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Board Game Gift Guide 2009


Welcome to BoardGameGeek, a worldwide community of folks who love board games! Together we've played pretty much every game ever made, and we've worked together to produce a list of great gift ideas for you this holiday shopping season.

A board game is one of the best presents you can give, because it brings friends and family together and can provide more hours of fun than any book, DVD, or pair of socks you can find. There's a game on this page that's right for anyone on your list! Games in each category are arranged from the simplest and least complex games, to the more strategic games.

(Note to BGG regulars: Before making any changes to this document, please read this.)

Click here to see the latest edition of this Gift Guide (2010).


All-Time Favorites

These games have become modern classics by standing the test of time.

Blokus
(All-Time Favorite)




Blokus might have the simplest rules of any game on the market. Put your pieces on the board, touching your other pieces, but only on the corners. Try to get all your pieces on that board. That's it! But you will forever be experimenting with new tricks and strategies to expand your territory while hemming in your opponents'. If Blokus is a hit with your recipients, they may also like the two-player edition, Blokus Duo, or the new Blokus Trigon with triangular instead of square pieces.

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Carcassonne
(All-Time Favorite)




Ever heard of a board game with no board? In Carcassonne, you and your fellow players actually build the board yourselves as you play the game, one high-quality cardboard tile at a time. By the time it's over, you'll have built such a pretty and unique arrangement of cities, roads, monasteries, and fields that you may find yourself a little sad to have to take it all apart to put away. Carcassonne is quite easy to learn if someone in the group has played it before, but it is just a little bit harder to learn the first time out than the typical game in this guide.

  • Players: 2 to 5 (especially good with: 2 to 4)
  • Time: 60 minutes
  • Ages: 8 and up
  • Availability: Toys R Us, Barnes & Noble, Chapters/Indigo, local game stores, online
  • Price: $16-$25
  • Review by Tom Vasel

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Settlers of Catan
(All-Time Favorite)




Settlers of Catan is one of the most popular board games in the world. Each player takes the role of a hardy settler on the uninhabited island of Catan. The island you settle yields five types of raw materials used to build roads, settlements, cities and armies. However, often the resources you've got aren't the resources you need, which means that you will have to trade with the other players. The player whose settlers are the most successful in colonizing the island wins the game.

  • Players: 3 to 4 (up to 6 with the expansion set, sold separately)
  • Time: 90 minutes
  • Ages: 10 and up
  • Availability: Chapters/Indigo, Toys R Us, local game stores, online
  • Price: $25-$40
  • Review by Elijah Lau and Video Review by Tim Kerby

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Ticket to Ride
(All-Time Favorite)




Ticket to Ride is a very popular game that has sold over 1 million copies worldwide. The game board is a map of the United States and Canada where the players compete to build train routes between the major cities to score points. It's easy to learn, fast to play, works great for any number of players up to 5, and is almost always a big hit with people who are new (or old) to the board gaming hobby.


Games for All Ages

These games are accessible to a wide range of gamers because of simple rules and creative gameplay.

Finca
(For all ages)




The game board of Finca shows the Mediterranean island of Mallorca. Players try to crop and deliver the fruits of Mallorca (such as oranges, lemons, almonds, grapes etc.) by means of moving workers on a traditional windmill. Object of the game is to distribute your crop as effectively as possible in order to deliver faster than your opponents.

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FITS
(For all ages)



 

FITS (Fill In The Spaces) is essentially a multi-player Tetris. Each player has an inclined board on which they place different polyominoes, with three, four, or five squares. Cards are drawn from a pile to tell the players which piece to take. The pieces may be rotated and reversed before they slide down the inclined area to dock to other gaming pieces, but unlike Tetris cannot be slid horizontally once dropped. Scoring is based on quantity and configuration of squares left uncovered. Unlike original Tetris there is no time pressure but like Tetris every player is engaged with his own board.

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Incan Gold
(For all ages)




Enjoy exploring? Enjoy pressing your luck? Incan Gold is a quick, fun and tense game in which you and other adventurers explore an old Incan temple in search of gold and treasure. In each of the five rounds, you secretly choose if you want to continue exploring the temple in search of more treasure or retreat to the safety of your camp with your share of the treasure that has been discovered so far. Easy to learn, and fun for young and old!

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Sorry! Sliders
(For all ages)




This is not the Sorry you learned as a kid! This is a wonderful tabletop dexterity game for families. Even children as young as 2 or 3 can play. Grab your roller pawn and take aim - then skillfully slide it down your track onto the target board! A good slide could score big points, but watch out! An opponent's pawn may slam your pawn onto a Sorry! space - and out of the game! Either way, it's easy to learn, and great fun for both children and adults!

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Tobago
(For all ages)




Tobago is an adventure game, in which the players possess different parts of treasure maps. During the game more and more information about the locations of the treasures is revealed, and the possible locations are narrowed down. When a player identifies the location of one of the treasures she tries to reach it as fast as possible to secure the findings. The game features a deduction element as well as a modular game board.

  • Players: 2-4
  • Time: 60 minutes
  • Ages: 10 and up (BGG suggests 8 and up)
  • Availability: online
  • Price: $35-$55
  • Review by Doug Adams

Games for Teenagers and Adults

If you're looking for a game for adults that's a little more challenging than some of the choices above, then these are the games for you. Best suited for teenagers and adults, these games offer more of a challenge, but a more rewarding experience for anyone prepared to take them on!

Battlestar Galactica
(For teens & adults)




Battlestar Galactica: The Board Game is an exciting game of mistrust, intrigue, and the struggle for survival. Based on the epic and widely-acclaimed new Sci-Fi Channel series, Battlestar Galactica: The Board Game puts players in the role of one of ten of their favorite characters from the show. Each playable character has their own abilities and weaknesses, and must all work together in order for humanity to have any hope of survival. However, one or more players in every game secretly side with the Cylons. Players must attempt to expose the traitor while fuel shortages, food contaminations, and political unrest threatens to tear the fleet apart.

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Dominion
(For teens and adults)




One of the most innovative and award winning games to emerge from the last couple of years! In Dominion, each player starts with an identical, very small deck of cards. In the center of the table is a selection of other cards the players can "buy" as they can afford them. Through their selection of cards to buy, and how they play their hands as they draw them, the players construct their deck on the fly, striving for the most efficient path to the precious victory points by game end.

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Pandemic
(For teens & adults)




Four diseases have broken out in the world and it is up to a team of specialists in various fields to find cures before mankind is wiped out. In this recent and very popular cooperative game, you must work together with other players, using your individual strengths and abilities, to plan strategies that will treat existing diseases, as well as find a cure for them before they overwhelm the world. Will you be a Scientist that specializes in curing diseases, an Operations Specialist that specializes in building research stations, a Medic, Researcher, or Dispatcher? The game will be vastly different every time, depending on which role you play, and where the diseases appear. But the diseases are breaking out fast and time is running out: you must work as a team to stem the tide of infection in diseased areas while developing cures at the same time. If disease spreads uncontrolled, the players lose, but if you find the cures on time, you win. Pandemic is your prescription for a great gaming experience like you've never had before!

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Small World
(For teens & adults)




In Small World, players vie for conquest and control of a world that is simply too small to accommodate them all. Small World is inhabited by a zany cast of characters such as dwarves, wizards, amazons, giants, orcs and even humans; who use their troops to occupy territory and conquer adjacent lands in order to push the other races off the face of the earth. Picking the right combination from the 14 different fantasy races and 20 unique special powers, players rush to expand their empires - often at the expense of weaker neighbors. Yet they must also know when to push their own over-extended civilization into decline and ride a new one to victory!

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Stone Age
(For teens & adults)




Players struggle to survive the Stone Age by working as hunters, collectors, farmers, and tool makers. As you gather resources, and raise animals, you work to build the tools needed to build your civilization. Be careful though. At the end of each round players must have enough food available to feed their populations, or face losing resources or points.


Family Games for Older Children

Family games should be fun for both kids and parents. These games provide a little more challenge than the games for Younger Children (see below).

Downfall of Pompeii
(For older children)




The year is 79 A.D. Pompeii, sitting at the foot of Vesuvius, is at the high point in its development. People come to the city from far and wide to try and make their luck in the city. So far nobody has dreamed of the danger that will bury all of their dreams under mountains of ash not ten years later. Who will survive the eruption of Vesuvius unscathed?

  • Players: 2-4
  • Time: 45 minutes
  • Ages: 10 and up (BGG suggests 8 and up)
  • Availability: local game stores, online
  • Price: $35-$45
  • Review by Peter Moreau

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Heroscape
(For older children)




We wish games were this cool when we were young. Players build impressive tabletop scenes with Heroscape's stackable terrain ... and then fight it out! The miniature figures span many genres, such as dragons, dinosaurs, Men in Black, Samurai and practically everyone battle for control of Valhalla.

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Hey! That's My Fish!
(For older children)




A cute but strategic game in which each player tries to have his or her penguins eat the most fish. It is easily adaptable for children as young as four but can be fun for people of any age -- even adults (really!). Who can resist penguins hopping across ice floes?

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Pitchcar
(For older children)




PitchCar is a dexterity game where large, wooden, puzzle-like pieces are used to construct a race track that looks very similar to a slot car track when finished. But instead of using electrons, players use finger-flicks to send little round pucks around the track. Who can resist a racing game like this? Expansions are also available.

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Zooloretto
(For older children)




Zooloretto won multiple awards for best family game of the year in 2007, and it is easy to see why. Each player uses small, large, wild and exotic animals and their young to try to attract as many visitors as possible to their zoo. But be careful - the zoo must be carefully planned. Before you know it, you have too many animals and no more room for them. The simple rules and appealing theme makes this game a winner with gamers of all ages!


Family Games for Younger Children

Family games should be fun for both kids and parents. These games are accessible to the youngsters, but still provide challenge enough to keep the parents interested too! You may also wish to check the Games by player age wiki page.

Animal Upon Animal
(For younger children)




Animal Upon Animal is a fun stacking game that can be played by children as young as 4 (the game has some small wooden parts and it requires some fine motor skills which might be hard for younger children) as well as adults. The players construct animal towers using cute wooden animals thus getting rid of all their animals. A die determines if you can attempt to stack 1-2 of your animals; pass one of your animals to another player; or have to let another players choose which animal to stack. If you knock over the pile, you have to take 1-2 animals back into your hand and keep playing. First one to use all of their animals wins!

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Chicken Cha Cha Cha
(For younger children)




Chicken Cha Cha Cha is one of the most acclaimed children's game in the last decade. As it is a memory came at its core it can well be played by the youngest children (3-years and up) of the family and still put them on a fairly level playing-field with adults. The game comes with sturdy wooden chickens and beautifully illustrated cards. Chicken Cha Cha Cha combines a basic memory game with a race game; the players race each other to obtain the feathers of rival chickens, and the first player to obtain every player’s feather wins.

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Gulo Gulo
(For younger children)




A fun game of moving your little wolverine (Gulo) forward and pulling eggs out of a nest without disturbing the "egg alarm", while trying to rescue the cute baby Gulo that is being held hostage by the mother vulture. The game has wonderful crafted components of good quality. Younger kids with their small fingers are often better than adults at pulling out the eggs, thus adults can play at full throttle (and still lose). While the recommended age is five, Gulo Gulo can well be played by children as young as three with great success.

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Kids of Carcassonne
(For younger children)




On 14 July, the national holiday in France, the sheep, chickens and cows are set free in the town of Carcassonne. The children have great fun to catch the animals before dusk. Unlike many other children's games there's no memory, concentration or dexterity involved, but rather it is a successfully simplified version of the classic Carcassonne game. The players in turn draw and place a landscape tile that shows things like children on the roads. Whenever a road is finished, every player places one of his meeples on each appropriate picture. The first player who manages to place all of his meeples wins the game.

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Giro Galoppo
(For younger children)




Giro Galoppo is a fun and frantic horse racing game driven by cards. First, players take turns placing obstacles (jumps). All players receive an identical set of card with values 1-6. Each turn the players simultaneously select one of their cards and show it. The player with the lowest value (and for ties, farther back), moves first. If your horse and rider land on another player's figure, you displace them backward. If your figure's movement would land you on an obstacle, you lose your turn. First & farthest across the finish line wins. As the game requires some hand management and forward thinking, while playable from 6 years old, it excels when played by children between 8-12 years of age.


Party Games

Party games are fun, light games designed to be played by a festive, boisterous group.

Apples to Apples
(Party game)




Apples to Apples consists of two decks of cards: Things and Descriptions. Each turn, the current referee selects a Description and players try to pick, from the cards in their hands, the Things that best match that Description. The referee then chooses the Thing that appeals most and awards the card to the player who played it. The unusual combinations of Things and Descriptions are humorous to the extreme, and will quickly have the entire room in an uproar. The first player to earn the specified number of cards wins. For younger children, there's Apples to Apples Kids.

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Dixit
(Party game)




A party game where people pick phrases to describe illustrated cards, and try to guess the cards of other players.

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Say Anything
(Party game)




Say Anything is a light-hearted and award-winning game about what you and your friends think. It gives you the chance to settle questions that have been hotly debated for centuries. For instance, "What is the most overrated band of all time?" or "Which celebrity would be the most fun to hang out with for a day?" So dig deep into your heart or just come up with something witty - this is your chance to Say Anything!

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Time's Up!
(Party game)




Time's Up! is a party game for teams of two or more players (best with teams of two). The same set of famous names is used for each of three rounds. In each round, one member of a team tries to get his teammates to guess as many names as possible in 30 seconds. One of the most popular party games! Other available editions include: Time's Up! Title Recall! and Time's Up! Deluxe

  • Players: 4 to 18
  • Time: 90 minutes
  • Ages: 12 and up
  • Availability: local game stores, online
  • Price: $18
  • Review by Tom Vasel

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Wits & Wagers
(Party game)




Take everything you know about trivia games and throw it out. Wits and Wagers is a trivia game that you can win without ever knowing a single correct answer! In this game, every team gets to submit a guess for every question, then use their poker chips (included) to place bets on the answers they think are closest. Rely on your own knowledge, or just bet on which of your friends you think knows the most -- but wait, are they bluffing? Bring out the excitement of a Vegas-style casino in your own home, and don't leave anyone feeling left out of the fun.




Wits & Wagers Family is the family version of this award winning party game.


Two Player Games

Great for couples. Note that, while the games in this section are designed especially for two players, many other games in this guide are good choices for two. Check the "Players" information under each game entry.

Hive
(For two players)




Looking for a quick strategic game? You've come to the right place with Hive! In this highly addictive game, the board takes shape as you and your opponent lay down your pieces. Each player controls an identical army of bugs, each with its own unique movement. Can you place and move your pieces so that you surround your opponent's queen bee before he surrounds yours?

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Ingenious (travel edition)
(For two players)




Winner of the 2006 BoardGameGeek Golden Geek award for Family Game of the Year as well as multiple other board game awards, Ingenious is a fun, colorful tile-laying game. Each tile has two colorful symbols on it. Each turn, players place one tile down on the hexagonal board and score points for each identical symbol in imaginary rows emanating from each symbol. Players can build off of others' previously laid tiles to score a large number of points in one turn. However, in an unusual twist, players at the end of the game are scored on which of the six symbols they've scored the fewest points for. The rules are easy and well illustrated, but the game itself is both elegant and challenging. The travel edition is more compact and portable, but we also can recommend the original game.

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Lost Cities
(For two players)




Even those who think they have tried everything will have to admit that Lost Cities is an exciting, unusual two-player card game. It's quick, it's simple, it's tense, and it's addictive! The play is simple: You put down numbered cards in sequence on one of five "expeditions." But once you start an expedition, you must keep adding cards to it - or else risk losing more points than you gain! All the while, your opponent may be holding onto the card you want, trying to build up his or her own expeditions. In Lost Cities, the finish is usually so tense that you'll want to play just one more game ... and another!

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Memoir '44
(For two players)




Memoir '44 is a historical board game where players face off in some of the most important battles of World War II. You'll need a mixture of good strategy, effective card play, and luck to win. The 15 included "scenarios" help ensure that this game will be played and replayed, with something new happening each time. The 144 amazingly detailed army miniatures make this game a beautiful game to look at too! Both children and adults will find something to love about this simple yet engaging war game!

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Mr Jack
(For two players)




Loosely based on the investigation surrounding Jack the Ripper, Mr. Jack is a quick deduction game for two. One player represents Mr. Jack, who is masquerading as one of the characters on the board. The other player is the Investigator, who must discover who Jack is impersonating before the criminal escapes under the cover of night. Will Mr. Jack escape or will the Inspector arrest him before daybreak? Wits, logic, and bluffing will all determine the answer to that question.


Stocking Stuffers

Little. Cheap. Different.

Archaeology: The Card Game
(Stocking stuffer)




Discover the lost treasures of Egypt and make your fortune! You are an archaeologist working the dig sites of the Egyptian desert. Search for the right pieces to complete torn parchments, broken pots and other priceless artifacts. Explore an ancient pyramid hoping to uncover a huge stash of treasure! Trade shrewdly at the local marketplace to increase the value of your collection. Sell your treasures to the museum at just the right time for maximum profit. But beware, the desert also has its dangers! A devastating sandstorm can throw your expedition into disarray, and cunning thieves lurk around the dig site ready to steal your prize discovery!

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No Thanks
(Stocking stuffer)




Take the card, which costs me points but earns me chips? Or pay a chip, which I have precious few of? That seemingly simple decision is the entire heart of the game of No Thanks. The rules can be explained in just a few seconds but you'll be honing your strategy over dozens and dozens (and dozens) of plays.

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Pick Picknic
(Stocking stuffer)




This game will please children as well as adults. Game hens, pheasants, ducks, geese, and turkeys seem to be always hungry, and in Pick Picknic, a real feast awaits them, as they scramble to eat corn! But beware the foxes - who love to eat chickens, geese, and ducks, and become happily plump when they are able to eat well and often. Players must decide whether to play bird cards and try to get corn, or to play foxes and try to get birds. All players choose simultaneously, but what will be the result when you reveal your cards? A very fun and easy game!

  • Players: 2 to 6
  • Time: 30 minutes
  • Ages: 5 and up
  • Availability: local game stores, online
  • Price: $11-$15
  • Review by Jay Borden

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Saboteur
(Stocking stuffer)




Players take on the role of dwarves. As miners, they are in a mine, hunting for gold. Suddenly, a pick axe swings down and shatters the mine lamp. The saboteur has struck. But which of the players are saboteurs? Will you find the gold, or will the fiendish actions of the saboteurs lead them to it first? After three rounds, the player with the most gold is the winner.

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Slide 5
(Stocking stuffer)




Players arrange their cards on the playing surface building “hills.” Once a hill gets five cards high, the sixth card will cause an “Avalanche” and that player must take all of the cards in the row, leaving the sixth card to start a new hill. This same game has been released as 6 nimmt! (aka. 6 Nimmt!).


Other resources

Where to Buy?

Many of these games can be found at your local specialty game store. You can look for a local specialty game store using Game Store Database, the Days of Wonder Store Locator or BGG advice in the FLGS of the World (Friendly Local Game Store) thread.

If you don't have a store near you, or they don't carry the game you're looking for, you can buy online. Some online retailers in the US that we've had good experiences with are:

Canada: 2009 online Canadian retailer list
Australia: 2009 online Australian retailer list

For others, including many outside the USA, see our full list of online vendors.

Other Game Gift Guides

In addition to this guide, several other gift guides exist:

  • Asymptomatic Top 10 Games Christmas Gift Guide: 2008
  • Critical Gamer's Holiday Gift Guide: 2009, 2008, 2007, 2006
  • Dr. Matt Carlson's Holiday Guides: 2009, 2008, 2007, 2006, 2005, 2004, 2003
  • GamerChris' Holiday Gift Guides: 2009, 2008
  • Matthew Baldwin's Gift Guides for the Morning News: 2009, 2008, 2007, 2006
  • Peter Svensson's Guide: 2008
  • San Francisco Chronicle's annual Games Guide: 2009, 2008, 2007
  • Soren Johnson's Board Game Buyer’s Guide: 2008
  • The Spiel's Holiday Gift Guides: 2009, 2008, 2007, 2006
  • Wired.com's "Great Board Game Gifts for Geeks" Guide: 2007
  • Yehuda Berlinger's Holiday Gift Guides: 2009, 2008, 2007

Previous editions of the BGG Board Game Gift Guide: 2008, 2007, 2006

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