Our annual gift guides for geeks and gamers are back for the 2016 holiday season. In this installment, check out gift ideas in what I call the miscellaneous category, everything from toys to collectible figures, models to puzzles, soundtracks to various other bits and bobs perfect for stocking stuffers or gifts for that person you just can’t figure out what to get. Stay tuned for ongoing updates and gift ideas throughout the holiday season!
Check out our other gift guides at these links:
– VGBlogger’s 2016 Holiday Gift Guides for Geeks & Gamers: Hardware and Peripherals
– VGBlogger’s 2016 Holiday Gift Guides for Geeks & Gamers: Art and Coffee Table Books
– VGBlogger’s 2016 Holiday Gift Guides for Geeks & Gamers: Comics, Novels, Story and Activity Books
Transistor Collectible Figure — Buy From Supergiant Games:
Supergiant’s vinyl figurine of Red, the star heroine from Transistor, is an absolute knockout of a collectible, and an absolute must have for fans of the game. The 6″ tall Red looks like a model carved straight out of a cartoon, bursting with rich, vibrant color and detail. The figure is so expressive, from her pose to her bright blue eyes to her flowing red hair. The Transistor sword she’s holding behind her back looks great too, the blade made up of translucent plastic to match its sort of glassy appearance in the game. Even the packaging is gorgeous, a bookshelf or desktop centerpiece as a backdrop to Red, or with the figure kept inside to maintain mint condition.
IncrediBuilds — Buy From Amazon:
Primarily based on various pop culture franchises such as Star Wars, Marvel Comics, Harry Potter, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Finding Dory, Minions, and even gaming series like Destiny and Assassin’s Creed (plus other themes like animals and famous landmarks), IncrediBuilds is an awesome new line of wooden 3D models from book publisher Insight Editions. Each model kit comes with the necessary pieces to build a Batmobile, Captain America’s Shield, Millennium Falcon or other replica on wooden punch-out sheets, the number and size of the pieces determined by the skill level of the model, based on a four star difficulty scale. Some of the kits even come with a companion book with additional information about the model subject. The Destiny Sparrow speeder bike I assembled is a 4-star expert level model consisting of 182 pieces, many of which are incredibly tiny. The instructions are mostly clear and easy to follow, though with some of the smaller pieces it can be hard to see exactly where the diagrams are pointing to or how to angle a piece. That’s fine, because as much as these are models, in a way they’re also 3D puzzles. Reading the instructions step-by-step and finding the pieces needed for each step is like a game of seek-and-find on its own. Punching the pieces out of the sheets is sometimes a challenge, especially when trying to find the right balance of being forceful without pushing too hard that a piece breaks (I did have one piece break, but thankfully I was able to repair it). Assembling the pieces is a snap thanks to an interlocking design whereby the pieces consist of various notches and grooves that connect by sliding together. The interlocking connections are more than stable enough to hold on their own, but glue can be applied if desired for a more permanent fit. The models look great as plain wood, the outer panels featuring intricate, laser-etched markings for extra detail, but the option is available to color or paint the outer surface, for those uber crafty folks interested in adding their own personal touch of customization. At the end, you’re left with a wooden replica you can feel proud to display for all to see on a table, office desk, or bookshelf. Model builders and puzzle solvers of all ages will love these, and the wide range of designs means there’s something for everyone.
There’s been a lot of great game music to treat your ears to in 2016, but to my ears nothing’s been better than the score to underwater adventure ABZÛ. Austin Wintory’s serene score is right up there with his Grammy-nominated work on Journey, encompassing the eardrums in the full majesty of the oceanic depths and evoking the sounds of playful sea life, laced with notes of mystery and spirituality. Get it on CD. Get it on vinyl. Get it via digital download. I don’t care how you get it, just make sure to get it!
Dungeons & Dragons Rock Paper Wizard — Buy From Amazon:
Putting a fantasy Dungeons & Dragons twist on the hand gesture game of rock-paper-scissors, Rock Paper Wizard by WizKids is a tabletop board game of competitive spell casting designed for 3-6 players, target age group of 14 years and up. The game starts with the premise that participants are a team of powerful wizards that has just killed a dragon, leaving the mighty red beast’s treasure hoard open to plunder and pillage. Greed turns the party of wizards against one another, and a battle of sorcery ensues to see who walks out of the dungeon with the most gold in their robe pockets and coin satchels.
Each player takes on the role of a different-colored wizard, identified by a placard tile and a standee placed on the compact play board, which is a little over a foot long and less than half a foot wide. The players all start with their character figure placed at the center of the board, representing the dragon’s cave with an exit zone on the far left and the treasure hoard zone on the far right. Each turn spell cards equal to the number of players are revealed in a line above the board, each card displaying the unique hand gesture and effects for the respective spell (form the hand in a C shape for Color Spray, make a pair of fangs with the index and middle fingers for Vampiric Touch, hold a closed fist for Fireball, and so on). Players secretly decide their spell from the current card pool, as well as their target for the round. Once everyone is ready to proceed, all players say “Rock, Paper, Wizard” and simultaneously perform their chosen spells’ corresponding hand gestures toward the targeted opposing player, the object being to become the richest wizard at the end of the game by strategizing spells that move your standee closer to the hoard zone and push other players back towards the exit. Once all spells are resolved and a round ends, the player closest to the hoard earns five gold while the second closest player earns three gold.
The game is simple and quick to set up, requiring very little table or floor space, and the rules, which in part draw from a classic game everyone is already familiar with to some extent, are incredibly easy to learn within the few minutes it takes to read the included guidebook and the subsequent time it takes to complete your first game. A fast, fun board game for fantasy geeks of all ages, Rock Paper Wizard is the perfect introductory stepping stone into the fantasy world of Dungeons & Dragons.
Marvel Dice Masters: Deadpool — Buy from Amazon:
Marvel’s dice-based deckbuilding card game is back with a new expansion drawing on the heightened hype and popularity Deadpool has achieved since the surprise success of the recent movie. The Merc with a Mouth’s Dice Masters set introduces cards and dice for more than 30 heroes and villains, spanning a total set of 134 new cards, including commons, uncommons, rares, and super-rares, as well as foil variants for all cards. $0.99 foil packs each include two cards and matching dice. The Deadpool set features a number of really cool characters for players to fold and roll into their existing collections. Agent Carter, Agent X, Black Tom Cassidy, Bob Agent of Hydra, Colossus, Hit-Monkey, Lockjaw, Mister Sinister, M.O.D.O.K., Multiple Man, Negasonic Teenage Warhead, Stepford Cuckoos, Taskmaster, and of course the full range of “pools” such as Deadpool, Lady Deadpool, Dogpool, Kidpool, and Evil Deadpool. Deadpool also comes bearing some new abilities to spice up gameplay, headlined by Deadly, which at the end of the turn KO’s all character dice that engage with the character die equipped with the power. From a collectibles perspective, the card art and dice designs and color schemes are also very well done. Deadpool definitely brings a new level of awesome to Dice Masters.
Pathfinder Battles: Deadly Foes Miniatures — Buy From Amazon:
Deadly Foes is the latest set of pre-painted miniature figures pulled from Paizo’s Pathfinder role-playing universe. The set includes 52 figures in all, sold primarily in standard booster packs for $15.99 (booster bricks are available as well, as are individual figures), each blind box containing a random assortment of one large figure and three smaller characters. The underside of each miniature’s rounded base is printed with the character’s name and number within the set. The figures vary drastically in size and scale. The largest one I got out of eight boosters was the Gynosphinx, which stands about 4″ and has a wide wingspan of around 3″. The smallest, ironically given its name, has to be the Giant Crab, which measures under an inch in all dimensions. The collection also includes two larger display figures, the Clockwork Dragon and the Spawn of Cthulhu, as well as rare unnumbered pieces meant for “dungeon dressing,” for example the Hellgate and Book of the Damned. Large or small, the miniatures are intricately modeled and beautifully painted, each figure done up in different materials, textures, and colors. The Invisible Guardian, for example, has a cloudy, smoky translucence to its plastic, while the spear-wielding Salamander’s red serpentine body is smooth and shiny and feels like scales when you run a finger over it. The midnight blue sheen and fine detail work on the Torrent Hellknight’s armor is another standout build. Some of my other personal favorites are the majestic ivory Unicorn, the tentacled Sewer Beast (the detail in the skin texture and its mouthful of many tiny teeth is fantastic), and the brutish Cave Giant, all muscular and terrifying with its devil horned chin and giant bone axe. Pathfinder role-players will enjoy having these along for their next campaign, while fantasy buffs in general should find joy in expressing their nerdom by putting these out for display on a table or bookshelf.
These appropriately named desktop dolls are cute as a button, aren’t they? Based on popular PlayStation franchises, Stubbins plushies are available for PaRappa the Rapper, Nathan Drake (two versions), Ratchet (two versions), Sackboy, and The Hunter (from Bloodborne). Each one’s $15, which seems like a fair price for a 6″ plush. I’d be thrilled to see any one of these little guys hanging out of my stocking come Christmas morning (The Hunter and PaRappa in particular).
As human beings become increasingly glued to their TV screens, computer monitors, and mobile devices for extended periods of time every single day, problems with eye strain, fatigue, and dryness are a cause of concern. Eyezen glasses by Foster Grant help to combat these ocular issues, stemming primarily from heavy exposure to the blue-violet light radiating from our favorite tech gadgets, no prescription required. Affordably priced at just $34.99 a pair, Eyezen glasses feature a special coating that blocks potentially harmful blue light while also providing a slight image magnification to reduce the workload on your eyes. Available in a nice range of fashionable frame designs, each pair also includes a neoprene case to store the glasses in while not in use, to keep them from getting dusty and whatnot. I’ve experienced excellent results testing out a few different styles, to the point that whenever I forget to put them on after about five minutes I begin to notice my eyes becoming tired or irritated, especially towards the end of the day. Then, once I put the glasses on, a subtle sense of relief sets in almost immediately. One minor issue I have encountered, though, is occasional glare. Despite supposedly having an anti-reflective coating, in certain lighting conditions I’ll catch a spot of glare or a faint reflection of my own eyes off of the lenses. In the past I’ve also used dedicated gaming glasses by Gunnar Optiks, which do work well in the same capacity. But I have to say that I prefer the Eyezen glasses. They’re a whole lot cheaper for one thing. I think that the construction of the frames and hinges is of a higher quality as well. The lens tinting on the Gunnars I’ve used has also been stronger, noticeably altering the visible color of the screen image being viewed. Eyezens do have a little bit of a tint, but it’s not as severe, so that’s another plus. Anyone who spends a lot of time gaming, computing, or buried in a smartphone or tablet owe their eyes the added protection these glasses provide.
Song of the Deep Funko Pop! Rides Vinyl Figure — Buy From Amazon:
GameStop sure didn’t skimp on the tie-in merchandising for Insomniac’s latest title Song of the Deep. In addition to a series of books and other knick-knacks, Funko produced a Pop! Rides collectible consisting of a vinyl figure of game protagonist Merryn aboard her homemade submarine. The Merryn figure is cheery and as cute as a button, featuring an adorably oversized head that in typical Funko Pop! style, while the larger submarine replica is sharply detailed and painted. Both Merryn’s head and the submarine’s see-through base swivel, though her head only rotates side to side rather than a full 360-degree rotation (she’s not the girl from The Exorcist after all). The two can stand up on their own, or the Merryn figure can be slotted onto pegs within the boat’s cockpit so she’s helming the steering wheel. The figure is around 4 to 5 inches, while the boat stands between 6 and 7 inches.
Sure to go down a treat with any fan or collector of CD Projekt RED’s epic role-playing franchise The Witcher, this stylized 6″ vinyl figure of the series’ iconic hero is both adorable, in that super-deformed kind of way, and imposing, the toy version of Geralt sporting his signature scar and deadpan scowl. Geralt is armed with silver sword and metal sword accessories worn in scabbards on his back, which can be removed and equipped to his hands. The figure also features multiple points of articulation (at the neck, shoulders, and wrists from what I can tell) for different posing configurations. Well done, J!NX.
Sort of like a modern take on the classic Etch A Sketch, Magic Sketch is a new drawing tablet toy for children. Powered by a CR2016 3V lithium battery that is supposed to last seven years, the Magic Sketch is a thin tablet, about a centimeter thick, that you draw on with the included stylus, and erase at the push of a button. Lines drawn on the screen appear in a rainbow spectrum that changes color as you draw across the screen. For $29.95, each kit includes four different styli, three rubber stamps, a stamp roller, a case that serves as a screen protector when not in use and a backboard to hold the tablet steady when flipped facing forward, and a pack of 60 stencils. So in addition to free drawing, the transparency of the board allows you to place stencil cards underneath for different activities. The stencils come in three types, including pictures of animals and butterflies and dinosaurs and rocket ships for tracing; games like hangman, word searches, mazes, connect the dots, and tic-tac-toe; and activities for learning math, letters, shapes, and numbers. The only minor issue with the tracing is the darkness of the screen tint, so even though you can see through it, the shading is dark enough that you do need to have a bright light source nearby to be able to see the stencils underneath, and even then visibility isn’t as clear as it could be. With the stamps, you also need to push down pretty hard to get the full image to show up properly. Designed for kids ages 4 and up, Magic Sketch is a great toy, both fun and educational, for youngsters who enjoy art and drawing. It’s spill resistant too–liquid beads up and rolls/wipes right off the screen–so you don’t have to worry about children drinking around it or grabbing it with grubby fingers. Instead of risking your expensive real tablet or smartphone in the careless hands of children, get them their own Magic Sketch.
Selling for $15 a pop, Pixel Pals are collectible figures fashioned in an 8-bit pixel art style that retro enthusiasts will absolutely adore. I haven’t been able to check these out firsthand yet so I’m not sure about the size of the figures, but they appear to be fairly small. What’s really cool about the Pixel Pals is the way they double as little lamps, glowing for all to see once a couple AAA batteries are plugged in. Current character options include Mario, Mega Man, and Fallout’s Vault Boy. Hopefully these are only the first of many Pixel Pals PDP has in the works. I’d much rather collect these than something like Amiibo.
It’s been a number of years since the last time I recommended Mighty Mug as a holiday gift idea. Back then the original Mighty Mug was a lidded mug with a circular, coaster-like ring of rubber around the base that forms a secure seal, like an airlock rather than a suction cup, to avoid accidental spills. When lifting from the handle to take a drink, the mug releases naturally from the table surface with ease, but when bumped or nudged from the side the Smartgrip ring keeps the mug from tipping over. They work amazingly well–though keep in mind that the grip isn’t designed for curved or textured surfaces. The technology is the same, but the design has evolved and expanded in a lot of ways. The Mighty Mug line now includes a wide range of travel mugs of various capacities–the 11oz Mini and Solo, or the 16oz Biggie or Go–the 20oz insulated Ice mug with durable straw made primarily for keeping an icy drink cool while chilling outside on a hot summer’s day, and more recently, a full collection of barware, including a wine stem, stemless double old fashioned, pilsner, and pint glass. The travel mugs come in a nice variety of color options, as well as models in plastic or insulated stainless steel, for keeping contents hot or cold for hours on end. Whichever style you choose, Mighty Mug is a handy drinking device that pretty much anyone should be able to find a use for, especially folks who keep a drink on their computer desks or around work or school papers, where a coffee, soda, or water spill could turn into a disaster. They’re also ideal for anyone with children or pets running around–it’s just too bad Mighty Mug does not yet offer dedicated sippy cups for kids.
Boxed Indie Games:
As a grumpy old school gamer, I love seeing that there are still companies out there keeping the physical boxed game market alive and kicking. Obviously the big AAA games are always going to have a disc version available alongside digital, but nowadays indie games are mostly confined to digital download storefronts. That makes the work that companies like IndieBox are doing so wonderful, rekindling that special feeling of owning a game in a nice box with some extra goodies by offering collector’s edition PC games as part of a monthly subscription service or as standalone purchases. Limited Run Games is another fantastic source for physical games. They work with indie developers, driven by fan requests, to release extremely limited runs (hence the studio’s name) of region free PlayStation Vita and PlayStation 4 games in boxes. For example, the next two games are coming up for pre-order on Friday, December 16th, including Oddworld: Stranger’s Wrath HD for Vita (limited to 4,500 copies worldwide) and Firewatch for PS4 (7,300 copies). Adding to the collector’s value, once a print run of a game sells out, it’s gone for good, never to receive a second printing. The premium paid for owning a limited physical edition usually isn’t too expensive either. Firewatch, for example, sells for $20 digitally, while the box copy is set to go on sale for $30. Other games, like the upcoming boxed release of Lone Survivor Director’s Cut, are pricier, going up from $9.99 digitally to $24.99 for physical.
Disc releases of console indie games are also becoming more popular from niche publishers like Maximum Games, Soedesco, Sold Out, BadLand Games, and Nighthawk Interactive, often with extra content and/or bonus DLC. Couch co-op cooking game Overcooked, out on PS4 and Xbox One in a special Gourmet Edition featuring an exclusive Lost Morsel DLC pack, is a tasty culinary quest well worth ordering from Sold Out and Team17. Build your own maximum security prison in Introversion Software’s construction and management simulation gem Prison Architect. Even Zen Studios’ huge library of pinball tables is beginning to get some retail love, Nighthawk just recently shipping a bundled compilation of 10 tables from the Marvel Pinball series. There are so many other great options to choose from as well, such as the OlliOlli Epic Combo Edition, Lumo, Aragami Collector’s Edition, Toki Tori 2+, Carmageddon: Max Damage, Steamworld Collection (combo pack of SteamWorld Dig and SteamWorld Heist), Runbow, Tumblestone, Earth’s Dawn, and Shantae: Half-Genie Hero. These are all fun, unique experiences that the average gamer on your gift list may not know about but should be exposed to.
PrimaGames Collector’s Edition Strategy Guides — Buy From Amazon:
Prima strategy guides are always a safe companion gift to bundle up with a game, or to give to a fan or collector of a particular game or series. The standard edition guides are fine, but getting a collector’s edition guide gives that extra fuzzy feeling of owning something special to go along with the rest of your game collection. In addition to hardcovers with unique art, all of the collector’s editions come with exclusive perks, like additional pages containing behind-the-scenes info and/or concept artwork, and in most instances physical collectibles, which are like little bonus stocking stuffers with purchase. The collectibles come in a wide range. For example, the Uncharted 4 CE guide includes a silver dollar-size pirate sigil coin. The CE guides for Titanfall 2 and Mafia III come with 8″ x 11″ 14-month wall calendars, each month accompanied by high quality prints of artwork and shots from the game. With Watch Dogs 2, you get a collection of four replica DedSec buttons like the “pieces of flair” protagonist Marcus Holloway wears one his pack in game. A couple pages of wall cling stickers come with FarCry: Primal, so you can create cave paintings in your own room. Dishonored 2 features an envelope containing eight 7.5″ x 10.5″ lithograph prints of propaganda art and wanted posters pulled from the game world. The Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare CE probably has the most to offer, including a large 16″ x 24″ black flag waving the Jackal livery, as well as a full-size Developer’s Handbook, a standalone hardcover behind-the-scenes art book.
Of course Prima couldn’t help but try to ride the nostalgia hype of the NES Classic Edition console with Playing With Power, a guidebook containing tips and walkthroughs for 17 classic NES titles such as Super Mario Bros., Legend of Zelda, Dr. Mario, Kirby’s Adventure, Metroid, and Kid Icarus. The guide itself isn’t as in-depth as it could be (all of the information inside is readily available online at this point anyway), but it comes in a nice slipcase that replicates the look of an NES game cartridge and has a hardcover replicating an NES controller. In terms of pure depth of information and strategies, the Uncharted 4 guide is among the best of this year’s lineup. The maps come in very handy for finding the hidden treasure collectibles, while also using guidelines to show alternate routes, including stealth paths. The game has some rather tricky trophies in it as well; the tips in this guide will help you get that prized Platinum in no time. The Street Fighter V guide is another standout, packed with informative text describing in detail the game’s mechanics as well as the movesets and close, mid, and long range fighting strategies for each fighter. It’s a super impressive guide, and the CE comes with a frame-ready matted art printed of Ken and Ryu standing back to back in full on bro-brood mode.
USAopoly Collector’s Jigsaw Puzzles — Buy From Amazon:
You know me and jigsaw puzzles; I just love them. Thanks to USAopoly, there are plenty of collectible jigsaw themes to satisfy any puzzle geek. My personal favorites this year are the Wind Waker stained glass mural and the Fallout “Neighborhood Patrol” puzzle. Other great video game themes include a world map of Skyrim, “Links Ride” based on Ocarina of Time, and a Super Mario Maker puzzle that captures the retro nostalgia of the original Super Mario Bros. Beyond gaming, there are also puzzles based on The Walking Dead, Pokémon, Ghostbusters, Harry Potter, Supernatural, Rick and Morty, and Yu-Gi-Oh. One of the great thing about jigsaw puzzles as gifts is that they are inexpensive yet keep you busy for hours if not days or sometimes even weeks depending on size and difficulty.
Song of the Deep Collector’s Edition Jigsaw Puzzle — Buy From GameStop:
“At 24″ x 18” and 550 pieces, the Song of the Deep puzzle is about average size for a jigsaw. The art used portrays the memorable scene of heroine Merryn standing on the peak of a cliff while holding up a flaming candle, something she does every night as a beacon to signal her fisherman father on his return voyage home from a long, hard day at sea. Though gloomy, it’s a beautiful image, with the soft glow of the moonlight reflecting off the ocean at the bottom and clouds in shades of midnight blue and purple billowing up as a sort of semi-circle frame that immediately draws your eye to the central shot of Merryn looking out over the dark ocean.” Read our full review here.
“Modify Watches do a great job of marrying a slick, geek-chic sense of style with comfort, durability, affordability, and basic, no-frills functionality. In addition to the Cut the Rope line, videogame fashionistas can choose from other collections themed after game franchises like Borderlands, Tetris, and XCOM. Other brand collaboration themes extend into pop culture, sports team logos and player jerseys, artists and musicians, and organizations, as well as personalized options for designing a watch face with, say, a family photo. The possibilities are endless, and the modular design adds a gotta-get-them-all collectible quality that is hard to resist, even more so as a gamer.” Read our full review here.