Board Game Holiday Gift Guide!

by Phoenix Comics and Games

Welcome to our holiday gift guide! This year we know that things are a pretty different. We’re used to being able to help folks out in-store with choosing the right gift for the right person. This year, folks are rightly limiting the time they spend in the store. So in keeping with that – here’s a little guide to help you figure out how to pick out the right gifts for those comic and game fans in your life.

Unlike a lot of holiday gift guides, we’re gonna focus on what questions to ask those loved ones and give you the resources to figure out what they mean. We’ll include a few broad interest and popular suggestions, but when picking out the right gift this year thoughtfulness goes a long way. So if you need a hand with some recommendations, read on and let’s get started!

Phoenix Holiday Gift Guide: Board Games

When you hear someone say they like board games, know that this statement covers a pretty wide range of topics. The good news for those of you with avid board gamers in your life is that generally speaking, board game devotees know what they’re looking for. This means they’ll either hand you a list of games to look for OR some set of styles of games that they enjoy. The important thing to do (if you can) is to look around at what games they’ve already gotten. Often they’ll be happy to share that information with you.

Questions to Ask:

What styles of games do you enjoy playing? I always like to start off any recommendation request with this question. This is an opportunity to get some broad spectrum information about what they like to play. Pay attention for keywords like Eurogame, strategy, deckbuilders, or cooperative. This can really help you focus down when you start looking for games that suit the person.

What games have you really enjoyed? This question can tell us a fair bit about what they’re probably already playing, and also the styles of games that they like to play. For example, if I hear that someone really likes Catan, they will probably get a kick out of Carcassonne as the two have similar time requirements and pretty low bars for learning.

How many folks in your household play board games with you? In the middle of a pandemic, finding games that can be played with just members of one’s own household is probably a high priority for most folks. And the last thing you want to do is wind up with a 3+ player game in a  2-person household.

What’s your ideal run time for a game? Board games can range from 10-15 minutes all the way up into several hours to run a game. Each player has their own tolerance for how long a game can be played before it gets old, and it’s different for everyone.

Okay, so now you’ve asked those questions and gotten some answers. Is there a magic hopper to toss that into and come up with a list?  Well…sort-of. The single biggest resource for finding new board games is Boardgamegeek.com. They compile lists of games sorted by genre and community ratings (and they’ve even got a few holiday lists for games themselves). 

Phoenix Recommendations

When it came time to put together some holiday picks, we decided to pick 10 games that range from recent hits to classic games, with a few things in common. All of the games below play easily at 2-4 players, have somewhere in the neighborhood of 30-60 minutes of play time, and are easy to play (read: Nick could teach this to his non-board-gaming parents over dinner). Sound good? Let’s take a look at what made our holiday recommendations list: 

Azul (and Azul: Summer Pavillion)

Type of Game: Abstract, Strategy

Number of Players: 2-4

Game Time: About 30 minutes

 Azul and it's sibling game Azul: Summer Pavillion are tile drafting games. During each game players take turns taking groups of tiles from the various factories on the board, which are then used to score points on that player's mosaic. Azul rewards efficiency and thoughtful actions while not forcing players to think so far ahead as to bog things down. 

Carcassonne

Type of Game: Euro-Strategy, Family 

Number of Players: 2-5 (can go up to 6 with an expansion)

Game Time: About 30 minutes

Carcassonne is a great game for folks who like simple rulesets, but with a lot of room for complex strategies. Players take turns placing tiles down and building out a map of a French countryside. After a player places a tile, they can put down one of their meeples (that's 'little wooden board game person' for the lay-person) and claim part of the tile, such as a road, city, abbey, or field. Once the claimed project is complete, that meeple comes off of the tile and the player scores points based on the finished size of the project. 

Cindr

 

Type of Game: Dice, Fantasy, Humor

Number of Players: 2-4

Game Time: About 30 minutes

 Cindr is a fun push-your-luck style dice game where you try to date dragons without getting burned! Players begin by filling out a dating-profile-card, complete with pronouns and various compatibilities, and then browse through other profiles in an effort to get love points without rolling too many flames. 

Splendor

 

Type of Game: Abstract Card Game

Number of Players: 2-4

Game Time: About 30 minutes

Splendor is a fantastic game for those who love strategy. Players take turns gathering gems, then using them to purchase gem 'development' cards that provide a constant gem of a specific color, and enabling them to buy further cards more efficiently (or to afford more expensive and valuable cards). Players can also attract the attention of noble patrons, who aid them with bonus points! 

King of Tokyo

Type of Game: Family Dice Game

Number of Players: 2-6

Game Time: About 30 minutes

King of Tokyo is the perfect game for those of you with the raucous 7-8 year olds who wander around your zoom calls all day pretending to be giant monsters. In fact, players take turns pretending to be giant monsters destroying Tokyo! Players roll dice that generate fight power, healing, points, and energy, which can be used to customize those monsters in fun and funny ways such as giving the monster a jet-pack, or a second head. It's a bunch of goofy fun that's enjoyable for folks of all ages!

Sushi Go Party 

Type of Game: Card Drafting Game

Number of Players: 2-8

Game Time: About 30 minutes

Sushi-Go Party is the bigger sibling to the fun 2-4 player game Sushi-Go. In both games players take turns choosing sushi to eat as the conveyor belt rotates their hands around the table. What makes Sushi-Go Party so much better than it's predecessor is the number of options available for food. Before each game starts, you customize which sushi you'll be using by choosing a menu. This lends some much-needed variety to this delightful and easy drafting game.

Coup

Type of Game: Fast-Paced Bluffing Game

Number of Players: 2-6

Game Time: 15-30 minutes

Coup is a quick and fun game of bluffing and intrigue. Players vie for influence and seek to eliminate their rivals. Players are assigned two characters at the beginning of the game, but they can bluff and use powers from any of the character cards in the game (providing no one calls their bluff). The end-goal of Coup is pretty simple, but how you get there is a challenge no matter how many people are playing. For those of you who like Mafia or the Resistance, Coup's a great way to have that sort of fun while still keeping things limited to just one household.

7 Wonders Duel

Type of Game: Card Drafting Game

Number of Players: 2 Players* (for 3+ players use 7 Wonders)

Game Time: 30 minutes

7 Wonders Duel is the 2-player version of the drafting game 7 Wonders. The game is played across 3 rounds (or ages), as players pick and choose cards from a set of laid out cards that represent resources and buildings to help each player build their civilization. Despite only being a 2 player game, 7 Wonders gives you multiple avenues to victory, including military might, scientific progress, and plain old-fashioned points and grandeur. 

Jaipur

Type of Game: Card Set-Taking Game

Number of Players: 2 Players

Game Time: 15-30 minutes

Jaipur is a quick card game involving resource trading and push-your-luck mechanics that I find fun and enjoyable. Each player begins with some amount of resources or camels in front of them, and a row of resources to barter with. Both players are able to purchase goods from the market, which are more valuable the earlier they get purchased (for example: the first leather purchased is worth 4 points, then 3, then 2, then 1 point until the stack is depleted). Players also get points by purchasing goods in bulk. Once three sets of goods are empty, the day ends and players tabulate their points to see who wins!

Pandemic

Type of Game: Cooperative Board Game

Number of Players: 2-4 Players

Game Time: 30-45 minutes

Alright, we know this one's a little bit of gallows-humor, but trust us when we say Pandemic is a really good game, even if it is a bit too on the nose right now. Players are each members of the CDC trying to manage and contain the outbreak of 4 new and nasty viruses that have broken out across the world. Unlike every other game on this list, players have to work together against the game itself in order to fix things and come up with the cures. The game is challenging, but there are ways to scale the difficulty up and down to suit the skill of everyone playing.

And that's it for this round of our holiday gift guide! We'll have another part out later on this week where we offer some helpful hints and suggestions for what to get the D&D player in your life!

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