It’s that time of the year again. Almost December. The time of Christmas. The time of Sinterklaas here in the Netherlands. The time of gift giving. The time of wonder. The time of wondering what to give. Here’s your shopping list.
I could point you to my top 100, all great games, but that list is not finished yet, and that would be too easy. So, I tried to make a list that has a game for everyone on it. Games for young and old. Divided into four categories. Come and take a look at the As a Board Gamer Christmas Shopping List.
A game for your grandparents.
They like to play games, so that’s already taken care of, but they have never heard of modern board games. Every time you go there or if they visit your place they only want to play chess, checkers or those classic card games. Nothing wrong with that of course, that can also be a lot of fun, but now you want to take them into the world of modern designer board games.
This is probably an obvious choice. It’s a trick-taking game with a twist. You have to collect diamonds in front of your vault, your player screen, and try to get them inside your vault, behind it. The diamonds in your vault are worth more than those in front of it. Every suit of cards has a special ability that you might be able to trigger when you win a trick, but also when you do not win a trick. Familiar mechanisms, they can easily learn it, but it brings something new. And, most importantly, it’s loads of fun.
Maybe your grandmother loves puzzles? It’s very stereotypical, I know, but maybe this is the case and you’d love to play board games with her. Then Karuba would be a good choice, I think. It has a very simple rule set and you are basically explorers who try get from the beach of an unknown area to hidden temples in the jungle.
OK, that’s a fun theme, what about the puzzly bits? Well, you have to create your path to the temple by placing tiles. Tiles show a straight road, roads that turn or crossroads. One player tells you which numbered tile to take and then everybody places it on their board. So, you use the same pieces, but you are working on your own puzzle. On some tiles you find treasures and the first player who reaches a temple with their corresponding explorer gets more points than the player who gets there after. This is the fun thing, you move you explorers by discarding the tiles you have drawn. Discard a straight path tile, you can move one explorer two tiles. Discard a crossroad, you can move four tiles. It’s a race, it’s a puzzle, it’s addicting, easy, quick and very fun.
Linko! or Abluxxen!, as the original game is called, is a card game where you try to get rid of all your numbered cards by playing sets of cards with the same number. In the end cards in your hand are negative points and cards in front of you positive. That’s an easy concept, the twist is that when other players play the same amount of cards as you have on top of your discard pile, say four fives, but with a higher number, four sixes, they can make you draw new cards, discard these four fives. They can take these four fives themselves, because then they have a bigger set of fives. Bigger sets are harder to get, so it’s also harder to mess with people who have these big sets in front of them.
This is just a fantastic little card game that offers quite some strategy. It looks like a very familiar card game concept, but it has that extra freshness.
A game for the couple next-door.
You have to buy a gift for a couple, or one half of a couple. They don’t go to gamenight or conventions. They do like to play games, they come over sometimes, but mostly play games with only the two of them. What to buy?
Tides of Madness or Tides of Time
Tides of Times is a really good game for those two-player gamers. One, it has beautiful artwork. Two, it has a simple rule set. Three, it is engaging and fun. It is a pure drafting game. What does that mean? It means that you have a hand of cards. Every card has a symbol and a scoring condition. For instance, Gods Baths has a green symbol and has a scoring condition that says you get three points per red symbol in front of you. Every turn in this game you play a card in front of you and pass the rest of your cards on to the other player. That’s drafting. You do that until there are no more cards to pass on. Then you count your points by looking at all your scoring conditions. The fun thing is that you play three rounds and at the end of every round you may keep one card in front of you and take another out of the game. This makes the game very strategic.
Tides of Madness is basically the same game with one twist. That twist is madness. The game has a Cthulhu theme and some cards in the game give you madness. Too much madness and you lose the game.
7 Wonders Duel
Some call this a civilization building game. I do not. It has that theme, but it goes to far to call it a civ game. It is very fun though. What you do is collect resources, depicted on cards, and with these resources you can build other cards or build one of the wonders of the world. Cards that give you points, cards that give you military power and cards that give you knowledge. You can win immediately if during the game you reach a certain amount of knowledge or military power. However, mostly the game ends after three rounds and you add up al your points.
The way you choose your cards is one of the fun things about 7 Wonders Duel. Turn after turn you choose a card from a card pyramid (no, don’t get your hopes up, there’s no 3D structure) in the middle of the table. In the first row you’ll find all open cards, the second row are all face-down and these are only turned face-up when no other cards from the bottom row is touching them. Really interesting and it makes this game incredibly fun.
A game for aunt Susan and uncle John and your two nephews.
They enjoy to spend loads of time together and what is more fun than game night with uncle, auntie and the kids. Some games for the family, young and old.
It’s like Candy Crush the board game. So, throw away your mobile phones or put them in a drawer for an hour, because this game is fun. You try to create potions. These potions give you points and abilities. A potion is made of marbles in this game, different colored marbles. You collect these marbles by removing one of them from one of the slides. The row of marbles above it then slides down and hits another marble. If two marbles with the same colour hit each other, then you may keep them. It’s a simple idea, like Candy Crush, but it’s such a fun game for the whole family.
Sushi Go Party!
I’ve talked about Sushi Go a lot. Again, it’s a drafting game, like Tides of Time above, but here you collect types of sushi. Every type scores in a different way. Sometimes you must have the most of a certain type, sometimes you have to collect three of them or otherwise you won’t get any points. That’s it. Look at the cards in your hand, pick one and pass the rest on to the next player. Simple concept, but very fun to play.
That’s Sushi Go. Sushi Go Party is Sushi Go on steroids. Loads of different cards and you can play with a different set every game.
Everybody likes to create their own home. From four chairs covered in sheets that contained your bed and living room when your were young, to deciding which room is going to have what purpose when you buy a house when you’re older. In Dream Home you do that. On a board in the middle of the table you find all kind of room cards, like a bathroom, a living room or a kids room, and you might find other types of cards, like roof cards or accessories. You choose one column, containing one or two cards, and you place your room card on your player board, in your dream home. This is a very good-looking game, that is equally fun.
A game for a hardcore board gamer.
Buying a game for a hardcore board gamer is maybe the hardest thing to do. He or she has it all, knows about all games that are out there, so they might be easily disappointed or you just bought something they already own. I don’t know if they might have played or bought the ones below, but I like them a lot.
Great Western Trail
This is a great game about cowboys. Not the dueling kind, but the getting cows from one place to the other kind. Boring? No, no, not boring at all. You move you cowboy and his cows along the trail, going from one of your buildings to the other, executing all kinds of actions, until you reach Kansas City. That’s where you sell your cows. The better the cows the farther away you can ship them.
This might be the game that entered the gaming world with the biggest splash lately. It’s Pandemic LEGACY. It’s based on pandemic, which is also a fun cooperative game, but in the LEGACY variant every game will be different. You start doing the same stuff, you try to control and cure diseases all around the world. It’s cooperative, so you all succeed or all loose after a game. The fun thing is, and this is really fun, that during a game or after a game, you may have to open boxes or add stickers to the rule book. Adding new rules, new gameplay elements and new parts of the story to the game. You can play this game twelve to twenty-four times, then the story has been told. It’s seems like it’s not a lot, but I guarantee you, these games are going to be memorable.
Valley of the Kings
I add this game to this list, because it is a gamer’s game in a very small package. So, you can easily fit this present in a shoe or a stocking, which is great. Valley of the Kings is a deck building game. This is a genre of games where you all start with the same deck of cards, you draw from this deck and execute the actions on the cards, but during the game you will buy more cards, other kind of cards and you build your own deck.
In Valley of the Kings you build your deck of cards, but the goal of the game is to take as much treasure with you to the afterlife and that’s why you have to, as well as adding cards to your deck, remove cards from your deck and place them into your tomb at one point in the game. When to to do that is the question. A lovely little game, that has three different variants in stores now. I would stick to the first one.