2018 Christmas Gift Guide: Board Games
Can you believe it’s already the last day of November? Christmas is just around the corner, so I’m continuing our gift guide today with my very favorite category of gift ideas – board games!
We love a good board game around here, and when the holidays hit it seems that everyone turns into a fan of games. Corey and I are always looking for new and unique games to play, so today I’m sharing a few of our favorite games of the year that are sure to be a fabulous gift for anyone on your list.
Miss any of the other posts in our gift guide series? Catch up here!
2018 Christmas Gift Guide
Okay, let’s jump in – I divided the big ol’ list of our favorite games into categories to help you find the perfect game for any person (or any occasion). I’m only including games that Corey and I have personally tried and can vouch for – I know there are a ton of other great party games out there, so if you have one that you’re shocked I didn’t include, please let me know in the comments so we can add it to our list of games to try!
40 Board Game Gift Ideas
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For people who like to chat while they play
These games are perfect for the family gathering full of kiddos running around, or for that friend who just can’t seem to focus on one thing at a time. They don’t require a ton of attention, or they’re team games which means it’s no big deal if one person needs to step away. They’re perfect for groups of people who love to chat, or who just want something to do while you watch a Christmas movie.
- Codenames – Try to get your teammates to guess your team’s words with only one-word clues. Great for a large crowd!
- Concept – Another team game, this one is all about conveying a word or phrase using only concepts (no talking, drawing, or acting!). It’s surprisingly challenging but always a ton of fun.
- Splendor – Build up a collection of jewels to score points. It’s quick to play and simple to learn, and it’s fun to see everyone’s different strategies.
- Roll for It – Roll a set of dice and try to match the combination displayed on the cards in the center of the table. The perfect game to play with a movie in the background. Combine different colored game boxes to play with more players.
Games for the devoted gamers
This section is perfect for people who take board gaming seriously and don’t mind spending a few hours on one game. The games are a bit more complex and require attention, strategy, and may have a bit of a learning curve. Any of these games can definitely be played by inexperienced gamers, but you’ll want to save them for a group of people willing to invest some time in playing!
- Caverna – A worker-placement game that is so satisfying to play. This game takes longer the more people play it (about 30 minutes per person playing), and it’s a great “heavy” board game that isn’t too complicated.
- Dead of Winter – Perfect for Walking Dead fans, this game allows you to play a group of survivors of the zombie apocalypse. Fend off the zombies, build up the supplies in your camp, and try not to get bit. This is one of my top three games of all time!
- Time Stories – Play time travelers who are trying to solve mysteries from the past (or occasionally, the future). This incredibly creative game will keep you on your toes and is sure to impress your friends.
- Viticulture – This one has been hitting our table a lot lately! You play the owner of a brand new vineyard who is trying to build up a reputation and a good stock of wine. It requires a fair amount of strategy and takes a couple of hours to play, but it’s worth every minute!
- Power Grid – Try to get your electric company to power more homes than your opponents. This game is full of strategy and competition, and it’s a really well-rounded game.
These games are just the all-around great games. They’re well-balanced, will only take up about 45-minutes to an hour, and aren’t too hard to learn. These are some of the games we’re most likely to bring to gatherings with friends who we know are board game fans, and they never fail to be winners!
- Machi Koro – Be the first person to expand your tiny little town to be the biggest and best city around. I’m not usually a fan of game expansions, but I highly recommend playing this game with the Harbor expansion – it has a few key gameplay adjustments that make the game notably better.
- Scoville – Cross-breed peppers in a communal pepper garden to create the best (and hottest) peppers in order to win the chili cook-off, and the game! The theme is a little silly, but this game has some unique mechanics that make it a really fun experience, and it never gets old!
- Settlers of Catan – This game is an absolute classic and it’s a must-have in any game closet. Almost everyone has heard of it, but many people haven’t played it – and they’re missing out. Gather and trade resources to make your settlement better than the other players’. There’s lots of bartering, strategizing, and fun involved.
- Suburbia – Perfect for those of us who grew up on SimCity – start from scratch to build a city that out-performs the neighboring towns. Be careful to pay attention to how your buildings and lots interact with one another (a factory right next to the school is never a great idea), and watch your city grow.
- Lords of Waterdeep – We sometimes get a few eye rolls when we pull out this Dungeons & Dragons-themed game, but despite the nerdy theme it’s a classic! Even the most skeptical players end up loving this game where you commission adventurers to fulfill quests for you in order to score more points than your opponents.
Games that will feel familiar
Do you want to try something new but don’t want to branch too far out of your comfort zone? These games are all similar to other, mega-popular, games but with a fresh twist. They’re perfect for someone who wants to expand their board game collection but has an affinity for the classics.
- Lords of Vegas – Another of my top three! This game feels a lot like Monopoly, only it takes a lot less time and is way more fun. You play casino bosses during the early days of the Vegas strip, fighting for control of the best casinos. Everything about this game is so, so good.
- Red7 – This quick card game feels like a fresh take on Uno, where the rules change often. Each round you either play a card or change the rules so that you’re winning the hand – and if you can’t win, you’re out!
- Tichu – This game feels a bit overwhelming when you first learn it but once you get the hang of it, it quickly becomes a favorite. This is basically a more complex version of Spades, and we’ve gotten my parents hooked on playing this one with us!
- Five Tribes – I grew up playing Mancala, and the first time we pulled this game out I was thrilled at how it feels like a more robust version of it. Carefully maneuver the pieces in order to score points, and try not to leave a great move open for your opponents!
- Sheriff of Nottingham – Perfect for anyone with a good poker face, this is like a board game version of the classic card game Bullsh*t. Try to sneak goods past the guard at the city gate – you can either tell the truth about what you have or you can lie, but if you get caught in a fib there might be trouble.
For the crowd with a short attention span
These games all take 20 minutes or less – some can be played in as few as 10 minutes! They’re perfect for when you want to squeeze in a quick game in-between dinner and dessert, or if your group just can’t stay focused for long!
- Love Letter – This game is the perfect stocking stuffer! It only takes about 10 minutes or so to play, and seems to get more fun the more you play it. Try to get your love letter to the princess before anyone else is able to by exposing your opponents and knocking them out of the game.
- 12 Days – This is another great stocking stuffer! In this Christmas-themed card game, you try to score more points than everyone else by taking the best gifts from the classic 12 Days of Christmas song. This game is a must-play for us every single year!
- Sushi Go! – This adorable game has the best illustrations and introduces a fun new mechanic that feels fresh and unique. Try to create the very best arrangement of sushi by gathering cards as they are passed around the table – it requires some strategy and deduction along with a bit of luck!
- The Resistance – Perfect when you’ve got a big group, this game can play up to 10 players! You’ll need the ability to deliver a smooth lie to your friends, and perhaps catch them in a lie while you’re at it!
- Zombie Dice – This silly little game is similar to Farkle but with a hilarious twist – instead of just collecting points, you act as a zombie trying to gather as many brains as possible before you get shot.
Games that are guaranteed to make you laugh
These games are best for a group who likes to be a little silly and isn’t afraid to get really into the game. They require a bit of creativity and a sense of humor – and they never fail to put us in a fit of giggles.
- Gloom – This game often leads to so much laughter that there’s crying involved. You play a dark and demented family who wants nothing more than to live the most miserable possible life before dying a tragic death. “Curse” your opponents with good days, wreak as much havoc as possible on your own family, and be sure to make up a good story to describe what happened.
- Betrayal at House on the Hill – This game rounds out my top three of all time, and can probably claim the title of my very favorite. You play a group of villagers who have gone into the “house on the hill” to investigate some strange happenings, and you stumble right into a terrifying experience straight out of a B-horror movie. We recently snagged the Legacy version of this game and I can’t wait to get started!
- Cash & Guns – You know that scene in Reservoir Dogs where everyone has their guns pointed at one another and no one is quite sure what to do next? This game is basically that, but with your family and friends. The foam guns included add to the hilarity, and this game basically never gets old.
- Spyfall – We never fail to end up in hysterics when we pull this game out. Everyone at the table gets a card with a location (like the grocery store or the beach), except for one player who is acting as the spy. Ask each other questions to try and deduce who the spy is before the spy figures out what your location is.
- Lords & Ladies – This is one of the most beautifully-designed games we own, and it always leads to plenty of silliness. You’re working to build your aristocratic family’s legacy while also destroying the reputation of other families through gossip and rumors.
For the group that likes to work together
These are all cooperative games, meaning the entire group plays as one – you all win, or you all lose! This is perfect for a group who gets a little too competitive, or for when you just all wanna get along.
- Pandemic – Work as a group of scientists trying to eradicate diseases before they take out too much of the population. It’s a great game for all ages and experience levels, and the Legacy version of it is fantastic as well!
- The Game – Another one of our very favorites, this card game consists of cards numbered 2-99. Work together to play all of the cards into different stacks, some of which are counting up and some are counting down. Requires team work, patience, and the ability to forgive your friends when they have to play a card that ruins the game.
- Castle Panic – Work together to defend your castle from monsters attacking from the forest. This game is perfect for kids or people who aren’t familiar with gaming, and is always fun for everyone.
- Mysterium – One person acts as the ghost haunting the manor and everyone else acts as the psychics trying to figure out what happened. The ghost will use cards with pictures on them to give clues to the players so they can decipher the weapon, location, and killer.
- Escape Room – Love the idea of escape rooms but don’t want to leave your house? This game brings the experience to you with three different escape room scenarios. We were blown away by the depth and detail of this game, and we absolutely loved every scenario! I’m hoping they come out with a second edition so we can do it again!
Games the kids will love too
Many of the other games on this list are great for kids, but these games are ones that we’ve found are particularly appealing to the younger crowd (while still being great for adults too).
- Takenoko – Take care of the emperor’s bamboo garden and his beloved panda – try to accomplish your objectives before the panda turns your bamboo stalks into his lunch! This game is really adorable and kids love the fun theme.
- The Hare & The Tortoise – There’s a big race between the tortoise, the hare, and a few other woodland creatures. Bet on who will win and cheer your favorite animals on.
- Survive: Escape from Atlantis! – You’ve finally discovered the lost island of Atlantis and are ready to head home with your treasures, but the island is sinking! Try to save your people without getting devoured by a sea creature.
- King of Tokyo – This dice-rolling game is always a big crowd pleaser. Choose your monster and begin terrorizing the city – try to defeat the other monsters to become the King of Tokyo.
- Ticket to Ride – This is another classic that I consider vital to any game collection. Players build train tracks through a country (the original game is set in the United States but there are many other versions) and try to score more points than the opposing railroad companies.
I hope you find a few games on this list to try out this holiday season! They’re all great games that we’ve played many times over the years, and I can guarantee we’ll be pulling a few of them out for our Christmas gatherings!
What are your favorite games to play this time of year?
Why don’t we live close to one another!? We have the same taste in board games! Betrayal is our family favorite too! And dead of winter is so much fun. Love cooperative games with a possible traitor!
Ahh so much fun, right?! Too bad we don’t live closer!!
So many great recommendations! takenoko is probably my all time current favorite. We also love ticket to ride (I picked you the NY version at Target) and my husband and I frequently play love letter because it’s so quick and easy. I’ve been eyeing gloom but I’m afraid it’s going to be a little to dark for my husband. Hahaha.
Gloom is SO good! It cracks us up every time.
This is a great list, thank you for introducing us to new ones! We are fans of Quelf, Quickwits, Heads Up, and many others.
Quelf and Heads Up are so fun! I haven’t tried Quickwits yet!