Welcome to the Plaid Hat Games holiday gift guide! We'll be posting a set of three articles over the next week highlighting games we think would make great gifts. Each article will highlight three games from Plaid Hat Games, as well as some staff picks from around the board game world.

Today, we're looking at thematic games! There is nothing more powerful in games than a captivating story, and immersive narrative is probably the number one thing we love about games here at Plaid Hat. A good game must have sound mechanics and good rules, but that's not what we remember about gaming experiences. We remember the way we felt swinging a sword or sailing the sea, if only in our imaginations.

Plaid Hat Picks

SeaFallSeaFall: A Legacy Game is the original journey of adventure from Rob Daviau in his Legacy game series. You and up to 4 friends sail off onto a campaign of empires and rivalries, searching for glory.

Each game, permanent discoveries are made which change the game board and world forever, making your campaign of SeaFall totally unique. New boxes are unlocked over time which unfold the story of your world, culminating in an incredible and cinematic climax in which the emperor is finally crowned.

The Captain's Booke, a cadre of advisors, and enemies all around lay before you. Opportunity for trade, battle, and exploration are there. You will name your province, ships, and advisors, and set your own course. SeaFall is available in the PlaidHatGames.com store and at your local game store.

Mice and MysticsMice and Mystics has players take on the role of humans-turned-mice who explore a larger-than-life castle, battle the likes of rats and spiders and even the castle cat to save the kingdom. Fully co-operative and great for families to play together, the story of Mice and Mystics unfolds over the course of 11 chapters from the Sorrow and Remembrance storybook.

Years ahead of its time for its story-driven structure when it was released in 2012, Mice and Mystics features an overarching story, advancing characters, and a living breathing castle world that can be explored over and over again.

Once you've completed the Mice and Mystics base game adventure, you can find further quests of Collin and his friends in The Heart of Glorm and Downwood Tales at your local game store, or one of our many Lost Chapters available in the PlaidHatGames.com store.

Dead of WinterDead of Winter: A Crossroads Game and its fully-compatible sequel, Dead of Winter: The Long Night places players in a post-apocalyptic colony together fighting off the undead and the cold. Zombies from without, despair, in-fighting and betrayal within.

Dead of Winter is the winner of multiple Game of the Year awards and introduces the immersive Crossroads game series. Players must work co-operatively, but each player also has their own hidden agenda. The story emerges naturally from the game, plus crossroad cards trigger thematic events that give the players agonizing strategic and moral choices.

There is no gaming experience that offers the raw emotions and panicked desperation of a zombie hellscape quite like Dead of Winter, and it has to be experienced to be understood. Dead of Winter and The Long Night are available at your local retailer, while several exclusive characters are available in the PlaidHatGames.com store.

Staff Picks

Here are some non-Plaid offerings that are nonetheless full of thematic goodness in the opinion of our esteemed staff.

Mansions of MadnessGraphic Designer Dave Richards:

Dave RichardsMy Holiday Gift Guide suggestion for a thematic game is Fantasy Flight Games' Mansions of Madness second edition. I've always enjoyed the experience of cooperative games, as well as games rich with narrative. This game resonates in achieving both.

The creepy themes of H.P. Lovecraft also strike all the right chords in art and story, and having a downloadable app to assist you during the game is a great bonus adding to the enjoyment of play. Will you lose from going insane? Or being stabbed by cultists? How about being eviscerated by the claws of a dank beast from the lost city of R'lyeh? However you die (okay, I guess there's a chance you could also win), you'll have a great time and a story to tell afterwards. Very much recommended!

Communications Specialist Callin Flores:

Callin FloresTIME StoriesOne of my favorite thematic games is TIME Stories by Space Cowboys. This unique system allows players to explore a setting and narrative in a way I’ve never seen before. You really feel like you’re discovering new areas and solving a complex mystery. The ability to essentially restart a scenario with the previous knowledge you had makes you feel like you really are going back in time to try and solve the case again

This is probably one of the most engaging narratives in a game I've ever played. You truly feel like you're a part of the story. There are some really great stories to explore in the expansions as well!

Online Developer and Playtest Director Joe Ellis:

Joe EllisThe AWful Green Things from Outer spaceHere's an off-the-wall out of left field pick! The Awful Green Things From Outer Space from old school game designer Tom Wham is an old favorite of mine. In it, the brave but clumsy crew of the Znutar have their ship invaded by mutating, growing, multiplying GREEN THINGS. The green things start small and weak but grow in strength and numbers while the crew has a finite amount of people. What the crew does have, though, is weapons, but given the alien nature of the green things, the results are unpredictable!

I've got one of the old editions of this game, but the most recent edition by Steve Jackson Games is still easty to find and it's really affordable! A stocking stuffer even. This one is both funny and fun, and a different wacky story every time!

Pick up a thematic game for the holidays, Plaid Hat or otherwise, and we think your time with family and friends will be that much richer. Come back Thursday for our picks for strategic games!