We are living in the Golden Age of tabletop games. Board and card game Christmas gifts are hot, and the number of new tabletop releases increases every year. Platforms such as Kickstarter and Indiegogo have also drastically boosted sales of the so-called analog games. This year, more games have been produced than in any year before and the biggest gaming convention in the world—Spiel in Essen, Germany—broke all records with over 174.000 visitors! The flip side of this board game Renaissance is that it’s easy to become overwhelmed by all the options. Xmas is coming so we have compiled a guide for you folks, with board games guaranteed to have elegant gameplay, engaging themes, and plenty of interesting decisions to make. Grab a cup of coffee and take out your list of Christmas gifts. These must have board games will get you through the cold winter months!
Pandemic Legacy, photo by Z-Man Games.
Pandemic Legacy: Season 1 (Rob Daviau, Matt Leacock)
In Pandemic Legacy, you are a team of disease-fighting specialists racing against the clock to treat disease hotspots around the world—while wondering what the future will hold. In this continuously evolving co-operative game, you play a campaign through 12-24 sessions, depending on how well you perform as a group together. Each player has a unique role with special abilities, such as the ability to discard cards, build structures, treat diseases, trade cards with other players, or find cures for diseases. Each month you have two chances to achieve that month’s objectives. If you succeed, you immediately move on to the next month. If you fail, well ehh… you have to re-do that month. During the campaign new rules and components will be introduced. And that’s what makes this game so special: sometimes you have to permanently alter components, such as by writing on cards, ripping up cards or placing stickers on them. During the game characters can even gain new skills or get completely lost! For many gamers this tabletop game already is an excuse to get together often—loving every minute of it. This is a must have Christmas gift for families and groups of friends. Get Pandemic Legacy here on Amazon.
Codenames, photo by @theboardgeek.
Codenames (Vlaada Chvátil)
Codenames is all about making clever associations between words. In this easy to learn game, two teams compete to see who can make the smartest clues. Spymasters give one-word clues that can point to multiple words on the table. Their teammates try to guess words of the right color while avoiding those that belong to the opposing team. It always creates a lot of laughter when you hear what associations other players were trying to come up with throughout the game. Codenames is guaranteed to be a fun party game, that almost everyone enjoys a lot. And it plays well with any number of players. Get Codenames here on Amazon. Or get the language independence sequel with pictures here.
Isle of Sky, photo by @geekybeard.
Isle of Skye (Andreas Pelikan, Alexander Pfister)
In Isle of Skye, you build a kingdom and adhere to the various scoring goals in play (four of the sixteen scoring options). The blended mechanisms from Carcassonne (tile placement), Castles of Mad King Ludwig (auctioning and bidding for tiles), and Kingdom Builder (variable scoring goals) makes each game feel unique and with plenty of interesting decisions to make. Only those who can manage their money well will build the best kingdom. If you are looking for a good family game like Carcassonne but with more thinking required, this is definitely a great Christmas gift. Get Isle of Skye here on Amazon.
Great Western Trail, photo by @boardgamia.
Great Western Trail (Alexander Pfister)
If your family loves deck-building games like Dominion, Great Western Trail is definitely something for under your Christmas tree. In Great Western Trail, you start with a handful of cows, in different colors and values. Your goal is to cleverly herd and navigate your cattle from Texas to Kansas City. Each time you arrive in Kansas City, you want to have your most valuable cattle in tow. This will earn you lots of money and victory points. To do this, you can make use of the various buildings along the trail, and benefit from the different useful actions. As the game progresses, you will hire cowboys to improve your herd and add more and more buildings to your path, to increase your opportunities to win the Great Western Trail. This excellent western-themed game has a lot of variability and many strategies to explore. Certainly a must for heavy Euro lovers! Get The Great Western Trail here on Amazon.
Imhotep, photo by @woodenmeeple.
Imhotep (Phil Walker-Harding)
In Imhotep, players are builders in Egypt trying to get their colored stones into one of the five different areas to create five monuments, each of them scoring differently. Scoring can be based on your position, your chain of cubes, area majority, or by making sure your cubes belong to the last five cubes placed. On your turn, you can either place a cube on a boat, sail a boat to one of the five regions, get more cubes, or play an action card. The tricky part comes into play when you have to choose between getting more cubes on the boats while making sure they go to the right region, or making sure the cubes of you opponents go to the areas they don’t want. While this sounds easy, only those with the best timing and management skills of their stones will become Egypt’s best builder! This Egyptian-themed Spiel des Jahres Nominee is deceptively simple at heart, but features many interesting decisions to help you gaming through the cold winter months! Get Imhotep here on Amazon.
7 Wonders Duel, photo by @theboardgeek.
7 Wonders Duel (Antoine Bauza, Bruno Cathala)
This game is an excellent 2-player adaption of its bigger brother 7 Wonders (up to 7 players), with the same feeling and decent amount of competition. In this card game, you are leading a civilization and constructing buildings and wonders to build the greatest city of the ancient Mediterranean world. In order to achieve this, players acquire cards that provide resources or advance their military or scientific development. The tension and drama comes into play when players draft cards from a pyramid-style display of face-down and face-up cards arranged at the start of a round. A player can take a card only if it’s not covered by any others, so timing is important—as you have to balance what you take based on what may become available for your opponent—resulting in challenging decisions. As in the original game, each card that you acquire can be built, discarded for coins, or used to construct a wonder. Each player starts with four wonder cards, and when you manage to construct a wonder you gain a special ability. The variable card setup, different wonders, and science goals provide enough replay value to make it one of the best card-drafting games on the market this Christmas. Get 7 Wonders Duel here on Amazon.
Analog Games Tee, photo by @zax_yoma.
Analog Games Tee
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