THE WYRD SCIENCE ULTIMATE 2021 CHRISTMAS GIFT GUIDE
Updated: Dec 7, 2021
So you've just finished dragging a tree into your house, evicted any of the critters the had been hiding in it and now your thoughts turn to what to put underneath it...
Thankfully Wyrd Science is here to do the heavy thinking for you, so if you're looking for something special for the tabletop gamer in your life, or more likely want to steer your loved one towards something better than another pair of socks, here's our ULTIMATE Christmas gift guide to peruse and/or unsubtly leave open on the family iPad.
From art, apparel and accessories, through to books (everyone loves books) and, unsurprisingly, games here's a festive selection of good stuff to check out. Failing that buy them a virtual gift from the RNLI, they say that memories are the most meaningful gift you can give, and I'll certainly never forget the look on my nieces and nephews faces the year I bought everybody Oxfam goats...
Mat Pringle - Christmas Cards & Art Prints
First up before we even begin to unwrap any presents you’re going to need some decent Christmas cards, and none of that Hallmark tat please. Unsurprisingly, for most of the last few years we’ve turned to Wyrd Science cover artist Mat Pringle and his festive selection of boozy robins, linocut Krumpuses (Krumpi?), pagan bacchanals and the like (see above) and we see no reason to upend tradition this year.
Still if you’re feeling particularly flush then our 2nd favourite illustrator of folklore infused art, Sin Eater, has also produced a beautiful, if pricey, 4 pack of letterpressed cards this year. To be honest I’d be tempted to just keep these and frame them rather than terrify an elderly relative.
Returning to Mr Pringle though, if you're looking for something more substantial we’d suggest that one of Mat’s hand-pressed linocut prints would make a particularly fine gift, especially if the recipient is the kind of person who likes to express their appreciation for the wyrd and fantastical without making their house look like a student’s bedroom.
There’s several to choose from, ranging from portraits of musical legends such as Nina Simone through to his gorgeous tiger print, but our pick has to be the metallic ’Oak King versus Holly King’ print representing the eternal, mythological battle between summer and winter.
Bonus points if you mount the frame on a clock mechanism so it slowly rotates through the year…
Dungeons & Dragons Inspired Enamel Badges
If you’re looking for something small and tasteful for the gamer in your life then Flamingflamingoz Dungeons & Dragons inspired, handmade enamel pin badges would make a lovely stocking filler.
Featuring a roll call of classic critters from goblins and owl bears through to magical bags of bones, show your allegiance to the arcane in subtle, stylish manner...
And if you ever step in a lift and see someone wearing one you can always conspiratorially whisper "Hail Orcus!" in their ear before throwing down.
Spi-Dey T-Shirt by Benno
[Rogue Print Co.]
Whilst, unfortunately, most items of clothing aimed at gamers look like they’ve been designed both by and for people for whom fashion is a, mysterious uncharted land there are a few options that won’t totally offend the eyes, of which for me Rogue Print Co. are probably your best bet.
Now there's really no delicate way to put this but over lockdown they have become, how can we put this... Cum obsessed. So sadly some of our favourite designs like the Minas Tirith Vol. IV tee are currently out of print but I have to admit I'm rather fond of this nerd-rage inducing Spiderman t-shirt. Of course real heads will know that it's the lack of hyphen that is the real sin here...
Whilst you're picking that up why not also consider their Draw More Skulls zine. An A5 risograph printed book featuring suitably skeletal illustrations from over 20 illustrators including some of our favourites such as Marie Enger, Matt Bailey, Becky Cloonan and more, at just a fiver it's the perfect gift for your worryingly skull obsessed friend.
Giant Gelatinous Cube Dice
We haven't let Severed Heads' massive Gelatinous Cube dice leave our desk since we got them and would make the perfect gift for any person of culture who also appreciates the best thing to have ever oozed it's way out of the D&D Monster Manual and into popular culture.
Available in regular and behemoth sizes, I'd definitely opt for the latter. Whilst I have dared roll mine in anger, as seriously these things would dent any table, they are pleasing to hold in the hand and contemplate upon, perfect if you happen to have misplaced your orb.
Swordfish Islands' Worldbuilder's Notebook
If you're looking for something for the GM or game designer in your life then we have you covered too, first up we have to recommend Swordfish Islands' Worldbuilder's Notebook.
Complete with blank map grids, various useful reference tools and designed for easy reference, this ENnie Award winning little book is the perfect gift for those who love to spend their days dreaming up new realities.
R-N-W's Gamemaster Notepad Set
Alternatively why not check out R-N-W's Gamemaster Notepad Set, just one of many elegantly designed gaming accessories from one of our favourite exponents of RPG related paper crafts.
This pack comes complete with three different pads allowing GMs to keep tracks of locations, NPCs and quickly draw up maps on the fly.
Alternatively they stock a wide selection of journals, notepads and the like for player's too. So something for everyone.
Games Design Courses
Back in the misty days of December 2019 I decided that rather than fill our house with more trinkets I'd buy my partner more experimental gifts, obviously that worked out just perfectly as weeks later we went into lockdown and have since spent much of the past 2 years stuck indoors, vouchers for the various chocolate making, wine tasting etc etc courses quietly mocking us from the drawer they'd be kept in.
Still the idea is sound, especially if said experiences can be experienced online, and if you have a budding games designer in your life then maybe give them the push they need with a voucher for one of Needy Cat's Game Design Courses.
Designed by Needy Cat's James Hewitt, whose credits include work on games such as Blood Bowl, Warhammer Quest, Hellboy and many others, there's a comprehensive six part course or smaller modules that focus on specific areas such as wargames and dungeon crawls.
Buy your loved one a game for Christmas and they'll probably try and make you play it after lunch, give them a game design course and well unfortunately you'll probably be play testing half baked versions of games for years to come.
Cult of Paint Airbrush
[Cult of Paint]
Like many people, after the realisation set in that the pandemic wasn't going anywhere fast I saw it as the perfect opportunity to finally work my way through all those many, many boxes of unpainted grey plastic models and clear my massive pile of miniature shame.
And probably like many, 18 months later the end result has, unfortunately, just been an even greater pile of unpainted plastic. So 2022 is the year we here at Wyrd Science solemnly promise to clear our model backlog.
So much like buying an expensive gym membership in the hope that spurs you on to actually using it we've decided going all in on an airbrush is of course the sensible option. If you're looking to head down this road, or just want to give a loved one a much needed nudge then of the many on the market Cult of Paint's 2 new models the 'Infinity' and the slightly cheaper 'Evolution' seem to come most highly recommended by our more talented miniature painting associates.
It's not a cheap way to paint models, but then there's not much to do with miniatures that is, still if you're looking to give someone something special / a kick up the arse, then this could be just the thing...
Game Wizards - The Epic Battle for Dungeons & Dragons
Last year's The Elusive Shift saw RPG historian Jon Peterson map out the early days of the hobby and show how they evolved from wargames and over the course of the 1970s develop their own unique identity (for more on that read Mira Manga's great interview with Jon in our new issue).
With his new book Game Wizards, Peterson picks up the story to tell how TSR would oversee D&D's rise from just a bunch of misfits rolling dice in a basements to millions of misfits rolling dice in basements.
Along the way he digs into the originators' feud, as Gygax and Arneson battled for the soul of the game, and how the company's internal battles and financial mismanagement would culminate in Gygax being ousted from his own company just over a decade after D&D's first commercial release. A well researched, fascinating history and highly recommended.
Appendix N. - The Eldritch Roots of Dungeons & Dragons
Peter Bebergal (ed.)
Where Peterson's Game Wizards digs into the turbulent history of the company behind Dungeons & Dragons, Peter Bebergal's Appendix N. The Eldritch Roots of Dungeons & Dragons delves into the game's literary inspirations, as notably outlined by Gygax himself in the original Appendix N.
Featuring 17 short stories from authors on Gygax's list including the likes of Soul Anderson, Fritz Lieber, Michael Moorcock, Jack Vance, Clark Ashton Smith and Tanith Lee and complete with an afterword from Ann VanderMeer, this is a handy selection of the early-modern science fiction and fantasy that would go on to shape roleplaying as we know it.
Though as Bebergal points out these stories, and indeed Gygax's list, are not so much "a map to D&D rules, monsters, or gameplay" but rather a "window into Gygax’s pulp-infested consciousness". Either way this is a great collection of strange stories.
For more from Peter on how Gygax's Appendix N. differed from Tom Moldvay's Inspirational Source Material, included with the 1981 D&D Basic Rules, grab a copy of our latest issue.
Dangerous Visions & New Worlds - Radical Science Fiction, 1950 to 1985
Andrew Netter & Iain McIntyre (ed.)
Edited by Andrew Nette and Iain McIntyre, Dangerous Visions and New Worlds: Radical Science Fiction, 1950 to 1985 is a brilliant new collection of essays tracing the schisms and evolution of science fiction in the 20th century as authors responded to the changing cultural milieu and the ongoing civil rights and anti-war movements and indeed features many of the aforementioned Appendix N's authors, straddling both sides of the cultural divide.
With everything from race, class, sexuality and more being questioned it was inevitable that speculative fiction would be the vehicle for many authors to work through these ideas and that fault lines would emerge between the old guard and the radical new wave.
An essential crash course on Science Fiction's new wave, Dangerous Visions examines the work, lives and influences today of both some of the 20th century's most well know authors alongside many names now forgotten. Complete with hundreds of incredible mid-century book covers this is the kind of title that could well take the best part of all 2022 to work through as almost every chapter will send you scurrying off to find, and read (or re-read), the books referenced.
DIE Volumes 1-4
Kieron Gillen / Stephanie Hans
Comics and tabletop games have been fairly close bed fellows over the years but never has that relationship been explored in such profound depth as with Kieron Gillen and Stephanie Hans' DIE comic, the story of a group of kids who, back in 1991, went missing after playing an RPG, were mysteriously found two years later and now nearly 30 years later must once again face up to what happened. 'Goth Jumanji' as Kieron so eloquently put it.
Now much as I deeply love comics, and indeed Kieron's work, the whole one issue a month business that comics are bound to is, whilst understandable, can be a chore but luckily this series wrapped up triumphantly earlier this year and now, just in time for Christmas, the full story is available in 4 collected editions.
With the DIE RPG set to be unleashed on the world in 2022 via Rowan, Rook & Deccard now's the perfect time to get up to speed with it. And if you have a spare 20 minutes or so and want to know more then check out Willard Foxton-Todd's interview with Kieron from our debut issue, now available to read online.
Sir Gawain and the Green Knight
John Reppion, MD Penman
With David Lowery's recent film reviving interest in this Arthurian Yuletide tale, John Reppion and MD Penman's comic adaptation of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight arrives in a very timely manner.
You probably know the story by now, a mysterious green giant figure appears at one of King Arthur's winter feats and challenges the assembled knights to a seemingly deadly challenge, one with the rash young Sir Gawain all too readily accepts.
A faithful yet accessible adaptation, if you've read any of John Reppion's writing for the likes of The Fortean Times it's clear he knows his stuff and MD Penman's illustrations have a vibrant, strange and unsettling aspect to them that carries the story along nicely.
The Hellebore Guide to Occult Britain
Maria J. Pérez Cuervo (ed.)
The last few years has seen a glut of new zines focused on folklore, magick and the like such as the brilliant Weird Walk and Hellebore, the latter of which have just, in time for Christmas/Saturnalia/Yule (delete as appropriate), published their first book The Hellebore Guide to Occult Britain.
From haunted houses and pagan villages to misty moors and portals to faerie realms the book covers more than 500 locations, a one stop guide to all things magical, mythological and mysterious and could prove to be an invaluable book, not just for seekers of the esoteric but anyone running occult or supernatural RPGs based in this sceptred, if often septic, isle.
Not content with being responsible for releasing some of the most interesting films of recent years, think Midsommar, The Green Knight, The Lighthouse, etc etc, A24 also do a rather decent line in books and often frankly strange, if deluxe, merchandise.
Sadly for those who want to go all out the official Green Knight sword has already sold out, but of the many other oddities they've recently released the one we'd most like to discover sat under the tree this year is probably Horror Caviar.
A beautifully laid out and photographed book of essays, recipes, feasts and drinks inspired by horror films ranging from Suspira to The Witch. This sumptuous looking book is the perfect gift for gruesome gourmands and horror aficionados alike.
My Journey To Catan
Love it or hate it there's no denying that Catan changed board games upon its release in 1995, ushering a new era for tabletop gaming. Translated into English for the first time, Klaus Teuber's My Journey To Catan traces the game designer's journey from childhood to the release of the game that would change his life and board gaming forever.
If you're looking for a gift for the sort of person that always upgrades their board game components to deluxe metal pieces or wouldn't think twice about dropping a few grand on a bespoke gaming table than this special limited (1000 copy) edition, signed and complete with slipcase, could be just what you're looking for.
The Board Game Book Volume 2
Owen Duffy (ed.)
[Clyde & Cart Press]
Whilst we're on the subject of board games, if you do want to explore the world beyond Monopoly and its cursed likes then The Board Game Book is a great place to start. Sadly all indications point to volume 2 being the last in this particular series, which is a huge shame as it was shaping up to be an invaluable, annual, guide to all the many, many, many tabletop games released in the preceding 12 months.
Featuring some of the best writers in the business, many of whom I've since commissioned to write for Wyrd Science, and interviews wit many of the designers behind the games featured, The Board Game Book is a great showcase of just how diverse tabletop games have become, covering everything from the lightest of family games through to complex strategy numbers.
The RPG and wargames sections are a bit light, though to do them justice they'd really need to be books in their own right so that's understandable, but if you want a guide to some of the best board games released over the past couple of years and you can track down a copy then it's well worth picking up and, who knows, if enough of you do we may even get to see a volume 3 one day.
Weird Field World
Like most people involved in science fiction or fantasy gaming I have spent a not insignificant percentage of my life with my head in the clouds, dreaming up new lands and worlds to explore.Unfortunately due to my weird tendency to get stuck designing wholly unnecessary minutia like sewage systems coupled with my almost uncanny lack of artistic ability those strange realms have, generally, stayed safely in my head.
Not so for illustrator Rob Turpin who was gifted with not just an outsized imagination but the ability (or more likely the hard worn skill) to put pen to paper and actually transfer what's in his head onto the page. Weird Field World, his first book, is a beautiful guide to the near future filled with his illustrations of all manner of strange craft and the people who pilot them.
Not a game book, though I've long thought that it would be a great starting point for one, it's rather just an unalloyed expression of creativity and would make a great gift for anyone who appreciates good spaceship design (I mean who doesn't!?) and just delights in the wonder of what if?
Campaigns & Companions
Andi Ewington / Rhianna Pratchett / Alex de Campi / Calum Alexander Watt.
The best gifts are often those that tick several boxes at once and if you have a pet and D&D lover in your life then you may just hit the jackpot with Campaigns & Companions: The Complete Role-Playing Guide for Pets.
Not, it should be pointed out, an actual gaming guide for playing pets in RPGs (we'd recommend Steamforged's Animal Adventures for that), Campaigns & Companions instead runs through a selection of, lovingly illustrated, scenarios that should be familiar to any role-player and asks the question, what would your pet be like as an adventurer?
Thanks to Callum Alexander Watt's illustrations this is a gorgeous book to flick through and sure to put a smile on any face.
What's more thanks to Rebellion Publishing we have a copy of the book to give away plus C&C t-shirt, set of dice and mug, for all of that check out this week's newsletter here.
2000 AD Covers Uncovered 2021
The Mighty Tharg (ed.)
Let's be honest Christmas just wouldn't be Christmas without at least one annual to unwrap and whilst I had considered gluing our first two issues together and passing that off the 'Galaxy's Greatest Comic' has, thankfully, stepped up to the turkey filled plate with the 2000 AD Covers Uncovered Annual 2021.
Featuring every single cover to have graced 2000 AD and Megazine in 2021, each picture is accompanied by with the artist's preliminary sketches, pencils, inks and commentary.
An invaluable insight into the process that goes into bringing this much thrill power to life each week. Zarjaz!
We are unabashed fans of Cole Wehrle's Root here at Wyrd Science, and we're not alone as it's widely considered to be one of the best board games released in recent times (with an RPG based on the game due out imminently via Magpie Games).
In this game of 'Woodland Might & Right' you must take control of one of four, frankly adorable, factions fighting for control of the woodland. Where Root really starts to get interesting is in its asymmetric nature with each faction having their own unique style of play and route to victory.
Thanks to that It's perhaps a little more complicated than your average family board game, but it walks you through the rules and once one of you has got to grips with it we've found the game tends to flow pretty quickly form there. Once you have got your head around it though the game really begins to shine and mastering the intricacies of each faction, not to mention the many expansions available, really ensures you'll be coming back to Root time and time again.
For more on the political themes that underpin the game, check out Rob Wieland's interview with Cole from our debut issue.
Sadly for us old world peasants Necromolds is only available in the US right now (we believe there's a Kickstarter planned for next year to start distributing it internationally) but everything we have seen of it makes it look like a surefire way to introduce kids to the ruinous joys of miniature wargames and like exactly the kind of thing I'd have loved to open on Christmas days as a ween.
Pitched half way between a board game and wargame, what really makes Necromolds stand out is of course the little beast you'll be battling with, each fashioned from a kind of silly putty that you squeeze into little grimoire shaped moulds. Easier than piecing together some 45 part Citadel miniature for sure.
The best part is rather than treat your toy like some kind of Faberge dragon egg, you get emphatically squash your opponents monsters when you've finished them off. All of which sounds like all sorts of fun.
There are few games designers who so perfectly capture the sheer joy of play than Nate Treme and Haunted Almanac is a beautiful anthology of his work from over the past few years, most of which has only been physically available in perilously limited editions, or only available to subscribers of his Patreon.
The book includes a dizzying collection of adventures, micro-settings, stripped back systems such as his Tunnel Goons, and just random and frankly cool stuff, all beautifully illustrated by Nate himself.
It's a bit like the RPG equivalent of those books you'd get as a kid full of hundreds of different games and would keep you occupied for a full, long hot summer tying tin cans to bits of string or whatever. Perfect for both kids and adults who've not been ground down by life and beautifully laid out by Guilherme Gontijo, it's as much a work of art as it is a collection of games.
[Stokholm Kartell / Exalted Funeral]
Staying with something that straddles the line between art and games we have Putresence Regnant, the latest release from Swedish misfits Mork Börg.
With vinyl still enjoying a massive revival, and albums of all types sure to appear under the tree this year, what better way to get the family in the Christmas spirit than by giving this, its gloomy electronics, sludge laden guitar riffs and portentous vocals sure to set the tone whilst the turkey cooks.
[Long Tail Games]
Why give one game this Christmas when you can give 50? Long Tail Games' Tiny Library is a collection of games, each one designed to fit on a single playing card.
A testament to how restrictions can encourage as much as stifle creativity the Tiny Library is a perfect pocket sized gift for game lovers with dozens of wildly different micro-games, each beautifully illustrated and designed in its own unique style.
Warhammer Age of Sigmar - Soulbound - Starter Set
We're a big fan of RPGs in boxes, doubly so when the title in question is already one of our favourite new games and if you're looking for a new RPG to start the new year then you could do a lot worse than put in a request for the Soulbound Starter Set.
Containing everything you need to get playing including a stripped down version of the rules, pre-gen characters, an introductory adventure and setting, dice and various chits and counters this is a perfect introduction to the dialled up to 11 Age of Sigmar setting.
Those used to the dark and dismal, mud & blood of its predecessor Warhammer Fantasy Role-ply may at first balk at playing characters that don't run the risk of dying just trying to mount a horse but the Cubicle 7 team have done a great job of creating a thoroughly modern RPG that fully embraces all the wild weirdness of AoS and this starter set will have you rolling dice long before the Queen's done her bit.
Eric Nieudan (ed.)
[The Merry Mushmen]
If the gamer in your life is the kind that's ever uttered the words 'rulings not rules' or believes that ELfs are a class then you could do a lot worse than get them a copy of Knock!, an 'Old School Gaming Bric-A-Brac'.
Each ridiculously dense volume is packed full of essays, mini-adventures, monsters, rules and thoughts culled from some of the most inventive minds involved in 'old school style' gaming.
The kind of books that you can just pick up, open at random and find inspiration from these should be on the shelf of every GM, whatever flavour of game they prefer to play.
[Free League Publishing]
Running away with a whole host of awards at this year's ENnies, Vaesen is an RPG of Nordic Horror Role-playing based on the books of Swedish artist Johan Egerkrans. Think Call of Cthulhu via the Moomins and you start to get the vibe here.
Set at the tail end of the 19th century, Vaesen puts its players in the hobnail boots of a mysterious order who are dedicated to protecting the world from the supernatural, and occasionally the supernatural from us, as industrialisation continues to push back the wilderness and encroach on the wild frontiers of the mythic north.
As we've come to expect from Free League the ga