Christmas is closing in really quickly. When anyone asks me what I want for Christmas, the answer is always pretty easy; Board Games! Deciding which board games is more difficult. So if you are wanting to give board games as presents this year, here are several newer games that I think would be a big hit in most homes. For each game, I’ve provided the Board Game Geek link as well as a YouTube video from various sources that show how to play the game. All of these games are readily available through most gaming retail outlets such as Amazon but also through your local game shops. Supporting local game shops is important to us here at Cardboard Carnage so please consider that before going online.
Century: Spice Road
Publisher: Plan B Games
30-45 minute play time
While I still love Splendor and play it often, Century: Spice Road seems to see the table more with the other players in my group. It is very similar to Splendor in that it is a trading and deck building game. Players take market cards and trade or harvest spices to fulfill demand which wins the player victory points. Players have a limited amount of cards in their hand over the course of the game but build a better hand along the way. The game comes with cards, nice wooden spice components and small bowls to hold the spice pieces.
Publisher: Roxley, Spin Master Ltd.
Ages: 8+ 2-4 players 20 minutes play time
Santorini is a terrific strategy game that can be learned in 5 minutes or less. However, it is deep enough that it can be tough to master. In this game the player is moving his pawn and with each move has to place a piece of the building structure. The player can move up one level or down any number of levels. The goal is to be the first player sitting on top of the third level. Much like chess, the balance in the game comes in deciding to play offensively or defensively. Blocking your opponents might keep your from losing for a turn but it also might force you to change strategy. The game also comes with 2 levels of player powers in the form of thematic gods to add some variety and challenge once the core game is mastered. In my opinion, this is best played with two players but does support up to four.
Publisher: Horrible Games, 999 Games, etc
Ages: 8+ 2-4 players 30-60 minutes play time
If you’ve every played any video games like Candy Crush or Poppit! you are already familiar with the basic mechanic in Potion Explosion. Players remove colored marbles from a tray in order to fill up their beakers. When the marbles are removed, like colored marbles that now touch cause an explosion which allows the player to take more of those marbles. Complete your potions and drink them to unleash their magical power! After a number of rounds, add up your points from completed potions and the player with the most points wins.
Publisher: Asmodee, Asterion Press, etc
Ages: 10+ 2-4 players 40 minutes play time
You might have heard of deck building games like Dominion or Legendary. Dice Forge takes that mechanic and applies it to dice faces. Each turn you will roll two dice that are preset with some basic values that can earn you gold and/or gems. You accumulate the values rolled on your player board and then spend those resources to acquire cards which earn you additional abilities and points or you can purchase pieces that will replace faces on your dice. Over the course of the game you might end up replacing all your dice faces which result in more and better resources as you roll. At the end of the game, the player with the most points wins the favor of the gods by forging the best dice.
Publisher: Asmodee, Blue Orange Games
Ages: 10+ 2-4 players 30-60 minutes play time
This was a surprise hit for me. When I heard about the game I wasn’t that excited. Plant trees, they grow, earn points. However, after playing it, the strategy is deeper than I expected but still very approachable for new and young gamers. Players start the game with some small trees on the board and seedlings available. The sun marker moves around the board feeding and growing the trees each turn; but careful where you plant your trees because if they are in the shadow of other trees, they can’t grow. The bigger your trees on specific locations of the board, the more points you earn. Managing your available seedlings and trees is key to making the most out of your turn. The components are just icing on the cake; nice cardboard 3D models of the trees really bring this game to life. Visually stunning.
Publisher: Days of Wonder
Ages: 10+ 2-4 players 40-80 minutes play time
Days of Wonder is known for making gorgeous board games that are also extremely fun to play and challenging for even the most seasoned gamer. Games like Ticket to Ride and Five Tribes are some of my favorite games to play. This game does not disapoint on any of those fronts. From the same designer that created Camel Up, Yamatai is beautifully designed and illustrated. Aqcuire boats to explore the islands, build palaces, torii and other buildings. I’ve only played this a few times so have yet to master any aspect of it but it is a blast to play and inspiring to look at. The price tag can seem a little steep compared to some others on my list, but you’re going to get real quaility and a lot of replay out of this game.
Bears vs Babies
Publisher: Self Published (Matthew Inman, Elan Lee)
Ages: 7+ 2-5 players 15-20 minutes play time
From the makers of Exploding Kittens comes this fuzzy box full of bears and babies. Players take turns drawing cards and building bears from pieces out of the cards in their hand. When you draw a baby it goes into the center of the table. When babies are provoked they attack and if you have the most monster bear parts, you win the baby (well, you kind of eat it but it isn’t too graphic). Most babies at the end of the game wins! Okay, it sounds terrible, but it will have you rolling and it is as much fun as Exploding Kittens.
Ages: 10+ 2-7 players 40 minutes play time
Have you ever played Clue and thought to yourself “this game could be so much better if only there was a ghost that couldn’t talk and could only converse through the use of pictures to tell us who killed them where and with what?” Well, that’s Mysterium! You are all mediums communicating with the ghost through visions. These visions are cards with images and pictures. Sometimes the clues are very obvious; both of these pictures have hats! Sometimes they are vague and abstract; maybe the color blue has something to do with it? Find out who the murderer is and you win the game!