Holiday Gift Guide 2020

Holiday Gift Guide

It’s been a long year. Maybe you have a better idea of what your family likes in board games? Or maybe you need some different, more accessible games. We’ve got your back, with board game gift suggestions for any age, player count, and experience level.

This post contains Amazon affiliate links, which do not change your price, but help support The Family Gamers.

The Family Gamers received many of these games from publishers at no cost. However, we recommend games based on our experience. All games listed below, we would buy and give as gifts to our loved ones.

Use the buttons to skip straight to the board games best for your family.

Games for Very Young Kids (under 6)

Young kids are still learning basic skills the rest of us take for granted: how to take turns, match symbols, and follow sequential rules. The best games for this age range are short and engaging, and are generally less about “winning” and more about the experience of playing together.

1. Go Away Monster (our review) – Gamewright publishes this excellent introduction to playing games for very young kids. They’ll learn to take turns without counting or even color-matching. Engaging but nice and short.

Go Away Monster! The game where little kids get rid of the monsters for good!
Dragon Dad and ice rings

2. Dragon’s Breath (our review) – Winner of the 2018 Kinderspiel des Jahres (Children’s Game of the Year). Dragon children collect sparkling stones as “Dragon Dad” melts the ice column by removing one ring at a time from the center stack. Preschoolers will need some help to set up the game, but it cleans itself up as they play. And now there’s an expansion for a fifth player!

3. My First Castle Panic (our review) – Team up and protect your castle from the monsters that want to knock it down! Draw cards and match their symbols with the symbols on the path to defeat the monsters and throw them in the dungeon. So easy to learn, your preschooler may start setting it up and playing it on their own!

My First Castle Panic
Animal Upon Animal

4. Animal Upon Animal is a classic stacking game that every household should have. New options this year are Dinos, Unicorns, and Christmas sets. Chrissy has written how this game helps with motor skills, physics and discernment.

Games for Early Elementary (age 6-9)

Once kids have begun to read and do basic math, they are ready for more involved games. Kids this age tend to be more competitive, and sometimes their desire to win outstrips their ability. We’ll stick with games with simple rules and short play times, with minimal reading.

1. Outfoxed (our review) – This clever introduction to deduction games features great elementary level cooperative deduction mechanics. Work together, detectives, to find out who stole Mrs Plumpert’s pot pie!

Hero standing next to a treasure chest and a key

2. Catacombs of Karak (our review) – This introduction to dungeon crawling is perfect for beginning readers. Flip over new tiles to build the dungeon and discover what is hiding inside.

3. Dragomino – Who wouldn’t love hatching baby dragons? The more sides you match, the more dragons you hatch! Dragomino is an excellent introduction to games like Kingdomino, which won the Spiel des Jahres in 2017.

Drop It final

4. Drop It (our review) – Drop it was our favorite game in 2018 and it remains an evergreen title for us at all age ranges. It’s a great way to sneakily strengthen math skills, and your kids (or your parents!) will be asking to play it again and again.

5. Heist: One Team, One Mission (our review) – Work together to pass tools and push buttons in this electronically-driven cooperative game. The higher levels get very difficult because they move so quickly, but you’ll find yourself drawn back to play again and again! Great to play across generations.

Heist box, safe, paper money, plastic components

Games for Older Kids (age 9+)

These games are best as gifts for kids with strong reading skills and longer attention spans.

Prisma Arena game box

1. Prisma Arena (our review) – 2020 has been a long year, and our kids are feeling it, too. This battle arena game is incredibly wholesome. Train against your friends and their Mo’Kons to build up your character to fight against despair. A mechanically excellent battle game with a positive message.

2. Animal Kingdoms (our review) – A very “grown up” looking game with gorgeous art and intuitive rules. Use Noble Beasts to claim influence over each of the five kingdoms.

Animal Kingdoms game
Beet card and 2 Artichokes

3. Abandon All Artichokes (our review) – A silly looking game with serious fun. Grow your deck by adding vegetable cards, and get rid of the artichokes.

4. Dragonrealm (our review) – A sequel to the perennially popular Dragonwood (our review). Create card combinations to sneak, search, or storm locations and fill them with adventurers. Finish the game by defeating the dragon, then add up points.


Games for Teens and Adults

Any of these games are playable by the 9+ crowd, but with art, themes, and mechanics that appeal more to adults.

Pan Am game box

1. Pan Am (our review) – Our pick for best game of 2020. There’s a high nostalgia factor here for anyone who lived through the golden age of air travel; but teens and younger adults will find it educational while entertaining. Be aware that this game feels very different with different numbers of players (as mentioned in our review).

2. Endangered (our review) – Another highly educational game that will suck you in. Work together to save the tigers (or the sea otters) from extinction, managing their habitats while also raising money and influencing ambassadors to help your cause..

Endangered game
Ship Shape game

3. Ship Shape (our review) – A unique game that combines a 3D puzzle with card bidding. Try to bid just the right number from your hand to get the “crate” layer you want. Place your crates to maximize your gold and cannons, with just enough contraband to slip by unnoticed.

4. Dungeon Academy (our review) – A fast-moving game that’s great for the whole family. Reveal the “dungeon” of 16 dice, then race to draw your own path from one edge to another, balancing points with speed.

Games for Two Players

Unmatched: Cobble & Fog
1. Unmatched (our review of the Cobble & Fog set) – This miniature fighting game shines at two players (but can be played with up to 4, depending on the set). Card-driven gameplay means every character plays in a way that’s consistent with their stories, whether you’re Sherlock Holmes deducing your opponent’s moves, or Robin Hood and his merry men stealing and striking from a distance.

2. Skulk Hollow (our review) – This duel is great for a parent and child. The weak but numerous Foxen take on a giant, slow-moving Guardian. Each Guardian has different powers and a different goal to win the game. (And the art is adorable!)

Skulk Hollow game
7 Wonders Duel

3. 7 Wonders Duel – We were late to the party on this game. It is a stellar reworking of the award-winning 7 Wonders, moving the drafting to a slowly-revealed pyramid of cards, perfect for two players.

Stocking Stuffers

If you’re looking for the most bang for your gift-giving buck, check out these compact and inexpensive games that are sure to be a hit.

1. The Crew (our review) – This cooperative game is perfect for both trick-taking aficionados and those who want to learn. Up to five players work together to complete space-themed missions, always trying to get the specified cards into the right player’s hands. Winner of the 2020 Kennerspiel des Jahres, and deservedly so.

The Crew game box and components
5er Finden

2. 5er Finden (our review) – Roll 5 dice and race to find 5 combinations on your board. Play in race mode or puzzle mode with up to 4 players. The Family Gamers are addicted to this game!

3. Squire for Hire (our review) – This micro card game for 1 or 2 players will fit in any stocking. Place cards one at a time to create a “bag” to hold what you need. Cover up specific items to help your fantasy hero through quests.

Squire for Hire game
Similo games

4. Similo (three variations available: Fables, History, or Myths) (our review) – We love this cooperative game for any group size. One player uses cards to give clues to the rest of the group, slowly eliminating options until the secret character is found. Pull this out after your holiday dinner and the whole family will be playing in no time!

Games for Non-Gamers

Watch Grandma throw down with an otherwise reluctant teenager in these games that are sure to bring your whole family together.

1. Strike – A high-energy matching and set collection dice rolling game. Knock your opponent’s dice around and prevent them from collecting all of your dice! Super easy to learn and play – and super addictive!

Super hero cats

2. Super Cats (our review) – Play as silly, super-powered cats to defeat a giant robotic dog in this rock-paper-scissors style game for up to 6 players.

3. Dinosaur Tea Party (our review) – A suprisingly family-friendly game, players of all ages will enjoy putting on their poshest accent while deducing the other players’ identities. We especially recommend this one for grandparents.

Dinosaur Tea Party: dinosaurs, teacup, board game
The Grimm Masquerade - game components

4. Grimm Masquerade (our review) – Another deduction game, but now you’re collecting sets of magical artifacts along the way. Can you keep your identity hidden long enough to gather your three “boon” artifacts? Or will you be unmasked, allowing you to wager for a chance to share in the winner’s victory?

Games for Parties & Large Groups

Remember back in the olden days, when we could have parties? If you have a chance to get together in a group larger than 4-5 people, there are a few games we highly recommend:

1. Just One – A deduction game designed to scale to seven (but can scale to any number with enough material), this one works great over Zoom! Just One is the 2019 Spiel des Jahres winner due to its simple gameplay: Players work together to give one person clues to guess the hidden word. The clues are hidden from each other until they’re compared. But there can only be just one! Anyone with matching clues must erase them. Can you come up with a clue that is descriptive, but esoteric enough nobody else will guess it?

Just One game

2. Space Team – Work with your Space Team to repair the problems with your ship! This zany cooperative card game inevitably cascades into hilarious screaming while everyone tries to solve the conundrums in their repair deck at the same time. Fix all six sections sections of the space ship to take off! All Systems are Go!

3. Wavelength – Can your team read your mind? Get a spectrum from a card (good smell <–> bad smell) and a hidden target from the Wavelength wheel. Give your team a clue and see if they can put the needle in the right place! An incredible game of deduction that can scale to as many people as can see the dial. Great table presence and drop-in drop-out gameplay make this a winner at any group size.

Cartographers game

4. Cartographers – Perhaps one of the most thematic flip and write games we’ve seen yet, Cartographers lives in the world of Roll Player, a rich fantasy world where elves and dwarves and goblins are common. Draw the landscape on the map in front of you with the cards provided. Everyone gets the same decisions and has the same goals, but everyone’s map will be different – and watch out for monsters!

This post contains Amazon affiliate links, which help support The Family Gamers.
But we recommend buying games from your friendly local game store if possible.

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