It’s the most wonderful time of the year, or at least that’s what the song says. That’s right, the holidays are right around the corner and you are probably wondering what to get that special gamer in your life. We never fear, we are happy to help. We’ve sent our magic elves out to do some research and they came back to us with a number of options to make any gamer excited this holiday season. We’ve created a bunch of categories to make things easier on you, so you can be sure to find something to appeal to whatever tastes the special gamer in your life might have. So relax and let us do the work for you with our 2014 Board Game Gift Guide.
Click any name to jump to that category:
Classic Board Games: These are games that appear in the gift guide ever year. They are classic games that should really be in every gamer’s collection. Always a good place to start.
Cooperative Board Games: Games for players that love the spirit of camaraderie and play well with others. Always a challenge, but also a great social experience.
Party Games: When you have a large group of people, you want an easy to learn game with a high amount of player interaction. Enter the party game.
Two-Player Games: Sometimes you don’t want a large group of people. Games for the times when it’s just the pair of you.
Eurogames: Games for players who enjoy collecting and spending resources, no player elimination and striving towards victory points. If you don’t like direct conflict, then euro games are for you.
Card Games: When you are looking for games that are highly portable and usually lower in cost, then look for a card game. Cheaper to produce, but still full of variety and fun!
Thematic Games: Games that prize a solid theme above all else. These are games where you can really immerse yourself in the experience they are bringing to the table. Be prepared to be sucked in.
Family Games: Replacing kids games from last year, we’ve upgraded this category to Family Games. These are all great games you can play with your family members of various ages.
Stocking Stuffers: Games under $20. These are great games that wont break the bank. When you want just a little something extra for the gamer in your life.
Classic Board Games
Ticket to Ride
Ticket to Ride is easily one of the most accessible Eurogames on the market today, Ticket to Ride has sold over a million copies to date and keeps on going. Players are trying to build train routes on a map of the US and Canada between major cities. The simple game play makes this one quick to learn and fast to play. If you are familiar with card games like Rummy or Gin, then Ticket to Ride should be an easy transition. Ticket to Ride has also spawned a number of expansions and a new anniversary edition.
In this cooperative board game, players take on the roles of scientists trying to cure the world of four deadly diseases before all of mankind is wiped out. Pandemic is one of the most popular cooperative board games on the market today and requires players to use their unique abilities and work together to save the world. Pandemic is easy to learn but can be very hard to win, which helps give the game high replay value. There are also a number of expansions to add onto the game.
The Settlers of Catan (review)
The Settlers of Catan is one of the most popular board games in the world and is probably most Americans’ first experience with a “Eurogame.” Each player takes on the role of one of the island’s inhabitants and must build up their settlements and roads by using the island’s five resources. The game features very easy to learn mechanics and a healthy dose of player interaction via the importance of trading resources. The Settlers of Catan is a gaming staple that belongs in every player’s collection and probably one of the ultimate “gateway games.”
Dominion is the game that started the “deck building game” explosion a few years ago. Each player starts with a small, identical deck of ten cards. Throughout the game, you build up your deck by “buying” cards from ten stacks in the center of the table. Players must have a careful balance between buying useful in-game cards and the ever-important victory point cards. With easy to learn mechanics, quick playing time and lots of replay value, Dominion is an easy choice for anyone. Dominion also was able to claim the #1 spot in our Top Ten Deck Builders list.
7 Wonders (review)
7 Wonders is a unique card game that has you building your civilization by playing cards from your hand each turn. However, you have to pass your hand of cards after every round which will constantly change your strategy. The game play is very unique, it has a quick playing time, and expands all the way up to seven players with no loss of quality or added game time. 7 Wonders is easily one of my favorite games and one I am always willing to play.
Carcassonne is a game with almost zero setup time because you build the game board as you play! Carcassonne is a tile laying game that has players building out roads, cities, monasteries, and farms to try to score the most victory points. Each turn, a player draws a tile and adds it to the game board. If the player completes one of the aforementioned features, they can score victory points if they own it. The rules are simple, the turns quick, and the game is accessible to anyone.
Cooperative Board Games:
Pandemic: The Cure (review)
Not to be confused with its big brother Pandemic, this is a brand new game set in the same, disease filled universe. This dice game has players once again trying to save the world before it becomes overrun. With some high quality components and a difficulty level that you might expect from a Pandemic game, Pandemic: The Cure provides a lot of fun in an easy to learn game. Absolutely worth checking out for any fan of cooperative games or dice rolling games.
Shadowrun: Crossfire (review)
In Shadowrun: Crossfire, players take on the role of a team of runners trying to accomplish a variety of missions. The game is quite difficult and players must really coordinate their efforts if they hope to survive the many curve balls that the world of Shadowrun throws at them. One of the best parts about Shadowrun: Crossfire is that the game can be played campaign style. Players will play the same runner from game to game and “level up” in-between missions.
Freedom: The Underground Railroad (review)
This historical board game can boast the accomplishment of being the only game this year to win 2 awards in our 2013 Board Game Awards. Freedom: The Underground Railroad takes players back during the pre-civil war era of the United States. Players take on the role of conductors in the Underground Railroad and must work together to help as many slaves as possible escape to the freedom of the north. Freedom: The Underground Railroad is expertly crafted, has some great components, and is chock full of historical information which can make it a great learning experience as well.
|2013 Recommendations||2012 Recommendations|
|Legends of Andor||Space Alert|
|Forbidden Desert||Sentinels of the Multiverse|
|Escape: Curse of the Temple||Elder Sign|
Concept ended up being one of our surprise hits from Gen Con 2014. What is essentially the board game version of Charades (don’t worry, it’s actually really fun) has players taking turns trying to get their teammates to guess a word, phrase or title. The key is that the main player can only provide clues by placing markers around a board full of icons. It’s a really clever concept (pun intended) that had us glued to the game board for hours on end.
One Night Ultimate Werewolf
The party game Werewolf has been around for a very long time. In it, players are trying to figure out which of those among them are werewolves before all the villagers are eaten. While the game itself is fun, the player elimination in the game does suck some of the fun out of it. Bezier Games apparently agreed as they’ve released a new game called One Night Ultimate Werewolf. In this version of werewolf, the game only lasts for one round so a game can be played in under 10 minutes. In addition to that, there are a ton of new roles each player can take on, as well as a fantastic mobile app to walk players through the game. A must own if you have a large group of people who like to argue with each other.
Cash ’N Guns Second Edition (review)
Cash ‘N Guns has been around for a while now, but Asmodee Games recently released a new edition to give the game not only a bit of a makeover, but also to update some of the rules. In Cash ‘N Guns, players are a group of robbers who have just finished a major heist and must now go through the trouble of splitting the loot. Cash ‘N Guns is very easy to learn and wildly fun. The game also includes a bunch of foam pistols, making it a lot of fun to play around with.
|2013 Recommendations||2012 Recommendations|
|Wits and Wagers||Jungle Speed|
|Telestrations||Cards Against Humanity|
2 Player Games:
This clever game was released by AEG and has, for the most part, flown under the radar. In Pagoda, each player is trying to earn victory points by building, you guessed it, pagodas. Each turn, you will be adding pieces to one of the five different pagodas and watching them grow in 3D. Each player also has a handful of special actions they can take on their turn, assuming they’ve earned it. As a two player only affair, this unique board game was a surprising amount of fun.
Marvel Dice Masters (review)
Many years ago, Quarriors launched onto the market as the first dice-building game (a spin-off of the popular deck building genre). While Quarriors was fun, it wasn’t without its problems. This year, the designers of Quarriors decide to take another crack at the dice building genre with Marvel Dice Masters. In this two player dice game, players are assembling a team of super heroes and villains to battle against each other. Marvel Dice Masters flew off shelves when it was released with the demand far outstripping the supply. It can sometimes be hit or miss to find starter boxes of the first release of Dice Masters, but fortunately there is a new expansion out that has its own starter set.
Battlelore: Second Edition
Richard Borg designed his Command and Colors combat system to make war games more accessible to those of us that aren’t “grognards”. Battlelore was released a while ago, but this new edition has streamlined the rules and turned it into, in my opinion, a better game. This easy to learn war game pits the forces of good against the monstrous races of evil. Each player gets to control an army of well sculpted minis that battle it out in different scenarios each game. If you are shopping for a fan of miniatures games, give Battlelore: Second Edition a good look.
|2013 Recommendations||2012 Recommendations|
|Agricola: All Creatures Big and Small||Lost Cities|
One of the hottest games to come out of Gen Con 2014, Five Tribes has been on everyone’s list to check out. This simple game from experienced designer Bruno Cathala takes the familiar mechanic from Mancala and incorporates it into a fun and gripping board game. Every game of Five Tribes we’ve played has had us glued to the game board for the duration of its play time. Five Tribes has been flying off the shelves since Days of Wonder released it, but if you can find a copy, get it. I’m sure we’ll be seeing this one during our Board Game Awards in the spring.
Caverna: The Cave Farmers
Agricola is one of the most popular Worker Placement games on the market today. Late in 2013, game designer Uwe Rosenberg decided to take another stab at that popular title and released Caverna: The Cave Farmers. An unofficial sequel to Agricola, the fan base is somewhat undecided as to which is the better game (for me, it’s Caverna). Caverna takes a lot of familiar mechanics from Agricola and streamlines the game to make it flow better, all while incorporating new elements as well. It has a hefty price tag, but once you feel the weight of the box, you’ll understand why.
It would be hard to do a board game gift guide without including our 2013 Game of the Year from our Board Game Awards. Nations is a civilization building game that’s completely card driven. Each player controls one of five historical civilizations and must run them through four different ages. Nations comes with more cards than you’d expect (you only use a fraction in any game), so expect tons of replay value with this fantastic game.
|2013 Recommendations||2012 Recommendations|
|Viticulture||Lords of Waterdeep|
|Relic Runners||Puerto Rico|
Imperial Settlers (review)
This card game from Portal Games was released at Gen Con this year and promptly sold out in 26 minutes. We reviewed it a while ago and found out that the hype was well deserved. In this card game, players are trying to run their civilization as efficiently as possible. Imperial Settlers also allows players to use each of their cards in 3 different ways…a mechanic I always love in card games. I predict Imperial Settlers making an appearance this spring as a nominee in our Board Game Awards because it’s just that good.
Trick taking games have been around as long as I can remember. I’m sure most everyone has played a game of Hearts or Euchre at some point. Diamonds seeks to put its own spin on the trick taking genre by tasking players with collecting diamond gems during the game. What makes Diamonds different than other games in this genre is that when you cannot follow suit, you get an action based on the suit that you did play. Suit actions will allow players to collect and shuffle around the diamond tokens that will earn them victory points. If you like trike taking games (and how could you not), then be sure to give Diamonds a look.
Star Realms (review)
Star Realms is a quick playing, deck building game that has two players facing off in a sci-fi battle. The game is fairly easy to learn (even more so if you’ve played Ascension: Chronicles of the Godslayer), but it’s most attractive factor is price. For $15, you get a full game that can support up to two players (expandable with more decks) with no requirement to buy anything else. For that kind of price, it’s hard not to give Star Realms a shot.
|Pathfinder Card Game|
|Legendary: Marvel Deck Building Game|
The Battle of Five Armies (review)
While debuting in time to take advantage of the buzz from the upcoming movie, The Battle of Five Armies is anything but a cheap movie tie-in. In fact, it actually pulls its source material from the book (The Hobbit) and completely ignores the movie (which is fine by me). What you do get is an epic battle at the foot of the Lonely Mountain between the armies of the free people and the forces of darkness. With lots of combat, many tie backs to the source material, and game that can be played in about 90 minutes, The Battle of Five Armies is a must own for any Lord of the Rings fan.
Black Fleet (review)
Arrrrrggggg! That’s what a pirate would say about Black Fleet. In this nautical game, players actually control 3 different ships on their turn. They each get a merchant ship (to deliver goods) and pirate ship (to rob other merchants) and share control of two navy ships (to sink the pirates). Black Fleet is a fun romp through the Caribbean with some very easy to learn rules that also make it a great family game. Black Fleet has some very high quality components which helps bring the theme home and make it fun to play with.
Eldritch Horror (review)
This game of adventure and horror has players taking on the role of globe-trotting adventurers trying to stop the evil one from awakening. Eldritch Horror is a fully cooperative game that shares a lot of similarities with its older brother, Arkham Horror. While the games are similar, they still play differently enough that you can own both. However I’ve found Eldritch Horror to be a more streamlined game that is also much easier to teach. If you are looking for a game that you can really immerse yourself into the story and situation, look no further than Eldritch Horror.
|2013 Recommendations||2012 Recommendations|
|Star Wars: X-Wing Miniatures||Mansions of Madness|
|Mice and Mystics||Mage Knight: The Board Game|
Rampage (Terror in Meeple City) (review)
If you want a game that’s insanely fun and just makes you feel like a kid, then look no further than Rampage (also called Terror in Meeple City). In this dexterity game, players each control a monster and must physically destroy buildings on the game board to score victory points. The rules are simple, the game is wacky, but overall it’s an absolute blast to play. If you like causing a lot of destruction and smashing buildings, you’ll get a kick out of Rampage.
Winner of the 2014 Spiel des Jahres award (German Game of the Year), this highly coveted award is given to a game that’s considered to be both excellent in design and also very accessible (easy to learn). In Camel Up, players are placing bets on which camel will win a quick race around the pyramid. Good components, fun to play and family friendly make this an easy choice for a gift.
Splendor was also nominated for the 2014 Spiel des Jahres award (losing of course to Camel Up) so you know it’s going to be a game that’s easy to jump right into. In Splendor, players take on the role of wealthy merchants during the Renaissance trying to make money in the gem trade. At its heart, Splendor is an “engine building game” where players spend their turns buying gem cards, and then using those cards to gain discounts on future (more expensive) cards to purchase. Great components, easy to learn, quick game play is Splendor in a nutshell.
|Click Clack Lumberjack|
|Three Little Pigs|
Stocking Stuffers (Games under $20):
This clever little card game won the Spiel des Jahres in 2013 and ended up flying off the shelves shortly thereafter. In Hanabi, players must work together to put on a fireworks display. When I say work together, I really mean it cooperation is 100% necessary to do well in Hanabi. This is because a player doesn’t know what cards they have in their hands, as all their cards face outwards towards the other players. Clues you can give to other players are limited, so players must use their resources wisely. The nice thing about Hanabi is that it is one of the few cooperative games that has no “quarterbacking” problem.
Sushi Go! (review)
7 Wonders is one of my favorite games because I love the card drafting mechanic. Sushi Go! decided to take this mechanic and distill it down to its essence in a simple card game set at a sushi restaurant. This “pick and pass” game, as they call it, has players trying to acquire sets of sushi cards over the course of three rounds. Incredibly easy to learn, Sushi Go! also makes a great family game.
No Thanks! (review)
This simple and engaging card game has been nominated for its fair share of gaming awards. The rules are simple to learn. Each turn you either pay one of your limited chips to avoid taking the face up card or take the card into your hand. The key is that you want to have the lowest score at the end of the game. Since cards are numbered 3-35, using your limited supply of chips wisely is key. If you are looking for a casual game, No Thanks! can appeal to just about anyone.