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7 Great Board Games and Who to Gift Them to This Christmas

This article is going to get physical, Olivia Newton-John fans. No offense to any Steam gift-code givers out there, but things have to get physical. They just do.

When it comes to gifts, something needs to be wrapped. Something physical needs to be handed over. The recipient has to unwrap the thing. There is a whole tradition of thing-ness that goes with gift giving.

For all the wonderful good that technology has brought, it’s also really wrecked gift giving. It wasn’t that long ago that a couple CDs were a solid gift, pun certainly intended. Although it must sound (again, the puns!) nutty to the youngsters, the idea of physically giving someone a chunk of polycarbonate plastic with music on it was a big ‘ole thing. (It gets even weirder, whippersnappers: That circular chunk of plastic came in its own durable plastic case that included a little paper pamphlet inside where all the metadata was printed!)

Such Christmases probably seem distant to Kids These Days®. But music, movies, books — these were go-to gift categories, and they served humanity well throughout history. We used to receive gifts that were physically printed out on paper and bound, like how the neanderthals used to read.

Now what? Your dad picks a book out for you and you just notice it already on your Kindle or some such nonsense. Nothing to unwrap. Zoom has killed our offices, so now the digital gremlins are coming for our gift exchanges. It’s bull malarkey.

Here’s how we fix this: It’s boardgames.

Christmastime is a great opportunity to gift board games. It could be a gift for a family member, a co-worker, or maybe even a treat for yourself. C’mon, treat yourself.

Note: Wrapping paper not included.

7 Great Board Game Christmas Gifts

Marvel United

Photo courtesy of Co-op Board Games.

There is nothing square about Marvel United. The play follows a circle, in fact.

You’re all in it together. Players select a Marvel hero. The game controls the villain. Guided by cards that are laid out in a circular pattern, players work together to thwart the villain.

The instructions are easy-to-follow. It’s a nice price point. What more needs to be said?

This game is fun for the whole family but the target audience is young teens or older elementary-aged kids.

Get Marvel United here.

Onitama

Onitama (via Pub Meeple)

Onitama is comprised of just a few pieces and takes mere minutes to learn. But it also likely has the greatest depth of strategy on this list.

Think of Onitama as streamlined Chess, being that each side of the two player game has a “king” piece flanked by 4 “pawns.” Whereas Chess movement is determined via the restrictions of the individual pieces, Onitama moving is determined by a set of rotating cards.

As the movement dictated by the cards changes, players are required to think several steps ahead, just like Chess. But Onitama plays in just 10-15 minutes. It’s quick and light, yet has a ton of depth. It’s a brilliant little game actually.

To: I play Onitama with my 9-year-old as it’s a perfect vehicle for introducing strategic decision-making skills. But Onitama is actually the perfect gift for a co-worker, as it’s just about the best lunch hour game out there. Keep it in your workplace break room and enjoy a quick game over your kale salad. I’ll have the cheeseburger.

Get Onitama here.

Wingspan

Wingspan has been the runaway hit the past few years in board gaming, so you may be familiar. But if you aren’t, and you are a living human being who enjoys good things, Wingspan is a great board game to consider.

Designed by Elizabeth Hargrave, Wingspan showcases the immense variety of birds through engaging gameplay, all wrapped up in a stunning package. Even though I never had any desire to become an ornithologist, I can definitely see that as a possibility after playing this game.

The basics of the game involve taking one of four actions:

  • Playing a bird card into one of the three habitats of your aviary
  • Gaining food tokens from the bird-feeder, allowing you to pay the cost of playing other birds
  • Laying eggs and dispersing them across the birds in your aviary
  • Drawing bird cards from the deck or face-up bird tray

It’s wonderfully thematic as well as being engaging and strategic.

To: Wingspan is possibly the most gorgeous board game you’ll own. It works almost as an “art piece” collectible, so get it for someone you might want to impress with your good taste.

The theme obviously makes it perfect for nature lovers or ornithologists. Plus, it’s absolutely a solid game, meaning it works well for folks who may have Catan and Ticket to Ride, but are open to trying a board game that’s a step above those.

After huge sellouts early in its release, Wingspan is available again. Get it here, direct from the publisher, or at your FLGS.

Unmatched

Image courtesy of Restoration Games, the publisher of Unmatched.

Unmatched is a fast-paced player vs player skirmish game. The base box uses public domain characters from literature, so pick a character, place them on a the board, then use your character’s unique deck and abilities to battle your opponent.

Best, you can mix characters and maps from any set. And there are a lot of sets, including new Marvel sets that feature characters like Deadpool and Daredevil. But whether its Medusa, Sinbad, or King Arthur, the game is excellently balanced, so you can play over and over.

The target audience is young adults up through serious board gamers.

Get Unmatched vol 1 here.

Sushi Go

Photo courtesy of Game Aisle.

Sushi Go is a card game that has players trying to make sushi for points. If you think you read that sentence wrong, you didn’t. But boy does this card game make sushi making fun.

Each player gets a handful of cards that you need to string together in order to add up the most points. But after you lay down your card, each player passes their hands of cards to the player next to them. So while you might have thought you had the perfect strategy going, you’re now looking at a whole new hand of cards.

To: It’s a perfect stocking stuffer for anyone. Like the game listed below, Sushi Go is a game that works in all settings. I play it with my young girls. Their granddad gets in on the action occasionally. It’s simple and fun, so it’s also a game that works well as an introduction to new players. Besides, it’s super affordable, so it’s a no-brainer purchase.

Get it here as a steal for under $10.

Trash Pandas

I’m declaring Trash Pandas as a surprise little hit.

Trash Pandas is a card game with cards named “Doggos” and “Nanners.” It’s for 2-4 players who have about 15-20 minutes to kill.

In Trash Pandas, players are raccoons who are pilfering through trash cans for food. It’s a push your luck game, so players are trying to acquire more cards via rolling dice, but must stash them before they get busted and are shooed away with nothing.

The quick playtime is great and the silly theme works. My girls and I have played the game several times. I’m happy to report that I win, as a third grader has nothing on me. O’Doyle rules!

To: Trash Pandas is a simple, silly, and high energy game. It works for a group of teenagers, a family gathering over Thanksgiving, or maybe an office holiday party. You’ll have a few people grouse at the thought of having to play something so juvenile because some people hate fun, but once they settle in, they’ll have a fantastic time with it.

Best, Trash Pandas is a steal at $12 and has gone mainstream, so you might find it at Target. You can grab it here or, better yet, ask your FLGS about it.

Fast & Furious Highway Heist

Fast & Furious Highway Heist is produced by FUNKO, who outsourced the design to Prospero Hall, a firm that specializes in light strategy games for big box retailers. While that doesn’t sound like something that would interest a hipster, I need to tell you: Prospero Hall makes great games!

Prospero Hall doesn’t make the deepest games you’ll play, but they’re quick. And the components aren’t the highest quality because they are produced for a big box price point, but you’ll always get good artwork. Best, you’ll always get solid gameplay.

So, don’t sleep on Prospero Hall designed games! Whether it’s Fast & Furious Highway Heist, or some of Prospero Hall’s other games like Horrified, Jaws, or Back to the Future, they make the type of games that make great gifts.

Prospero Hall designs pretty accessible games so the target audience is pretty broad. Anyone probably 8+ can get into it.

You can get Fast & Furious here.


So these are only a few board game recommendations if you are looking for Christmas gifts. But if you take away anything, take away the fact that board games are in a really great spot right now and there is absolutely a game for anyone you can think of.

If you want further recommendations, feel free to jump over to The Boarderlands, our Facebook group dedicated to board games. We’d be happy to help you find the perfect gift game.