Holiday Gift Guide 2020
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.
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!
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!
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.
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.
Games for Older Kids (age 9+)
These games are best as gifts for kids with strong reading skills and longer attention spans.
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.
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..
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
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!)
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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?
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.
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.