Board games are great gifts for anyone who wants to spend time with friends and family and disconnect from technology. They’re interactive, fun, and you get to tell everyone to put away their phones for a while. But instead of pulling out the same old classics like Monopoly and Scrabble, we recommend giving some new titles a try. 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 swashbuckling pirates to those with haunted mansions, we’re sure at least one of these will be a hit with friends and family.
Trekking Through History
Whether your gift recipient is a serious history buff or a more casual one, they’ll find something to like in Trekking Through History. In this game, players go on a three-day tour of human history in a time machine, visiting historical settings and trying to witness momentous events before the clock runs out. There, they’ll check off items on their itinerary to earn points and, importantly, Time Crystals that they can use to bend the space-time continuum on future turns. As a bonus, they’ll score additional points if they visit these historical events in chronological order. With colorful illustrations and easy-to-understand instructions, this game is perfect for gamers and non-gamers alike.
Betrayal at House on the Hill (3rd Edition)
Fans of horror stories will adore Betrayal at 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.
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.
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.
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.
If your giftee likes gardening, Planted is the ideal game for them. In it, two to four players compete against each other to grow the best collection of houseplants. Not only will they need to acquire the right plants, but they’ll also need to feed and nurture them with the right combination of light, water and plant food. The game comes with 42 varieties of popular and exotic houseplants, each with their own requirements to grow. The plant parent that ends up scoring the most points wins. Planted was designed from the ground up to be beginner friendly and easy to learn, so even those who are new to board games will pick this up fairly quickly.
Star Wars: Villainous
Jedi Knights and the Rebel Alliance are the heroes in Star Wars, but sometimes it’s fun to play the bad guy. In Star Wars: Villainous, each player takes control of one of five Star Wars villains: Darth Vader, Asajj Ventress, Kylo Ren, Moff Gideon, or General Grievous. Their goal is to see who can accomplish their evil plans first. Each villain has their own unique goal; for example, Darth Vader wins if he defeats Luke Skywalker, while Gideon must capture Baby Yoda. This game is perfect for the Star Wars fan in your life, especially if they’re intrigued by the dark side.
Sail the open seas as swashbuckling pirates in Forgotten Waters, a story-filled board game that’s essentially a choose-your-own-adventure tale but a lot more fun. Three to seven players get to be pirates sailing together on a ship, each with their own goals and attributes. Your loved one will have a variety of missions to choose from, be it discovering a sunken treasure or hunting a legendary sea monster. The game comes with five scenarios already, but there’s a DLC you can get online that adds a new scenario and over 100 new events, which bodes well for the game’s replayability.
The Chameleon is a party game for three to eight players where one person is given the role of the Chameleon, while the rest tries to figure out who they are. A Secret Word is then revealed to everyone, except the Chameleon, who must play along so that they don’t get discovered. Each player will have to say a word relating to the Secret Word, while the Chameleon has to make an educated guess based on the available clues. This bluffing-deduction game only takes 15 minutes per round, which makes it ideal for parties or family gatherings.
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.
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.