Holiday Game Shopping Guide 2017


It’s that time again – time for holiday shopping. Need something new for the gamers in your life? Here is the Family Gamers’ guide to games your family will love.

Games for very young children (4 and under)

Toddlers and preschoolers are just starting to grasp taking turns and pattern matching. Games that include a little bit of strategy will be more fun for the adults who are included in game play.

  • Go Away Monster – This simple game involves pulling pieces from a cloth bag to add to your “bedroom”. If it is furniture, add it to the board, but if it is a monster, yell “Go Away, monster!” and throw the monster in jail. Put kids in charge of their fears, and co-operate to fill everyone’s boards.Silly Street
  • Silly Street – A brand new game to get preschoolers and their families playing together. Draw a card, do the (usually silly) activity named, and then move along the board. The kids will love being silly and watching their grownups be silly too. (See our review)
  • Don’t Break the Ice – We know it can be a pain to set up, but children as young as 1 year old love it. Who doesn’t like to hit blocks with hammers and see them fall down?
  • Story Cubes – Roll one or more dice and use them to tell a story. Story Cubes spark creativity in all ages, and can be helpful for teaching turn-taking without competition. There are so many themed variants, any family can find a set that will interest them.

Games for early elementary (under 8 years old)

Slightly older children can handle a bit more complexity in rules and strategy, but still want to avoid games with a heavy reading or math component.

  • What’s Up – A simple memory and logic game that is easy to learn and quick to play, What’s Up is also fantastic for teaching some beginning deduction skills. Gameplay is fast and engaging. (See our review)
  • Battle SheepBattle Sheep - Flock to Greener PasturesMove stacks of sheep tokens to claim territory and block your opponents. Although it is listed for ages 7 and up, younger children love to play this game and will gradually learn the strategy over time. (See our review)
  • Rhino Hero Super Battle – A sequel to HABA’s popular stacking game Rhino Hero, which adds multiple animal heroes and two wall heights. The animal heroes battle each other when they land on the same floor. Watch out that their battles don’t topple the building!
  • Outfoxed – A detective game with similar elements to Guess Who. Search the board for clues to which fox stole the pot pie, and reveal the thief, with no reading required! (See our review)
  • Maze Racers – We still recommend this fast-paced game for all ages. Build a marble maze on the magnetic whiteboard, then swap boards to race. Learn dexterity and strategy through the unique two-part gameplay.

Games for older children and adults (8 and up)

There has been an explosion of great new games for older kids and adults. Here are our favorites from the past year:

  • KingdominoKingdominoMatch up terrain dominos to build the best kingdom. Gameplay is simple enough for younger children, but it really shines with older children and adults who can understand the idea of a score multiplier. Kingdomino won the acclaimed Spiel des Jahres (Game of the Year), and it’s easy to see why. (See our review)
  • Potion Explosion – Clink marbles together to create “explosions” and chain reactions. Use the marbles to craft “potions” which can be used to alter the board. Satisfying to play with, and enough strategy to stay interesting over many plays. (See our review)
  • Downforce – Buy cars, race them, and bet on the winners. Downforce is surprisingly fun for all ages and keeps players engaged all the way to the end. (See our review)
  • Windup War – Select your units to do battle using programmed actions that play out simultaneously with the other players. The tiny gum-stick sized packs are easy to carry anywhere, and the full game plays in 20 minutes or less. (There have been some minor changes since our review of the prototype 2015.)
  • Magic Maze – Cooperate to move 4 pawns around a mall and reach their goals before the timer runs out. The catch? You can move ALL the pawns, but each player can only move pawns in a certain direction. If that weren’t enough, you also can’t talk to the other players while the timer is running.Purrrlock Holmes: Furriarty's Trail
  • Purrrlock Holmes: Furriarty’s Trail – Although younger players can also play this semi-cooperative deduction game with some coaching, it shines with older children. Help each other “investigate leads” and guess the hidden suspect card in front of yourself. Successfully guess enough suspects, and the whole group will catch Furriarty! (See our review)

Two Player Games

If you regularly play games with your significant other, two player games may be the best choice for a gift. We have some new picks for 2017:

  • Caverna: Cave vs Cave – This is a two player version of the award-winning game Caverna. Excavate your cave, collect resources, and build rooms. Have the most valuable cave complex (including collected gold) at the end of the game to win.
  • Fight for Olympus – A beautifully illustrated, approachable card game. Attack your opponent to gain control of Mount Olympus. Cards depict heroes, soldiers, or equipment, but they may also be spent as resources. (See our review)
  • Gruff – A one-on-one battle between mutated descendants of the Billy Goats Gruff, Gruff is a little bit weird and a little bit gross, but a great way for two players to get a little more intense about their strategic card-based battle games.
  • Cube Quest – A dexterity / flicking war game for two people. Flick your cube army into your opponent’s territory and knock their cubes off. The first player to knock the opposing king cube off the board wins. (See our review)

Games for a Crowd

If your holiday gatherings end up with 6 people or more who would enjoy playing a game, we’ve got some recommendations for you.

  • Sushi Go Party – Gamewright’s popular game Sushi Go has been expanded. With more kinds of sushi, each game can be customized. Supporting up to 8 players, it promises delicious fun.
  • Anomia and Duple – This pair of games from Anomia press are still our favorites for group trivia (Anomia) and word-building (Duple).
  • Codenames – last year’s popular clue-giving game now comes in many varieties, including Codenames: Pictures, Codenames: Disney, Codenames: Marvel, and the adults-only Codenames: Deep Undercover.

Stocking Stuffers

Sometimes you just want small, inexpensive games that still pack a lot of fun.

  • QwingoQwingoPick a number and roll the die. Fit the number/symbol combination into your scoresheet and be the first to fill a column with numbers in order. Play moves quickly, and every player stays engaged on every turn. (See our review)
  • Batman: The Animated Series Dice Game – From the makers of Zombie Dice, this is a simple press-your-luck game. Play as one of Batman’s villains, racing to collect cash without being caught by Batman. Simple enough for a three-year-old to play and fun for anyone who likes Batman.
  • Brew Dice – For the craft beer fan in your life, Brew Dice is a pattern-matching game that’s an excellent way to spend a few minutes while waiting for your food. One player flips a card that pictures a beer on a coaster and a snack. Then each player rolls their own dice to match the beer vessel (glass, bottle, can), snack (popcorn, peanuts, pretzels), and coaster shape. All the beers pictured are from craft breweries and beer tours, used with permission.
  • Flip City – Build your city deck and press your luck in this compact deck building game.
  • Story Cubes – Recommended above, Story Cubes is a great way for the whole family to get together, telling a story in a non-competitive way. We particularly like the Batman set.

The best thing about buying new games for gifts is that often you can enjoy playing them with the recipient! Happy Holidays, and don’t forget to Play Games with your Kids!


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