Holiday Gift Guide: Basic Board Games

The Settlers of CatanIt’s November, folks. Do you realize what that means? It means you really ought to be doing your holiday shopping right now instead of reading my blog. Wait! Don’t go just yet. Because as a gift to you, I’m going to let you do your holiday shopping from within my blog. Talk about multitasking! You can be entertained and shop all at the same time. Isn’t I nice?

I is.

So here’s how these columns will work (yes, I’ll be doing more than one in the days leading up to when the fat jolly elf arrives): I’m going to post a mess o’ reviews for different items, all of them linked to Amazon. Should you click any of those links and happen to end up purchasing that item, then I get a cut for commission. Not interested in what I’m promoting? Don’t forget that the Amazon search bar to the right of my page does the same thing for any Amazon product. If you’re going to buy something from Amazon this holiday season, why not stop by my blog to search for it? It goes to a good cause. 🙂  

Anyway, on with the guide. I’m starting off simple. Do you have someone you’re buying for this year who likes board games, but they’re ready for something a bit meatier than Monopoly or Scrabble? Nothing with a rule book heavy enough to break your arm, but something that incorporates more strategy than roll-die-move-token. There are some great games out there these days that are fun to play, and which I heartily endorse for just about any adult. I’ll do a post for kids later, as well as one all about more advanced board games, but for now, here are the basics:

The Settlers of CatanSettlers of Catan–3-4 players–This one’s actually one of the most complex on the list, and I debated putting it on a different list, but it’s also one of the better known “new” games, so I kept it on this one. You and your competitors are all exploring an island, trying to settle it the fastest. Whoever settles the most, wins. It’s fantastic for its replay value–the board is a bunch of hexagonal tiles that are put down at random, so it’s different each time you play. Can take some learning to get it down, but once you do, it’s lots of fun. One game takes about 90 minutes to play.

Ticket to Ride EuropeTicket to Ride–2-5 players–There are several different flavors of this one (Europe, USA, Switzerland, etc.) I like the European one, just because it happens to be the one I own. Your goal is to build railway lines between major cities, but you compete for the tracks with your opponents. Not as hard to learn as Settlers, and easier to just play it and relax. One game takes about 60 minutes to play.

Blokus Classics GameBlokus–1-4 players–Talk about your easy to learn games. You get a set of tetris-like tiles, and your goal is to put as many of them on the board as you can. The tricks? Only the corners of your tiles can touch, and your opponents are trying to find space for theirs, too. A fun, fast paced game that even little kids can play. One game takes 20 minutes.

 Mr. JackMr. Jack–2 players–One of you plays as a group of detectives trying to find a killer. The other? You’re the killer, and you’re disguised as one of the detectives. Not too hard to learn, and fun for two players. Each detective has different abilities for moving and snooping around. One game takes about 30 minutes.

 SORRY! SlidersSorry Sliders–1-4 players–Take sorry and add shuffle board and a bit of curling, and you’ve got this one. No smart thinking involved here–just eye-hand coordination. You slide your little rolling Sorry tokens down a path, trying to hit the bullseye and knock other people’s tiles off their mark. Even little kids like this one. One game takes less than 30 minutes, depending on how long you want it to go.

Sequence Game

Sequence–2-12 players–Connect Four + Playing Cards = Sequence. Your goal is to get five markers in a row, which you place depending on what cards you draw. A good game for groups, open to conversation and not too much thought. One game takes about 10 minutes, but you usually play lots of games in a row.

Lost Cities
Lost Cities–2 players–You each are the leader of an archaeological team set on exploring ruins and making wonderful discoveries. The problem is there’s only so many sites to go around, so you compete to see who finds what. Really a great game for 2 players. Good strategy, but not hard to master. Denisa likes to come back to this one quite a bit. One game takes about a half hour.


Carcassonne–2-5 players–You take turns flipping tiles and placing them on the board, creating a countryside and cities as you go. At the same time, you place people in those places, trying to control as much of it as you can. Not super complex, but a lot of fun, and there are plenty of expansions to buy to spice things up later, if the basic rules get too straightforward. One game takes about an hour.

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