Happy Holidays! Are you stuck trying to figure out a good gift for a family member who has everything? Have you ever considered the gift of gaming? Games make amazing gifts and we are here to help you pick just the right one. We have taken six styles of games and chosen two of each we think make great gifts.
This game is one that was introduced to those of us who were at the November game day. There are five piles of cards with numbers and colors. The players must work as a team to clear all the condition cards to win. The number of players determines the amount of conditions. These conditions could include “All piles are green” or “ The green cards add up to half the total of the orange cards”. However, the player’s can not tell each other the cards that they have or discuss a specific plan. All they can do is allude to the fact that they can complete a task. (i.e. “If you can leave the third pile alone I can complete the third condition card.”) This adds a level of complexity that makes the game a challenge. The win condition is to complete the stack of condition cards. It was complex and engaging and left us wanting to play again and we had played twice. This absolutely has replay-ability and is fun for ages 10 and up.
There are now several Pandemic games out there from Cthulhu (where you are shutting down demonic portals) to Rising Tide (where you are trying to prevent flooding). The Legacy version is challenging, but a limited use game. However for games to give the casual or beginner board gamer the original is probably the best way to start. In the game, the players work as members of the CDC and they are working to stop world-wide epidemics by using their special talents. The game is won by curing all of the diseases before the entire world gets over run with plague. Unlike Cahoots, you can lay out and work on a plan in detail, but there is plenty of challenge in this game. This game is for players 8 and up.
Munchkin is a really funny, tongue-in-cheek kind of game that can get really cutthroat. There are several different versions of it, but I’m just going to talk strictly about Vanilla Munchkin (the original game). In this game, you’re an adventuring party exploring a dungeon without all the hassles of role-playing and making friends. It’s every man (or woman) for himself! You have to kick down doors, defeat monsters, collect treasures, and be the first to get to level 10. You can help others, or help the monsters. As I said, there are several different versions, but that’s the basic gist of all of the games. Ages vary based on the version, but they’re typically around 10 and up. Some versions can get a little racy, so use your better judgement.
Splendor has been a favorite for a few years now. It is a great game help beat the blahs during the mid-winter months. You play merchants trying to court favor over nobles. To do this you must purchase a certain amount of gems in a certain amount of colors. Some of these gems have point values and the nobles are worth 3 each if you can sway them. The first to 15 points wins. The wonderful thing about this game is how easy it is to learn. It is also beautifully designed and the gems are actually chips that you can stack. The tactileness of it is what drew us to it in the first place. It plays in about 30 minutes; so it is a good palate cleanser in between larger games or it is a good game while you are waiting for your kids to fall asleep. This is for ages 8 and up, but Lady Diceacorn’s son was 6 when he started playing.
Sushi Go is an adorable game that is small enough to toss in a purse or bag to take on the go! You are trying to put together the most appetizing (and high scoring) meal you can over the course of three rounds. The tricky part is you hand the cards to your left or your right every round, so the cards and your strategy has to change quickly. This game has definite replayability factor. Its portability is definitely a bonus. If a challenge is what you seek, try Sushi Go Party. That has interchangeable menus from the “My First Sushi Go” for beginners to a really tough version for experts. This game is 8 and up, but you know any kids you are shopping for better than the box.
Gloom is one of Meepline’s all time favorite games ever. It’s a fun storytelling game in which you choose a family, make them as miserable as possible, then kill them off. The more miserable they are, the more likely you are to win. Like in golf, negative points are the key. The really great thing about this game are the cards themselves. They’re all transparent plastic, so you can stack them on top of each other and the point amount showing is the one you get. There are several versions of the game, and Meepline owns and enjoys them all! This game is for 13 and up, due to the macabre nature of the game.
In Codenames, you split into 2 groups. Each groups has a clue giver, or spymaster, and one or several teammates. The two rival spymasters know the secret identities of 25 agents. Their teammates know the agents only by their Codenames. The teams compete to see who can make contact with all of their agents first. Spymasters give one-word clues that can point to multiple words on the board. Their teammates try to guess words of the right color while avoiding those that belong to the opposing team. And everyone wants to avoid the assassin. This is a game for 4+ players, but there is a version for 2 players called Codenames Duet. This game is ages 10 and up.
Improvisers would love this game where each person has turns as an HR director (who has a card that tells them the job the players are going for) and the other players have three cards with items or phrases that they have to work into their interview. Then the HR director chooses who to hire. Then the HR director changes. The game goes for one or two rounds (dependent on the amount of people playing) and the player with the most cards wins. This game has some cards that are not for the really young. It is great for an adult crowd though and it is a hit at parties. This game is for ages 16 and up.
There is a fox and he or she has stolen the pie. But can you and your chicken detectives solve the case before the fox escapes? This excellent family game is a beginners cooperative game where on a player’s turn they choose whether they will look for clues or reveal suspects. Once they have decided, they roll the dice to determine that they can accomplish their turn goal. If the dice all reveal the symbol of their goal, they are allowed to move toward a clue and look at it if they make it or reveal two suspects. The suspects are eliminated if they are wearing or holding something that the actual criminal is. If they do not roll matching symbols then the fox moves closer to the escape manhole and if they reach it the detective team loses. It is a great way to work on a child’s deductive reasoning skills. This game is for kids 5 and up. (But truth be told, this can be played as young as 3 years old with parents help.)
In this epic battle game players are kaiju who are battling for control of the city. You are trying to get to 20 victory points while attempting to hit the other kaiju and take them out. Three rolls of the dice tell the player what they can do on their turn. This game is fun and great for families who are a little competitive. This is for ages 8 and up.
Ever dream about the land under your bed, in your closet or out of your window while you sleep? Shanna Germain has, and created a great beginner game for Monte Cook Games. No Thank You Evil! Is a role-playing game for kids 4 and up that not only keeps their imaginations (each session runs about an hour and a half) and begins training them to be storytellers (this game’s version of the GM). Families who already have the base game should check out the supplements. There are story cards and even a book on how to be a storyteller aimed towards kids. This games special talent is it grows as the child does. There are basic rules for beginners, somewhat complicated rules for older kids and a fleshed out set of rules for adults. You can run a game for different skill sets and it still plays really smooth. They have stand up characters for all the pregens and a great character sheet and specialized dice in a box. If you want to see the future of the hobby; kids post pictures of their games on the Monte Cook Studios website. This game is for ages 5 and up.
D&D 5 E
Dungeons and Dragons is one of the oldest, and well-known, role-playing games. Created in the 70s by Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson, it’s set in a world of high fantasy (wizards, elves, dwarves, you get the gist). In 2014, Dungeons and Dragons Fifth Edition was released. It’s a similar, but different, set of rules. Some who have played the game for years say it’s simpler and cleaner, some say it’s dumber, but most agree it’s much better than the 4th edition. You still get to create a fantastic character (in every definition of the word fantastic), sit around a table with friends (or strangers), and roll some dice. The past couple of years, Wizards of the Coast have been rolling out a bunch of well-made adventures, in case you’re too intimidated to create your own story. Feeling a little more ambitious? The Dungeon Master’s Guide can give you some great information about world building, and there are a ton of resources available online, from DnD Beyond (the unofficially official D&D website), to the Wizards of the Coast website (where the creators sometimes roll out test materials under the heading Unearthed Arcana), to WotC workers being easily accessible on social media (Chris Perkins, one of the major editors of D&D, is extremely active on Twitter and Reddit). This game is recommended for 12+, but if your kid is reading and doing math, you can easily start them with a simpler storyline (definitely NOT Curse of Strahd).
For role players, there is also always the gift of dice. There are some great sets out there and if you have a friend or family member who plays D&D or Pathfinder, you can buy them special dice. There are sets that are sold that match Paizo’s various Pathfinder campaigns. (The Curse of the Crimson Throne ones are gorgeous.) You can head to Comicazi or your friendly local gaming stores and see them before you purchase. (Comicazi also has great pop culture dice bags.)
We hope we gave you ideas, and if you have any specific questions, please leave them in the comments and we are happy to answer them. Just call us your elven bards.
We hope your holiday season is filled with all the warmth and light possible and your new year is filled with much happy gaming and lots of laughter at the table. We hope you game at our table at one of our various ELS Game Days and we will be announcing the dates shortly. We have so much in store for you next year!
Until then, may all your hits be crits!