity.
This terrifying setting contains six new adventures for The One Ring, now the official tabletop RPG based on the works of JRR Tolkien. Set in the year 2965 of the Third Age, these scenarios can be played individually or as part of a larger campaign.
I especially liked the scenarios that saw the Hobbits take to sea aboard The Seawing. Surrounded by sailors, they navigate storms and vengeful spirits, sailing toward Mother's Ilse and its steep cliffs.
Release date December 31st: £31.99
Dungeons & Dragons – The deck of many things
Who isn't forced to embrace chaos at Christmas? The Dungeons & Dragons multiverse is pretty crazy these days, and The Deck of Many Things only adds to the anarchy, with magical items whose effects are as spectacular as they are unpredictable. This box set is a must-have in any D&D adventurer's Christmas pile, with a new 192-page sourcebook that includes advice, adventure locations, and new monsters for Dungeon Masters.
There are also new character options, magic items and organizations for adventurers, all inspired by the accompanying Deck of Many Things. This 22-card deck includes richly illustrated cards, allowing you to build the perfect deck for your campaign and is ideal for low-level groups and newcomers to customize at Christmas.
Available for pre-order: £99.99
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