By Dan Moren
December 15, 2016 9:17 AM PT
Our favorites: Grab bag!
‘Tis the season when we list a bunch of our favorite stuff of the year. But some stuff doesn’t fit in a tidy category. And so, I present to you: My favorite uncategorizable stuff!
For that sweet spot of a party game that’s easy to learn, fast to play, and still a challenge, Codenames is exactly what you’re looking for. The premise involves a thin veneer of spying, but the game is really about trying to clue your partner into identifying which words in a 5 × 5 grid of cards are “your” words, without having them guess those of your opponent. It’s a bit Taboo, a bit Pictionary, and a bit Guess Who, but I’ve found that everybody I’ve played with has enjoyed it, and you can generally find it for under $15.
Star Wars: Rebellion
Fair warning: I’ve only played once, and it’s not for the faint of heart, but if you have a friend who’s a die-hard Star Wars fan, Star Wars: Rebellion is a heck of a lot of fun. The expansive one-on-one game (which has a two-on-two variant) sees one player in the role of the Rebel Alliance, challenging the other player’s Galactic Empire. The Empire is trying to find the Rebels’ hidden base while the Alliance is attempting to sway the galaxy to its side. Settle in, because this $70 game takes a few hours to play—and you’ll probably want to blast some Star Wars soundtracks while you do so.
Pandemic Legacy: Season 1
I enjoy most cooperative games—there’s something refreshing about battling a common enemy with your friends—and Pandemic Legacy takes that formula to the next level, by creating a “year”-long campaign where you and your team of CDC battle the outbreaks of disease around the globe. The game starts off much like the traditional Pandemic, but an ongoing narrative throws in some twists and turns. (I won’t spoil them.) Much like its predecessor, Risk Legacy, decisions you make as you progress affect the ultimate outcome of the story, and the very board and game mechanics change as you go. It’s a fun ride, even if it can be finicky about rules and proper procedures at times.
If you travel a lot, or if you simply end up using random Wi-Fi networks a lot, you might be concerned—rightfully so—about the security of your network connection. That’s a good reason to turn to the security of a VPN like Cloak. The service, which offers both monthly/yearly subscription plans for $10/$99 and time-limited passes starting at $4 for a week, offers both iOS and Mac apps that you can use on all your devices. Whenever you connect to network that you haven’t designated as trustworthy, Cloak will automatically log into the VPN, encrypting all the data from your device. You can also choose from a variety of different locations for the VPN you’re connecting to, which may help deal with some geographic restrictions.
I’m not sure how we could accomplish anything over at The Incomparable without the help of Doodle. The free service lets you find the time that works the best for any meeting, whether it be a podcast, party, D&D session, or, I don’t know, a work meeting I guess. Choose a handful of dates, send an invitation to everybody on your list, and everybody can pick the times that they’re available, making it easy to pick the one that works for the most people. The iOS app even lets you know if you have conflicts on your calendar. There are paid private and business plans, but the free option is probably sufficient for most people.
As fun as it is to play role playing games like Dungeons & Dragons or board games like Trivial Pursuit in person, sometimes you just can’t get everybody into the same place. For The Incomparable’s Total Party Kill and Game Night podcasts, we’ve managed to span the vast abyss of space and time zones by using Roll 20. It’s an online gaming service that incorprates video and voice chat as well as a shared map where you can move gaming tokens, roll virtual dice, and even create complicated macros and scripts, if you’re so inclined. The basic model is free, but pony up a little bit and you can add more storage space for your game assets, tablet support, or even access to the API if you’re feeling ambitious.
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[Get into the buying, er, holiday spirit by reading our gift guide!]