Board games are great gifts for anyone who wants to spend time with loved ones and disconnect from technology. But instead of pulling out the same old classics like Monopoly and Scrabble, we recommend giving some new board games a try. Thankfully, this space is full of unique sets that run the gamut from word puzzles to whodunnits to calming playthroughs that showcase the beauty of the little things in life. Here, we’ve compiled a list of games that you might not have heard of, but will still make excellent gifts this holiday season. From games with giant monsters to those with haunted mansions, we’re sure at least one of these will be a hit with friends and family.
If you have a loved one who always wanted to play Dungeons & Dragons but just couldn’t find the group or the time to play it, then Freelancers is the game for them. This story-filled board game is essentially a choose-your-own-adventure take on the fantasy RPG experience, complete with unique dice, magic spells and murderous monsters. And while Dungeons & Dragons requires a game master, Freelancers uses a companion app that handles all of the storytelling for you – complete with voice narration and a soundtrack. There’s little to no prep needed and the rules are super simple, so this game is also ideal for beginners.
$47 at Amazon
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Do you know someone who is a Wordle savant, to the point where they might find the popular NYT word puzzle a little too easy? Then consider giving them Fiction this holiday season. Fiction is like Wordle, but with a deceptive twist: the clue-giver (or the Lie-braran as the game calls it) is required to lie about one of the letters in the five-letter secret word. The other players have to team up to deduce the answer in ten guesses and two ten-minute time periods.
$24 at Amazon
King of Tokyo
King of Tokyo is one of the most beloved board games of all time due to how fun and welcoming it is for players of all ages. In it, you play as giant Kaiju monsters destroying the city of Tokyo while battling other monsters for supremacy. You can play as a kitty cyborg, a large Godzilla-like dinosaur, a space penguin, a King Kong-like gorilla, a dragon or an alien. Best of all, gameplay is very easy. If you know how to play Yahtzee, you know how to play King of Tokyo: roll dice in order to get special powers, to see how much damage you can inflict on others, to score points and to heal up.
$38 at Amazon$45 at Tractor Supply
Wavelength is a fun party game where two teams compete to see if they’re in sync – or on the same wavelength – as their own team members. Included in the game is a large plastic wheel contraption that looks a lot like a speedometer. Someone spins the wheel and then opens a viewing slot to see where the needle lands. Then they’ll draw a category card with binaries (examples include Hot-Cold, Rough-Smooth or Sad Song-Happy Song), and then they have to give a clue that matches where the needle lands between the two extremes.
For example, if the needle was all the way on the Cold side, your clue would be something like “Ice.” Your team would then have to guess and turn the dial to where they think the needle is. The closer they get to the answer, the more points they score. As you might imagine, the fun of this game comes when the answer isn’t so obvious and is more subjective. In a Best/Worst Pizza Toppings category for example, “Pineapple” might be more acceptable to some people than others and players have to work together to figure out what the clue-giver’s intentions are.
$31 at Amazon$31 at Walmart$31 at Target
Betrayal at the House on the Hill (3rd Edition)
Fans of horror stories will adore Betrayal at the House on the Hill, where three to six players explore a haunted mansion, uncovering its secrets and hidden rooms. At first they’ll work together, but midway through the game, someone will reveal themselves as a – gasp! – traitor! The turncoat will join the dark side while the rest of the team has to figure out how to beat their former ally. The third edition of the game comes with 50 different haunting scenarios, which is more than enough to keep your loved ones entertained for several fun and spooky evenings.
$42 at Amazon$56 at Target$56 at Entertainment Earth
In Clank! Catacombs, you and your loved ones take on the role of treasure hunters exploring the catacombs of the skeletal dragon Umbrok Vessna. As you plumb the dungeon’s depths, you’ll uncover portals, shrines, ghosts, prisoners pleading you to free them, and, of course, treasure. You can grab the first prize you see and try to make it out alive, or you can go deeper for even more riches, but risk the wrath of the dreaded dragon.
$55 at Amazon
Remember that movie (and book) We Bought A Zoo? Whether you do or not, here’s a game that helps your loved ones live out that fantasy. In Ark Nova, up to four players will compete against each other to plan and design the most successful zoo. They’ll have to build enclosures, acquire animal attractions from around the world, and support conservation projects to ensure the survival of animal habitats. With over 125 unique animal cards, your loved ones will almost never play the same game twice.
$59 at Amazon$65 at Walmart$67 at Macy’s
Expeditions is a game where players compete against each other to explore a massive meteorite that crashed in a nearby river, awakening an ancient, Cthulthu-like entity. Players make their way through the terrain with large mechs, deploying workers, uncovering items and meteorite shrapnel as they attempt to solve quests, vanquish corruption and accomplish tasks. We should note that while Expeditions is a sequel to the popular game Scythe, you do not need to know anything about the latter in order to play it.
$85 at Stonemaier Games
Marvel Dice Throne
Marvel fans are sure to enjoy Marvel Dice Throne, a game where each player gets to be one of eight famous characters (Black Panther, Captain Marvel, Black Widow, Scarlet Witch, Loki, Thor, Doctor Strange and Miles Morales’ Spider-Man). They then compete in a 1v1, 2v2, 3v3, 2v2v2 or free-for-all battle where they play cards and roll dice in order to thwart the other players. In addition to attack moves, players can also activate unique abilities and upgrade their characters over time. Gameplay is relatively quick – just 20 to 40 minutes.
$27 at Amazon$27 at Target
Named after the Moorish decorative tiles of the Alhambra palace in Spain, Azul is a game where players compete against each other to create beautiful tiled mosaics. Two to four players take turns drafting colored tiles to their player boards with the goal of scoring as many points as possible while also preventing their opponents from doing the same. Extra points will be given to those who create particular patterns or collect sets of the same color. Easy to learn but tough to master, Azul is a great gift for those who are new to gaming or just anyone who enjoys strategic puzzles.
$22 at Amazon$22 at Walmart$32 at Target
Votes for Women
If you know a history buff who wants a game that’s both historical and challenging, then Votes for Women could be the gift for them. As the name suggests, Votes for Women is a game that covers the American women’s suffrage movement from 1848 to 1920. The suffragist player has to get Congress to pass the proposed 19th Amendment and then to have three-fourths of the states ratify the Amendment, while the opposition wants Congress to reject it. There is also a cooperative mode where players can work together to get the Amendment passed.
$75 at Fort Circle Games
Perhaps you have a loved one who wouldn’t mind playing tabletop games, but isn’t into nerdy themes like fighting monsters or defeating zombies? Or maybe he or she is simply a fan of nature? Then Wingspan could very well be the gateway board game for them. This game has been on our list in the past, but we still recommend it as it’s a long-time favorite. In it, players are bird enthusiasts looking to discover and attract the best birds to their wildlife preserve. It comes with a super helpful quick start guide to help new players start playing without having to go through the whole rulebook (which, itself is pretty easy to understand).
The game is one of the most gorgeous we’ve seen, with beautiful pastel-colored egg miniatures, a dice tower that looks like a bird house, and thoughtfully arranged components; it even comes with a bird-decorated card holder. Plus, the game can be educational, as players learn a thing or two in the process about bird species, from the burrowing owl to the scissor-tailed flycatcher.
$47 at Amazon$48 at Target$53 at Macy’s
Another great game for nature fans is Earth, especially if they enjoy the idea of planning out their own ecosystem. In Earth, players earn points by building out an entire symbiotic environment made out of various flora and fauna. Each person gets their very own starting island along with accompanying climate conditions and a starting ecosystem. Throughout the game, players will arrange their island, sow plants and develop terrain in order to attract animals. The more diverse the ecosystem, the better.
$50 at Inside Up Games