It's nearing the end of Gifts Week again, which means that it’s time for my "Picks to Give" (not to be confused with Pick Hits to Click).  As I noted in last year's column (see "Managing Editor's Choice of Gaming Gifts"), I receive an absolute ton of products from various companies every year and see literally hundreds of solicits for games every month.  This year has been exceptionally overwhelming on that end, as publishers just seemed to be hitting the proverbial "gas pedal" as far as the pace of releases over the summer months (particularly in the TCG space).  To be clear, the quantity of releases per year probably was somewhere close to that of 2022 (or even a little down), but the 2023 releases all seemed to be clustered in bunches around the summer and fall conventions (like prior to the pandemic), whereas last year, releases were more spread out evenly through the year.

At any rate, let's go through the ground rules for my Picks to Give 2023:

These are the games I'd give away to other people (that I like) as a gift.  The selections made here may not necessarily crossover with what I like to play myself, and can be from any category in the games space.  This column is about mostly other people and what I think they might like to receive.  Thus, the game items included in this column are what I believe to be legitimately good products which could make great gifts for friends, family, and others.  They are listed in no particular order.

For more on 2023 gift items, see "ICv2 Gifts Week."

Okay, let's get to it:

Pirate Borg by Limithron via Free League Publishing (MSRP $39.99).  There are zero excuses for game customers to not give a copy of Pirate Borg to another RPG fan this year.  I can't really muster the words to describe how absolutely cool Mork Borg is, but I can easily use one sound to describe why Pirate Borg is awesome; "Arrrrgggh."  This book is a highly-stylized dark art-punk RPG that has all the rum-drinking, booty-seeking high seas fun that someone could ever hope for.  It's 166 pages of rules-light gifting coolness for a reasonable price point, which should be an easy sell as a gift in most local game shops.  The book is also sized perfectly for a cash wrap display.

Sky Team by Scorpion Masque via Hachette Boardgames (MSRP $29.99).  I saw this game a little bit ago, and was very impressed, so I'm recommending it as my Expert Game Enthusiasts pick.  Sky Team was designed by Luc Remond, and it’s a cooperative limited-communication game where players try to pilot and co-pilot an airplane.  The catch is that players can discuss strategy at the beginning of the round, but cannot discuss the dice rolls during the round.  The two players must be very in-tune with each other's plays in order to make it through the 21 scenarios included in the game.

Limited communication games are, in my opinion, one of the last frontiers for true innovation in the board game space.  These types of games have only really begun to come about in the last five years, but I expect more and more designers to get on board with this trend in the near future.  This is a very good game for players who want deep strategy without all the table talk.

Everyday Heroes by Evil Genius Games (MSRP $59.99).  So, I ran into Dave Scott at Gen Con 2023, and he was like "I sent you all those books, are you going to review them?"  And I was like, "All in due time, there's a lot on my plate around Gen Con."  And it took me a little bit, but I reviewed the books and I liked them so much that I'm putting them on my list of Picks to Give.

The core rules are fairly complete, easy to understand, and feature a quality rules structure worthy of being the soul sister product to Modern D20.  However, there are two things I like about this system more than anything else: #1 It's not a fantasy game.  #2 The sourcebook IPs are for properties that I thought should've had RPGs produced for them for a long time now.  As to point #1, I’m fairly over the sword and sorcery genre (at the moment), and I'd imagine many other people feel the same way.  It's time to give the gift of non-fantasy RPGs to change it up a little.

As to point #2, there's a Highlander, Rambo, and a Total Recall RPG now.  Do you know how long I've waited to see decent versions of RPGs for these IPs?  I'd say since the mid-90s (and so have my friends).  Once again, give the dungeons, the dragons, and the hobbits a rest this year, and help customers give the gift of non-fantasy RPGs in 2023.

Yu-Gi-Oh! TCG 25th Anniversary Dueling Heroes Tin by Konami Digital Entertainment (MSRP $21.99).  I'm not exactly sure why, but Yu-Gi-Oh! TCG has been hot again lately.  It could be hot for any number of reasons: the 25th anniversary product is out and about; the newer anime releases are helping to drive the game sales; or even that popularity of the online play platform is translating to tabletop sales.  Doesn't really matter which one is the right answer (maybe "all of the above"), all I know this that this TCG is doing well at the end of 2023.

In particular, I've been seeing these newer Structure Decks and the Anniversary Tins fly off the shelves in mass.  The Yu-Gi-Oh! TCG 25th Anniversary Dueling Heroes Tin was simply a great release for Yu-Gi-Oh! players and collectors alike.  At a $21.99 price point, it makes a great stocking stuffer for TCG players.

Robo Rally by Renegade Game Studios (MSRP $50.00).  Yes, Robo Rally officially returned to game store shelves in 2023.  For those of you that are unaware, this is perhaps one of the most historically significant games: it brought together former Wizards of the Coast CEO Peter Adkison and Magic: The Gathering creator Richard Garfield for the first time in the pioneer days of the games industry (see "'Robo Rally' Returns").  Without this game, there is probably no Magic: The Gathering, a very different Gen Con, and who knows what else changes in the games industry time-space continuum (I guess this is a question for the Doctor Who Magic set).

That story, alone, makes this an excellent item to stock as a gift.  However, additionally, this is probably one of the best, lesser-known board games ever made, and the new edition is gorgeous.  On top of all that, there are expansions for the game as well as a Transformers version on the way (see "'Transformers Robo Rally'").

Flesh and Blood: Bright Lights by Legend Story Studios.  It's no secret that I've been gushing over FaB for almost the entirety of 2023 (see "Growth of 'Flesh and Blood TCG,' Part 1 "). My lovefest over FaB is for multiple reasons, but the main one is that FaB is an original IP fantasy TCG that has made it for about five years now and the company continues to do things right by putting players and local game stores first (unlike some other TCG companies).

Bright Lights struck me as the best of the FaB booster products to give to a friend because of the new Crack, Play, and Shuffle feature added to display boxes.  This innovation allows a player to open three booster packs and just simply make a fully functional sealed deck out of the cards inside (with a hero and everything).  This product is an instant TCG event in a box, and I highly recommend grabbing a display box of this set and using it to throw a holiday get together, especially if you and your friends are just beginning to learn the ins and outs of FaB.

That about does it for this year's selections.  Good luck with shopping season, and may your cash registers be ringing well into the new year!

The opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the writer, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the editorial staff of