12 Board Games for Christmas

by Bret

I need to apologize to all those who make a point read my game reviews (both of you) for my prolonged absence. I’ve been wanting to do a poll but am having technical difficulties and got lazy because of those difficulties. So to make it up, I’m providing a 12 Days of Christmas (all in one day! How’s that for thrifty?) Board Game Recommendations for all your holiday shopping needs!

By the way, although these descriptions are short and sweet, if you want to know more, I’d be more than happy to answer further questions. I may review some of these in full next year too.

Party Games:

Wits and Wagers

pic521431_t Winner of numerous awards and for good reason. It’s the trivia game for everyone regardless of your knowledge. The key comes in who’s answer you’ll bet on, how much and at what odds. Up to 8 individuals or (just as fun) 8 teams.

Say Anything

pic312999_tThis is the so very much better version of Apples to Apples. The choices and some of the scoring is still up to the current player but instead of random words on cards you try to fit to the question, you get to write your own word or phrase. Not only does this make it more personal and give you more persuasive power, but it makes the game ten times funnier! You also score for betting on the answer you think will be picked. This is at the top of my wishlist for party games. (edit: Both this & Wits and Wagers are available at a number of big retail stores like Borders and Target)

Liar’s Dice

pic327728_t Made (somewhat) famous on Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest this can often be found at your local thrift store (as were my two copies). However, this can also be built from scratch rather easily. All you need are a bunch of 6 sided dice (D6s) and cups and, if you want, download the instructions and print off the board, but you don’t even really need that. Any number of people can play if you have the cups and dice. Basically a push-your-luck game of rolling the dice and raising or challenging the last raiser’s prediction of how many of what number is rolled (“I think there are six 4s”) with 1s being wild. When you’re wrong you lose the number of dice you were off by. Last man standing wins. Exciting, tense, yet easy-to-learn fun!

Games for/with children (but fun for adults too!)

Rattlesnake

pic487855_t(2-4 players) Roll the colored snakes die and place one of your rattlesnake eggs (each a powerful magnet) on the corresponding snake on the board and hope it doesn’t clash with another egg or knock one off the board or else you have to pick those ones up. First to run out of eggs wins! Learning and playing takes at most, 10 minutes. Do NOT underestimate the power of those magnets! Great fun.

Coloretto

pic149765_t(3-5 players) Collect matching colored chameleons in sets of suits and do all you can to not let your opponents do the same. Scoring and card drawing is a little tricky to pick up at first but no problem after your first game or two. Highest score after all the rounds wins.

Sorry! Sliders

pic358058_t(1-4 players) The only mass market game (i.e. found in a regular retail store like Wal-Mart) really popular with board game geeks, this is kind of a finger shuffle board. Score accurately to get all your Sorry! pieces home before any of your opponents to win. The board can be rearranged into a number of different formats to give variety and challenge. I stink at this game but still have fun with it, especially with kids.

Cloud 9

pic70441_t(3-6 players) Another push-your-luck game. Determine whether you should stay in the balloon by matching colored cards in your hand with the color rolled on the die. If the current player has what’s needed, the balloon rises and everyone who stayed in has the chance to score more points but if it falls you score nothing. If you get out anywhere, you score the points marked on the board where you got off.  Got this for my sister’s family and they love it all the way from the parents to the 4 year old. One funny side note is their oldest (9 year old) refuses to play anymore because of he doesn’t want to ruin his perceived undefeated stretch since I left!:)

For adults and older kids

No Thanks!

pic117996_t(3-5 players) Take a card numbered 3 to 35 or pass it to the next player using one of your plastic tokens. Whoever takes the card gets the points on the card (you want the lowest score) and all the pass tokens on it as well. Consecutive cards taken only score the lowest in the run. This may sound dry but I find this game absolutely hilarious. The guesswork and probability, as well as the snide looks and remarks from opponents builds the tension for each card. Play as many rounds as desired as they only take maybe 15 minutes and the box is so small, you can take this game anywhere. Play it in the airport with perfect strangers to bring some civility and fun to the tense holiday delays and cold!

Wasabi!

pic273575_t(2-4 players) An elegant game with cool playing pieces! The goal is making sushi rolls by placing ingredients on a grid (thus, your ingredients will complement and/or conflict with your opponents’) Scoring ranges depending on order and complexity of the recipes you complete. Great date game. Girls love sushi!

Witch’s Brew

pic365958_t(3-5 players) Interesting mechanism in this one. Each round you choose 5 of 7 cards to play with. Collect ingredients to make spells ranging in cost and victory points. The tricky part comes in knowing when to play a card and how to play it since only the last and penultimate player to play score (revealing in clockwise order) with the former gaining the most in the transaction and the latter only getting part. Still trying to figure this one out but I like it a lot and is also on my wishlist.

Lost Cities (The Card Game)

pic194176_t Possibly my favorite 2 player game and easily my most played. This is my gateway game for new players (you might enjoy my latest BGG entry about it). 5 suits of cards numbered 2-10 (as well as 3 multipliers for each suit)  are laid down in suit in ascending order a card at a time. Scoring is a little tricky at first as you score only the suits you started and only get positive points if your total for each is over 20, otherwise you get them negative! Whosoever overall score is highest wins. Each round is at the very most 20 minutes. A lot of subtleties play into each round as you try to deprive your opponent of cards they need by not discarding them where they can get it along with playing your own side.  Great lunch break game.

Ticket to Ride: Märklin Edition

pic162026_t (2-5 players) I’ve played the original Ticket to Ride which is great but have been told by many people that this is the best edition (there are many) as it has the best/most interesting variations. Collect colored train cards to lay down tracks between cities and score points for each connection as well as additional points for completing any tickets (cards drawn at the beginning and throughout the game) you have. Another good gateway game and you may learn some geography to boot!

Meatier Games

I couldn’t resist. Here are 12 more games that are a good deal more advanced in complexity and length that I highly recommend for the geekier and those who want a greater challenge:

Puerto Rico: #1 on BGG for 5 years (and still a close #2) economy game of building and shipping goods

Power Grid: Auction for power plants, buy resources to power them and connect your grid across the map

Pandemic: Best and most popular cooperative game. Work to eliminate 5 diseases before they overrun the world!

Nexus Ops: Control an army of bugs and men to conquer your rivals. Pieces glow in black light!

Caylus: Place your workers to gather goods to construct buildings and collect money to help the king build his castle

Stone Age: Place your workers to collect goods to build huts  and bonus cards worth VP. Very pretty game!

Blue Moon City: Move your piece and use cards to place offerings to re-build the city of Blue Moon. High Fantasy.

Tikal: Move your workers through the jungle to excavate temples. Collect treasure and earn VP. Bit of a brain burner!

Battlestar Galactica: “You’re a cylon!” “No I’m not!” Try to find who’s who and save or destroy humanity on the way.

Hollywood Blockbuster: Auction for the best directors, actors, effects, etc. and try to build award winning films.

(last 2 I don’t care for but most other geeks love these. The #1 game on BGG and the Game of the Year)

Agricola: Build your family, cottage and your farm to make the most balanced and highest scoring farm.

Dominion: Build a deck of cards to claim the most power in your realm and earn the most land tracts.

Japan and snow 135Keep that postman busy, have a wonderful Christmas and a joyous New Year!!

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14 thoughts on “12 Board Games for Christmas

  1. Hi There,

    I like the article there are some great games in the list.

    I wanted to add one great game I found today.

    Its called ‘Whatzit? and was originally a successful Board game in the late 80’s and early 90’s, and has just been given a whole new life as a game for iPhone and iPod touch.

    You can play against the clock and see if you can achieve the fastest time in the world. This highly-addictive assortment contains 15 levels of 180 mind-boggling puzzles.

    It was called Dingbats in the UK and on the app store it is called Dingbats (Whatzit?)

    It is No 5 in the UK app store for word games category.

    you can get it here:

    iTunes Link: http://itunes.apple.com/gb/app/id334116564

    and here: http://www.whatzit.com

    beware it is really adictive!

    sincerely

    george

  2. My wife and I are huge fans of Liar’s Dice. We have also recently fallen in love with Small World. How can you not love a game that can give you Flying Dwarves or Commando Amazons?

  3. Lost Cities is the only one of your top 12 that we own, but we’ve played a LOT of games of it. My wife usually wins because I always try to start too many expeditions.

    We have a lot of the Euro games (Puerto Rico is my favorite) but haven’t been playing them much lately. We’ve been trying to set up a time to learn Race for the Galaxy all year, but haven’t quite managed yet. Maybe over the holidays?

    Absolute least favorite strategy game I’ve played this year: Twilight Imperium. Holy crap, how long does a complete game take?

    Based on your recommendation, though, I’m putting Say Anything on my own wishlist. Apples to Apples is really popular with the extended family, but it’s just so pointless to me. Making up your own answers, though, that I like. (Balderdash, anyone?)

  4. Bret!

    Wow, our two games are at the top of this list!!! 🙂 That makes me very happy. I’m glad you like them. It’s nice to know that our hard work is being appreciated.

    Wits & Wagers has won over 20 awards. I think Say Anything is at 17 or 18. Both games are doing well beyond our expectations.

    Cheers!
    Dominic
    Designer of Wits & Wagers
    Co-designer of Say Anything

  5. Great post and excellent timing! This post will really be helpful in looking for potential Christmas presents.

    Years ago, my wife and I received a version of Liar’s Dice as a gift. It’s called “Perudo.” It’s our go-to game for social occasions. It’s a blast.

  6. Wow, didn’t realize how popular Liar’s Dice already is. That’s great! Now you’re ready for a few others>:)

    FHL,
    This isn’t really a “top 12” list. Just a list of recommendations for holiday shoppers that I hope will be useful and maybe generate some buzz and conversation. I’m very good about “top” lists as I always have to caveat with “well that depends on…”

    Dominic,

    Thank YOU for visiting my humble post! Those are certainly far and away my favorite party games. Very nice to make your acquaintance, keep up the stellar work and let me know if there anything I can somehow do to help in your endeavors;)

  7. Bret,

    Luke from North Star Games here. Just following up Dominic’s post to say thanks for including our games in your list.

    Hey, shoot me an email: luke at northstargames dot com.

    Best,
    Luke
    Public Relations Director
    North Star Games

  8. Good to have a simple list of games and description of them. Its always too manic in the shops at this time of year to be able to look at the games and read the boxes!
    Thanks

  9. a little update: we played Race for the Galaxy 3 times this weekend. If you like Puerto Rico, and want a little different challenge, this is a good one. I guess it’s more like San Juan in that it’s completely card-based.

    Lots of fun – we played it twice with 3 players, once with two.

    Our only complaint? It’s over too quickly! =) (Easily taken care of with a slight rules modification)

  10. Good stuff, FHL! Perhaps I should give Race for the Galaxy another shot one of these days:)

    Anthony,

    Glad I could help. Good luck and let me know how any of them go over when you play them. I always love to hear how it goes. Thanks!

  11. I’ve just published a Christmas boardgame on RatherFun.com which is especially for Christmas and very cheap! Do have a look and if you have any questions you can email me with the email address RatherFun supply on my author pages. The reason it’s so cheap is that you can download it and print it yourself… perhaps this is the future of boardgames in the long-run as printers get better.

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