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"Goodbye, Jean-Luc, I'm gonna miss you. You had such potential. But then again, all good things must come to an end."
- Q, Star Trek: TNG

Under the Geek Tree, 2012 Edition

by Ken Newquist / January 1, 2013

My birthday (Dec. 17) and Christmas have come and gone, and now there's a nice pile of geeky presents stacked on the Geek Tree's rocket-themed tree skirt.

On the board game front I turned in a birthday gift card to get the original Carcassone. My wife Sue and I enjoy playing Carcassone: Hunters and Gatherers, but have never played the original game. The virtue of playing Carcassone rather than Hunters and Gatherers is that the base has a whole bunch of cool expansions. The big board game surprise this year was Nordic Ticket to Ride, which Sue got me. It's a 2-3 player version of the train game set in Scandinavia, and it was a perfect gift given my family's Swedish roots. It's also Christmas themed, which made it a nice complement to the Geek Tree.

I also got the re-issued Curse of the Dark Pharaoh expansion for Arkham Horror. I've looked through the box, and I think it's got potential: I particularly like how players can see out Curse encounters by visiting the museum exhibit; that eliminates the problem we had with the King in Yellow where we were relying on random card draws to trigger expansion encounters.

On the card game front I got the Gathering Storm expansion for Race for the Galaxy. This has been on a wishlist for a while; while the base game is playable as is, there are certain empire builds -- particularly those that involve alien or gene tech -- that don't work as well unless you have one or more expansions.

My Pathfinder campaign benefited greatly from Christmas, as I received three of the core rule books: Advanced Players Guide, NPC Codex, and Ultimate Equipment (read more about those books in my Game Day column). There's one other non-present under the Geek Tree: The Midgard Campaign Setting. I bought it using the store credit I got from my unspent Kobold Quarterly subscription. I love the dark, myth-laden nature of the book, which evokes the best of Norse and European myths.

Book-wise, I got Stephen King's The Wind Through the Keyhole, which takes place between Wizard and Glass and Wolves of the Calla. The majority of the story takes place in a flashback told by Roland of Gilead as he reflects on a brutal series of murders that happened not long after he won his guns. I also received Volume 11 of The Knights of the Old Republic. It's set during the Mandalorian Wars, and reading through it made me nostalgic for my old Star Wars campaign.

LEGOS dominated Christmas at our house, with the kids getting a half dozen sets between them. I wasn't left out; my in-laws got me the Avengers Quinjet. My 6-year-old son and I had a blast building the LEGO kit while Avengers, and then Thor, played in the background (yes, it's a big set).

All in all it was a great, geeky Christmas, and I've enjoyed sitting back and playing with my toys. I've got enough books and games to keep me happily reading and rolling dice through next December.

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We (meaning my wife) made a decision to keep Christmas 2012 LEGO-free, because there are already a boatload of plastic interlocking blocks in the International House of Johnson. I say "LEGO-free," but in fact there was a single, random minifig (it turned out to be a pretty cool knight) in my son's stocking.

On the geeky side, my son received a Kindle Fire HD, a four-pack of Choose Your Own Adventure books, Apples to Apples: Kids, Apples to Apples: Junior, Apples to Apples: The Dice Game, the Zombie Dice expansions, LEGO Lord of the Rings for the Xbox 360 (includes no actual LEGOs, so it doesn't break the LEGO-free rule), Skylanders Giants and Kinect Star Wars.

My wife got a new cell phone, The Fifty-Year Sword by Mark Z. Danielwski (as I was writing this, she texted me: "Just read The Fifty Years Sword. Weird and confusing. Looking online for some explication.") and a 10" digital photo frame.

I received a 64 GB 5th-generation iPod Touch (which I have since packed with many geeky apps and games, including Ascension: Chronicle of the Godslayer, Ticket to Ride Pocket and Ticket to Ride Europe), some Marvel socks, The Complete Vader, and Darth Vader and The Lost Command.

I'd say it was a pretty geek Christmas here.

A four-pack of Choose Your Own Adventure books? That sounds like a great way to spend your Christmas vacation (at least, it as for me. :)) Glad to hear you've joined the iPod gaming circle. You should pick up Carcassone as well -- it's a great game, and very iPod/iPhone friendly.