Buy some great board games for Christmas!
It’s that time of year again – Board Game buying time!
No teasing here.
Christmas is one of the busiest times of the year for buying Toys and Games. I don’t know what the actual sales statistics are, but it’s pretty clear that people love to buy board games, card games, dice games, and party games as gifts for Christmas.
And if you’re looking to jump on any Black Friday, or Cyber Monday deals, nows the perfect time to make your list of great board games to buy your friends and family.
So in keeping with our annual tradition, here’s our 2013 Board Game Gift Guide!
If you’re looking for some ideas in what to give your friends and family for gifts this year, here are some great games to consider.
Games for Kids:
These are games that young kids will understand and enjoy playing.
Ages: 4+, Players: 2 – 4, Time: 10 min
Loopin’ Louie is a game that appeals to kids and can be addicting for adults as well. Who wouldn’t love playing with a plane that flies around the table freeing chickens? Each player has a lever that they use to make Louie spin, loop and dive and free other players’ chickens. As Louie flies around the table, players try their best to time their hits on Louie just right so he’ll wobble the way they hope. The last player with at least one chicken remaining wins. It’s a fast and silly game for all ages.
Animal Upon Animal
Ages: 4+, Players: 2 – 4, Time: 15 min
Animal Upon Animal is all about stacking wooden animals on top of each other without them falling. Players are trying to be the first to get all their animals in the stack. Each turn players roll the die and either places one or two animals on to the stack of animals, passes one of his or her animals to another player for them to place, or places an animal on the table, extending the base for other players to build upon. With all the different shaped animals to stack it’s quite the game. And kids definitely enjoy playing with the animal pieces.
Ages: 6+, Players: 1 – 4, Time: 30 min
Much different than the original Sorry! where players keep sending their opponent’s pawns back to the start, Sorry! Sliders is more like tabletop shuffleboard. The object of the game is still to get all 4 pawns to Home. But this is done by players sliding their 4 other pawns – which have a ball bearing in them – toward the target. Once everyone has slid their rolling pawns, points are tallied and they move their stationary pawns up the score track toward Home. The first to get all 4 tracking pawns to Home, wins. Nice and light dexterity game the whole family can enjoy.
Ages: 5+, Players: 2 – 4, Time: 30 min
Settlers of Catan typically stands at the breakthrough game for modern board games. It’s a game that’s been responsible for getting tens of thousands into playing board games. So is it any surprise, that a version has been created to introduce kids to the fun world of board games? Catan Junior takes place on a ring of islands where players manage resources, build sea lanes, and place pirate lairs on the board. It’s a great way to introduce kids into games with more choices and strategy.
Ages: 10+, Players: 2 – 5, Time: 45 min
Forbidden Desert is a fantastic cooperative board game released in 2013. While it follows on the great success of Forbidden Island, we’ve enjoyed it even more. And that’s saying a lot since we’ve encouraged people to get Forbidden Island ever since we first played it. The good news is that Forbidden Desert and Forbidden Island are different enough that we’ll still enjoy playing both. What we really like about Forbidden Desert is that the pieces of the plane your trying to find are continually shifting with the blowing sand. We highly recommend Forbidden Desert!
See our full review of Forbidden Desert (with video).
Ages: 12+, Players: 2 – 8, Time: 60 min
RoboRally is one of our most-played board games since we bought it. Players compete to get their robots past a certain amount of checkpoints before their opponents. Which can sound pretty straight-forward. But the catch is that robots have to be ‘programmed’ before the moving starts. Players pre-program 5 movements for their robot and then have to watch what happens as other robots collide and bump them off course. And with conveyor belts, cogs, and lasers, the terrain is anything but simple to navigate. It’s a blast and is just as fun with 2 as for 8. Love it!
See our full review of RoboRally (with video).
Ages: 8+, Players: 3 – 8, Time: 20 min
Incan Gold is a press-your-luck card game that’s simple to teach and play. Players simultaneously choose whether to venture further into the ruins for more treasure or take their already gained treasure back to camp. If players journey on and the ruin collapses, they lose any treasure gained. So choosing when to make your way back to camp or how far to press-your-luck makes it fun. It’s fun to see which members of your family have the risky genes and which take the conservative approach. We’ve seen winners on both ends of the spectrum and all have fun.
See our full review of Incan Gold (with video).
Ages: 5+, Players: 2 – 4, Time: 30 min
Another new game to come out in 2013, Relic Runners is a game by one of our favorite game publishers – Days of Wonder (Ticket to Ride, Memoir ’44, Smallworld, and more fantastic board games). In Relic Runners each player wants to be the first to get their hands on precious relics and earn the most victory points. Players take on the role of a character keen to exploit and acquire relics that have been unearthed in a long lost part of the jungle. Players navigate series of paths to visit temples and get relics. Players earn victory points for collecting relics of different types and creating long routes.
Escape: The Curse of the Temple
Ages: 8+, Players: 1 – 5, Time: 10 min
If you like your treasure hunting or exploring on a time-sensitive, frantic pace, then you’ll want to dive into Escape: The Curse of the Temple. We just posted our review of Escape last week, so it’s fresh in our minds. At a 10 minute play time and hectic dice rolling, it’s a great game to have on hand for friends and family. It’s a cooperative board game where players need to work together to explore and find the exit. If one doesn’t make it out in time, everyone loses. Tense fun.
See our full review of Escape: The Curse of the Temple (with video).
Ages: 7+, Players: 1 – 8, Time: 15 min
Bananagrams is a tile-laying word game that may remind you a lot of Scrabble. Why it’s named after a Banana we’ll never know. But you have to admit that the packaging is superb. Players race to be the first to get rid of their letter tiles by creating words in a grid pattern or ‘crossword’. But unlike Scrabble, in Bananagrams each player makes their own word crossword. To be completely honest, I don’t really care for Scrabble or Bananagrams. But that’s just me. Those aren’t the type of word games I enjoy. Give me Big Boggle or Word on the Street any day. But I’ll pass on Bananagrams. BUT – we know plenty of people that LOVE Bananagrams. So if you know someone who loves Scrabble, then Bananagrams might be a great game for them.
We actually got our copy of Bananagrams from Manhattan Fruitier. Manhattan Fruitier isn’t a typical place we’d direct you for buying board games. Instead of games, they sell fruit baskets. They have a huge assortment to choose from – including the “Going Bananas” gift basket. It includes Dried Fruit (bananas), Banana Jam, Organic Peanut Butter, Graham Crackers, and Bananagrams! Interested in a game within a gift basket, check out Going Bananas.
Ages: 10+, Players: 2, Time: 30 min
Lost Cities is a card game for two where players are rewarded for collecting sets of colored cards as they journey on their expeditions. There are 5 different colors of cards in the game each representing a different expedition. Once a player has played a numbered card of one color, the next card they play of that color must be a higher number. But every expedition a player begins will cost them. So if that expedition doesn’t earn them enough, they’ll lose points. As such players can’t go on every expedition and must choose carefully which they’ll pursue for the most points.
Ages: 12+, Players: 2, Time: 30 min
In Jambo players are traders competing to be the first to earn 60 gold by buying and selling tea, hide, fruits, salt, silk, and trinkets. Players will buy and sell goods and can also help or hinder their opponent. Each player will have a marketplace that will temporarily hold the wares they’ve purchased, and then players will sell those wares once they get the cards that enable them to do so. The game’s attraction lies with the many special cards. Many different combinations are possible during the game, and each game plays out differently as a result.
Ages: 5+, Players: 2, Time: 30 min
Jaipur is another 2-player card game where players compete to be the best trader. This is done by drawing cards and collecting sets to buy victory points. However, some well devised items make for bit of tricky decisions along the way. It’s easy to both teach and play. On a player’s turn they’ll either sell goods of a single type, take a single good and replace it with a card from the deck, take multiple good and replace them with cards from their hand, or take camels. (The player with the most camels gets bonus points.) It’s a light 2-player for a relaxing night.
The Resistance: Avalon
Ages: 13+, Players: 5 – 10, Time: 30 min
The first game on our Party Game list for a great game gift is a The Resistance: Avalon. We know we had The Resistance on our party games gift list last year. But it’s such a great group game that we just have to add Avalon. The Resistance: Avalon isn’t an expansion. It’s a stand alone game and the central game play is the same as the original. However, the theme of Avalon is set back in medieval King Arthur times. There are special character cards such as Merlin and Mordred that throw a twist into the game. And that’s why we had to get it onto this years list as well. Lots of fun with upgraded components. If you haven’t picked up a copy of The Resistance yet, just go ahead and jump straight to The Resistance: Avalon.
Ages: 13+, Players: 3 – 10, Time: 30 min
If you know someone that could sell salt to a snail, you better pick up a copy of Snake Oil for them. In Snake Oil players take on the role of salesmen trying to sell crazy things. Players have a hand of card with unique items listed on each. Each round they need to choose two of their cards to create an item for sale. One player will be the buyer and all the other players will try to convince him or her to buy their product. It’s a funny game that rewards creativity. And we’ve found that everyone gets more creative as the game goes on. In their video review, Trevor and Jaden show exactly what it’s like as they try to sell their wares. Check it out.
Ages: 13+, Players: 4 – 12, Time: 30 min
We just wrote about Telestrations in our list of Best Board Games for Family Gatherings a couple weeks ago. But it’s also making our Board Game Gift Guide this year – so here it is again! Telestrations is like a game of “Telephone” – but instead of whispering it’s a mix of words and drawings. In Telestrations one person writes a phrase, then the next person draws a picture of that phrase. Then the picture is passed to another person and they write what they think the picture is. Then it goes to another person who draws a picture of that new phrase. And on it goes. See how messed up it gets from beginning to end. You can also get the 12 player party pack with enough dry erase pads for 12 players – awesome!
Ages: 8+, Players: 2 – 8, Time: 20 min
If you’ve got someone in mind that would like a word party game, check out Tapple. In Tapple players take turns quickly naming something that fits a certain category each round. But what they name has to start with a letter that hasn’t been used previously that round. It’s a pretty straight-forward party game that’s a lot of fun. It’s great when you’ve got a gang to play with and at the same time can be enjoyed with just a few people battling wits as well. The timer device that also keeps track of the letters used each round is pretty sweet too.
Ages: 14+, Players: 2 – 4, Time: 60 min
The games in the Gamer Games category are typically ones that can’t be explained in a couple sentences. They’re games that take a lot more thought and usually take a bunch more time to play as well. A lot of times they have a truckload of components as well. Seasons is a gorgeous looking game that’s full of variety and strategy. Much of the play revolves around a circular game board, which keeps track of the seasons and years. It has card drafting, combo building, and various complexity levels. But it also includes the element of lucky dice rolls. In the gamer community, there are a lot of rave reviews about Seasons.
Caverna: The Cave Farmers
Ages: 12+, Players: 1 – 7, Time: 120 min
Following along the lines of the very popular, Agricola, Caverna: The Cave Farmers is a worker-placement game at heart. But instead of farmers of the land, in Caverna players are leaders of a small family that lives in a little cave in the mountains. The family members represent actions that can be taken each turn. Together, they cultivate the forest around the mountain and dig deeper into the cave and mine ore. They can also use the ore to make weapons which are used on a voyage to yield resources. Like many worker-placement games, Caverna rewards strategic planning with a victory.
Tzolk’in: The Mayan Calendar
Ages: 12+, Players: 1 – 7, Time: 120 min
Tzolk’in The Mayan Calendar has had a lot of board game buzz over the last year. So if you’ve got a gamer family member or buddy, this is a hot game to give as a gift. The big innovation with Tzolk’in was the introduction of dynamic worker placement. Players representing different Mayan tribes place their workers on giant connected gears, and as the gears rotate they take the workers to different action spots. So instead of choosing an action and placing their workers on that action, players place their workers on gears that rotate through different actions and remove them when they want to take actions. It’s a very unique twist and has likewise had much praise for the new game play mechanics.
Board Game Expansions:
Rather than go into detail on each of the games on this list, we’ll direct you back to the base games. Because if you know someone who has the original board game, chances are very high that they’d love to add on to their game experience with a game expansion.
Here are some board game and card game expansions that were released in 2013, that your friend or family member might enjoy adding to their fun:
Essential Board & Card Games:
Last, but not least, we thought we should throw in some reminders of games that make a great gift no matter the season. We’ll call these the Essentials. If you’re looking to start someone on the road to gaming goodness, then get them one (or more) of these board game essentials:
If these don’t give you enough ideas, you can always look at our Board Game Gift Guides from 2012 and 2011 for even more board game and card game ideas.