In less than a week, the whole house will be smelling like turkey, gravy, potatoes, and stuffing. And you know what comes after you gorge yourself silly and fall to sleep watching football? That’s right, the official start of the holiday shopping season. And as you all know, it’s a scientifically proven fact that board games make the best gifts. However, when it comes to board games, gamers are definitely not in a shortage of choices. With thousands of new games being released every year, how do you know which ones to buy for each person on your list?
That’s where we come in. Whether you are shopping for the die-hard gamer in your life, or looking for a game to play with your family, we’ve got you covered. We’ve played the games, consulted our pie charts, and braved the elements to bring you our 2019 Board Game Gift Guide. So sit back, relax and let us do the heavy lifting for you this year.
2019 Board Game Gift Guide
Classic Board Games
These are board games that have, in one way or another, left their mark on our hobby. If you are looking for a good place to start for someone brand new to gaming, this is it. These are amazing board games that have stood the test of time.
Ticket to Ride
Ticket to Ride is easily one of the most accessible eurogames there is, has sold millions of copies so far, and already spawned a number of expansions. In Ticket to Ride, you are trying to build train routes across major cities on the board. The highly accessible gameplay makes this one quick to learn and fast to play. If you have played card games like Rummy or Gin, then Ticket to Ride should be an easy transition.
In this award-winning cooperative board game, players are a team of scientists trying to cure the world of four deadly diseases before they destroy the world. Pandemic is one of the most popular cooperative board games and has long since become a staple in every gamer’s collection. Pandemic is easy to learn and very challenging to win, which helps give the game high replay value.
The Settlers of Catan (now just known as Catan) is the granddaddy of board games and is probably most Americans’ first experience with a “Eurogame.” In this game of trading and construction, players 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. Catan is a game that every gamer will probably play at least once and is probably one of the ultimate “gateway games.”
Dominion is the founder of the deck building genre and probably the most versatile of all these types of games. Each player starts with a small deck of identical cards. Throughout the game, players will improve their deck by buying cards from the stacks of cards in the center of the table. Players must have a careful balance between buying useful action cards versus the victory point cards that will win them the game. 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 fantastic card game that introduced us to the card drafting (pick and pass) genre. In 7 Wonders, after you select your card, you then pass your remaining hand of cards to the player sitting next to you. The gameplay is very unique; it has a quick playing time, and expands all the way up to 7 players with zero loss of quality or added game time. 7 Wonders is easily one of our favorite games and one we’re always willing to play.
Carcassonne is a tile-laying game with almost no setup time because you build the game board as you play! In Carcassonne, players are building out cities, roads, monasteries and farms to try to score the most victory points. Each turn, a player will draw a tile and add it to the tiles already played on the table. If the player completes one of their buildings, they score victory points for it. The rules are simple, the turns quick, and the game is very accessible.
Cooperative Board Games:
Sometimes players want to work together as a group and enjoy a sense of camaraderie. These are games where you can share the sweet taste of victory (or the bitter taste of defeat) together as a group.
Publisher Ravensburg decided to take the classic Universal movie monsters that we’ve all come to know and love and turn them into an excellent cooperative board game. In Horrified, the player controls a hero who must move around the village, trying to not only save villagers, but accomplish all the monsters unique tasks to defeat them before time runs out.
Pandemic: Fall of Rome (review)
Pandemic is already an excellent game, but publisher Z-Man Games has really taken things to the next level with their thematic offshoots. Pandemic: Fall of Rome brings the Pandemic mechanics but sets in during the period of historical Rome. Players must work together to protect their civilization from the invading Anglo-Saxons, Goths, Vandals, and Huns
Now Boarding (review)
This cooperative game tasks players with managing a fleet of airlines around the US. Players must strategically move passengers from one airport to another without letting them dawdle on the ground for too long… less they file a complaint with corporate. The gameplay in Now Boarding is both easy to learn and silky smooth, making this one an easy choice for anyone who is a fan of cooperative board games.
Party games aren’t just for when you are having a party. But they excel when you have a larger group and want something casual, easy to learn, and full of a good amount of social interaction.
Games of TEAM3 requires either 3 or 6 players and is very easy to learn. For a 3 player game, each player takes on the role of either Architect, Supervisor, or Builder. The goal is for the players to cooperatively stack a set of shapes to match the pattern on the drawn card. The catch is that each player has a restriction based on their role. The Architect is the only one that can see the plan, but can’t talk. The builder is the only one that can touch the pieces but can’t see, and the supervisor must be the go-between the other two!
If you’ve ever seen a movie, then Blockbuster is a party game you can play. The game is played in two parts. The first part is a buzzer battle where teams alternate naming movies that fit a category. In the second round, teams have to guess the movie that someone will act out, or use one word, or quote from it.
Letter Jam (review)
Letter Jam is a party word game that will have players working together to compose words from face-up letters around the table. The trick is that players can’t see the letters in front of themselves. So everyone has to look at other player’s letters and see who can make the best word… which will hopefully help players deduce what letter they have in front of themselves!
The perfect choice when it’s just the two of you. Whether it’s simply you and a friend, or you are looking for something to play with your spouse, a 2 player game will fit the bill.
One of my favorite dueling games to come out in a while, Bushido is a dice rolling game that uses a little bit of card drafting too. At the start of the game, each player drafts 5 cards to be their techniques for the game, allowing you to determine your strategy for the game since each of the duel cards belongs to a different school of martial arts. To attack your opponent, players will roll dice that grant them strikes, focus, or ways to prevent damage. Bushido is a solid game from start to finish with loads of replay value.
One of our surprise hits from Origins this year, Shobu has hit the table more times than I can count. This abstract strategy game personifies the “easy to learn, hard to master” mantra. On their turn, a player moves two stones, with the goal being to knock all of your opponent’s stones off one board. However the restrictions on what stones you can move and when are what make Shobu so intriguing. While it may sound simple, players need to think a few moves ahead to outwit their opponent.
Unmatched: Battle of Legends
In this skirmish game, Restoration Games breathed some new life into the old Star Wars Epic Duels board game. Each player controls a hero of myth and legend: King Arthur, Medusa, Sinbad, or Alice from Wonderland. They battle in a diceless system that uses cards to drive all the actions. Unmatched: Battle of Legends is easy to learn, with only a handful of rules, but is highly engaging and makes a great first foray into the skirmish genre.
If you are looking for a game that passes on the direct conflict and focuses more on collecting victory points, then you want a Euro Game. There are many games that fall in this category, from light to heavy, and the euro game can appeal to a broad amount of gamers.
Architects of West Kingdom
This fantastic game won our award this year for Best Eurogame this year and one play will show you why. Architects of West Kingdom turns the worker placement genre on its head and starts you off with a pile of workers, instead of just a few. In addition to that, you can leave them on the board to make future actions stronger, or even round up and arrest other players’ workers for money. There is a lot to love with this clever title, so expect it to hit the table often.
Black Angel, from the same design team as Troyes, takes a similar dice placement mechanism and moves it into space. Players will be the remains of humanity as we leave Earth on the Black Angel looking for a planet to inhabit. Your team of robots will discover new technology, fight off ravagers, and keep the ship from taking too much damage. All the while fulfilling missions to gain resources and victory points.
This engine building and worker placement game not only boasts some excellent production values (A 3d tree!), but has the gameplay chops to match it. Players are trying to earn the most victory points over the games four seasons by sending workers out to collect resources and cards, and then using them to construct buildings and recruit people for their village. Everdell has a bit of a snowball effect where the early rounds are quick and simple, but by late in the game you’ll be chaining a lot of actions.
Card games come in many shapes and variety, but they usually lack a large game board and tons of plastic pieces. This not only makes them more budget-friendly, but also a lot easier to take with you on the go.
Marvel Champions: The Card Game
If you are shopping for someone who is a fan of the Marvel Universe (and who isn’t), then look no further than Marvel Champions. This Living Card Game (LCG) from Fantasy Flight Games puts players in the shoes of five iconic heroes from the Marvel Universe. Iron Man, Spider-Man, Captain Marvel, Black Panther, and She-Hulk team up to try and stop the villain’s schemes. Rhino, Klaw, and Ultron round out this game’s adversaries and present an increasing challenge for the players to overcome.
For those that enjoy card drafting and set collection, Amul is a great choice. Players are merchants competing for wealth and success on the Silk Road. The innovative mechanics in this game have players drafting cards that score not only if they are played to the table, but also if they are left in their hand as well!
Imperial Settlers: Empires of the North (review)
This follow-up to the wildly successful, and award-winning, engine-building game, Imperial Settlers, takes many of the concepts from that title and streamlines it into a whole new game. In Imperial Settlers: Empires of the North, each player controls a unique clan in a race to twenty-five victory points. Empires of the North combines engine building, with resource management, and even some rondel actions for a truly an excellent card game.
Sometimes you don’t want to hunt for victory points, but instead, want a game that draws you in with its fantastic theme. These games usually have great components and engaging gameplay, sometimes with direct player conflict.
Lord of the Rings: Journeys into Middle Earth
This cooperative, campaign-style game put players into the shoes of brand new heroes in the Lord of the Rings universe. The games of Lord of the Rings: Journeys into Middle Earth are split between exploration and adventure missions, and straight-up battles. As an app-driven game, there is a lot of story and variety here as well, making this an excellent choice for anyone who is a fan of the books, the movies, or just this fantasy universe in general.
Star Wars Outer Rim
An open-world, pick up and deliver game where players can forge their own path. Do you want to be a law-abiding citizen, doing honest work? Or maybe you want to be a smuggler transporting illegal cargo. You can even be a bounty hunter, tracking down the most nefarious in the galaxy. Star Wars Outer Rim gives players a lot of options to make their fortune on the fringes of the empire.
For those who are not a fan of Star Wars but still like the idea of an open-world game, there is Western Legends. This old west themed game also lets players earn fame in a variety of ways. Bounty Hunter, Bandit, Cattle Rustler, Rancher, or even a card player are all viable paths to earning fame and fortune in the old west. Stay on the path of the straight and narrow, or walk the line of the nefarious are all choices you can make.
If you are looking for games that can be played not only with family members, but also non-gaming friends, then Family Games are an excellent choice. Easy to learn rules and minimal downtime are hallmarks of the genre.
A breakout hit from Gen Con this year, PARKS is one of those games that both looks amazing and plays great as well. The game takes the Tokaido formula and improves it in a variety of ways. PARKs will have players making their way along a hiking trail, collecting resources and photos, over the course of the game’s four seasons trying to earn the most victory points. This one is easy to learn and the amazing artwork makes it a sure-fire hit for any group.
Drop It (review)
One of those games that is way more fun than it has any right to be, Drop It tasks players with dropping colored shapes down a central chute to try and earn points. Players have to be strategic about when and where they drop their pieces as they really want to maximize their points with each drop. A deft hand and some forward planning are key if you hope to win this entertaining family game.
Treasure Island (review)
This thematic game will have players hunting for Long John Silver’s treasure on a large island map. One player takes on the role of this infamous pirate lord who secretly chooses where the treasure is buried. The other players have a limited number of actions to be the first pirate to find his treasure. The gameplay in Treasure Island involves drawing on the board with dry-erase markers in a really entertaining treasure hunt.
If you are looking for just a little something extra for someone on your list, then check out these Stocking Stuffers. These are great games that won’t break the bank; all under $25.
Cartographers: A Roll Player Tale (review)
This excellent little roll and write game (well technically a flip and write, as it uses cards) has players mapping out the lands of the northern kingdom. Players in Cartographers must strategically draw different polynomial shapes as they appear, trying their best to meet the games four different goal scoring cards.
Palm Island (review)
This rare single-player game is perfect for the gamer on the go. Palm Island is small enough to fit into your pocket, but has some light engine building as the player will flip cards one at a time in their hand, trying to upgrade their cards and collect resources. The entire game takes place in the palm of your hand, so you can literally play it anywhere.
Publisher Blue Orange Games took their popular Kingdomino game and dialed it down to a two-player roll and write game. The core of the gameplay in Kingdomino: Duel is quite similar to its older cousin, but this one will have two players dueling trying to earn the most points by drafting dice and creating their kingdom with the results. And just to keep things interesting, players are also racing to be the first to unlock special spells that will give them one-time-use powers.