As if any time of year wasn’t a good time to buy board games, Christmas is right around the corner and it’s the best excuse to fabricate an excuse for more family time. We love board games here at Pockets of Play. Creating memories, working on sportsmanship, and practicing real-life problem-solving skills are all great. But more importantly, they’re fun! Here are 10 games that I think are just perfect for family game night and Christmas lists alike. In no particular order:
Disclosure: Some of the following links may be affiliate links meaning, at no additional cost to you, We may earn a small commission if you click on a link and make a purchase.
Wooden Vikings, metal coins, and a customizable boat for each player! Raids is both flashy and accessible. Rather than rolling dice to move around the board, the player that’s in the rear chooses a spot to stop at until they’re no longer behind everyone. Then the new last place person goes. You race around the board picking up loot and fighting monsters (and each other) along the way. Raids is near perfect family game. It plays in under an hour, is very easy to learn, and is chock-full of fun.
9. Camel Up
A tabletop favorite for years, the new edition is gorgeous. With a board that features a pop-up oasis, stacking plastic camels, and a durable 3D pyramid to roll dice out of. In Camel up you’re frantically trying to hedge your bets on which camel will win a race around the desert board, which will lose and everything in between. Frantic, exciting fun that you can get up and running in no time with room for plenty of players.
Card games have far surpassed the simple mechanisms of playing one card and drawing another. In illusion, you have to question your eyesight by trying to figure out in what order to arrange cards with colorful optical illusions. It’s the type of game that encourages arguments that can be completely solved by challenging a play and seeing who was right and who was wrong.
7. Fantastic Factories
Lots of bright, colorful dice are all well and good. But it’s the engine building goodness that makes Fantastic Factories a shoo-in for this list. Over the course of the game, you’re using your resources to buy and build cards (factories) that let you manipulate your dice to score you points. It’s all about maximizing your resources and using cards that work together. It’s a fun, satisfying, problem-solving experience!
I am a huge Disney fan, so when this bad boy hit shelves I was all over it. Each player takes on the role of a classic Disney Villain attempting to defeat their own hero or resolve their diabolical plan. The artwork is beautiful and thematic, and each player’s goal is unique and fresh. With two stand-alone expansions adding a total of six additional villains (and almost certainly more on the way) you’re never going to be short on content. There’s something to love here, even if you’re not a fan of thous House of Mouse.
5. Okey Dokey
A bunch of animals in an orchestra conducted by a panda? Yes, please! Okey Dokey has players working together to fill out rows of colorful cards in ascending numerical order. Players are limited in their communication, making it not-so-easy to work together. As a bonus, the game is even better (in my opinion) as a solitaire game!
This game has been a constant hit in our house! Clever card play turns a high-speed race into a fun, family-friendly strategy affair. Vibrant art, cool plastic cars, and expansions that add new rules and maps make this the gift that keeps on giving.
3. Ice Cool
Sneaking out of class to steal a snack from the cafeteria seems like an odd theme. That is until you make the entire school made of ice and turn the students into penguins! Ice Cool has you flicking your penguins around a cardboard construction. One player each round acts as the hall monitor and attempts to “tag” the other penguins before they can steal their fish. The components are weighted to cause maximum chaos in a dexterity game that’s always a blast!
2. On Tour
Travel the United States with your band, hitting as many states as possible in one continues route! Using two chunky dice and big, dry-erase maps to mark your path, players attempt to make the most efficient trip possible as they add numbers to each state. Once your map is filled, you have to trace a path leading from low numbers to high, covering as much territory as possible. The tactical feel of the game, mixed with the thrill of planning out a road trip is a ton of fun!
You know when you try to finish someone’s sentence and you both say the same word at the same time? This is the game version of that, but with a lot more getting it wrong in hilarious fashion. Medium has you and a partner play words from a hand of cards, you then have to find the common “medium” word and say it simultaneously. Certainly more good fun than outright competition, Medium is a ton of fun with a concept that can be explained in seconds.
So there you have it! 10 games that are perfect for just about any Christmas list. Naturally, this just scratches the very surface of what the board gaming world has to offer, so if you see something else that interests you, let us know!
Daniel Robison is a father, board game content creator, and resident of the Pacific Northwest. Since 2016 he has run “Plumpy Thimble”, a board game humor and review outlet on Youtube, Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.