Hip, hip, hooray – it’s time for our annual Board Game Gift Guide!
It’s time to start your game buying for Christmas and we’re here to help.
No, we’re not trying to skip past Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving is one of the best holidays of the year. Thanksgiving is an awesome time for thinking about all that we’re grateful for. And that’s also why it’s such a great time to gather with family – because family is one of the blessings we’re most thankful for!
We’ll definitely be playing a number of fun family board games and card games over the extended holiday weekend as we get together.
That’s why Thanksgiving is also a great time to think about what games you’ll enjoy playing with your family.
With the Christmas shopping rush (aka Black Friday) coming right after Thanksgiving Day, it’s best to be prepared with fantastic board game and card game gift ideas for your friends and family.
And that’s where our Board Game Gift Guide can help!
Over the last few years we’ve suggested a combined total of 94 games to consider when thinking of something to give your children, spouse, siblings, grandparents, and friends.
If the 28 game ideas in this year’s Board Game Gift Guide aren’t enough, feel free to check out the awesome board games and card games from years past:
Each list is divided into distinct groups of games depending on what you’re looking for. This year, we’ve grouped them into the following categories:
- Games for Kids
- Family Games
- Cooperative Games
- Dice Games
- Bluffing Games
- Gamer Games
- Games on Dad’s Wish List
- and Frozen Games (yes, the movie Frozen is still the rage and there are a TON of games with a Frozen tie-in this year)
Games for Kids:
These are games that young kids will understand and enjoy playing.
Bugs In The Kitchen
Ages: 5+, Players: 2 – 4, Time: 15 min
Bugs in the Kitchen is about trying to get a very lively bug out of the kitchen. And it’s not just any bug – it’s a HEXBUG® nano®, scuttling around the game board! The game is a kids board game without many rules. Roll the die to see which utensils you can turn – allowing the bug to move into different areas. Catch the bug in the trap and earn a token – the first player to collect 5 tokens wins the game. In addition to being able to get this game online, we’ve also heard that it can be found at Target.
Ages: 6+, Players: 2 – 4, Time: 30 min
Villa Paletti is a building game where every move counts!
Players must remove columns from the lower floors and use them to create upper levels without causing the structure to topple.
This award-winning game is an excellent exercise in strategy and dexterity. Includes colorful wooden columns and cardboard floors. Kids often like dexterity games because they have a good change of beating their parents.
It’s also listed in Games Magazine’s Top 100 games.
Ages: 8+, Players: 2 – 4, Time: 15 min
Why not turn a pasture of cute and cuddly animals into a battlefield?
Battle Sheep combines an area capture mechanic with a variable board that changes the contested pasture every time you play. Players start by taking turns constructing the pasture. Then they take their team of sheep and stack them in a single pile the edge of the pasture. On each turn they’ll move at least one of their sheep in straight lines working to control areas of the board. The idea is to control as many hex spaces as you can and block your opponents so they can’t move. The game ends when only one player can make a legal move. At that point, players count how many pasture hexes they control.
Ages: 6+, Players: 2 – 4, Time: 20 min
Do your kids enjoy throwing / flicking / flinging things around?
What if they had a monkey to fling rubber coconuts around? Would they enjoy that?
Because that’s exactly what the Coconuts board game is – a dexterity game that kids will love. After all, they get to use monkeys to fling rubber coconuts.
It’s one of those games that are just a light fun activity. Families may even want to keep it out on the table for quick plays here and there.
See our full review of Coconuts.
The Great Snowball Battle
Ages: 8+, Players: 2 – 6, Time: 15 min
The Great Snowball Battle is a quick-playing card game where players try to knock each other out by playing numbered snowball cards. When the total of the snowballs thrown at a player equal or exceed the location cover number, the player is hit (POW!) and loses a piece of gear. Lose all your gear and you’re out of the game. Of course, there are also special abilities and special gear and items like snow shovels and gravel.
This is really a tough category because we feel like most of the games on this list are games that the whole family can enjoy together. But we’ll call out particular attention to these few as “family games”. And each of these games have their own unique and fun theme for you to choose from.
Ages: 8+, Players: 1 – 4, Time: 20 min
Gravwell is a light, fun board game everyone in the family can enjoy. In Gravwell players use the gravity of the other players’ ships to propel them out of the black hole and on to victory. Players draft sets of cards that will let them move either forward or backward depending on the direction of the nearest ships. Player simultaneously select which card to play from their hand each round not knowing exactly what the outcome will be because it also depends on who moves first. Just when you think you’ll be heading forward, someone else will move first and change the pull of gravity, sending you backward instead. The mix of strategy and luck make this a very fun family board game.
See our full review of Gravwell.
Ages: 10+, Players: 2 – 4, Time: 60 min
In Steam Park players build amusement parks complete with rides and stands for robots to enjoy. Like many great family board games, there’s a good balance of strategy and luck involved. Luck factors in as players roll dice that determine what type of actions they can take (building rides, building stands, letting riders on rides, and cleaning up). And players can roll the dice as many times as they’d like to get the results they’re hoping for. But the longer players take to get results they want, the dirtier their park will get.
See our full review of Steam Park to get the full scoop.
King of New York
Ages: 10+, Players: 2 – 6, Time: 40 min
We haven’t played King of New York yet, but we’re definitely anxious to do so. We could easily list this game in other categories of our board game gift guide (Dice Games, Dad’s Game Wish List) because even without playing it, we know it’s a fun “king-of-the-hill” game and will make a great gift. Why? Because it’s predecessor, King of Tokyo, is one that we play on many of our game nights and King of New York is right in line with similar game play. But it also adds in new elements that look like a lot of fun. The great thing is that I don’t think it will replace King of Tokyo either. Though similar, each delivers their own unique feeling of player interaction to warrant having both in a game library.
(I’m sure we’ll have a chance for a future full review on this one.)
Ages: 8+, Players: 2 – 4, Time: 45 min
If space, amusement parks, and monster battles don’t sound like the right theme for your gift recipient, how about bamboo gardening?
Takenoko is a tile-laying family board game where players develop colorful bamboo gardens. Players score points by placing colored hex-tile plots, irrigating them, growing bamboo shoots, and moving the panda around the gardens to eat the bamboo. The game is easy to learn and the components are absolutely top-notch. The game board looks fantastic as colorful bamboo shoots grow in the gardens. But it’s hard to beat the awesome panda character that moves around eating the bamboo.
We have to show photos on this one because the box cover image can’t show how cool the actual playing pieces are.
For good family bonding around the game table, what can be better than a cooperative board game? In cooperative board games everyone works together as a team to beat the game.
If you’re looking for your first cooperative board game, we’d highly suggest you first look at Pandemic, Castle Panic, or Forbidden Desert. For older kids/teenagers, go with Pandemic. With families of younger kids, start with Forbidden Desert. And Castle Panic is great with any age.
If you’re ready for some new cooperative board games, check out these recently published games with strong themes.
Freedom: The Underground Railroad
Ages: 13+, Players: 1 – 4, Time: 90 min
As the name implies, Freedom: The Underground Railroad deals with the period in American history of freeing the slaves. We understand that it may sound odd to make a game about such an emotional topic, but Freedom treats the subject matter with lots of respect. It also makes for very compelling game play. In Freedom players work together to move slaves from plantations in the Southern United States across the Northern border into Canada. In addition to avoiding the slave catchers, players must also raise sufficient funds along the way to aid the cause.
Check out our review of Freedom: The Underground Railroad to get a fuller understanding of the game.
Dead of Winter: A Crossroads Game
Ages: 13+, Players: 2 – 5, Time: 100 min
Over the last few years, it seems zombies have popped up everywhere – from movies and TV shows to video games and board games. And frankly, we like to stay clear of them all. While we may not understand the appeal, we know zombies are very popular. So if your family and friends like zombies, then Dead of Winter: A Crossroad Game may be the perfect game for them. Why? Because it looks awesome!!
Ok – so even with my disdain for zombie-themed everything running rampant, I have to admit that I’m even very interested in playing Dead of Winter. I’ve seen enough reviews (video and written) to know that I may really enjoy this game. Surprise, surprise – this is another game that could also go in another category in this gift guide – Dad’s Game Wish List.
(Part of the reason why it needs to be on a wish list is because there aren’t currently any copies available. The publisher has sold out and is in the process of another publishing run.)
Sometimes all it takes are dice to have a great game. Here are a few fun dice games that make great gifts.
Roll Through the Ages
Ages: 8+, Players: 1 – 4, Time: 30 min
Roll Through the Ages isn’t a new game on the gaming scene, but it’s still a great one. In Roll Through the Ages, players compete to expand their civilizations by building cities, constructing monuments, and gaining societal developments. They do this by rolling custom wooden dice and carefully selecting which to keep and which to reroll. It’s great to think all grandiose, but expanding too fast may leave you without food for your population in which case you’ll suffer disasters. Nice, light, fun family dice game.
See our full review of Roll Through The Ages.
Ages: 7+, Players: 2 – 4, Time: 30 min
Can’t Stop is another dice game that’s been around for many years. And it’s all about pressing your luck. If you’d like to find out how risky or risk-averse your children are, just sit down and play Can’t Stop with them. You’ll find out pretty soon by seeing how they approach their dice rolls in the game. We know you can find rules online, use any standard dice, and construct your own layout of the game grid. But the components in Can’t Stop are terrific. The board is a giant stop sign – like the game is taunting you as well to stop and not press on – and the traffic cones to mark progress fit in very well with the theme.
See our full review of Can’t Stop.
Ages: 10+, Players: 2 – 4, Time: 30 min
Quarriors is a dice game that gets a lot of love in the board game industry. It was created after the ground-breaking success of Dominion – with the new “deck-building” card game mechanic. But instead of cards, Quarriors took a new turn with “dice-building”. Instead of buying cards to add to your deck as the game progresses, players buy more dice to add to their growing dice pool. So not only do players get the randomness of pulling different dice out of their bag each turn, but they also have to work with the random results of those dice rolls. The trick is determining which dice are the best to buy along the way based on the distribution of the different symbols on the dice. Quarriors has also spawned a ton of expansions because of its popularity.
Instead of a party games list this year, after looking at the few group/social games we’d recommend we noticed the shared element among them is about bluffing.
Ages: 10+, Players: 2 – 6, Time: 15 min
One of our favorite group games is The Resistance. It’s all about secret identities and secret missions and trying to figure out who’s on which team. When Coup was released, we heard that is was The Resistance in a condensed format. So of course we wanted to check it out. The good news is that we’ve had a lot of fun with Coup and play many games back-to-back. And we’d also like to report that we don’t think of it as a condense Resistance. They’re very different games with their own unique game experiences. Coup is definitely the quicker of the two. If you’re looking for a quick-playing bluffing game, then definitely grab a copy of Coup. Its size and cost also makes a great stocking-stuffer game.
See our full review of Coup.
One Night Ultimate Werewolf
Ages: 10+, Players: 3 – 10, Time: 10 min
Werewolf is a very popular social deduction/bluffing game. And it has spawned many iterations of the game over the years. The shortest version of the game has to be One Night Ultimate Werewolf. As the name implies, instead of a series of nights where the werewolves commit their dastardly deeds, in this game there is only 1 night. That’s it. But who can be content with just one round? One Night Ultimate Werewolf is so quick-playing that you’ll play multiple times in a row.
See our full review of One Night Ultimate Werewolf.
Ages: 8+, Players: 3 – 7, Time: 30 min
We bought a copy of Samurai Sword recently and have so far only played it once. And we know it won’t be our last. For those familiar with our game reviews, you’ll know that we’re big BANG! game fans. BANG! was one of the first games that got us rolling with doing board game and card game reviews and has continued to be a favorite. So when we heard Samurai Sword was like BANG! but without the player elimination, we had to give it a shot. You’ll be happy to hear that the report from mom, even after just one play, is that she likes Samurai Sword more than BANG! There you have it. Do you really need to wait for our full review to come?
If you’re looking for a board game gift for someone that loves to play more involved strategy games or games with a lot of theme, check out these options.
Ages: 13+, Players: 2 – 4, Time: 60 min
In Arcadia Quest, players lead guilds of heroes on an epic campaign to dethrone the vampire lord and reclaim the mighty Arcadia for their own. Since only one guild will win, players battle each other as well as the monsters along the way. Players need to accomplish a series of quests in order to win each scenario and choose where to go next in the campaign. Each scenario plays between 45 to 60 minutes. It has a bunch of awesome looking miniatures, great decisions to make, and all-around looks like a very fun game to play.
Ages: 13+, Players: 2 – 4, Time: 60 min
Five Tribes is the latest “hotness” in the board game world. The sultan has just died and control is up for grabs, so player must maneuver five tribes for influence over the land. At it’s heart, Five Tribes is a worker-placement but with a twist in that the wooden meeples begin the game already on the board and players must maneuver them over the villages, markets, oasis, and other tiles. Since it’s a Days of Wonder game, you can rest assured that the components and game play will be solid. There are many different paths to victory and players will have many choices to make along the way.
Ages: 14+, Players: 1 – 8, Time: 180 min
Eldritch Horror is a cooperative game of terror and adventure in which one to eight players take the roles of globetrotting investigators working to solve mysteries, gather clues, and protect the world from an Ancient One – that is, an elder being intent on destroying our world. Each Ancient One comes with its own unique decks of Mystery and Research cards, which draw players deeper into the lore surrounding each loathsome creature. With 12 unique investigators, 250 tokens, and over 300 cards, Eldritch Horror presents an epic, world-spanning adventure with each and every game.
Games on Dad’s Wish List:
With thousands of board games and card games being published each year, there will always be a ton of games that I’m interested in playing. These are the games currently at the top of my (Dad’s) Game Wish List.
The Battle of Five Armies
Ages: 13+, Players: 2, Time: 90 min
Maybe it’s my big anticipation for seeing the final movie of The Hobbit trilogy, but I’m also extremely interested in playing The Battle of Five Armies. Another Lord of the Rings themed game, War of the Ring, has been on my games wish list for a number of years, but never finding its way to the top spots to actually make a purchase. However, The Battle of Five Armies has jumped to the top pretty quickly since being released earlier this year. The 2-player games pits the Free Peoples (elves, dwarves, men) against the armies of Bolg, son of Azog (orcs, goblins, wargs). Playing over the Christmas break after watching the newly released movie sounds awesome.
Ages: 14+, Players: 2 – 6, Time: 45 min
Libertalia is a pirate-themed, strategy bluffing card game. I could have put it in the Bluffing Games category, but since it’s near the top of my games wish list, this is the best spot. In Libertalia, players compete with the other pirates over 3 plundering campaigns (rounds) made up of 6 ‘days’ each to get the most loot. All players have the same set of crew member cards so the strategy is to know when to play which card. With a simultaneous card selection you’ll have to guess which card the other pirates will play. I think it sounds like a fantastic game for Guys Game Night.
Ages: 14+, Players: 3 – 4, Time: 60 min
It’s funny to have 2 pirate-themed games near the top of my wish list, but it’s because Black Fleet looks like such a fun family board game. In Black Fleet, players are in command of 3 different type of ships – a merchant ship to carry/deliver goods for doubloons, a pirate ship for attacking and stealing good from other merchant ships, and a Navy ship for sinking the other players’ pirate ships. Players can also improve their ships through advancement cards that grant special abilities. The components and art look fantastic and the game board is a sea map with lots of islands and ports for some fun tactical opponent outwitting.
Spot It! Frozen
Spot It is a very fun family card game that’s great for all ages. This Frozen version of Spot It looks like it’s targeted at the younger crowd. So if you’re looking for a family or party gathering to play Spot It, get the original version. But if you’ve got youngsters that love Frozen, then this could be a great gift or stocking stuffer.
See our full review of Spot It.
Olaf’s in Trouble
Do you remember the classic game of Trouble? It’s the board game with the Pop-o-matic die roller in the middle of the game. Players can play this game as their favorite Frozen character, and their job is to travel around Arendelle to save Olaf.
The version of Trouble that we have is an R2-D2 version, so we’re not going to argue with anyone wanting a Frozen themed version.
Is Olaf’s in Trouble worth melting for?
UNO is one of those card games that almost everyone has played. So it any surprise that you’ll be able to find an UNO version with a Frozen movie tie-in?
Sure it’s easy to simply throw images of Frozen characters on numbered cards in their colored sets. But wouldn’t your Frozen-enamored kids much rather play with beloved character cards versus regular UNO cards?
Yep, that’s what we thought.
The only catch we see is that we don’t know the Arendellian word for UNO.
Now we’re getting into the territory of using Frozen to improve spelling and vocabulary skills with Scrabble. I’m sure we don’t need to explain anything about Scrabble because it’s such a popular board game worldwide. However, since this version is for the younger crowd, there is a twist to the game – it includes pictures!
Young players match the Frozen pictured words with letter tiles. Older players can enjoy the Grow with Me Classic Scrabble on the reverse side of the board. Includes wood tiles and racks, a unique double-sided game board featuring Frozen images and Frozen words.
Frozen Memory Match
We’re definitely not surprised to see a Frozen Memory Match game. In fact, we’ve seen multiple different versions of Frozen Memory Match. There’s even a super-sized Floor Memory Match game where each card is 4″ x 4″.
When our first kids were youngsters, the Monsters Inc. movie was the big hit. So what Memory Match game did we end up buying that year? You guessed it. Monsters Inc. Memory Match.
So go ahead and pick up a copy of Frozen Memory Match for your gang.
There you have it – a list of 28 fantastic board game ideas to give your loved ones this year.