Indeed, Christmas comes but once a year – as does our holiday gift guide. And that’s a pity! At least our guide keeps getting bigger and bigger! This year, iSlaytheDragon has five writers, all with unique tastes and experiences. That means we’ve all got different kinds of recommendations. Just for you! This year, we’ve decided to bring the holiday goodness all week long! So between our dragon-slaying quintet, you should be able to check off everyone on your list! Well, okay, so we can’t guarantee that you’ll love our choices, but these are our top picks and why we think they’d make great gifts. We do guarantee the quality; so if these games line up with your tastes (or, really, the tastes of the person you’re buying a gift for), we think these will be a hit. Just one piece of advice: if you know some one really doesn’t like board games, respect that! Don’t buy him/her a gift thinking that they just haven’t played the right one, and hoping to convert them. Remember – a gift is always about what they want, not what you would like them to have!
The holidays are very much about family. So the third day of our Gift Guide Week features exactly that: Family Games. These are relatively streamlined designs appropriate for a wide age range – with fun play, accessible rules, and non-taxing play lengths. Of course, when it comes to kids (and kids-at-heart) it’s not just about the rules, but sometimes about the “Bling,” too. So these titles often emphasize components, artwork, chrome, and other themey goodness to warm both hearth and home!
You can also check out our previous years gift guides:
And to jump around to other days in our Gift Guide Week, check out:
Happy holiday shopping and gaming!
My go-to family game recommendation is Pandemic, but I think that’s been recommended in every gift guide we’ve ever published here on the ‘dragon. So, it’s still a great purchase – and if your giftees already own it, there are two expansions and a dice-game version. But it’s time for some other games to get some love, so I give to you: Hanabi. It’s another cooperative game, which is a great way to get the family together for a good time without resulting in arguments and stress.
Okay, maybe that’s not quite true. In Hanabi, you’re tasking with playing 5 sets of colorful cards in order from 1 to 5. Sounds simple, right? The catch is that you can’t see your own cards. You can only see the other player’s cards, and you aren’t allowed to tell them what their cards are, exactly. You have a limited number of clues, and you can use them to tell another player 1 piece of information – either all the cards of a single color, or all the card of a single number – about their hand. You’ll need to work together and pay close attention to the clues you’re getting – not to mention be smart about the clues you’re giving – to get the most number of points. It’s quite challenging but extremely engaging. And it comes in a very portable box that makes it easy to bring everywhere (around these parts we call that a “Lenny”). It’s actually not difficult to “not lose” the game, but it is difficult to get the best score (25, which I have not yet achieved), and you’ll play again and again to achieve that number.
Although you might still get in arguments about who gave a bad clue at the wrong time, or whose skull is so thick that they didn’t pick up the hints you were laying down and OBVIOUSLY they should have discarded the third card from their left. SHEESH.
Oh, and if the inexpensive card game isn’t enough for you, check out the upcoming deluxe edition, with fancy schmancy tiles. And a hefty price tag.
Who to buy it for: Co-op lovers, people who like deduction, people who can make mistakes and not beat themselves up over it
Who not to buy it for: People who dislike co-op games, people who blame everyone for their own mistakes, people who can’t handle making mistakes.
Steam Park [Our review]
This fast-paced, frantic, and whimsical dice game is a light romp that the whole family can enjoy. Steam Park tasks you with building a steam-powered amusement park for robotic patrons. Simultaneously, players race to roll dice until they’re satisfied with their results, getting bonuses for speed, and a penalty for being last. The dice allow you to do different things in your park like build rides, attract guests, and clean up trash. You earn money for visitors, meeting specific parameters on bonus cards, and can lose money for having a dirty park. There’s enough randomness to keep everyone close and plenty of action to keep everyone engaged. Plus, the components are fantastic – little 3D cardboard standees to represent your rides and stalls. And the small wooden meeples actually fit in the rides! It’s an eye-catching, colorful, unique design fun for many ages and a blast to play.
Who to buy it for: Yahtzee fans, Dice fans, steampunk fans, families with kids aged 9-18, robots
Who not to buy it for: Children who get flustered easily, and those who throw up on roller coasters
Sultaniya [Our Review]
Two of the most important characteristics for family games in my household are that they provide a rewarding experience and leave players with a sense of accomplishment. Sultaniya achieves this perfectly by giving the players goals to work towards throughout the game and a beautifully constructed palace at the end. This is the kind of game that you could lose and still end up happy because you built something unique and wonderful. Maybe your palace is overgrown with well tended gardens and the sweet sound of birds. Or perhaps it’s the best guarded in the land and home to a mystical genie and flying carpet. The fantastic artwork helps to convey the construction of your own grand palace as you build it piece by piece. Accompanying the detailed and playful tiles are bright and shinning emeralds that let you hire four uniquely sculpted Djinns.
Games can range from carefree and constructive to a cutthroat race for key tiles with your competitors. It all depends on your family.
Who to buy it for: Arabian Nights enthusiasts. Appreciators of beautiful architecture and art.
Who not to buy it for: Families that love to crush each other.
Terror in Meeple City (AKA Rampage) [Our Review]
Somewhat of a reoccurring theme with me this week, this game involves giant monsters thrashing an unexpected city! However, it’s a bit more satisfying this time around, as you are actually destroying physical buildings! Terror in Meeple City is a dexterity game where you flick, drop, blow and toss your way around the board, crushing buildings and devouring meeples. The monster who has done the most destruction wins! The rules are very simple and can be picked up by any age, making it a great family game. People young and old will have a blast running around the table trying to get their monster into athe best position to do damage not only to the city, but other monsters as well. The artwork is fun and silly, but tells you what you can do on your turns, making the game very easy to understand.
Who to buy it for: Fans of Kaiju monster movies and anyone who enjoys dexterity games. Families and non-gamers.
Who not to buy it for: People who don’t like dexterity games or randomness. If you want to sit and think, this game is not for you.
This one’s been around since 1986 and for good reason. It’s got simple mechanics, easy to learn rules, and quick playtime. It can be played by little kids, senior citizens, and everyone in between. It’s thinkier than it appears on the surface. Trying to establish your pathway through the maze to get to your treasures isn’t easy when you’ve got other players messing up your moves. It’s easily house-ruled or played with some included variants, meaning you can tailor it to your group’s needs. Bring down the difficulty if playing with kids, and ramp it up (and play a more cutthroat style) if you’re playing with adults or gamers.
Who to buy it for: Families with gamers of diverse ages, gamers who want a lighter yet challenging game, and people who need a gateway game to give them a push into the hobby.
Who not to buy it for: People who balk at anything resembling a kid’s game.