Board Games, General

WFNY Board Game Gift Guide

One of the things that I love about the holidays is getting the chance to play games with my family, and especially the extended family.

As the resident hobby-gamer here at WFNY, I thought I would offer a bit of a holiday gift giving guide. Some of these games might look familiar, especially if you have been reading my reviews. Here we go…

Games for the whole family:

Sushi Go — My highest recommendation for a quick family game that everyone will enjoy. I have not showed this game to anyone that did not enjoy it. In fact, most of the families that we have played this with have eventually bought their own copy or multiple copies.

This game isn’t available at your favorite big-box store, but should be available at all gaming stores and can also be found online for between $10 to 15 dollars. This is the most bang for your buck.

Ticket to Ride — A new classic. If your family is new to hobby-gaming this is a great place to start. Build train routes between cities to match destination goals and try to build the longest continuous route. Another game that everyone is likely to enjoy. This one will take an hour easy if you play with four or more.

If you are buying for a gamer, there is now a deluxe 10th anniversary edition available. It will run you $75-100 bucks, but may be worth it for someone who loves the game. The components are amazing and if the budget allows, it might be a great gift. Find the regular edition at any game store, online or at Target for $32-40.

Settlers of Catan — The first new classic if that makes any sense. This is the game that my wife and I couldn’t put down. A civilization and trading game that really deserves a lot of credit for where the game industry is right now.

Each player is a settler on a new island trying to build their civilization (settlements, roads, cities and soldiers) faster and bigger than the other players. Dice rolls determine which resources are available each turn adding some luck to all the strategy. Note- there is an expansion that adds enough tiles, cards and pieces for 5 and 6 players. If your family is larger, you may want to pick up that expansion with the base game. Ages 10 and up. Find at any game store, online or at Target for $30-35.

King of Tokyo — What a fun game. You are all movie-style monsters trying to be the King of Tokyo. This game uses special dice that allow your monster to attack, heal, score points or gain energy cubes which act as currency for special power cards.

This one is good for the whole family, but I can’t help but think if your house has a couple boys in it this becomes a must-have. There is a new version available called King of New York. I have not played the game, but I do know that it adds a bit more strategy and choices to the original. It may be a little more expensive right now as well. Stick to Tokyo and you won’t be sorry. It’s a winner. This one is also available at Target and any game store as well as online for $30-35.

12 Days — This card game is based on the 12 Days of Christmas theme. Simple to play, but winning is no easy task. Beautiful artwork on the cards and an interesting twist on the ‘golf’ scoring system. Win the day’s ‘gift’ with the lowest played card or collect high number cards to win those bonus points.

This is a great game for your holiday gathering with the theme, ease of play and game length. Will you play this one after the holidays? The game is good enough, but it will depend on your tolerance for the Christmas theme long after the last nog has been drunk. This one will cost you around $12. (Of course.)

Forbidden Island or Forbidden Desert — These are cooperative games. Co-op games are still a relatively new genre, and are a great way to introduce anyone to hobby gaming. Forbidden Island is the original here. In both games you have to work together to find items that help you survive. The island is sinking around you and the desert is undergoing a sand storm that threatens to bury you.

One of the great things about these games is that the family is working together to accomplish the task. Each player has a special ability that helps the group. Younger ones may need a little guidance on what to do on their turn, but they will feel like an important part of the team because of the special actions their character gets to do. A great way to model problem solving to your kids without them even knowing you are teaching them a skill. (Pandemic is another game cut from the same cloth in which you are trying to stop a global virus catastrophe.)

Forbidden Desert has a few more components and might be a hair more complex. Both games offer several degrees of difficulty. You can easily find these online and possibly at Target for $15-20.

Telestrations — Great for larger groups, this party game will remind you of a cross between Pictionary and the old game Telephone. A word or phrase is given to the first player and that player draws the concept. The second player tries to guess what that phrase is from the drawing and writes it down for the next person to see and draw a picture of. Keep going down the line and eventually the original concept and the final product rarely look anything alike.

This is one of those games that you will likely not keep any kind of score, but are good for a laugh. Some don’t particularly like these kind of drawing games, but the concepts are pretty simple and don’t require much skill to draw. Find this one everywhere for $28-35.

Wits and Wagers — This is a great twist on the classic trivia game. Don’t know the answer? No problem, this game lets you bet on your family know-it-all’s answer. Available in several different editions, you will likely find one that your family will enjoy. Available everywhere for $20-35 (depending on the edition)


Strategy games worth finding:

These games are a little deeper and involve a bit more strategy. If your loved one likes the games above, challenge them with one of these. You will have to dig a bit more to find these, and let’s face it you probably aren’t used to paying more than $30 for a board game. These are market prices, and my recommendations for games worth the money.

Imperial Settlers — New this year, Imperial Settlers is a card-based civilization building game. For 1 to 4 players, this is quickly becoming the go-to civilization game. It has a little bit of everything from specialized buildings for each player, to worker placement, to light conflict between civilizations.

You will almost certainly have to find this one on the internet, but do check your local game store as well. You will spend $45-55 on this one. Great production quality and a fun, medium weight game. If your loved one enjoys Settlers of Catan, Carcassonne, 7 Wonders or Dominion I would highly recommend this game.

Dead of Winter — I’ve not played this game, but have seen it demonstrated. Dead of Winter is a post-apocalyptic survival game. It is a semi-cooperative game in which the group is working together to accomplish one goal, but each player has a secret goal as well and there is the possibility of a trader in the group.

I am not a big fan of the zombie theme or culture, but this game isn’t like most games with zombies. The zombies in this game are secondary to the story nature of the game. As the game unfolds, certain story twists can actually change the goals of the individuals or the group. If you are looking for something to buy a big Walking Dead show fan, I think this might be the perfect game. I can’t even give you a price range for this game. You are going to have to get lucky and find this one at a game store or overpay on the internet. This game has been such a huge hit that the company basically ran out of them. They are being produced overseas and won’t likely be restocked before Christmas.

Smash-Up — One of my favorite games. Smash-Up is a card game in which each player chooses two different factions and shuffles them together to make one awesome combo. The base game includes pirates, aliens, robots, dinosaurs, wizards, zombies, ninjas and gnome-ish tricksters.

Each player uses their deck to try and take over bases which scores points. First to 15 points wins. In addition to the base game, there are several expansions available to add even more flavor to the game. Unlike the first two games in this category, you will be able to find this one at any game store or online. Base game is about $25. Expansions for around $15.

7 Wonders — Another civilization building card game. This one uses the drafting mechanic instead of everyone having their own deck. Take a card and then pass the rest along for your opponent to pick. Save the right resource cards that you will need later on to complete your civilization’s wonder. Build a bigger army and score points by defeating your neighbors, or collect science and technology cards for big bonuses. Lots or ways to score points and different paths to victory.

This game plays 2-7 players and does so very efficiently. A 6 player game really doesn’t take any longer than a 3 player one. This one has been out a few years, but I just got around to it in the past four months or so. I believe this one has hit the table more than just about any other game in that time span. Highly recommend. My wife likes this one as much as I do I think, which is very telling. If you like the way Sushi-Go plays but want a bit deeper game, this is the one. Find online or any gaming store for $30-35. There are expansions available as well.

Marvel Legendary — Had to go back and include this one. A cooperative deck-building game based in the Marvel comics universe. Play with the Avengers, the X-Men etc. Your group of heroes is fighting the baddest villains in the Marvel universe. Defeat the henchmen and the big boss to win the game.

You don’t have to be the biggest comic-book nerd to appreciate this one. My family enjoys the Avengers movies and we all love this game. There are expansions available and even a separate game that lets you play as the villains fighting against the heroes. Stick to the base game if you haven’t played before, though there is now a Guardians of the Galaxy expansion that would be a great pick-up for fans of the movie. Base game around $45-50 dollars. Expansions between $15-20.

  • TomWFNY

    Settlers is, quite literally, the worst.

  • TomWFNY

    Good list, otherwise. If someone is going in fresh, they should probably just go straight for King of New York, though.

  • BKJD

    I asked my mom and sister for Fortune and Glory. I’m really excited for it.

  • I’ve never played that one, but watched the table top episode with it. Let me know how you like it if you get it.

  • Aeopile

    I’ve been a lurker for about 2 years now, but I just wanted to come out and say that I love the designer board game articles! Your recommendations above are all pretty good, but I’ll throw a few more good choices, from my experience.

    For Sale – a 20 minute auction game where you buy houses low, and try to sell them high. Very easy to play, its short time keeps things flowing, and very approachable theme. Good price too.

    Stone Age – another game I’d put in as a “intro friendly” game, have this one hit the table after players have shown they enjoy games like Settlers and Ticket to Ride

    Smallworld – do you, or others you know, like playing Risk? Similar game of area control with armies, but with a fantasy theme presenting different cultures and special powers, which are randomized and paired differently each game, so no two games are quite the same. Great experience, without the frustration of lucky die rolls ruining your best laid plans!

    Battlestar Galactica – my favorite game. Its a cooperative game based on the Television show from about 10 years ago. It is dripping with theme, so if you liked that show, you’ll love the game. The twist to this cooperative game, is that some players are actually hidden traitors and are working to make it so the humans lose! Lots of intrigue and mis-trust as players try to figure out who the cylons are and deal with them before the sabotage humanity. Amazing game, but it does run long (3 hours), and one I’d list as a good candidate for fans of the television show or hobby gaming.

  • Thanks for your additions. Small World is one of my favorites as well. Was on the short list for this piece but I’ve talked about it a lot previously.

    Stone Age is on my wish list. Hoping to play it soon.

  • Natedawg86

    Our family gets a new game every year for Xmas eve. I actually set up a seperate wish list on amazon for Xmas Game Ideas. Thanks for the writeup

  • Caitlin

    Karma (I think it’s by the company that makes SET) is a great little game that we
    play as a family a lot. I’ll be giving this game to my sister’s kids for the
    holidays. It’s a great mischievous strategy game that even keeps my teens
    laughing (and putting their phones down for once). I think I got mine at
    Barnes and Noble.