Ho Ho Ho! Merry {insert appropriate winter holiday here}!

Last year, while I was putzing around on BoardGameGeek.com, I happened upon mention of their Secret Santa exchange, all the pictures from happy gamers discussing what presents “Santa” had brought them and, in some cases, sharing the letters Santa had written them. This sounded like a fun holiday game to be a part of, but I was obviously too late since it had already begun. So I decided that I would sign up when the time came this year and see what it was all about. Today, we’re gonna talk about how the whole thing works and my experience.

This year (2016), BGG Secret Santa Registration opened on October 22nd and ran until November 12th. We’ll just assume for this next part that Registration is open… First Step:

Do your prep work – Help a Santa out

While I’m sure your Santa can certainly pick a top rated game that you should be able to enjoy, why not give him or her a hand and update your owned/used to own, and Wishlist on BoardGameGeek. As you can tell by their names, these lists tell Santa what you really really want (on a scale of 1 – ‘Must Have’ to 5 – ‘Don’t Buy’) as well as which games you already own and those you decided to get rid of. Of course, you’re free to update anything else you’d like to share on the site, but these 3 seemed like the most important pieces of information for me.

One really nice feature these lists have is the comment spaces for each game. You can write a quick note about what you did or didn’t like about the games you’ve played or give some additional info about the games on your wishlist.

Here are a few of my Wish List notes. They don't have to be elaborate, but they can help tell the story of who you are.
Here are a few of my Wish List notes. They don’t have to be elaborate, but they can help tell the story of who you are.

Also, your profile has a section for you to write something about yourself — a perfect place for your ‘Dear Santa’ letter. Make sure to tell your Santa a little bit about yourself, your likes and dislikes and maybe a little bit about your gaming group. Any information can help Santa customize your gift(s) and make the holiday that much better.

Targets Acquired

If you want to send emails anonymously to your target, the BGG Santa account is here to help you out.
If you want to send emails anonymously to your target, the BGG Santa account is here to help you out.

Within a day or two of the cutoff day for entry, you’ll receive an email outlining what is expected of you and the basic rules and suggestions. Along with the links and info, you’ll find a link to your target’s info and BGG profile. Now is your turn to read their “Dear Santa” letter and check out their lists (you didn’t think you were the only one filling all that stuff out, did you?)

If you opted to keep things local, then it’s business as usual, you can either pack a goodie box yourself or drop ship from your retailer of choice to your target. If you didn’t check that box restricting the system to a domestic Santee, then your gift recipient could be from anywhere. In that case, there are a few resources listed in the Target Acquired email that could be particularly useful to you, such as the list of good game stores local to your target. This can save you a ton of money on shipping as well as the hassle of having to declare the contents of your packages.

Useful links for a resourceful Santa.
Useful links for a resourceful Santa.

In my case, my target was in my home state, so I decided to have a bit of fun and sent 5 packages including promos I’d accumulated on my own and through Gen Con, buttons and extra fighters for BattleCon (a game in his collection), 3 games and an expansion which ranged in size and complexity for the various gaming groups he described. The first four packages also had hand-written letters about the contents and gave an idea as to when he could expect the next packages. The last was being sent through Miniature Market, so I opted to message him directly through his Geekmail box (on BoardGameGeek) and kept him up on the shipping progress and tracking number.

Presents? For Me?

It didn't take long to pull off the brown packing paper and the pretty blue wrapping.
It didn’t take long to pull off the brown packing paper and the pretty blue wrapping.

While I decided to keep my target local to the USA, my Santa was located in Germany. A few days after the targets were assigned, I received a message from my Santa, setting the tone for his gift exchange and informing me of his whereabouts. This was particularly exciting for me as I had no idea what to expect from an international Santa, but I had added a game based on one of my favorite computer games, Heroes of Might & Magic, to my wishlist.

Now, adding a game to my list wouldn’t normally be very noteworthy, except that this one was never released in the States and thus, wasn’t the easiest game to get a hold of… unless you’re in Europe. Now, above, I mentioned how useful those Wishlist notes are… you really should take advantage of them, they can make all the difference. I’d added a note to this particular entry that, if my Santa were international, Might & Magic Heroes: the Board Game was one of my top games.

Of course, I could only hope that this game would somehow make its way across the sea to my doorstep, but regardless this individual was so kind in his letters and I had an opportunity to learn what the holiday was like through someone else’s eyes. Even more than the actual gift giving, I think this has been the most enjoyable part of the experience. So far, we’ve exchanged a handful of emails, but I always look forward to the next inbox notification to alert me and hope it’s from my Santa.

Based on the 6th installment of the series, Might & Magic Heroes: TBG is a fun strategy adventure game.
Based on the 6th installment of the series, Might & Magic Heroes: TBG is a fun strategy adventure game.

Eventually, a package came from Germany and I was so excited to check it out that there was no chance it would make it the 12 days until Christmas. Nevertheless, under the shipping paper and tape, a very nicely wrapped blue present was waiting for me to unceremoniously tear into. With that first rip, I could see the Heroes logo and we immediately had to open it up, explore the contents and start prepping everything for game night (2 days later.) And, as is the custom, I posted a quick entry and thank you on the 2016 Edition of Look What My Secret Santa Sent Me.

My Santa, on the other hand, is far more disciplined than I am and is patiently waiting for the holiday to arrive before peeking behind his gift. But I am certainly hopeful that he loves whatever gift his Santa sent him a fraction of how much we’ve enjoyed the generosity of his gift to me.

BGG Secret Santa – A one-time thing or new tradition?

This one is very easy to answer… this will absolutely be a new tradition for me, and hopefully a few of my friends and you too, dear reader. I had so much fun planning, sending and receiving these gifts and I got to meet two really cool gamers–one close to home and another elsewhere in the world. I can’t imagine not participating in this experience again.

Have you ever participated in the festivities through Board Game Geek, Reddit or another similar Secret Santa? What was your experience?

Until next time, Merry Christmas & Happy New Year from all of us at Epic Slant Press, LLC.

~ PyroFrog

@PyroFrog | Game of Boards Group | Epic Slant Press LLC Blog

PyroFrog is a gamer through most every medium as well as a father, novice blogger, hopeful game designer, and hopeless Kickstarter supporter. His blog is dedicated to gaming news and tends to focus on interesting and high value opportunities. He regularly organizes game nights where he and 3-8 friends frequently try out new games, playtest new IP's and enjoy popular favorites.

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