Board Game Holiday Gift Guide 2021

Holiday Gift Guide

Over the past year, I think many families have been reminded how great it is to sit down and play board games together. If you’d like to add a few games to your holiday shopping list, we have suggestions for all ages and situations.

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.

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

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

Games for the Very Young (under 6)

Very young children are still learning to take turns and follow game rules. They need games that are simple and fast, and will help them practice motor skills and matching symbols. The best choices are ones that don’t make a big deal out of one player “winning”. And of course none of these games require reading to play.

My Very First Games: Rhino Hero Junior (our review) is perfect for toddlers and preschoolers. Learn matching as you build the tower for our hero to climb – then knock it down and do it again!

Color It! (our review) is a good game for calm times. With different rule tweaks and coloring sheets, you can slowly ramp up the difficulty while keeping the core the same. We think it’s a great way to introduce roll-and-write games (and it can be played over video chat, too).

My First Castle Panic (our review) returns for a second year on the list. It’s great fun to work together, defending the castle against enemies who want to knock it down. Draw cards and match their symbols with spaces along the path to defeat the monsters and throw them in jail.

Dragomino: My First Kingdomino (our review) brings cute baby dragons into the land-domino matching world of Kingdomino. Although young kids can play Kingdomino, this game evens the playing field between kids & adults by adding a lot of luck. It won the 2021 Children’s Game of the Year (Kinderspiel des Jahres) for a reason. And did we mention the cute baby dragons?

Games for Early Elementary (6-9)

Once kids have begun to read and do basic math, they are ready for games with a little more complexity. 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.

Inspector Mouse (our review) exercises memory and deduction skills as players try to figure out which criminal is escaping from prison and ringing an “alarm bell”.

Hero Hockey (our review) feels like a cross between air hockey and foosball, but not as large (or as expensive!). It’s so intuitive, your kids will be playing it within 2 minutes of opening the box.

Block Ness (our review) is fun for all ages, but shines with younger kids. Make your lake monster longer and longer, going over your opponents’ but never under them.

Older Kids (10+)

Stronger reading skills, longer attention spans, and an openness to strategy marks older kids who are ready for more “grown-up” games. These games are also appropriate for younger kids who are solid readers.

Prisma Arena (our review) tops our list for the second year in a row. This arena-fighting game will have kids battling it out over and over again to level up their characters and customize them, while bringing Hope back from Despair.

Zombie Kidz Evolution gives kids a campaign=like experience in a simple tower defense game. Fight back the zombies to earn rewards and open envelopes that give new ways to play.

Kombo Klash (our review) is just the right difficulty for kids this age. Place animal tokens, each with its own special power. Try to make connected groups for big combos!

Happy City (our review) is all about building your best city that makes the most residents happy. There’s a little bit of competition between players, but not too much.

Fireball Island is a remastered classic that’s plain old fun. Send your explorers up the paths to collect goals – and don’t get knocked over by the fireball marbles launched from the top of the mountain!

Games for Teens & Adults

Adults, like children, will really be drawn in by the theme of a game. All of the games in this section are playable by 10+ (or even younger), but the themes and gameplay style are more attractive to adults.

Pan Am (our review) lets players relive the golden age of air travel in a route-building, stock buying game. Pan Am was our top pick in 2020 and we highly recommend it, especially for anyone with an interest in 20th century history or airplanes.

Atheneum (our review) offers wanna-be librarians a chance to organize magical books. Its compact size and simple gameplay loop means it’s easy to get up and running. A game is over in about 30-45 minutes, but still feels full.

Capital Lux 2 (our review) is set in a dystopian future where outlying cities can never be allowed to gain more influence than the capital. Hundreds of possible card combinations make for an extremely tactical game that plays in under 30 minutes.

FunFair (our review) is a gentler version of the popular UnFair. Use themed rides and attractions to build the best park without having to watch out for back-stabbing competitors.

Games for the Whole Family

Sometimes, you want to give a game for a family of four to play together. Maybe it has a campaign mode, or a storyline to work through together. There are several new, great games that will give “family game night” a whole new meaning.

The Adventures of Robin Hood (our review) is a story-driven game that keeps things simple, with no movement grid and no dice. Explore Sherwood Forest and the nearby castle to investigate for your mission, while keeping up the villagers’ hope and dealing with roving guards.

My City (our review) is a tile-laying, city-buidling game with boards that each family member will customize more and more with each play. It only takes a session or two to even the playing field between experienced and first-time players.

Andor: The Family Fantasy Game (our review) skews a little younger. It uses story-based missions that will require cooperation amongst all the players while exploring, fighting, and collecting.

The Quacks of Quedlinburg is a bit older than the rest of this list, but well worth it for families of all ages. Kids as young as 6 can play, making for a great experience for the whole family. The Herb Witches expansion allows you to add a fifth player.

Games For Two

Plenty of games work well at two players, but maybe you want something that sends the message of exclusivity: “this is something for just you and me to play together.”

The Game: Face to Face (our review) takes a popular cooperative game and turns it on its head. Try to dump your hand before your opponent can dump theirs – but cards must be played in order, unless you play them to help your opponent! There’s plenty of tension but no hard feelings in this unusual setup.

Unmatched (Cobble & Fog review, Buffy review) continues to be a winner in our house. Incredibly thematic characters somehow combine to make well-balanced fights. Mix and match multiple sets for truly unbeliveable matchups (Little Red Riding Hood vs. Jurassic Park raptors).

Games for Video Chat

Over the last two years, we’ve learned how to virtually get together with friends and family. This year, give the gift of a game you can play together, even if you’re far apart.

Blank Slate (our review) is a party word game. You want to match exactly one other person with the same word based on the clue. A great family game, and approachable for most kids.

Cartographers will allow everyone to create their own special maps while competing for the best score. Usually, maps are passed around the table to add “monsters”, but there’s a solo/large-group variant in the rulebook to avoid this problem.

Wavelength is a little tougher for video chat (you need a camera trained on the wheel), but will lead to great guessing and clue-giving by all involved. You might learn more about your friends and family while you play!

Stocking Stuffers

When you want something small and inexpensive – perfect for a stocking or for a randomized gift exchange.

The Kringle Caper (our review) packs an hour or more of puzzle-solving fun into just 18 cards. Catch the crook and save Christmas!

Decktective; Bloody Red Roses (our review) is a more grown-up mystery. Work together to solve a murder in this remarkably game-like mystery box.

Similo (our review) is a cooperative clue-giving game for all ages. With so many variants (Animals, Myths, Fables, History) you’re sure to find one perfect for your recipient.

Get Everyone Playing (Games for Non-Gamers)

Watch Grandma and your sulky teenager both perk up with these games that are sure to bring your whole family together.

Bluffaneer Dice Game (our review) combines pirates and bluffing, with bone-shaped dice. Do you have a card that matches the roll of the bones? More importantly, can you convince everyone that you do?

Super Mega Lucky Box (our review) is Bingo meets Schoolhouse Rocks. Combos and the ability to change your number lead to fun, lightweight strategy as everyone tries to complete their Lucky Box cards first for the most points.

Similo makes the list a second time. This cooperative clue-giving game encourages conversation and collective reasoning without being heavy or hard to learn.

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

However, we recommend buying from your local game store when possible.