Looking for gift ideas for the gamers in your life? Here’s a quick list of some games we recommend for your holiday!
For kids or families
We’re privileged to live in an age where there are loads of games that can be enjoyed by everyone in a family. For younger children, The Magic Labyrinth has your wizards navigating a labyrinth of hidden walls which you can only discover through trial and error.
For kids a little older, Dixit and Mysterium both test your ingenuity in giving hints and challenge players to interpret beautifully illustrated cards.
For something a little more fast-paced, Pictomania is full of frantic fun with everyone drawing and guessing at each others drawings at once, and Escape: Curse of the Temple is a real-time dice-chucking romp through an ancient temple, where you and your partners have to grab as many riches as you can and escape.
More sedate, Tokaido puts players in the shoes of vacationers walking the Tokaido road in Japan, sightseeing and collecting souvenirs, competing to have the nicest vacation.
Great for gaming couples or just you and a pal on a lunch break, some of these games are designed with two in mind, and some just shine when played as a pair.
Onitama is a quick abstraction of martial arts played on a 5×5 grid. Playing a card will let your pieces maneuver and capture your opponent’s pawns, but that card then becomes available to them as they learn from your actions. Another excellent abstract game, The Duke, is a chess-like game where your pieces’ movements alternate between offensive and defensive whenever they’re moved.
For a fantasy twist, Tash-Kalar: Arena of Legends pits players of different fantasy factions against each other in a grand melee. At first your troops will be clashing and trying to capture each other head to head, but if you can position your units into just the right formation, you’ll be able to summon massive monsters and spells that will blow your enemy’s lines wide open.
If sci-fi is more your style, we recommend Android: Netrunner, an asymmetrical card game of hacking and bluffing. One player is the powerful and wealthy Corporation, going about their business and protecting their servers from intrusion. The other is the daring Runner, a freelance hacker whose big payday is sure to be hidden somewhere in the Corp’s servers. Netrunner is made in the Living Card Game format, where new packs of specific cards and expansions are released frequently.
If you’d rather built up a galactic empire, Race for the Galaxy will give you just the cards to do it. With strategies ranging from constructing a massive economic engine to becoming a technological powerhouse to conquering your way through the galaxy, you’ll have to adapt and use your resources wisely to come out on top.
Finally, if the theme doesn’t throw you off (or if it appeals to you), Patchwork is a clever little game where players snag patches of cloth to make their personal quilts, Tetris-style. It’s more fun than it sounds!
So you’re entertaining a large group or looking for something to play at a big family get-together. These picks will provide the fun, you and your gang can bring the ingenuity, the cleverness and the laughter!
First, there’s no excuse to pass up Codenames. 2016’s Spiel des Jahres winner splits players into two rival spy agencies, with one person from each team being that team’s spymaster and the rest working to interpret the spymaster’s codes to identify their team’s agents.
Harkening back to Arthurian England, The Resistance: Avalon gives everyone a secret role, loyal to either King Arthur or the traitor Mordred. Players take on missions in groups, with traitors wanting to fail and loyalists wanting to succeed, and what ensues is a marvelous bluffing match with everyone trying to deduce everyone else’s identities. Compounding the confusion are the variety of special roles that give particular people more information or mess up others’ knowledge. At the core of the game is Merlin, who knows the identities of the traitors but can’t share his knowledge overtly for fear of being found out himself.
For a darker theme, Deception: Murder in Hong Kong has a lone forensic scientist putting the rest of the players, as investigators, on the track of a murderer. Unbeknownst to the investigators, one of their number is the very murderer they’re hunting, and he or she will be trying their best to send the rest off the trail without revealing themselves.
You’ve just pulled off a massive heist, but you’re sure not going to share the spoils with the gang! Dead Last is another excellent party game in which each player is given a colour, and a hand of cards of everyone else’s colours. Each round players will collude, figuring out who they’re going to vote out and turn on. Make sure you’re voting with the majority, or you’ll be caught in the crossfire. If the target catches wind of the gang’s plan, they can choose to prepare an ambush and knock out everyone who voted for them! As always, last man standing takes it all.
For those starting out
If you or your giftee is just getting into games, these recommendations will serve as excellent gateways. In the interest of keeping it interesting, we’ll steer clear of the classics and name some ones you might not have heard of!
Let’s start with Lotus, a beautiful game of unfurling flower petals and wooing insect guardians to your garden. At the garden unfolds in front of you, claim the flowers by contributing the most and foil your opponents by finishing theirs!
Potion Explosion will be immediately familiar to anyone who’s played Bejeweled or Candy Crush with its rows of brightly-coloured, cascading marbles. Pluck marbles from the tray to make your potions and more will rush in to fill their place, causing chain reactions if they match colours!
In Clank, you’re a group of thieves venturing deep into a dragon’s lair. With a fun spacial twist on the Dominion-inspired deckbuilder style, you’ll buy cards that let you move through the dungeon and battle its inhabitants. However, many of the best cards make noise, and the noisier you are, the more likely the dragon is to immolate you when it wakes up!
Among the Stars gives you four years to construct an alien space station by drafting room tiles and arranging them strategically. Everything you incorporate into your station benefits you and interacts with the tiles around it, making it super satisfying to place something just right.
For those with a couple hours and a desire for a wild story, Tales of the Arabian Nights puts you in the shoes of Aladdin, Scheherazade, and Ali Baba. Much like a choose-your-own-adventure book, as you travel across the land on your quests you’ll encounter many strange and wondrous things, and be given many choices of how to interact with them. With over two thousand stories to experience, the tales that unfold are unlike any others.
For those delving deeper
Maybe you’re shopping for a hardcore gamer, or maybe you and your loved ones want a game that’s more complex, longer, or more full of plastic miniatures. These are for you.
We’ll start with Dead of Winter. Set in a snowed-out zombie apocalypse, your band of survivors are determined to stay alive. That means scavenging for food, fuel, and weapons, searching for other survivors, and striking back at the zombies so you don’t get overwhelmed. Those are no easy tasks, and making matters worse is that everyone’s got a hidden motive, something secretive and known only to them. Maybe you want to stockpile enough fuel to take off in a plane once this blows over, and so you’ll just pretend you didn’t find any at the police station. Or maybe what you want is to be the only living being to make it out of this mess.
On a similar note, Battlestar Galactica will have everyone working together to make their way back to Earth, while dealing with constant crises and political tensions. Of course hidden among the crew are a cadre of Cylons, replacing more and more humans and waiting for the right moment to strike and wipe out the humans altogether. Don’t like your games three hours long and with a TV license attached? Dark Moon is based on a slimmed down version of Battlestar Galactica with a license-free sci-fi theme.
Scythe has been one of the most anticipated games of the year, and for good reason. Set in an alternate-history 1920’s soviet bloc where the countries have forged their farming implements into mechs rather than swords, Scythe is an absolutely beautiful game of building, expanding, and protecting your influence.
Blood Rage takes you to Ragnarok and puts you at the head of a viking clan poised for battle over Midgard. Through cunning, savagery, and the will of the gods you will lead your warriors to glorious victory and become the most storied clan at the end of days.
If you’re in the mood for a globetrotting adventure jam-packed with eldritch horrors from beyond comprehension, look no further than, yes, Eldritch Horror. With the old gods’ rise imminent and cults and monsters springing up all over the world, it’s up to you and your band of uniquely qualified investigators to prevent the world from becoming undone.
To round out the list, Alchemists is a beautiful riff on the world of academia. It’s a strong manage-your-time-and-money type game laid over the intellectual puzzle of figuring out which ingredients have which properties. By rustling up a bunch of potions and either drinking them yourself or making a student drink it for you, you’ll gradually get more and more information and eventually be able to publish definitive treatises on the mandrake root, earning you accolades and plaudits from your peers. At least until your rival reveals that they know you were bluffing in your publication and debunks your theory for everyone to see.