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Welcome to BoardGameGeek, a worldwide community of folks who love board games! Together we've played pretty much every game ever made and we've worked together to produce a list of great gift ideas for you this holiday shopping season.
A board game is one of the best presents you can give because it brings friends and family together and can provide more hours of fun than any book, DVD, or pair of socks you can find. There's a game on this page that's right for anyone on your list! Games in each category are arranged from the simplest and least complex games to the more strategic games.
This is the sixth year we've put out a gift guide. Previous entries have usually been left out because they were no longer widely available.
Looking for gifts for fans of Role Playing Games? Check out the RPG Gift Guide 2011
Table of Contents
These games are considered modern classics that have stood the test of time.
PitchCar is a dexterity game where large, wooden, puzzle-like pieces are used to construct a race track that looks very similar to a slot car track when finished. But instead of using electrons, players use finger-flicks to send little round pucks around the track. Who can resist a racing game like this? Expansions are also available.
Blokus might have the simplest rules of any game on the market. Put your pieces on the board, touching your other pieces, but only on the corners. Try to get all your pieces on that board. That's it! But you will forever be experimenting with new tricks and strategies to expand your territory while hemming in your opponents'. If Blokus is a hit with your recipients, they may also like the two-player edition, Blokus Duo, or the new Blokus Trigon with triangular instead of square pieces.
Ever heard of a board game with no board? In Carcassonne, you and your fellow players actually build the board yourselves as you play the game, one high-quality cardboard tile at a time. By the time it's over, you'll have built such a pretty and unique arrangement of cities, roads, monasteries and fields that you may find yourself a little sad to have to take it all apart to put away. Carcassonne is quite easy to learn if someone in the group has played it before, but it is just a little bit harder to learn the first time out than the typical game in this guide. This game comes with many expansions, so if the base game becomes too boring (not likely for a while), consider expansions like Carcassonne: Expansion 2 – Traders & Builders, Carcassonne: Expansion 1 – Inns & Cathedrals, and many more.
Ticket to Ride
Ticket to Ride is a very popular game that has sold over 1 million copies worldwide. The game board is a map of the United States and Canada where the players compete to build train routes between the major cities to score points. It's easy to learn, fast to play, works great for any number of players up to 5, and is almost always a big hit with people who are new (or old) to the board gaming hobby. If you're interested in playing the same type of game on a map featuring another part of the world, you can try: Ticket to Ride: Europe, Ticket to Ride: Nordic Countries, Ticket to Ride: Märklin
Settlers of Catan
Settlers of Catan is one of the most popular board games in the world. Each player takes the role of a hardy settler on the uninhabited island of Catan. The island you settle yields five types of raw materials used to build roads, settlements, cities and armies. However, often the resources you've got aren't the resources you need, which means that you will have to trade with the other players. The player whose settlers are the most successful in colonizing the island wins the game.
Games for All Ages
These games are accessible to a wide range of gamers because of simple rules and creative gameplay.
A beautiful and beautifully simple game of laying a tile before your own token to continue its path on each turn. The goal is to keep your token on the board longer than anyone else's, but as the board fills up this becomes harder because there are fewer empty spaces left... and another player's tile may also extend your own path in a direction you'd rather not go. Easy to introduce to new players, Tsuro lasts a mere 15 minutes and actually does work for any number from 2 to 8.
2006 Golden Geek Award for Best Light/Party Game (Diamant, an older version of this game, won the award)
Enjoy exploring? Enjoy pressing your luck? Incan Gold is a quick, fun and tense game in which you and other adventurers explore an old Incan temple in search of gold and treasure. In each of the five rounds, you secretly choose if you want to continue exploring the temple in search of more treasure or retreat to the safety of your camp with your share of the treasure that has been discovered so far. Easy to learn, and fun for young and old!
2009 Golden Geek Award for Best Children's Game
This is not the Sorry you learned as a kid! This is a wonderful tabletop dexterity game for families. Even children as young as 2 or 3 can play. Grab your roller pawn and take aim - then skillfully slide it down your track onto the target board! A good slide could score big points, but watch out! An opponent's pawn may slam your pawn onto a Sorry! space - and out of the game! Either way, it's easy to learn, and great fun for both children and adults!
Qwirkle should be instantly familiar to anyone who has played Scrabble--think Scrabble with symbols and colors instead of words and no board, and you'll have a good idea of how this game plays. The excellent components and reasonable price makes this a particularly good gift. (Not suitable for color-blind players)
2010 Golden Geek Award for Best Children's Game
Forbidden Island is a cooperative game - but don't think this means that it's boring or easy! Competition to beat this award-winning game can be tough, and you either win together or lose together! Join a team of fearless adventurers on a do-or-die mission to capture four sacred treasures from the ruins of the perilous paradise of Forbidden Island. Work together as a team as the island begins to sink beneath every step! Expect lots of tension as you race to collect the treasures, and make a triumphant escape - or be swallowed into the watery abyss!
Survive: Escape from Atlantis!
Survive is a cutthroat game where players seek to evacuate their pieces from an island that is breaking up, while remembering where their highest-valued pieces are located to maximize their score.
An island made up of 40 hex-tiles is slowly sinking into the ocean (as the tiles are removed from the board). Each player controls ten people (valued from 1 to 6) that they try and move towards the safety of the surrounding islands before the main island finally blows up. Players can either swim or use boats to travel but must avoid sea serpents, whales and sharks on their way to safety. Survive is very similar to Escape from Atlantis with some key differences. Survive was reprinted as "Survive: Escape from Atlantis!" by publisher Stronghold Games and hit store shelves in February, 2011. The reprint contains the game Survive, as well as all the extra pieces needed in order to play the game as "Escape from Atlantis".
Games for Teenagers and Adults
If you're looking for a game for adults that's a little more challenging than some of the choices above, then these are the games for you. Best suited for teenagers and adults, these games offer more of a challenge, but a more rewarding experience for anyone prepared to take them on!
(For teens and adults)
In Quarriors, each player plays as a Quarrior competing for Glory in the eyes of Quiana, the Empress of Quaridia. Each player starts with an identical set of 12 dice in their dice bag. At the start of the game, Creature and Spell dice (Quarry) are dealt at random to form "the Wilds" in the center of the table. As play progresses, players roll their dice to attempt to summon Creatures, cast Spells, and harness the magical power of Quiddity (the in-game resource) to capture Quarry from the Wilds to add to their repertoire and into their dice bag. Players draw and roll 6 dice a turn from their bag, making that controlling bag composition is key to victory.Quarriors is a fast-paced game where players must strategically balance their choices each turn. Do I use my Quiddity to summon Creatures in the hopes of scoring Glory or should I spend it all to capture more powerful Quarry from the Wilds? Players must outmaneuver their opponent's through strategic Spell use, the acquisition of powerful Quarry, and ultimately, by striking down opponent's Creature in combat. If your Creatures survive until your next turn, you will score Glory points and move closer to victory!
2009 Golden Geek Award for Best Family Game
Four diseases have broken out in the world and it is up to a team of specialists in various fields to find cures before mankind is wiped out. In this recent and very popular cooperative game, you must work together with other players, using your individual strengths and abilities, to plan strategies that will treat existing diseases, as well as find a cure for them before they overwhelm the world. Will you be a Scientist that specializes in curing diseases, an Operations Specialist that specializes in building research stations, a Medic, Researcher, or Dispatcher? The game will be vastly different every time, depending on which role you play, and where the diseases appear. But the diseases are breaking out fast and time is running out: you must work as a team to stem the tide of infection in diseased areas while developing cures at the same time. If disease spreads uncontrolled, the players lose, but if you find the cures on time, you win. Pandemic is your prescription for a great gaming experience like you've never had before!
2009 Golden Geek Award for Game of the Year and Best Card Game
One of the most innovative and award winning games to emerge from the last couple of years! In Dominion, each player starts with an identical, very small deck of cards. In the center of the table is a selection of other cards the players can "buy" as they can afford them. Through their selection of cards to buy, and how they play their hands as they draw them, the players construct their deck on the fly, striving for the most efficient path to the precious victory points by game end.
Players struggle to survive the Stone Age by working as hunters, gatherers, farmers, and tool makers. The central theme of the game revolves around choosing which of these roles your tribe members should perform each turn. As you gather and spend resources, you can buy developments that will allow your tribe to survive and outshine those of your opponents. Be careful though. At the end of each round players must have enough food available to feed their tribe, or face losing resources or points.
In Small World, players vie for conquest and control of a world that is simply too small to accommodate them all. Small World is inhabited by a zany cast of characters such as dwarves, wizards, amazons, giants, orcs and even humans, who use their troops to occupy territory and conquer adjacent lands in order to push the other races off the face of the earth. Picking the right combination from the 14 different fantasy races and 20 unique special powers, players rush to expand their empires - often at the expense of weaker neighbors. Yet they must also know when to push their own over-extended civilization into decline and ride a new one to victory!
(For teens and adults)
2011 Golden Geek Award for Best Family Game & Best Card Game
7 Wonders lasts three ages. In each age, players receive seven cards from a particular deck, choose one of those cards, then pass the remainder to an adjacent player, as in Fairy Tale or a Magic: the Gathering booster draft. Players reveal their cards simultaneously, paying resources if needed or collecting resources or interacting with other players in various ways. (Players have individual boards with special powers on which to organize their cards, and the boards are double-sided as in Bauza's Ghost Stories.) Each player then chooses another card from the deck they were passed, and the process repeats until players have six cards in play from that age. After three ages, the game ends.
Family Games for Older Children
Family games should be fun for both kids and parents. These games provide a little more challenge than the games for Younger Children (see below).
(For older children)
In King of Tokyo, you play mutant monsters, gigantic robots, and other aliens – all of whom are happily whacking each other in a joyous atmosphere in order to become the one and only King of Tokyo.
At the start of each turn, you roll six dice. The dice show the following six symbols: 1, 2 or 3 Points of Destruction, Energy, Healing and Whack. Over three successive throws, choose whether to keep or discard each die in order to win destruction points, hoard energy, restore health, or whack other players into understanding that Tokyo is YOUR territory.
The fiercest player will be crowned King of Tokyo... and will end up facing all the other monsters alone!
Top this off with special cards purchased with energy that have a permanent or temporary effect, such as the growing of a second head which grants you an additional die, body armor, nova death ray, and more.... and it's one of the most explosive games of the year!In order to win the game, one must either destroy Tokyo by accumulating 20 destruction points, or be the only surviving monster once the fighting has ended.
Hey! That's My Fish!
A cute but strategic game in which each player tries to have his or her penguins eat the most fish. It is easily adaptable for children as young as four but can be fun for people of any age -- even adults (really!). Who can resist penguins hopping across ice floes?
This is an exciting game that's proven to be a favourite with many children and families. Together with your friends, you must work as a team to defend your castle against the horde of monsters that emerge from the forest and threaten to tear down your walls and destroy your castle towers. It's win or lose ... together!
The Adventurers: The Pyramid of Horus
Hidden for centuries below the shifting Egyptian sands, the Pyramid of Horus sat undisturbed, until a research expedition on the limestone plateau of Abu Rawash uncovered it. Filled with treasures as rich as the Nile delta it borders, the pyramid is a beacon, summoning a group of exceptional Adventurers eager to put their hands on the priceless archaeological relics contained within. But with a myriad of hazards lying in wait, once you enter the pyramid you might never come out.
Descend into an ancient Egyptian pyramid with The Adventurers: The Pyramid of Horus, a standalone board game of danger and exploration for 2-6 players. In this fast-paced and tense experience, whichever player escapes from the pyramid alive and with the highest Treasure value wins the game. Will you emerge bearing priceless archeological treasures or will you succumb to the mortal dangers waiting inside?
As one of eight Adventurers – each with a special unique power – you can explore the pyramid, searching for archaeological relics hidden or buried in four chambers or corridors. But perils haunt your pursuit of treasure, and falling stones threaten to trap you inside forever if they obstruct the only way out. Adventurers must also be wary of hidden threats that can wound them and living mummies who roam the corridors!
Disturbing a cursed pyramid has its hazards, but there is no adventure without risk. Can you make it out alive and wealthy or will this ancient Egyptian tomb be your final resting place?
2007 Golden Geek Award for Best Family Game & Best Children's Game
Zooloretto won multiple awards for best family game of the year in 2007, and it is easy to see why. Each player uses a variety of wild and exotic animals and their young to try to attract as many visitors as possible to their zoo. But be careful - the zoo must be carefully planned. Before you know it, you have too many animals and no more room for them. The simple rules and appealing theme makes this game a winner with gamers of all ages!
Family Games for Younger Children
Family games should be fun for both kids and parents. These games are accessible to the youngsters, but still provide challenge enough to keep the parents interested too! You may also wish to check the Games by player age wiki page.
Animal Upon Animal
Animal Upon Animal is a fun stacking game that can be enjoyed by adults as well as by children as young as 4 (the game has some small wooden parts and it requires some fine motor skills which might be hard for younger children.) The players construct animal towers using cute wooden animals thus getting rid of all their animals. A die determines if you can attempt to stack 1-2 of your animals, pass one of your animals to another player or have to let another player choose which animal to stack. If you knock over the pile, you have to take 1-2 animals back into your hand and keep playing. First one to use all of their animals wins!
Go Away Monster!
Being afraid of monsters is a normal part of growing up. Go Away Monster! encourages kids to conquer that fear by acting it out and taking control. This game teaches how to take turns without being overly competitive. As a plus, this game has nice replay value for many young children. A good game for ages 3 and up (works well in the 2-3 age group as well) that doesn't last so long that parents become bored.
Kids of Carcassonne
On 14 July, the national holiday in France, the sheep, chickens and cows are set free in the town of Carcassonne. The children have great fun at catching the animals before dusk. Unlike many other children's games there's no memory, concentration or dexterity involved, but rather it is a successfully simplified version of the classic Carcassonne game. The players in turn draw and place a landscape tile that shows things like children on the roads. Whenever a road is finished, every player places one of his meeples on each appropriate picture. The first player who manages to place all of his meeples wins the game.
The Magic Labyrinth
In this fun and tense family game, players are the Magicians' Apprentices, with the task to collect magical objects from a maze with invisible walls. As an indication of quality, The Magic Labyrinth was the winner of a prestigious award for best children's game in 2009.
The aMAZEing Labyrinth
This game is amazing! Literally! A moving maze, and who doesn't love mazes? Even younger children will be able to begin figuring out how to slide the tiles and make paths. But best of all, adults will find this game challenging and fun too. The Amazing Labyrinth has the potential to be enjoyed by people of all ages, young and old.
Party games are fun, light games designed to be played by a festive, boisterous group.
2011 Golden Geek Award for Best Party Game
Dixit Odyssey is both a standalone game and an expansion for Jean-Louis Roubira's Dixit, which won Germany's Spiel des Jahres award in 2010.
Game play in Dixit Odyssey matches that of Dixit: Each turn one player is the storyteller. This player secretly chooses one card in his hand, then gives a word or sentence to describe this card – but not too obviously. Each other player chooses a card in hand that matches this word/sentence and gives it to the storyteller. The storyteller then lays out the cards, and all other players vote on which card belongs to the storyteller. If no one or everyone guesses the storyteller's card, the storyteller receives no points and all players receive two; otherwise the storyteller and the correct guesser(s) each receive three points. Players score one point for each vote their image receives. Players refill their hands, and the next player becomes the storyteller. When the deck runs out, the player with the most points wins.
Dixit Odyssey contains 84 new cards, each with a unique image drawn by Pierô and colored by Marie Cardouat, artist of Dixit and Dixit 2. It also includes a folding game board, new rabbit scoring tokens, and a box large enough to hold all the Dixit cards released to date.
Dixit Odyssey includes enough components for up to twelve players and also has variant rules for team play and for new ways to play with the cards.
2010 Golden Geek Award for Best Party Game
In this award winning party game, players sketch a word that's dictated by the roll of a die, then pass their sketch on to the next player to guess what's been drawn. That player then writes down what they think the word is, for the next player to draw a sketch of. Remember the classic game of Chinese Whispers? This is like that, but with pictures, and it's proven to be very popular and lots of fun!
2008 Golden Geek Award for Best Party Game
Say Anything is a light-hearted and award-winning game about what you and your friends think. It gives you the chance to settle questions that have been hotly debated for centuries. For instance, "What is the most overrated band of all time?" or "Which celebrity would be the most fun to hang out with for a day?" So dig deep into your heart or just come up with something witty - this is your chance to Say Anything!
2009 Golden Geek Award for Best Party Game (Deluxe version)
Time's Up! is a party game for teams of two or more players (best with teams of two). The same set of famous names is used for each of three rounds. In each round, one member of a team tries to get his teammates to guess as many names as possible in 30 seconds. One of the most popular party games! Other available editions include: Time's Up! Title Recall! and Time's Up! Deluxe
"The well known 'Zoch Chickens' turn up in a hectic dice battle in Heckmeck Am Bratwurmeck. Two to seven players 8 and up try to obtain fried worms for their chickens, so that they don't go hungry. Of course, anyone who doesn't manage to grab a worm off of the grill can help himself to those of his opponents. This fast-paced game by Reiner Knizia is, like Hick Hack im Gackelwack, a gambling game in the finest chicken tradition."
This game is a basic dice-roller to build a good total to take the numbered tiles to get the most worms. Failure to take a tile means you put one back and the highest tile is turned face-down.
Two Player Games
Great for couples or fillers waiting for additional players.
Even those who think they have tried everything will have to admit that Lost Cities is an exciting, unusual two-player card game. It's quick, it's simple, it's tense, and it's addictive! The play is simple: You put down numbered cards in sequence on one of five "expeditions." But once you start an expedition, you must keep adding cards to it - or else risk losing more points than you gain! All the while, your opponent may be holding onto the card you want, trying to build up his or her own expeditions. In Lost Cities, the finish is usually so tense that you'll want to play just one more game ... and another!
(For two players)
Jaipur, capital of Rajasthan. You are one of the two most powerful traders in the city. But that's not enough for you, because only the merchant with two Seals of Excellence will have the privilege of being invited to the Maharaja's court. You are therefore going to have to do better than your direct competitor by buying, exchanging and selling at better prices, all while keeping an eye on both your camel herds. Jaipur is a fast-paced card game, a blend of tactics, risk and luck.
Looking for a quick strategic game? You've come to the right place with Hive! In this highly addictive game, the board takes shape as you and your opponent lay down your pieces. Each player controls an identical army of bugs, each with its own unique movement. Can you place and move your pieces so that you surround your opponent's queen bee before he surrounds yours?
Ingenious (travel edition)
2006 Golden Geek Award for Best Family Game
Winner of the 2006 BoardGameGeek Golden Geek award for Family Game of the Year as well as multiple other board game awards, Ingenious is a fun, colorful tile-laying game. Each tile has two colorful symbols on it. Each turn, players place one tile down on the hexagonal board and score points for each identical symbol in imaginary rows emanating from each symbol. Players can build off of others' previously laid tiles to score a large number of points in one turn. However, in an unusual twist, players at the end of the game are scored on which of the six symbols they've scored the fewest points for. The rules are easy and well illustrated, but the game itself is both elegant and challenging. The travel edition is more compact and portable, but we also can recommend the original game.
Loosely based on the investigation surrounding Jack the Ripper, Mr. Jack is a quick deduction game for two. One player represents Mr. Jack, who is masquerading as one of the characters on the board. The other player is the Investigator, who must discover who Jack is impersonating before the criminal escapes under the cover of night. Will Mr. Jack escape or will the Inspector arrest him before daybreak? Wits, logic, and bluffing will all determine the answer to that question.
Little. Cheap. Different.
Take the card, which costs me points but earns me chips? Or pay a chip, which I have precious few of? That seemingly simple decision is the entire heart of the game of No Thanks. The rules can be explained in just a few seconds but you'll be honing your strategy over dozens and dozens (and dozens) of plays.
Very simple rules, easy to learn and teach - in this game the aim is to collect large numbers of matching colored cards without having too many different sets of colors. Push your luck, collect sets - this is a tense and fun game that has proven very popular!
A Scrabble-like game without the board -- much like Pick Two!, but without the letter values. Using a selection of 144 plastic letter tiles in the English edition, each player works independently to create their own 'crossword'. When a player uses up all their letters, all players take a new tile from the pool. When all the tiles are gone, the first player to use up all the tiles in their hand wins.
There are also variants included in the rules, and the game is suitable for solo play.
The Empire must fall. Our mission must succeed. By destroying their key bases, we will shatter Imperial strength and liberate our people. Yet spies have infiltrated our ranks, ready for sabotage. We must unmask them. In five nights we reshape destiny or die trying. We are the Resistance!
The Resistance is a party game of social deduction. It is designed for five to ten players, lasts about 30 minutes, and has no player elimination. The Resistance is inspired by Mafia/Werewolf, yet it is unique in its core mechanics which increase the resources for informed decisions, intensify player interaction, and eliminate player elimination.
Players are either Resistance Operatives or Imperial Spies. For three to five rounds, they must depend on each other to carry out missions against the Empire. At the same time, they must try to deduce the other players’ identities and gain their trust. Each round begins with discussion. When ready, the Leader entrusts sets of Plans to a certain number of players (possibly including himself/herself). Everyone votes on whether or not to approve the assignment. Once an assignment passes, the chosen players secretly decide to Support or Sabotage the mission. Based on the results, the mission succeeds (Resistance win) or fails (Empire win). When a team wins three missions, they have won the game.
Enjoy card games, or know somebody that does? Tichu is one of our favorites! There are quite a number of rules to digest, but if you're up to the challenge, it's one of the best 4-player partnership card games. It doesn't play like an ordinary trick-taking game, and there are special cards and combinations to master. Fans of partnership card games really should give this a try!
Where to Buy?
Many of these games can be found at your local specialty game store. You can look for a local specialty game store using the Days of Wonder Store Locator or BGG advice in the FLGS of the World (Friendly Local Game Store) thread.
If you don't have a store near you, or they don't carry the game you're looking for, you can buy online. Some online retailers in the US that we've had good experiences with are:
For others, including many outside the USA, see our full list of online vendors.
Other Game Gift Guides
In addition to this guide, several other gift guides exist:
Recent 2011 and older
2010 and older
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