The best board games to buy for the holidays: Part 1

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Deciding what to get your friends and family for Christmas is difficult enough, without trying to wade through the thousands upon thousands of tabletop games you can buy. I know from personal experience that choosing a board game can be incredibly overwhelming, and that goes double if you’re new to the hobby, or completely unfamiliar.

That’s why we’re bringing you a comprehensive guide to the best board games that your tabletop gamer friends (or you) would like to find under the Christmas tree. For the total newbies to the lifelong board gamer, there’s something for anyone and everyone on this list.

Part One covers classic games, the best new games from 2017, the top party games to bust out after Christmas lunch, and the smaller, portable games that are perfect as stocking stuffers.

All-Time Favourites

The modern classics of any board games collection, these all-time favourites are all but guaranteed to make anyone a life-long enthusiast.

Catan

Settlers of Catan and its many, many variants are the perfect replacement to the Monopoly of yesteryear. There’s still an area control mechanic, but far more varied and interesting, with added building mechanics and resource trading. I can’t say that you won’t still fight over it as a family, but at least the games don’t drag on for five hours.

Players: 3-4
Ages: 10+
Estimated play time: 60-120 minutes

Ticket to Ride

Collect cards, claim train routes and stymie your competitors with Ticket to Ride, an easy two to five player game. As a gateway game, the simple rules are quick to learn and the play time is relatively short enough to get anyone hooked on tabletop games.

Players: 2-5
Ages: 8+
Estimated play time: 30-60 minutes

Pandemic

A fully co-operation game of you against the board, Pandemic has you and your teammates running around the globe trying to stave off the spread of diseases and halt outbreaks. Be warned, it has many ways to lose, but only one way to win. Pandemic is brutal at times but oh so satisfying when you beat it.

Players: 2-4
Ages: 8+
Estimated play time: 45 minutes

New Games From 2017

2017 was a great year for new board games, so it was hard to whittle the choices down to only three!

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Pandemic Legacy Season 2

After the massive success of the first Pandemic Legacy, the highly anticipated Pandemic Legacy Season 2 quickly found its place on the best new games list from 2017. Play in the Pandemic universe and watch as your decisions ripple through the different chapters, changing the course of the game for good.

Players: 2-4
Ages: 14+
Estimated play time: 60 minutes (per chapter)

Quest for El Dorado

Assemble and equip your team and compete to be the first to reach the mythical El Dorado as you race along dense jungles of South America. A Spiel des Jahres nominee, Quest for El Dorado is a thematically rich and balanced game for newbie gamers and experienced players alike.

Players: 2-4
Ages: 10+
Estimated play time: 30-60 minutes

Kingdomino

Winner of this year’s prestigious Spiel des Jahres award, Kingdomino is basically dominoes, but with a kingdom building twist. Simple to learn and quick to play, it’s perfect for the whole family.

Players: 2-4
Ages: 8+
Estimated play time: 15-20 minutes

Party Games

Made for larger groups of gamers, these party games are short, lightweight and quick to learn.

Codenames

For party games, a fast and tense experience is always better than a long, drawn-out one, and Codenames has that down pat. Set in the world of secret agents, use cunning and deduction to puzzle out your spymaster’s clues and make contact with your agents before the other team makes contact with theirs – while both teams try to avoid the assassin.

Players: 4-8
Ages: 14+
Estimated play time: 15 minutes

One Night Ultimate Werewolf

A fast bluffing game, One Night Ultimate Werewolf is a game where everyone gets a role. As a group, you need to decide who among you is the werewolf. There’s no moderator and no elimination mechanic, so no one ever has to sit out the remainder of a round.

Players: 3-10
Ages: 8+
Estimated play time: 10 minutes

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Telestrations

Telestrations combines the drawing skills (or lack thereof) of Pictionary and the pass-it-along mechanic of Broken Telephone to make one hilarious party game. Between trying to sketch something, trying to guess what’s been sketched, and trying not to lose anything in translation, Telestrations will have you in stitches.

Players: 4-8
Ages: 12+
Estimated play time: 30 minutes

Stocking Stuffers

If they’re small enough to fit into a Christmas stocking, they’re small enough to take with you on the go. And, as a bonus, they won’t break the bank!

Love Letter

You wouldn’t think that a full game could be packed into 13 cards and a couple of tokens, but Love Letter pulls it off. A card-drawing deduction game, Love Letter is a game I would take with me anywhere, and has a million different variant themes from Archer to Batman to Lovecraft Letter.

Players: 2-4
Ages: 10+
Estimated play time: 20 minutes

No Thanks!

A set-collecting game in reverse, No Thanks! sees the player with the lowest score win. The rules are simple, either play a chip to avoid picking up the face-up card, or pick up that card and all the chips on it. Cards score high, while chips are -1 point. Can you keep your score low enough to win?

Players: 3-7
Ages: 8+
Estimated play time: 20-30 minutes

Hanabi

It’s up to you and your group to work together and make a beautiful, perfect fireworks display using 5 sets of different coloured cards placed in order. Sounds easy, but there’s a catch. You hold your cards so they’re not visible to you, only to other players. As a group, you need to give other players hints to what card they should play, and finish the fireworks display before you run out of cards.

Players: 2-5
Ages: 8+
Estimated play time: 25 minutes

Find all these board games and more on Raru, Loot, Timeless Board Games, or your friendly neighbourhood board game store. Stay tuned for the second part of our gift guide, coming soon!

Last Updated: December 5, 2017

Tracy Benson

All about movies, board games, cider, sci-fi, fantasy and geek culture.

  • I’m always looking for new board games so I found this really interesting and helpful.
    Never heard of El Dorado or Kingdomino so will be looking those two up, thanks.
    About Pandemic Legacy, is it still a co-op game like the original Pandemic?

    Thanks and looking forward to part 1.

    • Tracy Benson

      Pandemic Legacy is still co-op, yes. Season Two is a standalone game as well, so you could start with Season One or jump into Season Two straight away

  • Hargrim

    All great suggestions!! One or two I haven’t played yet on the list, will definitely be looking to get El Dorado.

    Now I just need people to play with

  • Hammersteyn

    Used to play Monopoly a lot, till the cops gave us our final warning.

    • MonsterCheddar

      Yep, nothing starts a family feud quicker than Monopoly

  • I need to find time to get back into this form of gaming, is so much fun!

  • Ricardo Harvey

    Played pandemic for the first time last week and i was instantly hooked. Great list thinks

  • Matthew Holliday

    What? No Warhammer?

  • Raidz19

    I still want to get Exploding Kittens (the adult version). Played once and loved it. It’s basically a more advanced UNO with horribly disfigured cartoon kittens

  • Survive: Escape From Atlantis, Exploding Kittens, Munchkin Panic, Snowblind, Konja, Ancient Terrible Things, Ambition, Sushi Go

  • HvR

    Glad I saw this now a the bottom of the page.

    last Xmas prezzie for the kid sorted thanks Tracy.

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