2018 Holiday Board Game Shopping Guide
Once again, the holiday shopping season is upon us. The Family Gamers present our recommendations for your family: gifts of new games for all ages and abilities!
We’ve got everything here from games for toddlers and preschoolers, to adult games, to large groups or two players. No matter what age you’re shopping for or what the occasion is, our family recommends all of these games highly.
Gifts for Very Young Children
Children under 4 years old are still learning to take turns and match patterns. The following games require no reading and little or no counting, but are also fun for adult “helpers”.
Mmm! – Roll dice and work together to cover food in the pantry before the cat catches you. Adjustable difficulty and a short play time makes Mmm! great to play at any age. (our review)
Go Away Monster – A gentle introduction to turn-taking. Draw puzzle pieces from a bag. Furniture goes into your “room”, but monsters go to jail! (our review)
Where’s Mr Wolf? – Work together to move the right animals into their barns in this cooperative memory game. Don’t let the wolf catch you! (our review)
Funky Chicken – Get the whole family moving! Match up cards with another player and dance like a fool. A particular favorite for our littlest dancers. (our review)
Gifts for Children Under 8 Years Old
Slightly older children benefit from games that are light on reading and math, but big on fun.
Dinosaur Tea Party – You’re at a tea party at Dinoton Abbey and have forgotten everyone’s name! Deduce who’s who by asking questions of your fellow players. Our favorite game of 2018, this light deduction game is fun for all ages (but requires a tiny bit of reading).
Anomia Kids – A word game without letters? This party game will develop language skills, as players come up with a word with the same beginning sound as the picture on their card. (Our review)
Ghost Fightin’ Treasure Hunters – This game may be a few years old, but it is our best find of 2018. Cooperate to retrieve all the treasures before the ghosts multiply out of control! Multiple difficulty levels let you decide each time you play if it should be approachable or murderously challenging.
Catch! – A very simple game of cat and mouse, roll the dice and try to move the cats to trap the mouse!
Gifts for Older Children
Kids who are ready for more strategy will love these games. Most adults love them too.
Century: Spice Road or Golem Edition – We love building an empire of resources. We’ve reviewed the Spice Road version, but our children prefer the “Golem Edition”, in which you collect gems and buy helpful crystal-studded golems.
Potion Explosion – We are still huge fans of this marble-clinking, potion-crafting game. The newest version comes with a new sturdy plastic dispenser to last for many more plays.
MegaLand – For kids who love video games but are ready for something on the table instead, try this game that combines press-your-luck exploration with building a city. (our review)
Gifts for Adults
These games are approachable for children 10+, but the themes are more interesting or appropriate for adults.
Ancestree – Although this is playable by children 8+, most kids will be turned off by the historically-inspired artwork. Adults find the portraits comically ugly, and this game of building the best family tree is both surprisingly light and surprisingly engaging. (our review)
Dice Forge – An ingenious twist on the deck builder, Dice Forge features dice with removable faces that you upgrade as you play. With rich fantasy art and tight mechanics, Dice Forge is a delight.
Chronicles of Crime – For the budding detective in your life. Use the unique app-driven system to examine the crime scene and question suspects, solving murders, kidnappings, and more. (Our review)
The Mansky Caper – In this luck-based resource gathering game, you play as a member of a crime family, taking advantage of mob boss Al Mansky while he’s out of town. More about the journey over the destination, this game features tons of social interaction, a lot of laughs, and a lot of fun. (Our review)
Tournament of Towers – This shape stacking dexterity game requires balancing the desires of Queen Structura and King Curvanimus on your quest to become the official royal builder! Simple enough for any age, yet requiring enough precision to be difficult if you really want to compete, Tournament of Towers is a winner for us! (Our review, and our interview with the designers)
Gifts for Two Players
Sometimes you want to play a game that’s just right for two. These games are perfect for a date night game or one-on-one time with your child.
Onitama – A perfect information game (like chess), Onitama offers an elegant simplicity using cards to limit how pieces are moved. Swap out the cards for nearly infinite replayability.
Seikatsu – This elegant strategy game of perspectives plays best at 2-3 players. Adults enjoy the contemplative and elegant gameplay.
Party Game Gifts
Games for a crowd. These games are fast, fun, and inviting for all.
Bob Ross: Happy Little Accidents – We don’t make mistakes, just happy accidents, turning a random scribble into a recognizable drawing in 30 seconds or less. Best for ages 10 and up. (our review)
Codenames: Disney Family Edition – A new version of the modern classic, Codenames: Disney adds easier layouts for family play, with familiar Disney characters and settings. Play with pictures, words, or both for more challenge. (our review)
Go Nuts for Donuts – Pick your donut, but don’t pick the same one as your neighbors. Fast-moving and fun for all ages, from preschooler to grandma.
Stocking Stuffers or Gift Exchange
Our picks for small, inexpensive games that have wide appeal.
Fanzy – A fast die-rolling and matching game for the sports fan in your life, available in MLB, NHL, and NFL versions. (our review)
Roll For It! – A new classic reminiscent of Yahtzee. Easy to learn and easy to understand: roll dice and match them to cards. Go for lots of easy low-point cards or just a few difficult high point cards? Your choice. (our review)
Cinco Linko – More challenging than tic-tac-toe, but with simple rules. Place tiles one at a time to get five in a row. Up to four players, with super durable pieces that won’t be hurt by a little dirt or drool. (our review)
Monster Crunch – Nostalgia for the adults, cute monsters for the kids. Play cards in numerical order and use special powers to make sure your monster eats the most cereal. (our review)
If nothing here feels quite right, check out our gift guides from 2017 and 2016, or ask for recommendations in our Facebook community.
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