It’s that time of the year again. But why rush around like a chicken with its head cut off when you can just print out this list, run to the nearest FLGS, and buy these items for everyone on your to-give list. You can’t go wrong!
But, if random gift-giving isn’t in your holiday plans, we’ve divvied our recommendations up into Light, Family, Social, and Gamer categories, as well as a final section for Staff Picks. Hit the links or just roll on through in order.
To start us off…
Light games are shorter, simpler fare at least as far as rules go. The whole idea is to have something you can pick up and teach quickly, get everyone into, and play for twenty minutes or so. These games won’t drain your brain or take the whole afternoon, so if you need a quick game, scroll through this list.
Escape: The Curse of the Temple : Our review : Amazon link
Channel your inner Indiana Jones as you and your band of adventurers attempt to avoid impending doom. Everybody rolls their dice simultaneously, trying to unlock doors and score the right combinations to make a successful escape. The atmospheric soundtrack helps bring the tension to dizzying levels as you race against the clock. Can you get out in time to claim your piece of fortune and glory? Or will you be trapped inside to serve as a warning to the next adventurer foolish enough to follow your footsteps?
Forbidden Desert : Our review : Amazon link
Why It Makes a Good Gift: Forbidden Desert is a great game for gamers just beginning to get into co-ops, or for families who want a game where everyone wins or loses together. Players must work together to find and manage the resources necessary to survive in the desert, all while finding and assembling the pieces of a flying machine that will take them to safety.
It scales well from two to five players, making it a great game for couples, families, or game groups. Scalable difficulty means that the game can accommodate everyone from beginners to more advanced gamers. The theme of trying to escape a desert is one that won’t offend most people and the components are just cool. Who doesn’t want to build a flying machine, after all?
The Builders: Middle Ages : Our review : Amazon link
The Builders system is almost the perfect light game or filler. Puzzley and meticulously balanced, it is a very streamlined resource collection and allocation game which requires some analytical processing, but it’s not overly brain-burning. I bill it as sort of the “thinking man’s” filler. And you have two options. Middle Ages was the first produced and has less moving parts, being more concerned with pure efficiency. The recently released Antiquity adds a handful of elements and mechanics injecting new options and strategies without being overly burdensome or fiddly. For casual players, couples, gamers with kids and other less competitive environments, either of these two titles will wrap up nicely in a bow.
For Sale : Our review : Amazon link
For Sale is a light auction game played in two parts: buying houses, and then flipping those houses for sweet moolah. The game plays in about fifteen minutes, but the decisions are worthwhile, and it always produces great moments of laughter. This is the best filler game there is, and it has just recently been reprinted.
Diamonds : Amazon link
I can especially recommend this game for families that like to play classic card games such as Hearts or Spades. Diamonds falls into the same style as those, with a few twists that makes it more fun (at least in my opinion) for a variety of skill levels. It’s the same basic setup: the cards come in the 4 standard suits (although there are no “face cards” here, just numbers). You deal ’em out randomly and play “tricks” in which each player plays one card and the highest card wins the trick. When you win a trick, you score points based off the suit, but the hook here is that if you play a card out of suit you also score points based on the card you played. It’s simple and keeps people involved, and the strategy is a little easier to grasp. Oh, and you also get a box full of fun plastic diamonds, which makes it all the more fun.