You may be wondering what to get your board game-loving friends this Christmas. More board games? More gaming accessories? Why not both?
We’ve gathered over 35 of the best Christmas gifts for board game lovers for the 2019 holiday season. 2018 was a fantastic year for tabletop gaming. The first PAX Unplugged was a success, and the year was packed with new releases. There’s something here for any gamer!
While it would be great to get something extravagant like a convertible dining/gaming table, there are plenty of smaller accessories and new board games out there for any gamer. All it takes is a little touch to add some fun or flavor to game night.
Here are the best board game gifts for 2020:
2–4 players, 30–45 minutes
Azul is a simple puzzle game that looks gorgeous and has chunky plastic tiles that feel great in your hand. This abstract tile-laying game is quick and simple enough to attract non-gamers, but there’s enough strategy for veteran gamers as well.
Azul is inspired by the azulejos ceramics of the Moors. Players aim to create patterns and sets of tiles on their board and are penalized for unused tiles.
It’s quick, pretty, and tactile. What’s not to love?
2 Fog of Love
2 players, 60–120 minutes
There’s never been a game quite like Fog of Love. It’s a relationship simulator for two players, each player taking on a character at the beginning of a relationship. Throughout the game, the players will overcome challenges that will leave them either strengthen or weaken the relationship.
The game plays out like a romantic comedy, forcing players to make decisions like “Should we invite your ex to the party?” When the players disagree, they may find that their characters’ personalities change.
There’s no guarantee that the imaginary relationship will survive, but you are guaranteed to get a great story out of the experience!
3 Clans of Caledonia
1–4 players, 30–120 minutes
Clans of Caledonia takes you back to pre-industrial Scotland. Weren’t those the days? Take control of your very own Scottish Clan, and rule the countryside with your… merchants and livestock!
The board is a lovely spread of hexes, critters, and resources that will remind any gamer of the glory days of Settlers of Catan—but Clans of Caledonia offers a style and feel all its own. The modular board has 16 possible arrangements, and scoring tiles make each round of the game different from the last.
Earn victory points the Scottish way—with lots of sheep and whiskey!
2–6 players, 25 minutes
Like its predecessor, Kingdomino, there is a simplicity to Queendomino that will appeal to any type of gamer. Lay down tiles to create a prosperous kingdom filled with fields, towns, and towers. No matter how well you do, you’ll end up with your own little kingdom by the end of the game.
Queendomino is the perfect family game and can be enjoyed by kids and adults alike!
5 Magic Maze
1–8 players, 15 minutes
So you’re a team of adventurers who have lost all of your possessions and now must rob the local mall, but all players control every character at the same time, and there are no turns.
Still following? Good. Magic Maze has a strange theme for sure, but it’s a blast to play. There are no turns, and instead of controlling individual characters, each player is able to move any character in one direction or perform a certain action like going up or down escalators. Talking is forbidden for most of the game, so you have to rely on silent, calculated coordination to navigate the characters through the maze of shops and security cameras to steal supplies for the next adventure.
This wacky, real-time cooperative game is as stressful as it is funny, and one game can be played in fifteen minutes.
6 The Chameleon
Price: $19.99 via Target
3–8 players, 10 minutes
The Chameleon is a word game similar to Spyfall; each round has a topic card with 16 words on it. One word is randomly selected for the round, and the Chameleon is the only player who doesn’t know what the word is.
All players must give one-word clues that pertain to the chosen word. The Chameleon has to avoid giving themselves away while also trying to determine the correct word.
When the word is “apple” and the Chameleon gives a clue like “salty,” things can get pretty funny.
7 Wasteland Express Delivery Service
2–5 players, 90 minutes
Ever wonder how Mad Max gets his mail? No? Well, find out anyway in Wasteland Express Delivery Service, a post-apocalyptic game of fighting through bands of raiders to deliver goods to settlements on the brink of destruction.
Players cruise across the board in their upgradeable trucks, delivering goods to meet the game’s objectives before their opponents. On the way, there are plenty of chances to kill some raiders and steal their stuff.
It’s a game with gritty artwork and different ways to play in an apocalyptic playground—perfect for any Mad Max fan.
8 NMBR 9
1–4 players, 20 minutes
In NMBR 9, players must out-puzzle each other through careful tile placement. The tiles correspond to numbers zero through nine, and they come in blocky, colorful shapes. All tiles must touch one side of another tile, and tiles can be stacked. In fact, the only way to score points is by creating layers on top of your “ground floor” pieces. Tiles on the second layer score their number value, and those on the next layer score double, and so on.
This is a simple game with a surprisingly tricky puzzle that is great for any game night.
2–4 players, 30–60 minutes
It’s hard to imagine a game much prettier than this. In Photosynthesis, each player places trees to gather the most sunlight. The trees are represented by cardboard 3d trees, so by the end of your game, there will be a forest in the center of your table!
Its interesting sundial mechanic makes for clever and sometimes cutthroat gameplay—in no game can you throw shade as literally as in Photosynthesis.
The lovely trees and engaging gameplay should catch the attention of any game group. There’s nothing quite like this out there!
10 MageCraft Catan Hard Carrying Case
11 Metal Gaming Coins
Nothing blings out a game quite like real metal coins—especially if they’re made for a specific game. Meeplesource has a variety of coins for different titles and genres at a decent price. Metal coins can add a nice touch to any game, and there’s just something satisfying about a handful of shiny metal in your hand.
12 Calliope Candles with Embedded Dice
Price: $22 via Calliope Candleworks
These fantasy-themed candles from Calliope Candleworks can add ambiance to game night with a variety of scents for different adventures.
The candles are made of 100% soy wax and feature the artwork of Wilson Swain. But the best part is without a doubt the embedded metal die from Norse Foundry inside each candle. Somewhere in the wax is a D4, D6, D8, D10, D12, D20, or percentile die waiting to be discovered
Each 8 oz candle burns for about 50 hours, which should last several D&D campaigns.
13 Start Player
Okay, this is kind of a game, but not really. Start Player is a 54-card deck to help determine the first player in any game. Simply flip a card and follow its instructions to figure out who’s starting the next game.
The cards use criteria like “The player who was born closest geographically” or “The next player to put something in their mouth.”
This is a cheap little gift that solves the “start player” problem for any game.
If you’re shopping for an RPG player, the Chessex Pound-O-Dice is a simple gift that will keep them well-supplied with dice for ages, possibly forever. It’s one pound of dice of all shapes and colors… do you need any more of an explanation?
15 Eldertree Handmade Dice Tray
Dice trays are great for those climactic moments in any game where you roll dice. They keep dice from rolling off of the table, and they look nice on the shelf.
Eldertree makes wooden dice trays with a number of sizes and fabric options to choose from. Custom engraving is also an option. With the cheapest tray priced at $28, this is an excellent value, and it’s a gift that will last for decades.
All dice trays are handmade in Kentucky and feature Purple Heart wood and Microsuede fabric or pig suede leather. They take one to two weeks to ship, so plan ahead. There’s no sound quite as satisfying as a nat 20 rolled onto the fabric of a dice tray!
Price: $28.00 to $67.53 via Etsy.
16 Thirty-One Organizer Totes
Thirty One’s tote bags are sturdy and can hold a trove of games—perfect for the trek to game night. There are several trendy patterns to choose from, and some bags come with zip-tops. The exterior pockets can carry snacks and drinks—or more games, of course.
The totes measure 8” x 12” x 6.5”, are made of polyester, and can carry up to 15 lbs. Customized monograms are available, if you’re feeling fancy.
17 Chainmail Dice Bag
Dragons Play makes an excellent chainmail dice bag to keep your dice secure. The chainmail is stainless steel, and the bag closes with a coated nylon rope.
The metal is sure to keep its shine, and the loops are smoothly closed to prevent scratching dice. Seven dice sets can fit in one bag. For any RPG player, this bag can add a nice touch to game night, and it feels great in your hand!
18 Ikea Kalas Bowls
Ikea’s Kalas bowls are perfect for sorting game pieces. Each six-pack comes with BPA-free, brightly colored bowls to keep game bits from mingling. For games with loads of pieces like Agricola, Concordia, or Terraforming Mars, these can save players a lot of searching under the table.
19 Dominion Case and Organizer Set
With Dominion’s 11th expansion having just been released, there are a lot of cards to cart around. You might have that one friend who still keeps each successive expansion in their original box. What better way to stage an intervention than with The Broken Token’s Dominion Case, which comes with an adjustable wooden organizer. Believe it or not, the case holds up to 6,135 unsleeved cards, which is more than enough room for Dominion’s 4,350 cards released to-date. Just make sure your friend hasn’t been skipping arm day!
This is the officially licensed Dominion carrying case, and it even has the Dominion logo engraved in the top. The wood has a semi-gloss lacquer, and elastic straps under the lid can hold rulebooks in place.
20 Handmade Wooden Card Holders
Cardholders can make organizing cards easier, especially for games like Gloomhaven or Ticket to Ride.
These wooden cardholders from Nerds Of Naptown are handmade and have up to three rows for cards. They come in maple, oak, cherry, poplar, and other woods start at just $4.00 each. Obviously, you’d want to get multiple for games with multiple players.
Cardholders can make game night a bit easier for kids, too!
Price: $4–$10 each depending on style via Etsy
21 Castles of Burgundy: The Dice Game
Based off of the legendary euro The Castles of Burgundy by Stefan Feld, this dice-focused roll ‘n’ write game is sure to be a hit in 2018.
The Castles of Burgundy: The Dice Game is a light euro about developing a French province by creating a network of hexes filled with different buildings and commodities. Each player has a small paper representing their province that they will fill in throughout the game. It’s quick, elegant, and satisfying.
Co-designing with Christoph Toussaint (who designed Octodice, based on Feld’s Aquasphere), Stefan Feld brings us what feels like the mini version of the original game that I had hoped The Castles of Burgundy: The Card Game would be.
I was able to pick this game up recently, and it’s a blast. It plays within 30 minutes as promised, and it has a very similar feel to the original game. There’s the same emphasis on completing sections of hexes for points and modifying the dice rolls to your advantage. It’s a bit strange that this earned the title “The Dice Game” when there are fewer dice than the original game, but oh well—dice are clearly the primary mechanic here.
This is a solid roll ‘n’ write that will satisfy both fans of the original and newcomers.
The eighth title in Richard Breese’s Key series is another worker placement game, but this time with several twists.
In Keyper, each player is building their own village and farm. In order to gather resources, animals, and building materials, you must go out to the country.
Here’s where the twists come in. The country boards are foldable, creating different permutations to represent different seasons of the year. On top of that, when one player places a worker somewhere, other players have a chance to join them, making both players’ actions more efficient. So it isn’t cooperative, but you’ll benefit from choosing actions that other players are interested in.
To me, this sounds like a reversal of worker placement, which is usually about blocking other players and taking opportunities first. I’m curious to see how players are incentivized to pursue different strategies.
The folding country boards look like more than a gimmick—this is a game that I’ll be picking up as soon as it’s available.
23 Crusaders: Thy Will Be Done
Tasty Minstrel Games
Seth Jaffe (designer of Eminent Domain) brings us a game set during the crusades in which players will lead a Crusading Order. This means constructing buildings, assembling forces, and fighting enemies.
The primary mechanic is the rondel that each player customizes and uses to carry out actions throughout the game. Each Crusading Order has a special ability that will change the way players strategize.
There’s nothing groundbreaking about the concept of Crusaders: Thy Will Be Done and the theme isn’t exactly gripping, but it looks like a solid mid-weight euro that should provide some interesting choices and strategies.
If you trust Boardgamegeek’s rating system, then Gloomhaven is now the #1 best board game of all time. Will it hold that spot in three years? I would bet no—but it’s a monster of a game that has been a huge hit following its Kickstarter release. Now, it finally makes its way to retail.
In Isaac Childres’s Gloomhaven, players embark on a legacy campaign as mercenaries seeking adventure in a world that evolves with their decisions. The combat is euro-inspired, and your abilities and choices will be in constant flux as the campaign goes on through 75 scenarios.
Yes—that’s the number of times you will gather around a table with your friends to experience this beast.
On top of the sheer amount of time you’ll spend playing the game (since each session takes up to two and a half hours—do the math), you also get over 20 pounds of miniatures, monster standees, boards, and compartments filled with secret components.
Gloomhaven is a big one. It’s ambitious, and it’s great. Don’t miss the retail release—it’s sure to sell through its first print run quickly. In fact, it looks like Gloomhaven just might be one of the best new board games for adults in 2018, so expect a lot to pre-order it as well. We have a feeling Gloomhaven is going to be one of the hot new board games of 2018. In fact, it’s even included in Heavy.com’s list of the best new toys.
25 Indian Summer
15–60 minutes (15 minutes per player)
Available January 24
Another company that’s been churning out hits (especially after Terraforming Mars and Flamme Rouge) is Stronghold—and one huge release is the second game in Uwe Rosenberg’s puzzle trilogy, Indian Summer.
Indian Summer bears similarities to Cottage Garden and Patchwork with its Tetris-style puzzle pieces, but according to Stronghold, this game will be geared toward more experienced players.
The core of the game is about racing to fill your board with leaf tiles, and it looks gorgeous. Beyond that, there are holes in some leaf tiles, and strategically placing them can reveal bonuses. It will be interesting to see just how thinky this game feels—Patchwork and Cottage Garden already succeeded there. Can Uwe pull off the trick one more time? Probably.
This debut title from Sophia Wagner (winner of the 2015 Spiel des Jahres fellowship) features an intricate sci-fi world and a unique action system. In Noria, players vie to build the most successful trading empire by crafting ships and influencing politicians.
The primary mechanic of the game is “wheel building,” in which players craft action wheels to gain an edge over their opponents. It’s hard to explain without a visual, but it looks like it could be a fun element to the game with interesting gameplay implications, and the board design certainly looks unique.
Hopefully, this mix of strong world-building and heavy strategy is a success—it certainly looks intriguing. In fact, it’s one of our most anticipated board games of 2018.
27 Dice Throne
1–4, 6 players
Available in January (TBA)
In this dice-slinging, damage-dealing brawl, players compete to ascend to the coveted dice throne. Each player plays as a hero with a unique playstyle and set of abilities.
Co-designed by newcomers Nate Chatellier and Manny Trembley, Dice Throne should appeal to fans of Star Realms and Smash Up with its brawl-style gameplay. It comes with custom dice and six different heroes—this should be a blast whether you play 1 vs 1, 3 vs 3, or 2 vs 2 vs 2.
Read Our Review
The newest game from prolific designer Reiner Knizia (and by prolific I mean he’s published over 600 games) is Sakura, a game about competitive portrait painting.
You read that right. Each player is a painter trying to get close to the Emperor as he observes the springs’ cherry blossoms in the hopes of painting the best portrait. But if you get too close, you risk bumping into the Emperor and embarrassing yourself.
This simple, silly push-your-luck game sounds like a great little filler. If the game itself looks anything like the box art, I’m sold.
29 Star Wars: Legion
Fantasy Flight Games
Following the success of Star Wars: Rebellion (and a host of other games in the franchise), Fantasy Flight is bringing us the latest Star Wars game, this time focusing on infantry battles. Which, of course, means lots of miniatures.
This is the Star Wars wargame many people have been waiting for. As with all Fantasy Flight Star Wars titles, a number of expansions have already been announced.
This should be a great way for Star Wars fans to bring the galaxy to their tabletops.
Available June 13
Plan B games is launching a new abstract-only line of games following the success of Azul, and their first title is Reef by Emerson Matsuuchi (Century: Spice Road).
The new studio, Next Move!, will publish only abstract games, all with four-letter titles. It’s bold—abstract games can be a hard sell, but I personally enjoy them. I think taking theme out of the equation gives designers a chance to focus on pure fun.
Reef is about building a colorful coral reef in various colors and patterns to score points. That’s about all we know so far, but it’s a fun and light theme, and if the game itself is as dazzling as the box art (which is apparently not final), we’re in for a treat.
31 Century Eastern Wonders
Plan B Games
Available June 13
2018 is a good year for Emerson Matsuuchi. The second game in the Century trilogy (following the hugely successful Century: Spice Road) invites players to take to the seas as spice merchants. You might notice a similarity in theme to the first title — that’s because the two games can be played together in a new variant.
Will the third Century title will be combinable as well—but will it combine with both previous titles, creating several permutations? So many possibilities!
Plan B is onto something with these short, strategic games. It’s becoming a popular niche, and I’d love to see the trend continue.
32 The Rise of Queensdale
The power duo Inka and Markus brand have a BIG board game coming out this summer—The Rise of Queensdale, a legacy dice game published by Alea.
The husband-and-wife team are known for Village and more recently Rajas of the Ganges, which we can’t get enough of.
I wish we knew more about their latest title other than it being a “legacy dice game,” but that’s all we have. Will it feature dice customization like Rattlebones or Dice Forge? Will you put stickers on the dice? Will you destroy dice by consuming them? Who knows. Let’s hope the Brands can pull off their first legacy game.
33 Forbidden Sky
This was just announced on Gamewright’s Facebook page—co-op mastermind Matt Leacock (Pandemic Legacy) is continuing his Forbidden series (which contains Forbidden Desert and Forbidden Island) by taking to the skies. This theatrical trailer does a great job of painting a picture for you:
We don’t know much so far, but it’s likely to be an easy-to-learn co-op that can be seriously punishing. And judging from the title, Forbidden Sky will pick up from where the last game left off, with the crew of adventures sailing their flying ship right into a storm. This means all three games could be played back to back and the story would fit quite nicely.
I’ve been a fan of the Forbidden series since the beginning. Forbidden Desert only improved on the first game, and after all of the new tricks Leacock has shown off in his Pandemic Legacy games, there’s no doubt in my mind that this one will be brilliant.
When I asked the designer whether Forbidden Sky would be more or less difficult than its predecessor, here’s what I was told:
It'll be different (in an unexpected way) but not harder. Forbidden Sky is probably the hardest game I've done to date – so no, not harder.
— Matt Leacock (@mattleacock) January 25, 2018
If anyone can tell me what that means, please let me know in the comments.
34 Forum Trajanum
Available Late 2018 (TBA)
Stefan Feld and Michael Rieneck (who co-designed The Pillars of the Earth) are collaborating once again.
With Stefan Feld involved, I’m already intrigued. Stefan Feld, if you’ve never played one of his games, is known for euro games in which you get points for doing just about anything. His “point-salad” signature touch means that there are always endless routes to victory and usually plenty of potential for combo turns.
Forum Trajanum, as the name implies, is Roman empire-themed, and gives players the chance to control their own Roman city, or Colonia. At the same time, they must help the emperor construct the magnificent Forum Trajanum.
May Feld and Rieneck bring us another intricate euro filled with points.
Renegade Game Studios
Available March (TBA)
Renegade had a very good year in 2017, and they have a very full release schedule for 2018. One of the Renegade titles I’m most looking forward to is Sabordage.
In Sabordage, players play pirates racing to find Blackbeard’s hidden treasure. You must build your ship while battling other pirates to make sure you alone reach the treasure.
From the description on Renegade’s site, it sounds like it’s primarily a card-drafting game where the cards are segments of your ship. It will be interesting to see how combat is handled and how direct it is.
This colorful game should be a fun, swashbuckling filler that will look great on the table.
36 Betrayal Legacy
The inventor of the legacy genre himself is giving Betrayal at House on the Hill legacy treatment.
Rob Daviau worked on the original Betrayal during his time at Hasbro, and he’s returning over a decade later for a new twist. Betrayal Legacy will tell a story that takes place over several decades, featuring generations of characters that return to the horrific mansion over and over.
The original Betrayal is far from being one of my favorite games, and I’m not sure if the idea of a 30+ hour campaign version will change my opinion, but it’s sure to please many fans.
This will be one of the biggest releases of 2018, but as we know from recent legacy titles, it’s best to wait and see how the game fares after several rounds.
Wildlands is, hands-down, our favorite new board game of 2018. It really brings a lot to the table, pun absolutely intended. It’s a four-player competitive game where each player picks one of four factions (which are all brilliantly designed with their own character figures). The goal is to get 3 of your faction’s crystals before any other player does by either finding them on the board (certain rules apply) or defeating another player character (certain rules apply).
It’s a great game of tactics with a mix of chance, and when you factor in trolls, gnomes, warriors, and other fantasy elements, it’s super enjoyable.