We’ve come to that time of year once again, dear friends. That time when you’ll lose many of your sanity points not only trying to figure out what to get the nerd in your life, but also what to suggest your clueless loved ones procure for you. To the rescue comes your friends at The Escapist!
Over the next few pages, you’ll find our suggestions for a bevy of goodies guaranteed to bring a smile anyone lucky enough to unwrap them. These are the games, books, movies, and whatnots that are sure to please just about anyone with a hint of nerdiness in their soul. We even provide suggestions for those of you who’ve recently hit the lottery, or simply have a bit too much money weighing down your wallet.
So read on, and get your holiday wish lists ready!
Festival Of Games
Justin says: I freaking love Bastion. If I was asked to recommend a game to someone without knowing anything about them, it would be Bastion. The combat is solid action RPG hack, slash and shooting with enough weapons to keep it varied. It goes out of its way to incorporate gameplay elements into the world. The setting is rich with detail and culture, but it’s all slowly doled out to you and lets you piece it together instead of bashing you over the head with exposition. The graphics have this incredible hand drawn aesthetics. And the amazing soundtrack and the dynamic narration seal the deal. All of these elements come together to make for a truly amazing experience.
Batman: Arkham City
Steve says: The original Batman: Arkham Asylum was easily one of the greatest superhero videogames ever made and Rocksteady’s sophomore effort is, in many ways, just as good. Freed from the confines of Arkham Asylum, Batman is finally able to take to the skies and streets of Gotham City, brooding on top of skyscrapers and swooping down to punch goons in a back alley. The Dark Knight detective is, first and foremost, an urban hero, so finally having him in his element makes this game even more exciting. Throw in confrontations with a host of Batman’s greatest villains, including big names like the Joker, Catwoman and Penguin, and this is basically like living out your own Batman comic book. Sure, there were some focus problems, but no game really delivers such a strong superhero experience. Until someone murders your billionaire parents and gives you a nocturnal rodent fixation, this is probably the safest way to get your Batman fix.
Dance Central 2
Susan says: Do you know someone who has a Kinect? Do they have Dance Central 2 yet? No? Then you should fix that. It’s perfect for just about anyone, no matter their age, skill level, or interest in videogames. Dance Central 2 improves and expands on its predecessor by adding a cooperative element that lets two players shake their groove things simultaneously while also making it even easier to learn the basic steps. If you’re worried about looking like a doofus, don’t. When you pull off some complicated moves, you look like a wizard, but the rest of the time you’ll be just as dorky as everyone else. That’s part of Dance Central 2‘s magic – it’s the great equalizer that makes it not just ok to act like a fool in front of your family and friends, but genuinely enjoyable.
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3
Justin says: While I personally enjoy the more open freedom of Battlefield 3‘s multiplayer, if you’re only going to buy one shooter this holiday season or are shopping for someone not knowing exactly where their preferences lie then Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 is the better overall package. The singleplayer, while still short, is a bombastic thrill ride. The multiplayer continues to refine its run and gun gameplay with some great new mechanics that start to crack the mold for the series while still delivering on what everyone expects. The cooperative Spec-Ops portions have seen similar refinement with their very own leveling and unlock system that runs with the games new Survival mode. You’ll want to add Modern Warfare 3 to your wish lists if you’re an existing fan, enjoy military shooters or are just looking for the next game that “everyone” is going to be playing.
Deus Ex: Human Revolution
Justin says: Of all the high profile series continuations this year, Deus Ex: Human Revolution had me the most hesitant. Would it be able to deliver on the classic gameplay freedom that made the original Deus Ex so great? Once you’ve made it through the tutorial areas, the game begins to really branch into the multi-pathed solution structure. There are a few slip ups, like in the out-sourced boss fights, but I still found myself legitimately getting into the experience and making decisions based on the character and setting instead of just the gaming approach. Sure it would be easier to simply kill that janitor, but he’s just there doing his job. There was a particular section near the end where I felt so strongly about my character’s choice that I intentionally went out of my way to resolve the issue in a overly difficult manner. If you like a little RPG in your shooter, enjoy being offered multiple solutions in game or simply want to explore a near-future cyberpunk setting, check out Deus Ex: Human Revolution.
The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword
Susan says: The little elf boy in the green outfit has been trying to rescue the blonde girl for 25 years now, but his latest adventure feels as fresh as his very first. It’s bright and cheerful, with an outstanding soundtrack, cleverly designed dungeons and a bevy of unusual characters. Skyward Sword will give veteran gamers plenty of challenge, but has mechanisms in place to help out brand new players who may find themselves stuck. The story is intriguing, the bad guy is genuinely creepy, and best of all, it will last quite a while as your favorite gamer happily tracks down every last hidden treasure chest, bug, and collectible. If you want to be extra giving, pick up the Limited Edition, which comes with a Triforce-emblazoned Wii Remote with Motion Plus built right into it.
Susan says: Sackboy is hard to resist. He’s a hero without guile, grinning and flopping his way through the levels of LittleBigPlanet 2 as he sets out to save Craftworld from the Negativatron. So many game worlds feel like variations on the same grim theme, but the sheer creativity and variety of LBP2 is a joy to experience. And best of all, it’s meant to be experienced with a friend, with plenty of minigames and areas designed with multiplayer in mind. The level creation toolkit, which was already incredibly robust, has been made even easier to use, so that anyone, no matter their skill set, can bring their imagination to life. If getting into the nuts and bolts isn’t your thing, pick up the Game of the Year edition, which includes loads of levels the members of the LBP community have made for you. Giving someone LittleBigPlanet 2 is like handing them a bundle of happiness. Hard to go wrong with that.
Paul Says: As a child, was one of your favorite past times building massive forts out of pillows, cardboard boxes and anything else you could get your hands on? Then Minecraft is for you. This sandbox games puts players into a huge procedurally generated world and lets them construct pretty much whatever the heck they want out of textured blocks. In Minecraft‘s Survival mode, you can construct your own personal doom fortress composed of solid obsidian, gold and lava traps while fending off various creatures, such as spiders, zombies, skeletons and explosive creepers, craft weapons and armor made out of harvested materials, or mine deep into the earth searching for diamonds. Creative mode gives access to a nigh-infinite number of every in-game object, giving players the ability to construct entire cities of their own design. There’s so many ways to play Minecraft that it’s incredibly difficult to list them all, and any gamer with a penchant for design and building will definitely enjoy what Minecraft has to offer.
Paul Says: The long-awaited sequel to Valve’s award-winning first person puzzler from 2007, Portal 2 brings us back to the Aperture Science Enrichment Center for more physics bending and portal dropping tests! Players are once again put into the boots of Chell, trying to outwit and survive the resurrected artificial Intelligence GLaDOS. With tons of new puzzles, science, black humor and the voice of J.K. Simmons as Aperture Science’s founder Cave Johnson, Portal 2 is a fantastic experience for anyone looking for a puzzle game with a unique twist. Portal 2 also introduces the Cooperative Testing Initiative, letting you and a buddy put your friendship to the test as you work together through five sets of test chambers, each more intricate and complex than the last. Valve has also plans to release several DLC packs for the game, including an upcoming level designer to let players build up their own complex test chambers.
Saints Row: The Third
Greg Says: Does your buddy play games such as GTA or Fallout just going around shooting everyone, blowing up tanks and wreaking havoc? Does he also have predilection towards beating bikini-clad women with a giant purple dildo? Well then, Saints Row 3 is the perfect game for your psychotic friend. The open-world mechanics are deliciously engaging with the easy-to-use smartphone interface, and the story and voice-acting are more outrageous than a pornographic grindhouse film on meth. The customization options are just as crazy, allowing you to trick out the protagonist, his clothes/tattoos or his cars in whatever day-glo colors you can imagine. Saints Row 3 even dabbles in other genres with science-fiction and survival horror thrown into the gang motif just for the hell of it. Buy Saints Row 3 for the wacko on your list (or for yourself, if you’re nasty).
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
Steve says: Is there an RPG fan in your life who you never, ever want to see again? Give them Skyrim. Bethesda’s latest entry in its celebrated fantasy franchise is epic in every sense of the word: it’s gigantic, heroic, poetic and full of fire and blood. The dragons have returned to the cold land of Skyrim, where the Nords make their home. You’re dropped off in this world with nothing but your own name and expected to find your own way through the game’s story. Do you become a thief who preys on the inhabitants of Skyrim’s cities? Do you become the virtuous warrior, eager to kill whoever the establishment needs killed? Do you become a powerful wizard who wanders the countryside picking up flowers and eating them? The most wonderful thing about Skyrim is that it lets you be all of these things and more. Buy it and then don’t make any plans for the next few months.
Total War: Shogun 2
Greg Says: The Total War series from Creative Assembly has been staple of the strategy wargaming genre on the PC since they released the first Shogun in 2000. After goosestepping in different eras of warfare with Rome, Napoleon and Empire, the British developer returned to its roots this year with Shogun 2, an excellent update to the original title. Set in a feudal Japan, you guide your clan in the conquest of the island nation through war or diplomacy. The campaign map lets you guide armies and agents like monks and ninja to invade neighboring castle-towns through turn-based seasons, but then switches to real time to play out battles in randomly generated terrain. Using units like no-dachi samurai (wielding big two-handed swords) and warrior monks to out flank opposing armies takes skill and patience, and the addition of naval combat adds another satisfying layer. For a grognard or someone interested in the military history of Japan, Shogun 2 is the must-have game this year.
LEGO Brandenberg Gate
Greg Says: LEGOs aren’t just for kids anymore. The Architecture series from the Danish toy company replicates famous buildings in little plastic pieces and each one combines my love for constructing tiny models and admiring these feats of engineering. The sets err on the side of ease of construction instead of one to one detail, but the finished product is still a very well-designed replication. I’ve had a great time putting together Falling Water and the Empire State Building, but – seeing as I’m playing the Prussians in our office Napoleon in Europe game – I couldn’t resist assembling the Brandenberg Gate when it came out this fall. The LEGO architecture sets are fun project to build with your buddy over a few beers, your kid before bed or your dad when he comes to visit.
Han Solo Ice Tray
Paul Says: Add a bit of flair to your next Star Wars marathon with miniature versions of everyone’s favorite frozen smuggler! This silicone tray lets you capture ice, chocolate, jelly, and more in the shape of Han Solo during his unfortunate imprisonment stuck in carbonite. The tray measures about 6 inches long x 4 inches wide x 1 inches tall, and lets those eager to remember the earlier days of Star Wars (before George Lucas started releasing special editions of everything) to create up to to 7 mini-Solos to share with friends, family, and any bounty hunters that may be lurking around your neighborhood.
Chessex Pound O’ Dice
Greg Says: As gaming artifacts go, polyhedral dice hold a special place in my heart. Twenty-sided dice are the most utilitarian and satisfying to roll, but I love even the pyramids of the 4-sided little guys. Nothing is more satisfying than fiddling with each one; I’m sure I annoy my neighbors at the table by incessantly tossing and organizing them. If I had my druthers, I’d swim in a huge bin of dice like I was Scrooge McDork.
While it can be fun to collect dice in specific colors or materials, sometimes quantity is better than quality. What’s the best way to get a bunch of dice? Why the Chessex Pound-O-Dice, of course. You get almost 100 dice in varying colors and sizes for only $17. The Pound-O-Dice is a great gift for your buddy just getting into tabletop gaming or to spoil yourself by supplementing your own dice bag.
Steve says: Commodore’s amazing 64-bit computer dominated the 1980s and I’d be willing to bet there’s not a nerd over 30 who doesn’t have fond memories of playing or even programming games on it. To capitalize on that nostalgia, Commodore has released a new version of the computer that maintains the look of the original but packs it with modern components. The stylish taupe exterior might look ultra retro, but this is a modern PC gaming machine, complete with a 3.3 GHz processor, 4GB of memory, a DVD drive, wireless n wifi, and every possible type of connection you could want. Commodore will even be releasing a new version of its classic OS Vision, which allows you to really dig into the 8-bit awesomeness that made the original system the best selling computer of all time. Suck it, Apple.
London Philharmonic Orchestra The Greatest Video Game Music
Paul Says: Behind every great game, there’s often a great soundtrack, and in tribute of the some of the most critically acclaimed game titles in history the London Philharmonic Orchestra as recently released an album titled The Greatest Video Game Music, featuring 21 beautiful renditions of some of gaming’s most well-known musical numbers. Along with selections from The Legend of Zelda, Tetris and Super Mario Bros, the album also includes orchestral versions of music from more recent games such as Angry Birds, BioShock and Mass Effect. It’s a must have for anyone with an appreciation for classical music or gaming.
Steve says: It’s not always easy to find a gift that’s classy, feminine, and nerdy. You can usually score two out of three, but hitting them all at once? Impossible. At least, it was until I stumbled across MyJewelryShop’s adorable 8-bit pendants. From the more subtle hearts, which say “I may be in the wedding party but I’m still a gamer,” to the more obvious Mario and Triforce pendants, which say “Is there wifi at your church?” these pendants are suitable for just about every occasion. Even if you’re not a fan of Nintendo, there’s a straight-up D-pad pendant for you ladies to proclaim your agnostic console love, and even a Minecraft Pickaxe for you PC gaming types. You may be a lady, but you’re also a gamer, and it’s time the world saw both sides at once.
Cult of Lego
Steve says: I knew when my kids were born that my Legos no longer belonged to me and, now that I’ve passed my collection on to the next generation, I’m reminded of just how amazing those little bricks are. Lego is more than one of the world’s most popular toy brands; it’s a way of looking at the world, a way of taking whatever you can dream up and making it real. Short of actually diving into a bin of pieces yourself, nothing brings that point home clearer than the new book, Cult of Lego. Filled with page after page of original and often surprising creations, Cult of Lego celebrates the infinite possibilities contained within those little plastic bricks, proving that play can be anything you want it to be. I defy you to read it and not be inspired to start working on your own creations.
Angry Birds Plushies
Susan says: Someone you know loves the Angry Birds. It might be your mom, your little brother, or even you, but if you are acquainted with people, someone in your sphere of influence undoubtedly adores those small, perturbed avians and has a favorite among them. I personally like the Red Bird the best, because his eyebrows are so very irate. Others prefer the Black Bird, because he does the most damage. I’m sure someone out there loves the White Bird, though I couldn’t begin to understand why. Seriously, he’s practically useless. Cover all the Bird-loving bases with this collection of Angry Bird plushies, which you can happily fling across the room without fear of breaking any glass, wood, or pigs. Use of slingshot optional, but obviously preferred.
Justified, Season One
Susan says: Timothy Olyphant leads an exceptional cast in Justified, which tells the tale of deputy U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens as he tries his best to clean up Harlan County, Kentucky. It’s an area of the country that tends to get overlooked by dramas that prefer the glitz and grime of more urban settings like New York or Los Angeles, but the location among the trees and mountains of Appalachia is key to the series’ character. The people of Harlan County don’t have many options when it comes to earning a living, and it’s not hard to understand why families like the Crowders opt to deal drugs instead of slogging in the coal mines. Raylan grew up alongside the very people he’s trying to put away, and isn’t exactly a tower of virtue himself. The complex relationships between law and lawless make Justified so watchable, but it’s the show’s sense of humor that keeps it from ever becoming bleak. You’ll tear through Season One in a single sitting; fortunately, Season Two comes out on January 3rd.
A Dance with Dragons: A Song of Ice and Fire: Book Five
Justin says: While we often joked around the office that it may never actually see the light of day, book five in George R.R. Martin’s fantasy series did in fact come out this summer. Coming off the heels of the arguably weaker fourth book A Feast for Crows, which focused on a number of new point of view characters, it was great to see a return to many of the characters that we had all originally so heavily invested in years before. You’ll certainly enjoy A Dance with Dragons if you’re already a fan of the A Song of Ice and Fire series, but it’s also worth a look if you like dark or medieval fantasy, though you’ll want to start with book one, A Game of Thrones, first for all the context.
The Walking Dead Compendium One
Paul Says:This massive tome collects issues #1 through 48 of Robert Kirkman’s award-winning monthly comic book series, detailing the struggles of Rick Grimes, a former Kentucky police officer leading a group of survivors in the aftermath of a zombie apocalypse. With a heavy focus on characterization and the struggle to stay alive after the horrific collapse of civilization, The Walking Dead is an excellent read for any survival-horror aficionado or fan of George Romero. Over a 1000 pages long and weighing in at approximately 5 pounds, The Walking Dead Compendium One also makes a pretty decent improvised weapon in the event you have any unexpected undead guests.
The Lord of the Rings: The Motion Picture Trilogy Extended Edition Blu-ray
Justin says: While technically the films have been available on Blu-ray since last year, let’s face it. If you’re buying Peter Jackson’s epic presentation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s classic fantasy series for the very latest generation of media, then you’re probably the sort to appreciate the approximately 2 hours of extra footage in addition to the practically countless more additional features like commentaries, documentaries, galleries, maps and more. There are in fact 4 separate commentaries – directors, design team, production/post-production and cast. If you’ve ever been interested in what lengths people must go to make some of your favorite films, then you’ll love these extra features. Buy Extended Edition Blu-rays for yourself or a special someone on your shopping list if you’re fans of the novels or even just the films. Though in the latter case I heartily recommend checking out the books or giving them a second chance, it would certainly make for good dual theme present of film and novel.
The Night Circus
Susan says: Two magicians, trained since childhood to compete against each other in a fierce duel, fall in love against the backdrop of Le Cirque des Rêve, a bizarre circus that appears suddenly, without warning, and is only open at night. This is no ordinary collection of clowns and elephants, though; brass dragons, graves, curious cats and more await your arrival. Venture into The Night Circus game if you’d like a taste of Erin Morgenstern’s imaginative setting before picking up a copy of the book. Great for that someone on your gift list who’s read Harry Potter so many times they practically know it by heart.
Steve says: Comics continuity is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, it provides readers with rich layers of history and connection between characters and events. On the other hand, it can sometimes alienate new readers who aren’t sure why, or even if, they should care about what’s happening. Earlier this year, DC attempted to roll things back by resetting its entire line of monthly issues and starting over with 52 separate series. From Superman and Batman to O.M.A.C. and Blue Beetle, the whole pantheon of DC heroes are getting a fresh start with a streamlined continuity that’s intended to be very friendly to new readers. While the whole thing will probably start getting satisfyingly complicated again soon, this is an easy way to get in on the ground floor with some of comicdom’s most fantastic heroes. And now that DC has its own digital storefront, you can get them all without ever leaving your house.
Sherlock, Season One
Susan says: Sherlock Holmes is one of fiction’s most enduring characters because he’s such a wonderful collection of contradictions. He’s brilliant, so we should admire him, but he’s a complete jerk, so we should shun him. We want him around because his insight is invaluable, but he’s such an insufferable git that we wish he’d just go away. This BBC update cleverly adapts Holmes’ quirks to modern times, working him seamlessly into an era of texting and internet searches, while adding intriguing questions about the detective’s sexuality and potential sociopathy. Benedict Cumberbatch is positively dazzling as he digs into Holmes with an electric ferocity, and Martin Freeman makes for a fascinating Watson. There are only three episodes in the entire season, and the second is bit weak, but the third episode – in particular the ending – will leave you shouting for more.
The Rain Wilds Chronicles by Robin Hobb
Greg Says: Over the last few years, Robin Hobb has quietly become one of my favorite authors and I eagerly await her novels each year. The Rain Wilds Chronicles is trilogy about a hopeless trek of stunted dragons and their mutated masters searching for an ancient city where humans and dragons once cohabitated in splendor. The first two books, Dragon Keeper and Dragon Haven, are out now, with a third on the way this winter. While clearly fantasy – I mean, dragons, right? – what makes Hobb’s writing so powerful are the fascinating characters. Hobb is one of the few fantasy writers I know who portrays human sexuality evenly, many of her characters are homosexual without verging into melodrama or stereotype. For those interested, the Rain Wilds Chronicles is part of the world described in Hobb’s previous trilogies – Farseer, Tawny Man and most directly the Liveship Traders – but it’s not necessary to read those before diving into this story. If you have a fantasy fan on your list who is tired of the same old swords and sorcery, a paperback copy of Dragon Keeper is a great stocking stuffer.
Susan says: The card game Gloom turns typical game mechanics on its ear by making failure the only way to win. Each player adopts one of the game’s charmingly unusual families, then does their best to make the members of that family as miserable as possible before killing them. Besetting your family with all manner of woes – while playing happy events on your opponents – is fun enough by itself, but the real joy of Gloom comes from players working together to create a story that manages to stitch the various elements together. Actually winning the game becomes secondary to telling a good – and usually hilarious – story. Cthulhu Gloom keeps the game’s mechanics and adds a Lovecraftian twist by sprinkling Elder gods and magical tomes amongst the unfortunate happenings with which you can assault your family members.
Adventurer Conquer King System
Justin says: Adventurer Conquer King at its core is much like many of the tabletop roleplaying games you know and love. You’ll gather around a table with character sheets and pencils in hand. You’ll even roll dice, praying for 20s and bemoaning the 1s, but what primarily sets ACKS apart from other similar games like say Dungeon and Dragons is that it expands character levels beyond just sequential statistical improvement. You follow your characters from the dredges of dungeon crawling, their rise as heroes and finally cementing themselves as leaders and rulers connected to a setting beyond simple for-hire pest extermination or maguffin retrievers. You’ll most enjoy ACKS if you’re the kind of player or DM that likes their settings to feel like living breathing worlds beyond just the characters line of sight. Want to know how many ships are available for sale in a medium sized town and how long it would take to gather a pirate crew? ACKS has an answer for it.
Disclaimer: Adventurer Conqueror King was created in part by Escapist publisher and co-founder Alexander Macris, who also heads the ACKS publishing company, Autarch.
Sentinels of the Multiverse
Paul Says: Want to form your own Justice League or Avengers team, but noticed that you and your friends are kind of lacking in crime-fighting prowess, high-tech power armor or the ability to shoot lasers out of their eyes? Then you need to pick up Sentinels of the Mulitverse, a cooperative card game by Greater Than Games. In Sentinels, 3 to 5 players control a super hero team as they take on a devious super-villain out for world domination. The game features 10 heroes, each with their own unique abilities, 4 different environments decks where their fight against evil takes place and 4 villains introducing a variety of challenges and minions for players to defeat. There’s tons of replay value, as no two games play the same and players have plenty of opportunity to switch up their tactics with the different heroes.
Ascension: Chronicle of the Godslayer
Paul Says: For those who aren’t interested in teamwork but rather crushing their friends in a ‘friendly’ competition, there’s Ascension: Chornicle of the Godslayer by Gary Games. Taking place in the world of Vigil, players compete to recruit a powerful army composed of heroes from all kinds of other worldly dimensions in order to take on the mantle of Godslayer and defeat the god Samael and his monstrous hordes. Ascension is fast-paced deck building card game for up to four players, with 200 cards and a great deal of replay value. There are also two expansions available to add even more variety and mechanics to the game. If you’re not too much of a fan of card games, there’s also a digital version of the Ascension available for the iPhone and iPad.
Greg Says: Named after a French city known for its spectacular walled fortress, Carcassonne is a competitive board game where you place city tiles and “claim” features like roads and fields/farms with little wooden dudes called meeples. Like many German-style board games of the last decade, the rules are deceptively simple – there’s a complex strategy behind when and where to place your meeples. The basic game is great fun to play with people who may be scared away by intense rules, and even the iPad application translates the experience really well. But I suggest you buy a bunch of zombie, ninja and monster meeples to play Carcassonne with? That just makes it more fun for everyone.
Dungeon & Dragons: The Legend of Drizzt Board Game
Justin says: Sometimes you just don’t have the time to lovingly craft a setting, characters and adventure or maybe you’re more of the sort who like the game aspects of tabletop more than the roleplaying side. The Legend of Drizzt continues the series of D&D based board games that Wizard of the Coast has been putting out. They play roughly like Diet Dungeon and Dragons: the dungeon builds itself, monsters are run in tandem by the players and rules have been pruned down to be easily understood by almost anyone. The Legend of Drizzt pulls its adventure ideas from R.A. Salvatore’s Forgotten Realm series and follows everyone’s favorite, or despised, drow ranger. A few of them actually further expand the normal cooperative nature of the game, forcing you to play two teams that must work together but are not ultimately required to see the other side through to win. You’ll enjoy The Legend of Drizzt if you’re a fan of the novels and want to take control of characters like Drizzt Do’urdon or his assassin rival Artemis Entreri.
Susan says: The holidays are a time when you get together with your extended family, then quickly try to find a way to get away from most of them. Ok, maybe that’s just at my house. Sherwood Showdown is the perfect way to spend a little one-on-one time with someone you love and want to rob blind. A card game designed specifically to be played by two players, Sherwood Showdown places you in the role of Robin Hood and his Merry Men, robbing unwary travelers. The rules are simple and just a few hands is enough to turn a new player into a shrewd strategist. Though it’s fun with anyone, Sherwood Showdown is even better when you know your opponent well enough to predict when they’re bluffing.
Star Wars Trash Compactor Bookends
Greg Says: If you grew up loving sci-fi or fantasy in the last 30 years, it was hard not to love Star Wars. The first three movies were such an iconic part of that era and not even the subsequent prequels and George Lucas’ tampering can douse our affection for Han Solo, Princess Leia and Luke Skywalker. The trash compactor scene always felt like an anomaly for me where the tone shifted into monster movie suspense, but I admit I laughed the first time I saw these bookends because the pose fits so well with what bookends are meant to do. If you got a spare 200 credits, I’m sure a Star Wars fan wouldn’t turn down using Luke, Chewie and Han to hold up their books, games or movies on the shelf.
Magic the Gathering: Innistrad Variety Pack
Justin says: In addition to running a few campaigns of ACKS during our lunch hour, we here at The Escapist will generally get to together once a week to play Magic the Gathering. The collectible card game has seen a bit of a resurgence in recent years, which some attribute to the Duels of the Planeswalkers games. With new sets hitting fairly frequently, it can often be a chore to reach the critical mass you need in order to effectively construct decks. If you’ve got money burning a hole in your pocket, the variety pack will pretty much have you covered with a full booster box, fat pack and all of the intro pack decks for that set. That’s 45 packs in addition to the pre-constructed decks. Though if you absolutely need to guarantee that you get four of each of the mythic rares there is always this 6 booster box case.
Justin says: Do you have a spare $4,100,000 laying around and are also in the market for a new place to live? Well Britannia Manor, the home of game designer Richard Garriott, is for sale. The house sits on a bluff near Austin, Texas and overlooks the city. The interior is decorated like a medieval manor, with weapons and armor adorning the walls. There are traps, hidden passages and secret rooms. Part of the main building is given over to an observatory, which is independently supported to minimize vibrations on long-exposure space photography. There is even functioning cannon to ward away pesky solicitors. If you’re a gamer, geek or historian you’d be hard pressed to find a better place to hang your hat.
Mass Effect M-8 Avenger Assault Rifle
Paul Says: Mass Effect 2‘s iconic Avenger assault rifle has been brought to life by the awesome team at TriForce. Coming in at 34″ in length, 12″ in height and weighing a hefty 20 pounds, this 1:1 scale polystone, hand-painted replica of the M-8 is as close to the real thing you can get to outside of a trip to the Citadel. Only five hundred of these were made, so if you want to pick up your own version of one of Commander Shepard’s favorite weapons, you might want to start earning some extra cash this holiday season. May I suggest shoveling snow out of your neighbor’s driveway?
The Sultan Gaming Table
Greg Says:For some gamers, luxury means an awesome PC gaming rig, or a comfy chair with a huge 3D TV and surround sound speakers. For tabletop players, the table is the most important accessory. And for the ultimate gaming experience with no limit on your budget, you absolutely need a Sultan table from Geek Chic. Each Sultan is made to order from fine hardwoods, and all the storage to fit your back issues of Dragon magazine. Geek Chic has multiple designs with impressive names like the Vizier table and the Alexandria Codex storage unit. The basic design for these units is fixed, but you can customize each piece by choosing which woods they use and the accoutrements like cup holders and dice towers. They will even install secret drawers! If you’ve got a spare 15 grand, get Geek Chic to make a Sultan table for you. Your gaming group will love you until the world crumbles.
1/72 Millenium Falcon
Steve says: Even at a few hundred dollars, Hobby Link Japan has had trouble keeping this one in stock. Fine Molds’ six-year-old Millennium Falcon model is finally back in production and you’d better get it while you can. Designed from the actual movie model used in The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi, this is the most accurate representation of the series’ most iconic ship you’ll find outside of ILM. With over 900 separate parts you’ll basically be building this model the way that the original model was built, one incredibly tiny piece at a time. Honestly, if you’re an amateur modeler looking to recreate your own version of this Corellian transport, you wouldn’t have it any other way. Most of the Star Wars model kits out there require a fair bit of after-marketing fiddling to get anywhere close to authentic, but not this kit. Fine Molds even includes the first-ever engine detail, created especially for this model by the people at LucasFilm. Screw it. Even if I don’t win the lottery, I’ll still be getting this one.
Steve says: Seriously? A Dalek you can get in and ride around? Why has it taken society so long to finally answer this need? As a young Dr. Who fan, I remember being absolutely terrified of the Daleks; their inhumanity, their single-mindedness, their limited vocabulary. But now the folks at ThinkGeek are helping to offset the evil image of Daleks with this adorable, inflatable Dalek that little kids can actually ride in. Complete with a motor and a steering wheel, your kids can now terrorize your neighborhood by driving up and down the sidewalk, complete with playable Dalek sounds and lights. Imagine granddad’s surprise when little Timmy comes out from behind the tree in this thing. “Exterminate! Exterminate! Ha! Just kidding granddad. Seriously, I hope you’re around for a long time.” The only bad thing I can say about this is the ridiculous weight restrictions. 65lbs? Are they expecting me to buy like four of these things and strap them together? Because I totally will.