Christmas has traditionally been all about consumption. If you live with family and you know they are looking for a small gift to put in the sock that bears your embroidered name, just hand them this list before they buy you another coffee mug. And if you live alone, hang as many socks as possible on the fireplace mantel, and fill each of them with a small gift to yourself. (The big boxes will go under the tree). All the small games we selected below were released in 2020 and can be found in retail (some more easily than others).
Let's start with journeys in faraway lands. This is a small strategy game in which you are trying to complete 7 voyages with the Chinese fleet, and at the same time prevent the Barbarian hordes from breaching the borders. It has multi-use cards and an interesting system of exchanging your hand with that of the enemy AI at the end of each round.
Admittedly the sky has fallen on our head this year. In Under Falling Skies, an alien spaceship is slowly descending towards Earth, all the while sending enemy ships to hit your base. You must develop technology to avoid the disaster and also attack the ships before they do too much damage. A thinky, award-winning dice allocation game. JW has played the PnP and written his impressions here: Unidentified Flying Mother***
3. Troyes Dice
Back to safe, medieval euro territory: Troyes Dice is a roll 'n' write game based on the popular dice placement game Troyes. You will roll a set of transparent dice and place them in different slots of the city wheel. The dice give you actions associated with civic, religious, or royal matters which you can cross off in your notepad. The rulebook provides a number of solo challenges, and you can find more in the files section of the game on BGG.
4. Warp's Edge
We are under alien attack again in this sci-fi bag building game. You will choose a spaceship and try to defeat an enemy mothership and its minions by pulling tokens from a bag. As the game progresses, you will get the chance to add more powerful tokens to the mix so that you have a better chance at winning.
5. Solar Storm
Aliens are not the only danger when you travel in outer space. In this cooperative game, your ship has taken damage from a solar storm. Your crew must do the necessary repairs before you all burn to death. Each member can perform a number of actions each turn, finding and using resources, while more and more damage is dealt to the ship until it either blows up or everyone's saved.
What more fitting for Christmas than a game about spreading the Christian faith? You will send out Apostles and bishops to convert lands, build monasteries and universities, and try to convert heretics and barbarians while also managing your finances. (Both this and The First Jihad below can only be ordered from Second Chance Games UK, if you live in Europe).
Staying with the Christian theme, this is an inverted States of Siege game in which various regions (Byzantium, Persia, Armenia, Chinese and Indian states) are invaded by the Umayyad Caliphate and you are trying to defend them by rolling dice and dealing with Event cards. (This and The Mission come in tall yet very thin boxes, that's why I included them. Jihad is also available in a folio edition).
And lastly, a compact Pandemic game for the year of the pandemic. Fast familiar fun. JW has played it: Hot Zone in my Pocket