Are you currently shopping for the holiday season and just can’t figure out what to get your loved one? Are you looking at board games but don’t know what to get? Well our 2017 holiday gift guide has some board/card game recommendations for this holiday season. When making this list I used a couple of criteria. First I only picked more recent games so that they would be easier to find. While we review a lot of retro board games here on Geeky Hobbies, I didn’t find them to be appropriate to put on a holiday gift guide as they might be hard to find. Second this list is filled with family games that are lighter on the strategy spectrum. I made the decision to go with lighter strategy games as these games can be enjoyed by anyone from gamers to people who haven’t played many board games other than the occasional game of Monopoly. While these games can be enjoyable for everyone, they might not be for people that like heavy strategy games. So lets get to Geeky Hobbies’ 2017 holiday gift guide for family board games.
Are you looking for a board game that fits the gift giving theme of the season? Well in my opinion that game is Gift Trap. The objective in Gift Trap is to give and receive gifts. Seems pretty fitting for the season doesn’t it? In each round a set of cards are placed on the table which feature different items. Each player chooses one of the gifts to give to each player. The players also choose which gifts they would like to receive and which gift they wouldn’t want. Players score points for giving gifts that the other players want and also receiving the gifts that they want. The first player to score enough points in both categories wins the game.
There are a couple things about Gift Trap that I think make it really work for a holiday gift. First the theme is a natural fit for the holiday season. How could you do much better than a game about gift giving in the season of giving? The game also deserves a lot of credit for being a pretty original game. I have played a lot of different board/card games and Gift Trap was the first game I had ever played that utilized this gift giving mechanic. I think the best thing about the game though is how well it works in family/party settings. The game is simple enough that anyone can play it and the theme makes it work really well in group settings. If you want a game to set the mood at your holiday party Gift Trap is a good option.
Are you looking for a good stocking stuffer for the gamer in your life? Well I would suggest Sushi Go. In Sushi Go the players are visiting a sushi restaurant with the goal of having the best sushi meal. At the beginning of each hand of Sushi Go each player is dealt a hand of cards. The cards feature different food items and each food item scores in different ways. Unlike most cards games though you aren’t dealt your cards and then have to play them. Players are dealt cards but only get to keep one of them before they pass the rest of their cards to the next player. This continues until all of the cards are taken. Players will then score points for the cards they kept throughout the round and then another round is played. Whoever has scored the most points at the end of the game wins.
What I like about Sushi Go is that it is everything that a card game should strive to be. Like most card games Sushi Go is really easy to play. People who rarely play card/board games should have little trouble in picking up Sushi Go. Unlike most simple card games though, Sushi Go actually has quite a bit of strategy to it. The game will never be confused for a highly strategic game but it has enough strategy where it feels like you have an impact on your fate in the game instead of luck determining who is going to win. On top of all of that Sushi Go is pretty quick as most games should only take 20 minutes at most. Plan on playing for more than 20 minutes though because you likely will want to play another game as soon as you finish a game of Sushi Go. I have played a lot of card games and yet I still consider Sushi Go to be one of the best card games that I have ever played.
Another stocking stuffer recommendation is the Fluxx series. The Fluxx series is basically the game of ever changing rules. The game begins with two rules: draw a card, play a card. Those rules aren’t going to last long though as players will constantly be changing the rules by playing new rule cards. The ultimate goal in Fluxx is to play the cards in front of yourself that are required by the goal.
Unlike most of the games on this list, Fluxx is a game that is not going to appeal to everyone. The Fluxx series is one of those game series that people either love or hate. I personally like the series but a lot of people don’t like it. I like that the game is easy to play and it is exciting that you can bend the rules to your own favor. Most people don’t like that the game relies heavily on luck which is accurate. If the idea of a game of always changing rules sounds interesting I think you will enjoy the game. The reason that I think the game is a good stocking stuffer is that it is pretty cheap and the game features so many different themes from Firefly to Doctor Who and even Math and Chemistry.
Dr. Eureka Series
Are you looking for a more educational board game for your children this holiday season? Well I would suggest looking at the Dr. Eureka Series. The Dr. Eureka Series consists of three different games: Dr. Eureka, Dr. Microbe, and Dr. Beaker. This series of board games takes different scientific equipment and builds dexterity games out of them. In Dr. Eureka you are given three test tubes and a set of colored balls. The objective is to rearrange the balls in your test tubes (without touching them with your hands) so the balls match the pattern shown on a card. In Dr. Microbe you are given a petri dish and a pair of tweezers. Your goal is to grab the microbes that match the colors and shapes shown on a card and place them in the right compartments in your own petri dish while also figuring out the missing colors/shapes. Finally in Dr. Beaker you are given a beaker, some marbles, and a stirring rod. You use the stirring rod to move the marbles around the beaker arranging them to match a card.
What I like about the Dr. Eureka series of games is that they do what all educational games should do. They focus first on being fun with the educational component added in later on. While the Dr. Eureka series doesn’t teach any specific scientific knowledge, they do a good job teaching reasoning skills and introduce children to tools used in scientific fields. I love that the series focuses on creating board games around a scientist theme as it introduces children to science careers early with a fun experience. While the games might look like they are mostly for children, they can still be enjoyed quite a bit by adults. Of the three games in the series I would personally recommend Dr. Eureka but Dr. Microbe and Dr. Beaker are still quite enjoyable.
Do you like speed games and cooperative games? Well 5-Minute Dungeon is probably the game for you. In 5-Minute Dungeon your goal is to defeat and overcome all of the monsters and obstacles in a dungeon within the aforementioned five minutes. Each player is given their own deck of cards. Players flip over one dungeon card at a time which represents the enemy/obstacle that the players encountered in the dungeon. The players then have to work together quickly to play cards from their hands that have the same symbols as those on dungeon card that was flipped over. This removes the card and the players move onto the next card. If the players can get through all of the dungeon cards in five minutes and defeat the boss at the end, they win the round and move onto the next dungeon which is more difficult.
When I first saw 5-Minute Dungeon I was immediately intrigued and yet after playing the game I was still surprised by how much I enjoyed the game. 5-Minute Dungeon is in the running for both the best speed and cooperative game that I have ever played. It is really hard to describe how enjoyable the game truly is. The game is so simple to play and yet has enough strategy to keep strategy gamers interested. The game does a great job as a cooperative game as players have to work well together or they have no chance of succeeding. 5-Minute Dungeon even gives you a great sense of accomplishment if you are able to beat a dungeon within the five minutes. Five minutes might sound short for a round but I would be shocked if you didn’t want to play many more rounds before you put the game away. Unless you hate speed games I would highly recommend checking out 5-Minute Dungeon.
Do you have someone in your family that loves Dominoes or other tile laying games? If so I would suggest checking out Kingdomino. In Kingdomino each player plays as a king/queen who is tasked with building their own kingdom. Each player builds their kingdom by placing tiles next to one another trying to connect as many similar landscapes as possible. Players score points for connecting several tiles of the same type together along with acquiring tiles with crowns on them. The catch is that players don’t randomly draw tiles in the game. All of the tiles are placed face up on the table and players take turns choosing which tile they want. The tile you take in a round impacts when you get to choose in the next round as the more valuable a tile you take in the round, the later you will get to choose in the next round. The player who creates the most valuable kingdom at the end of the game wins.
I have played a lot of tile laying games and yet I think Kingdomino has a strong case of being the best tile laying game that I have ever played. It’s no wonder that Kingdomino won the 2017 Spiel Des Jahres/Game of the Year award. There is just so much that Kingdomino does right that it is hard to find a fault with the game. First the game is really easy to play. Even players who don’t play many board games can quickly jump into the game since it is so straightforward. Second while the game is simple there is still quite a bit of strategy in the game to keep everyone interested. Third the idea of the drafting mechanic is done so well that it really makes the game. On top of all of that Kingdomino is a lot cheaper than you would expect as you can usually find the game for less than $20. Unless you hate tile laying games I can’t imagine you not loving Kingdomino.
Winner of the 2016 Spiel Des Jahres/Game of the Year Award, Codenames is probably the best party game that I have ever played. In Codenames the players divide into two teams. One player on each team plays as the spymaster and the rest of the players play as agents. In Codenames a grid of word cards are laid out on the table. These word cards correspond to codenames for secret agents. The spymasters are the only players that know the identities of the secret agents. They have to give clues to their teammates to get them to guess the right words while avoiding the other team’s agents or the assassin which will automatically lose them the game. The first team to reveal all of their agents or have the other team reveal the assassin wins the game.
Winning game of the year is a prestigious award and yet Codenames somehow found a way to still surpass my expectations. The reason Codenames works so well is that it is simple to play and yet is such a creative idea for a game. As the only mechanic in the game is to give clues and guess word cards, anyone should be able to play Codenames without any trouble. There might be only one main mechanic in the game but the clue giving mechanic is just so much fun. This makes Codenames a great party game as anyone can immediately jump in and start playing. Having played so many games it is hard to find a game that is truly unique and yet I have never played another game like Codenames. Add in the fact that games usually only take 15-20 minutes and there isn’t much that you can complain about when it comes to Codenames. If you like party games Codenames is one of those games that you will immediately want to play again once you finish a game. Codenames’ success has lead to quite a few spinoff games which include Codenames Pictures (uses pictures instead of words), Codenames Duet (a two player cooperative game), Codenames Deep Undercover (an adult version), and Codenames Disney and Marvel (uses the Disney/Marvel licenses).
Ticket to Ride
Before wrapping up I had to bring up by favorite board game of all time Ticket to Ride. In Ticket to Ride each player is put in charge of a train company. In the game you collect train cards of different colors. When you have acquired enough cards of the same color you can use them to claim train routes on the gameboard. The goal of Ticket to Ride is to acquire valuable routes, create the longest continuous path and connect the cities located on your ticket cards in order to score the most points. Whichever player scores the most points by the end of the game wins.
As I have already mentioned, the Ticket to Ride franchise is my favorite board game of all time. That is saying a lot as I have played close to 600 different board games at this time. So what do I love so much about Ticket to Ride? Ticket to Ride is the very definition of a game not having to be difficult to be great. While Ticket to Ride is more difficult than Monopoly and games people generally associate with board games, it is the perfect game to show people that there is more to board games than frustration and boredom. Ticket to Ride is so straightforward and yet has plenty of strategy as well. When you have finished a game it will be hard not to want to immediately play another. At this point Ticket to Ride is older than the rest of the games on this list and most people probably already own it but if you know someone that doesn’t already own it I would highly recommend picking it up.
If none of these games appeal to you check out our board/card game review archives which contains over 500 different reviews of new and retro board and card games sorted by name and genre.