Board games aren’t exactly new, but they are a new addition to our Holiday Gift Guide. In an age of increasing reliance on digital screens, we recognize the value of getting friends and family together around a table for quality game time. From deckbuilders to miniature wargames, Disney card games, and RPG dungeon crawls, there’s a game for every kind of family.
Board games also make fantastic gifts. Since this is our first year doing board games, we’ve listed some of the hottest new games of 2017 and 2018 by age, Kids (~8-13) and Teens (14+). Note that “Kids” doesn’t mean Teens and Adults won’t love them too!
Combining Yahtzee with a dueling RPG is just crazy enough to work. Each player chooses a hero with their own unique deck of cards and player board. The board lists all the abilities you can unleash, provided you roll the right facings. Dice Throne (Age: 8+) is incredibly easy to jump into, and features gorgeous art work and a quick but exciting play time.
Hardback (Age: 10+) is the follow-up to 2014’s Paperback, a deckbuilding word game. Players work on finishing their novels by stringing together a word every turn from the letters they’ve purchased. It’s much more forgiving than Scrabble since you can turn any letter into a wild, and there’s fun synergy for staying within your genre.
Magic Maze (Age: 8+) transforms a traditional dungeon crawler into a kid-friendly cooperative heist mission. Instead of everyone controlling a different hero, each player has a very specific ability and movement action they can perform. It’ll take everyone working together and coordinating their actions to successfully escape.
In Megaland (Age: 8+) players run through video game levels represented by cards. The longer they stay in the more treasures they can accumulate, but they risk losing it all if they draw the wrong card. It plays fast and quick and is a great introduction into bigger board game concepts like managing resources and navigating risk versus reward (read our review).
Kingdomino (2015) is the original, easier game, but Queendomino (Age: 8+) expands the brilliant dominoes + builder combination by adding the ability to construct buildings on certain spaces. It’s just enough complexity to add more long-term gameplay without losing sight of the easy-to-learn concept of carving out your own little empire out of matching dominoes.
Shadows in the Forest
Based on a classic 1980s game from from Germany, Shadows in the Forest (Age: 8+) can only be played in a dark room, or at night, as it relies entirely on light and shadow. The unique game is sure to delight a group of giggling kids as the cute Shadowlings try to avoid the light caused by the Seeker’s lantern (read our review).
Older Kids & Teens
Clank! In! Space! Apocalypse!
Clank in Space (Age: 13+) smartly expands on 2016’s deckbuilding dungeon crawler Clank by adding a modular board and greater card depth without making it unwieldy. This year’s Apocalypse expansion adds more modules and cards as well as Schemes, creating new deliciously debilitating effects if the players linger in Lord Eradikus’ spaceship too long.
Disney games are typically aimed at kids, but Villainous (Age: 10+) includes six asymmetrical Disney villains vying to complete their own objectives in a surprisingly tactical and advanced card game. Each player gets their own unique villain – and hero decks, as well as villain boards that reflect their setting, goals, and adversaries. You’ll have to juggle your own needs while hindering your opponents. Bonus points for cackling gleefully. Read our review.
Stained glass window design isn’t a super common theme in board games, but it does provide Sagrada (Age: 14+) with a lovely rainbow display of dice. Sagrada is sort of like Sudoku with dice as players take turns drafting the colors and numbers they need to fill out their display window while maximizing combo points.
Star Wars: Legion
Fantasy Flight Games released the Star Wars minatures game of your dreams with Star Wars: Legion (Age: 14+). With Legion you can simulate iconic battles from the movies while mobilizing AT-ATs or cutting down Storm Troopers with Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader. As is the case with any minis game, there are expansion packs you can buy to bolster your forces.