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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.
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Table of Contents
Games for All Ages
For all ages: Incan Gold
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!
A simple but thoughtful railway game for gamers and non-gamers alike. Each player has a set of 5 cities strung across the US or Europe that need to be connected by rail. Players place either 1 or 2 rails each turn. The player who can make the best use of the other players' networks is generally victorious.
For all ages: Labyrinth
This game is amazing! Literally! A moving maze, and who doesn't love mazes? Even younger children will be able to begin figuring out how to slide the tiles and make paths. But best of all, adults will find this game challenging and fun too. The Amazing Labyrinth has the potential to be enjoyed by people of all ages, young and old.
For all ages: Hey, That's My Fish!
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?
For all ages: Qwirkle
Qwirkle should be instantly familiar to anyone who has played Scrabble--think Scrabble with symbols and colors instead of words and no board, and you'll have a good idea of how this game plays. The excellent components and reasonable price makes this a particularly good gift. (Not suitable for color-blind players)
For all ages: Blokus
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.
For all ages: Zooloretto
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!
Party games are fun, light games designed to be played by a festive, boisterous group.
Party games: Apples to Apples
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.
Party games: Pit
This game has been around since 1903, and there's a good reason why it's still being sold in department stores today. Players deal and trade cards to corner the stock market by collecting one type of commodity. Be the first to get all the cards of one type, and you win. But here's the fun part - because trading is done simultaneously, players will be competing to offer, 1, 2, 3 or more cards to trade with one another - so this is very loud, noisy and fun! Some editions even include a bell! It's cheap too - a great time-tested party game for a group of up to 8 players.
Party games: Time's Up!
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!
Party games: Wits & Wagers
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.
Party games: Balderdash
Balderdash is a classic bluffing game. This version includes the categories: Peculiar People, Weird Words, Incredible Initials, Marvelous Movies, and Laughable Laws. The goal is to answer each question with your fictional answer. Make your answer believable enough to fool the other players and you score points for each vote your answer receives.
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.
For two players: Lost Cities
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!
For two players: Hive
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?
For two players: Memoir '44
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!
Little. Cheap. Different.
Stocking stuffers: No Thanks!
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.
Stocking stuffers: Pick Picknic
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!
Stocking stuffers: Circus Flohcati
Decide how far to press your luck trying to collect the highest possible cards in each of the colors or sets of three cards. Turn over another card and see if it is better, but if it matches the color of a face-up card, you lose your turn instead!
Stocking stuffers: Loot
Who doesn't love pirates? This multi-player card game combines great gameplay with terrific artwork. Try to gather more treasure ships than your opponents, but watch out for the other pirate captains! Very portable, easy to learn and replayable. Best with at least 3 players.
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!
For teens & adults: Pandemic
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, or will you be an Operations Specialist that specializes in building research stations, or will you be 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!
For teens & adults: Taluva
Are you looking for a family friendly game that looks great? Look no further! Taluva features fantastic game bits, and great game play. Players place tiles consisting of volcanoes and other terrain, to expand islands, while at the same time trying to settle their peoples on the island by building huts, temples and towers. This game is a race to get your pieces on the board, and because each piece must be placed differently, you'll need to use different strategies to win. Will you expand your own area or play defensively and knock out your opponent? Either way, it's a lot of fun!
For teens & adults: Catan
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.
Family Games for Older Children
For older children: Cartagena
A game where you get to be pirates trying to escape from a prison? That's Cartagena! Players must escape through an underground passage which is created by playing tiles and cards. A simple but smart game, that appeals to everyone!
For older children: Ticket to Ride
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.
For older children: Carcassonne
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.
For older children: Ingenious
Winner of the 2006 BoardGameGeek Golden Geek award for Family Game of the Year as well as multiple other boardgame 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.
For older children: Scotland Yard
Scotland Yard is an award winning deduction board game that has been pleasing people for more than twenty years. And its enduring popularity is proof positive that it is a good game. Suitable for older children and adults who like figuring things out, Scotland Yard has participants play detectives, trying to find the location of Mr. X. One player is Mr. X, and must use subways, bus routes, and taxis to escape being caught by the detectives. Can the detectives cooperate to catch Mr. X? Countless people have enjoyed finding out the answer to this question, and chances are that you will too!
For older children: Heroscape Master Set: Rise of the Valkyrie
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.
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.
For younger children: Go Away Monster!
Being afraid of monsters is a normal part of growing up. Go Away Monster! encourages kids to conquer that fear by acting it out and taking control. This game teaches how to take turns without being overly competitive. As a plus, this game has nice replay value for many young children. A good game for ages 3 and up (works well in the 2-3 age group as well) that doesn't last so long that parents become bored.
For younger children: Sorry! Sliders
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!
For younger children: Gulo Gulo
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. Younger kids with their small fingers are better than adults at pulling out the eggs, yet the parents will enjoy the strategy of trying to jump ahead of everyone.
Cranium Cariboo and Cranium Hullabaloo are two excellent games for young children. They're fun, short, and they have some educational aspects relating to colors, shapes, counting, and pattern recognition. Youngsters will ask to play these games over and over, and even the older children won't tire of them too easily either!
For younger children: Make 'n' Break
A fantastic game for children 8 and up, that younger children from 3 and up will enjoy too. Players compete using 10 coloured building blocks to copy designs from a set of cards, scoring points for speed and for making the more complicated designs. Great fun for parents too!
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 Web sites we've had good experiences with are:
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:
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