Tag Archive: holiday gift ideas


dnd goft guide banner 2021

It’s less than two months until Christmas.  It may seem a bit early, but with carrier services already delaying shipping it’s a good time to get squared away on holiday shopping, so we’re getting you started today with our Mega-Sized Dungeons & Dragons Holiday Gift Guide.  This has been a stellar year for D&D players, with new adventures and sourcebooks for the “world’s greatest roleplaying game.”  If you’ve been tracking the breadth and scope of the 5th Edition with us at borg, you know there is truly something for every fantasy fan in your realm.  If you’ve ever wanted to start playing Dungeons & Dragons, but didn’t have anyone around that knew how to play, Wizards of the Coast released a boxed set with everything you need to get started.  Expanding on its earlier D&D Starter Set, the D&D Essentials Kit includes all of the components to get started on an adventure out-of-the-box, with hours of adventuring for 2-6 players.  That’s just the beginning…  We have three new accessories to share, especially for anyone looking for the gamer who has everything: The Witchlight Carnival Dice and Miscellany set, Dungeon Master’s Screen: Dungeon Kit, and the yet-to-be-released book of adventures, Strixhaven: Curriculum of Chaos If your gamer is hard to buy for, they probably don’t have these new releases yet.  Let’s take a look at these and everything you need–or may have missed–from the 5th Edition of Dungeons & Dragons:

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sw comic mini cover ab sw poster mini book cd

Whether you use it as the perfect stocking stuffer, for an office party gift swap, or you just want some convenient content to carry around in your backpack, publisher Insight Editions has the right book for you.  For Harry Potter fans we reviewed the detailed MinaLima-designed treasure trove The Art of Harry Potter–Mini Book of Graphic Design a few years ago, and for superhero fans we looked at two volumes of the history of Wonder Woman in comic book covers.  These are jam-packed books that literally fit inside your pocket, and the content spans the scope of pop culture and genre.  Love Batman?  Check.  Mickey Mouse?  Check.  Beauty and the Beast and other Disney favorites?  Check.

Today we have previews from four of Insight Editions’ books featuring Star Wars, one with the artwork of Ralph McQuarrie, a two-volume collection of Marvel comic book covers, and another with famous poster artwork that spans the 11 films.  Typically available at $11.99 or less, it’s an inexpensive source for the visual details of the movies, production, and marketing that you’ve never seen before, and a quick gift idea for your favorite Star Wars fan.

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Two years ago here at borg, we talked about Hasbro′s turn at offering its classic games in mash-up form, with Monopoly, Clue, Taboo, Scrabble, and Speak Out colliding with former Milton Bradley games Candy Land, Connect 4, Guess Who?, Jenga, and Twister.  Hasbro’s next line of classic games takes your favorite board games outside.  They’re in the form of beach towel backpacks that transform into a giant board to stretch out on the beach or at a park, at last giving you something to do when you’re enjoying this summer.  We tried out Beach Towel Backpack Clue and found lots of reasons why this could be your new version of choice (check out our review below), Connect 4, Candy Land, Chutes & Ladders, and a new take on one you’ve probably seen in a giant towel version before: Twister.

Even better, we found them for less than $15.

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As we inch closer to Christmas, Hasbro Gaming is making its latest effort to breathe new life into its classic board games.  The new idea is mash-ups of classics, combining two games into one, which should tap into the nostalgia of long-time players.  The game company is taking its recently developed game Speak Out and its famous acquired Parker Brothers inventory Monopoly, Clue, Taboo, and Scrabble, and combining them with its celebrated former Milton Bradley games Candy Land, Connect Four, Guess Who?, Jenga, and Twister.  The result:  Hasbro Mash-Ups, some strange combinations, but new twists for family game night, all at less than $21 each retail price.

The best bet looks to be Monopoly Jenga.  This game adds some additional strategy to the wooden block game where players remove a piece of the tower one by one until the tower collapses.  The Monopoly twist is adding color-coded Monopoly properties as blocks: Railroads, Free Parking, Chance and Community Chest cards, and a Go to Jail block.  The goal?  Collect the most properties, property sets, and railroad blocks without making the tower fall.

 

The strangest is Hasbro’s Taboo Speak Out.  There’s something really creepy about a family game with mouthpieces, and the box cover art doesn’t help much.

 

Perfect for ventriloquists, but a problem for everyone else, the speaking barriers are the key twist to the fun classic Taboo game.  The rules are simple:  Give clues to get teammates to say the Taboo word on the card, without using any of the five forbidden words, all while wearing a Speak Out game mouthpiece.  Easy peasy, right?  Maybe not.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

“The waters speak the truth, that they do.  Only now have you lived long enough to know the child that you shall always remain.  That which dwells in the heart can never be lost to the spirit.”

Some artists’ works are so brilliant, so evocative, so memorable, and so successful, that whenever they draw, sketch, or paint, it turns heads.  One of those artists is Bill Sienkiewicz.  His 1980s comic book artwork changed the way comic books are approached by artists and readers, forever.  His trademark abstract works and his recurring sketches of people making the news are regular features that can make you happy to open your social media application for the day.  Put Sienkiewicz together with a Santa Claus story?  It’s as good as it sounds, and it arrives in stores beginning this week.

We’ve seen some incredible work on Christmas stories in the comic book medium before.  Take for example the modern Batman opus, 2011’s Batman: Noel by Lee Bermejo (we reviewed it here).  Now this year we have Santa: My Life and Times, An Autobiography, a lavish, updated edition to a 1998 project.  It features a holiday story written by Jared Green (and Santa, of course), with vibrant and festive watercolor art, cover to cover, by Sienkiewicz.  As are all good storybooks, this is a shiny, over-sized hardcover.  You will get lost in the details of every page of art.  Marvel at all the wintry critters.  Peek inside windows.  The beauty of nature’s magic is everywhere.  By my count there are not only more than 100 illustrations by Sienkiewicz in this book, there are 100 poster-worthy illustrations.

The storytelling is very Victorian and grand, neither modern nor silly.  This is the same voice found in the classic 1823 Clement Clarke Moore holiday staple,  A Visit from St. Nicholas (aka ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas).  Green’s voice of Santa is like a conversation in a good Dickens hero’s friendly voice.  Think Bob Cratchit.  This is a deep, rich, well-thought out fantasy.  The story spreads pure goodness and joy, the kind you’ll want to read to little kids (or adults, or cats), complete with Dr. Seussian sound effects peppered about.  No doubt this is the same Santa that influenced the likes of Mr. Rogers, Bob Ross, Steve Irwin, and Jim Henson.  The look and feel matches the spirit of the Rankin/Bass Christmas classics perfectly.

Here are some pages of the interior art and story from Santa: My Life and Times: An Autobiography, courtesy of Titan Comics:

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Review by C.J. Bunce

The ginger tomcat named Jones, aka Jonesy.  He co-starred with human actor Sigourney Weaver in Ridley Scott’s science fiction classic Alien.  Now nearly 40 years later, Jonesy gets his own book.  Recounting from his perspective the events aboard the USCSS Nostromo on its fateful mission encountering xenomorphs, Jonesy: Nine Lives on the Nostromo is now available in bookstores.  It is much, much, better than you might think.  And it’s a contender for best gift idea for the holiday season, especially for anyone who likes cats.

Lots of books aim for humor and don’t quite get it right.  The balance between cutesy and adhering to the parameters of the source material is not an easy thing.  Writer-artist Rory Lucey has cats and he is a fan of Alien.  When he showed the movie Alien to his wife for the first time, her natural question was: Does Jonesy survive?  From there, Jonesy: Nine Lives on the Nostromo was born.  And like a really fabulous look at a day in the life of a dog, Matt Fraction and David Aja’s Hawkeye Issue #11 (2013’s single best comic book issue), readers will not encounter any actual words in this book.  And that’s as it should be.

That’s the original Jonesy in Alien (left), and Rosie the cat (right), who is just a little afraid of what Jonesy might encounter in this new book.

Lucey takes his knowledge of cat behavior and fills in the blanks of the film–those times when we didn’t see Jonesy hissing at the xenomorph behind you, what was he up to?  Scratching, taking a bath, sleeping, licking things he shouldn’t be–yes, all that, and much more.  And all of it fits into the story from the original film perfectly.  It’s even better than A Die Hard Christmas.  Here are some images from the book:

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sw-clue-3d

Countless Hasbro, Parker Brothers, and Milton Bradley games have been re-released incorporating every genre favorite from The Lord of the Rings to the Harry Potter series, and from Firefly to The Walking Dead and Game of Thrones You can pull off your classic game shelf the original Monopoly, Risk, Clue, or Trivial Pursuit, or mix up the game night a bit with the tie-in version of your favorite movie or TV series.  Although a The Walking Dead seems like it would be a better mash-up with Sorry! than The Game of Life or The Walking Dead Jenga, some of the tie-ins seem well-matched (like Sherlock Clue, Downton Abbey Clue, and Star Wars: The Force Awakens BB-8 Operation!).

Ready for this holiday season, Hasbro is releasing a new Star Wars Clue game this month.  And the plot of the game is nicely timed to tie with the plot of December’s Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.  The goal is to locate the plans to the Death Star, figure out who stashed them, and determine the best route to escape.

star-wars-clue

This beautiful new game is Star Wars gold for two reasons.  First, it’s a twist on Clue (Cluedo in the UK) and Clue is always fun if you get enough people to play.  “But I already have seven versions of Clue plus Star Wars Trivial Pursuit and Monopoly!” you say.  This one adds some three-dimensional color for good family night play.  And that new 3D take is the second reason this is sure to be a fun, new game: It evokes the great cardboard-backed action figure playsets from the 1970s, like the Creature Cantina, the Hoth AT-AT Playset, the Cloud City Playset, and even the wall inserts on the full-sized Death Star playset.  It also looks a bit like the classic Sub Search from Milton Bradley.

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Car legends display

A new poster style is available for your favorite fan of movies and cool cars.  Displate‘s artists have created a series of Car Legends for your walls and you can mix and match them as you like.

Displates mount with magnets and are each about 18 inches by 12.5 inches in size.  They sell for $44 each and you can get free shipping if you purchase three.

How’s this for a set of posters to show off over your sofa?  McFly, Bond and Mad Max anyone?

Car legends metal posters

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Cardboard Safari skull

The department stores have switched into the Thanksgiving and Christmas season seemingly overnight now that Halloween has passed.  If you’re thinking ahead to the latest and greatest new gift idea for model builders and other crafters for the coming holiday season, you should take a look at some creative new building kits from Cardboard Safari.  We at borg.com have tried out three of the company’s precision laser-cut project kits and found them to be easy to build and loads of fun for a variety of audiences.

Cardboard Safari designers use various types of cardboard to create everything from real office furniture to desktop art, and wall wreaths and retro toys to a human skull.  We tried out Cardboard Safari’s Human Skull, Astro Rocket, and steampunk or retro Ray Gun with display stand.  The instructions were straightforward and materials sturdy enough that when we were distracted during the World Series we could redo our work without any errors or blemishes in the final product.  They require no glue, but are carefully designed so cardboard components solidly secure the model–something like a snap-tite plastic model kit.  The photo above and first photo below show the final projects we created.

Ray Gun and Rocket Cardboard Safari

When I was a kid my first exposure to model kits was the Gayla Industries Styrofoam board gliders like the F-14 and the Space Shuttle, the West Wings simple balsa gliders, and Guillows rubber band-powered planes.  These were simple three or four step models.  Later I moved into larger styrene gliders, and more advanced balsa and plastic kits.  On a parallel track I grew up with Legos, starting with a basic house set and moving up to the remote-controlled functional car.  You can learn the same building skills with the projects at Cardboard Safari.

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Bullitt Mustang from poster

In a recent survey of a sci-fi collecting community, I was surprised at how many people had classic cars as a hobby prior to expanding into the sci-fi universe of collecting.  Who hasn’t dropped hints to their significant other to try to get their classic Ford or Chevy on Chip Foose’s Overhaulin’ show on the Discovery Channel?  Foose has designed vehicles for major motion pictures such as Blade Runner, Gone in 60 Seconds, and RoboCop, and he’s rebuilding cars for nominees on his show.  What’s cooler than that?  And who doesn’t wish they had Jay Leno’s garage full of classic cars, and his resources to rebuild them?

Decades ago I dreamed of taking an old classic ’57 Chevy Bel Air and rebuilding it into a street rod.  So I did it–via a 1:25 scale plastic model kit, first building the model on the box, then sanding it into a rusted mess, then building it back up into a competition orange rod.  Lots cheaper than doing it with the real thing.  Finding myself wandering a local hobby shop this weekend I noticed several new retro entries in the model car kit category that I hadn’t seen before.  I wish I had time to make them all.  So check these out, and if you have a car enthusiast, young or old, on this year’s gift giving list, keep these in mind.

Ghostbusters hearse

Who you gonna call?  How about the Ghostbusters and their Ecto-IA hearse?  It’s the car Dan Aykroyd bought and thought was just perfect for the team’s new business.  It’s from AMT and available for less than $25.

Back to the Future Time Machine

Who doesn’t think Doc Brown’s DeLorean isn’t one of the coolest cars in all of sci-fi?  You can pre-order a Back to the Future time machine car fully tricked out for less than $30.  It even comes with a flux capacitor.

Scooby Mystery Machine

Do you miss Shag and Scoob and the rest of the Scooby Gang?  How about getting your own Mystery Machine?  It’s available for less than $20.

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