It’s time for the next post in our gift guide series – we’ve already covered the best from the Hearth & Hand Collection at Target, and gift ideas for the friend who loves to entertain. Today we’re focusing on something else that’s near and dear to my heart – board games.
I’ve talked about board games many times here on the blog before, and they’re a fantastic gift idea for families, friends who love to have fun, and family members who you might be spending the holidays with. I love to give board games as family gifts to friends who have kids, and Corey and I are always excited when we receive board games as a gift!
These are obviously also really great for friends without kids – Jackon isn’t old enough to play any of these board games yet, so most of our board gaming time is just the two of us. I did try to include my general recommendations on age in each of the game descriptions, though, so it might help make your decision easier if you’re shopping for friends who have kids.
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Codenames | Sushi Go | Lords of Waterdeep | Pandemic | Machi Koro | Sheriff of Nottingham | King of Tokyo | Ticket to Ride | Dead of Winter | Betrayal at House on the Hill | Takenoko | Alhambra | Spyfall | Viticulture | Gloom | 12 Days | The Game | Biblios | Small World | Splendor | Concept | Cash ‘N Guns | Five Tribes
Codenames: This is a team name in which you try to get your teammates to guess which cards are yours in a grid of words by giving only one-word clues. It requires a lot of creativity and critical thinking, and it’s great for a small or a large group! Perfect for upper-elementary-aged kids and older.
Sushi Go: This is an adorably-illustrated card game where you build a collection of sushi that’s worth various points depending on which cards you end up with at the end of the game. This requires some planning and thinking ahead, so it’s a great game for upper-elementary and older.
Lords of Waterdeep: This is a game that a lot of our friends and family have judged based on the cover (it looks so nerdy!) but it has been a winner with every group we’ve played it with. This is a worker-placement game, meaning you control a certain number of “workers” that you can place on the board each turn to complete various tasks. Good for upper-elementary-aged kids and older.
Pandemic: This is a cooperative game, which means that everyone who is playing works together towards the same goal. Because of that, you could probably play with a slightly younger kid, as long as you know they’ll probably need a bit of help. You’re working as a group of scientists to eradicate some dangerous diseases before they take over the world – it’s a lot of fun, and a little different every time you play.
Machi Koro: This game is one of my favorites right now! You’re working as a city developer trying to build a better city than your competitors. It’s probably best suited for older kids (it requires a solid strategy and a lot of thinking ahead) and is one of the few games that I’d recommend getting the expansions for right away. This game is significantly better once you add in the expansions, and it’s one I never get tired of.
Sheriff of Nottingham: Did you ever play the card game Bullshit? This is basically that exact same concept, turned into a board game. You’re trying to sneak certain goods out of the town of Nottingham without the Sherrif knowing, so it’s all about bluffing and deception. It’s a really simple game, and while it’s not one of my personal favorites, it would be really great for younger kids and families.
King of Tokyo: This was the first of these type of board games that Corey and I ever played and it’s still a favorite. It’s a dice-rolling game where you’re all playing monsters who are trying to take over the city of Tokyo. It’s silly, a ton of fun, and doesn’t require much strategy, so it’s great for younger children.
Ticket to Ride: This is a classic board game that is really good for families with younger kids (though they may need a little help). You’re building train routes across the country (and there are a ton of different versions from all around the world), and it’s a very simple game that doesn’t require a ton of strategy.
Dead of Winter: This game is one of my very favorites of all time. It’s a cooperative game that’s set after the zombie apocalypse where you’re playing a group of survivors who are trying to meet a specific objective (there are a lot of different objectives that come with the game, so you may have a different goal each time you play). It’s a more complex game that requires a ton of strategy (we play this all the time and have only actually won a handful of times), so I would recommend it for families with teenagers or a group of adults.
Betrayal at House on the Hill: This is my other favorite game (can you tell I’m into scary things?). It’s also a cooperative game, with a bit of a twist – you may end up with one of your own turning on you halfway through the game! You’re playing a group of villagers who have gone to investigate a haunted house – and crazy things start happening when you get there. This game is completely different every time you play, thanks to a board that builds itself during the game and 50+ potential endings. It requires some strategy (and is a little creepy!) so I’d recommend it for middle school aged kids and older.
Takenoko: This is an adorable game where you’re trying to meet certain objectives to cultivate and grow bamboo better than your opponents. You’ve got to manage the needs of the gardener (who is great at growing bamboo) and the Emporer’s panda (who is great at eating it). It’s pretty simple to learn and is a lot of fun to play – it’s probably best for upper-elementary-aged kiddos.
Alhambra: In this game, you’re playing builders who are trying to hire the right experts from around the world to build the best Alhambra (which is a palace). It’s a pretty simple game that can be played by most elementary-aged kids, but it’s also really enjoyable for just a group of adults.
Spyfall: This game is perfect if you’ve got a large group, and if you like to be a little silly. In this game, you all receive a card that tells you a location that the group is in. Except, the catch is that one of you is a spy and doesn’t know where everyone is! You ask each other questions and the spy tries to blend in and figure out where he’s at while the rest of the group tries to figure out who the spy is. It requires some strategic gameplay (and a good poker face!), so I’d recommend it for middle school aged kids and up.
Viticulture: Corey and I recently played this game for the first time and quickly became obsessed. In it, you play winemakers who are trying to build the very best vineyard. It’s a more complex game that requires lots of planning and thinking ahead, so it’s probably best for teens who are experienced gamers or a group of adults. It’s strangely addicting and is another game that’s really good with the expansions (you get to make cheese!)
Gloom: Corey just gave me this game for our birthday and we tried it out just a couple of weeks ago – it is so silly and so fun. You’re playing a family of misfits and your goal is to ensure that your family is the most miserable and encounters the most misfortune and dies the most awful death. You gain points for inflicting pain on your family and can work to cheer up your opponents’ families to make them a little less miserable. You can make up a fun (and, obviously, silly) storyline for your family as you go and it’s sure to elicit lots of laughs. I’d recommend it for upper-elementary-aged kids and older.
12 Days: We play this game every Christmas (for obvious reasons) and it’s one that we usually end up playing a few rounds of because it’s so much fun! It’s based around the 12 days of Christmas and you spend the game bidding for the days that will earn you the most points. It requires a little bit of strategy and creativity, so it’s better for older kids (or younger kids who are willing to let an adult help).
The Game: This is another favorite of mine. It’s a cooperative game where you’re working together to play all of the cards in the game in a specific order – but you don’t know what the other players have. It’s definitely best for experienced older kids or teenagers, as it requires some serious strategy and may make you yell at your family. Fair warning.
Biblios: This is a pretty simple game where you’re working to establish the best book collection by bidding, gambling, and outwitting your opponents. It’s best for middle school aged kids and older, as it requires some serious planning and resource management.
Small World: In this game, you get to control various species of creatures (including orcs, giants, wizards, and more) who are trying to expand their empire and dominate over the other races. It requires a careful balance between expanding your race and knowing when it’s time to allow them to go into decline and start rising up with another race of creatures. It’s best for upper-elementary-aged kids and older, and is a really good way to get kids who might not think they’re into board games interested in playing!
Splendor: This is one of my favorite games for a quick game night. You’re playing a jewel shop owner who is trying to build up the best and most shiny shop – you get points for having various combinations of jewels in your shop, and bonus points for having enough jewels to entice certain aristocrats to come visit. It’s good for upper-elementary-aged kids and older, and is a good game for people who aren’t very familiar with board games.
Concept: This is a great game for a crowd and we love to play it at family gatherings. It’s kind of a combination of Charades and Pictionary – you’re trying to get your teammate to guess the word on your card by placing game markers on certain concepts on the board. It requires a lot of creativity and thinking outside the box. We’ve played this with elementary aged kids before, but they occasionally need help (which is easy to do with a team game like this).
Cash ‘N Guns: Oh, this game is hilarious. It’s based on the concept of a Mexican standoff – you know that situation you see all the time in movies where everyone is pointing a gun at everyone else and no one knows quite how to proceed? Yeah, it’s like that. There are even foam guns. I promise there will be lots of laughing, lots of shouting, and lots of fun. Good for elementary aged kids and older who can handle their parents trying to “kill” them.
Five Tribes: Five Tribes is similar to the game Mancala – you pick up markers on the spot of your choice and place one on each of the following spaces until you are done, and then you score based on where you land. It’s a lot of fun and a really great lighthearted game. It’s good for upper-elementary aged kids and older (it requires lots of thinking ahead), and is a ton of fun for the whole family.