Five Holiday Board Game Recommendations

It’s that time of year. The time when you start to scramble to come up with gift ideas for people. If you’re an avid gamer, I’m probably not going to have any suggestions here that you haven’t already heard. But if you’re more casual, then I’d like to think there might be some things here that are worth your while.

These are games that are great for families. They’re not overly complex. I find myself drawn more and more these days to games that don’t need thick rule books. Nothing you have to keep checking again and again. They’re games I can play with my kids and have a great time.

Note that each link will take you to the Amazon page for the product. If you buy it, I receive a kickback from Amazon, but the games themselves haven’t paid for my endorsement or anything like that. (I wish!)

First up has got to be Splendor. It’s a fantastic board game that takes less than a half hour to play. It’s easy enough to grasp that my nine year old can compete with the rest of us and have a great time. You play the role of a gem trader, trying to leverage your wealth to get fame and fortune. It’s got quality components and basic rules that have enough nuance to give some deep strategy to the game. I would get this for just about anyone. Great stuff.

Hanabi is a cooperative card game where you play with your hand facing away from you. Other people can see what you have, but you can’t. You are all trying to make a fantastic fireworks display. Once again, it’s straightforward, easy to learn, and fun to play. Kids can do well with it too. Better yet, it’s small, so it’s really easy to pack for a trip. You need someplace quiet to play it, but other than that, you’re good to go anywhere.

Seven Wonders has been out for quite some time. It’s more complex than the others. More fiddly bits. It’s a drafting game, which means you’re dealt cards at the beginning of each round. You pick one, then pass the rest on to the next person, who does the same, so you’re making a series of decisions, picking the cards you think will let you build the best empire. Fun, and fairly straightforward once you learn how to play.

Tomas got this during the holidays last year. Sushi Go! looks deceptively cutesy, which is its really only downside. He wasn’t convinced he wanted it at first, but after we’d played a few rounds, he could easily see the appeal. You’re trying to make the best sushi meal you can over three rounds, using the drafting mechanic. Way easy to learn, fast to play, and surprisingly strategic. Plus, it’s cheap.

In Codenames, a bunch of cards are dealt out face up in a grid at the start of the game. Each card has a word or two written on it. You then have to give single word clues to get your team to guess only the cards you want them to. I’ve only played this twice so far, but it falls right in the sweet spot for easy to learn and fun to play.

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