Guide

2020 Holiday Board Game Gift Guide

Our EPIC board game gift guide has over 50 recommendations for every kind of board gamer! There are wallet-sized games and wallet-friendly games. There are games for the first timer and for friends who have been playing for years. From lightweight stocking stuffer games you can play in minutes to multi-hour games your gamer will love.

It’s no secret that this has been a trying year for the entire world. But board games have been a bright spot to families everywhere, stuck at home since the spring. The titles in our 5th annual 2020 holiday gift guide have been hand picked to provide an extra bit of joy and happiness, and represent the best games that 2020 to offer, in a wide range of categories.

There are wallet-sized games and wallet-friendly games. There are games for the first timer and for friends who have been playing for years. From lightweight stocking stuffer games you can play in minutes to multi-hour games your gamer will love. Or maybe you’re the board game geek and you’re on the prowl for something new and interesting, perhaps an import game!

So no matter what you’re looking for, or who it’s for, the Meeple Mountain 2020 Holiday Board Game Gift Guide has loads of gifts for board gamers!

Best Games for Virtual Play
Best Stocking Stuffer Games
Best Games on a Budget
Best Games for the First Time Gamer
Best Games for the Family
Best Games for the Young Gamer
Best Games for the Experienced Gamer
Best Epic Games
Best Two Player Games
Best Import Games
Best RPG Games
Board Game Apparel

Best Games for Virtual Play

For most people, playing games is a heavily social experience, with the exception of all you solo board gamers out there). So those of us who love being around others while gaming have been hit particularly hard during COVID. But never fear, the games on this list are guaranteed to have your Zoom calls breaking out into spontaneous gaming. You can also check out some great tips on how to keep the gaming action alive while isolated.

Herd Mentality

Name a brand beginning with the letter ‘S’. Name a movie trilogy. Name something slippery. Herd Mentality is a party game all about trying to be part of the pack. Each round players must answer a prompt; the players who give the most popular response amongst those playing each receive a point. The first player to reach 8 points wins the game. But beware, if you give the least popular response, you’ll receive the pink cow — which prevents a player from winning the game when they possess it.

Herd Mentality is a hilarious party game that accommodates a large group of players and what’s better is it can be played easily over video chat using a whiteboard and dry erase marker or simply pen and paper. (Each player will also need to find a ‘pink cow’ equivalent… a fun game in itself.)

4-10 players, ages 10+, 20 minutesBuy now

Master Word

Part deduction, part word game, full cooperation: Master Word is all about trying to uncover a secret word from a single starting hint. One player acts as the Guide (who knows what the secret word is) while the other players are Seekers (who write down a clue each round in the hopes of honing in on the secret word). After the Seekers write down their clues for the round, the Guide assigns tokens depending on which clues correctly match the secret word. The Seekers only know how many clues correctly match, but not which ones specifically.

Master Word is yet another wonderful party game from publisher Le Scorpion Masqué and plays quite well over video chat if one player sets the game up with a camera overhead.

3-6 players, ages 12+, 5-15 minutesBuy now

Codenames

Yes, we know that Codenames isn’t a 2020 release, but the all new Codenames website IS. The Czech Games team had been hard at work building an online version of this amazing word game anyway. Codenames online is the perfect accompaniment to your existing video calls. Have everyone sign on to https://codenames.game/ and let the fun begin. You can also play Codenames Duet, a two player specific version for just you and that special someone.

Check out our Codenames review and Codenames Duet review.

2-8 players, ages 14+, 15-30 minutesBuy now

Best Stocking Stuffer Games

Not all of these games will fit in a stocking, but their small footprints make them the perfect “small” gift. Items on this list aren’t all games, but will be loved by anyone who gets them!

Deckscape – The Curse of the Sphinx

We could have added any of the games in the Deckscape series as stocking stuffer recommendations; each game is compact, inexpensive, and packs a full escape room experience into a deck of just 60 cards. (Added bonus: there is no component destruction so the game can be reset and regifted.) We chose to specifically call out The Curse of the Sphinx because of how thematic and tense its gameplay is — it may or may not involve an awakened mummy chasing you. If this is your first Deckscape or escape room board game, you’ll want to read our Deckscape mega review for recommendations on where to start. However, for the seasoned escape room-er, Deckscape: The Curse of the Sphinx will be a rewarding challenge.

1-6 players, ages 12+, 30-90 minutesBuy now

Ohanami

Few small box card games can tout that they pack a deep, strategic gameplay experience… and Ohanami is one of them. The rules are simple: each turn draft 2 cards from your hand to add to your gardens or to discard. When adding to each garden, you can only add a card higher than your highest card or lower than your lowest card. At the end of the first round, you’ll score points for all the blue water cards in your garden. At the end of the second round, these cards score again as well as your green grass cards — and at the end of the third round, even more cards score. Ohanami is a clever small box card game that mixes card drafting with interesting cascading scoring and is a highly interactive experience as you never really want to gift your neighbour that handful of perfect cards.

Read our Ohanami review.

2-4 players, ages 8+, 20 minutesBuy now

Skulls of Sedlec

What would a stocking stuffer gift list be without at least one wallet game from our friends at Button Shy games? This time it’s Skulls of Sedlec, surely the only card game to ever be themed after an ossuary (literally a room full of bones). But you don’t need to be in a death metal band to play this game. At just 18 cards Skulls of Sedlec is both tiny, and cleverly designed. Two or three players draw cards from a shared pool in order to build a pyramid of skulls. Every skull comes from one of 5 different kinds, each of which score differently at the end of the game. Skulls of Sedlec plays fast and can be played nearly anywhere you’ve got a flat surface. And at just it won’t break the bank either.

Read our review of Skulls of Sedlec.

2-3 players, ages 8+, 15-30 minutesBuy now

Gudetama

No single company is more synonymous with the notion of “kawaii” (かわいい), the culture of “cuteness” in Japan, than Sanrio. Their characters span the range of cats, dogs, frogs, penguins, schoolchildren, and now a “lazy egg yolk with a butt crack”. Renegade Games is looking to bring some of that kawaii to the US with the release of Gudetama (the name of the aforementioned egg yolk), a clever trick-taking game, where only the last trick in a round matters. It’s hard to claim that a trick taking game can have a theme, but given that Gudetama’s claim to fame is laziness, the notion of only scoring the final card in a round makes sense. If you love bizarre kawaii style artwork and trick taking games, then you’ll find that Gudetama is a “cracking” good time.

2-7 players, ages 7+, 20 minutesBuy now

Air, Land & Sea

15-20 minutes. 18 cards. 3 theaters of war. Endless possibilities. In Air, Land, & Sea two players go head to head as they slug it out for control of three different theaters of war. Each player begins with a hand of 6 cards drawn from a shared deck. On their turn a player will play a card from their hand face up into its matching theater for its value and to use its ability or face down for a much smaller value but into any theater of their choice. Some abilities swap cards around. Some cause cards to flip over. And there are other abilities as well. The end goal is to control 2 out of the 3 theaters to win the round and to win the best 2 out of 3. Air, Land, & Sea answers that age old question: “Is it possible to fit an entire wargaming experience into just 18 cards?” That answer is a definitive “yes”.

Read our review of Air, Land & Sea.

2 players, ages 14+, 15-30 minutesBuy now

Dealt (Krass Kariert)

The first thing most people do when picking up a hand of cards is rearrange them using whatever system that feels right to them. In DEALT!, you’ll have to think differently because you can only play cards that touch each other — but you can’t rearrange your hand. So, play cards that push your remaining cards together in just the right ways, and add cards in just the right spots. But the object is to shed all of your cards, so beware — your opponents may be conspiring to give you more. Dealt! is the English-language version of the highly-rated German game Krass Kariert.

3-5 players, ages 10+, 30 minutesBuy now


Best Games on a Budget

A penny saved is a penny earned…which can then be spent on more games! Save your wallet with these inexpensive games! Fewer dollars, but filled with fun!

Exit: The Game – Theft on the Mississippi

At Meeple Mountain, we love Exit: The Game (and something from the series usually ends up on our annual gift guide in some way or another). This year, KOSMOS released 4 new Exit games, but our favourite is by far Theft on the Mississippi. Like its 2018 counterpart, Dead Man on the Orient Express, Theft on the Mississippi blends the brilliant and puzzly escape room experience we’ve come to adore from the Exit games and adds a mystery to be solved — a combination that works oh so well.

1-4 players, ages 12+, 45-90 minutesBuy now

Dice & Ink: A Roll & Write Anthology

Budget doesn’t always mean cheap, it can also mean getting great value for your money. And the Dice & Ink: Roll & Write Anthology does just that. For the low price of you get 10 different and unique roll & write games in book form (even cheaper if you don’t mind the print and play version). You supply the dice and writing utensils and let the games come to you!

1-6 players, ages 10+, 15-30 minutesBuy now

Mystic Market

Mystic Market is a fast-paced card game where players buy and sell fantastical ingredients for potion-making. Manipulate the value track to make sure you get the highest value for your Phoenix Feathers, while making sure your opponents earn bottom of the barrel pricing for their Kraken Tentacles. Only the savviest of traders will prevail.

2-4 players, ages 10+, 30-45 minutesBuy now

Village Green

Village Green is a little card game that packs a big horticultural punch. But don’t let its small stature or low price fool you into thinking Village Green is just a walk in the park. Players face-off in a competition to create the best village green, carefully placing plants, water features and statues in ideal arrangements that will score the most points from the individual scoring cards that border their burgeoning green. Beautiful cards, a short playtime and simple rules come together to create a delightfully knotty puzzle that’ll tingle your brain cells just the right amount.

Read our review of Village Green.

1-5 players, ages 14+, 30 minutesBuy now

Truffle Shuffle

Truffle Shuffle is a delightful chocolate themed set collection game with poker style scoring. Players collect cards featuring the most delicious of chocolaty treats, the truffle. Take turns drafting pastel colored cards from a shared tableau to create sets of candies. Turn those sets in for points by using special abilities that allow you to change colors and numbers. The losers must all do the “truffle shuffle” dance from the iconic 80’s movie The Goonies. (just kidding about that last part). 😀

2-4 players, ages 14+, 15-30 minutesBuy now


Best Games for the First Time Gamer

Those of us “in the know” understand that board gaming is a wonderful hobby. It’s a great way to spend time with friends, family, and even perfect strangers. If you’re trying to introduce board gaming to someone in your life, the games on this list are an excellent place to start!

The Crew: The Quest for Planet Nine

While The Crew: The Quest for Planet Nine is technically a 2019 release, it only made its way over to an English-speaking audience in 2020. The Crew is a cooperative trick-taking game and the perfect gift for introducing a trick-taking fan to our great hobby, especially if they’re already familiar with team-based games like Euchre and Pinochle. The Crew: The Quest for Planet Nine offers a new spin on trick-taking and with over 50 cooperative missions that get progressively more difficult, it never gets boring.

Watch our video review of The Crew: The Quest for Planet Nine.

2-5 players, ages 10+, 20 minutesBuy now

Bites

Have you ever thought about a picnic from the perspective of an ant? Teeny tiny creatures picking up crumbs of tasty treats that are 10 times their size! That’s the theme of the excellent game Bites. Players share the movement of the wonderfully chunky ant pieces following a trail of food (cheese, bread, fruit, and more) in order to pick up said morsels. Bites is a delight to play, and just as fun to look at; with high quality cards, and some of the most amazing triple-layered cardboard pieces I’ve ever seen. Bites can have up to 5 players and features great replayability thanks to some variable setup at the beginning of the game.

2-5 players, ages 12+, 20 minutesBuy now

My City

My City is a unique, family-oriented legacy gaming experience that is played in 24 relatively short episodes, and allows players to slowly advance their civilizations. During each game, players customise their experience by adding elements to their own boards. Players’ choices and actions made during one session of gameplay carry over into the next session, creating a personalised gaming experience. The My City game board also features a non-legacy version so that players can enjoy the game with friends not involved in the campaign.

2-4 players, ages 10+, 30 minutesBuy now

Pandemic: Hot Zone – North America

If you’ve always wanted to introduce your friends to Pandemic, now’s the chance. Pandemic: Hot Zone is the same game you love, but zoomed in to cover just the North American continent. Smaller in size, and less expensive, it still maintains all the tension of the original Pandemic.

2-4 players, ages 8+, 30 minutesBuy now


Best Games for the Family

What better way to spend family time than with board games? Even though board games are a family tradition going back centuries; today’s modern games keep it fresh with new themes and engaging gameplay. Gather your family around the table with a game from this list and let the memories happen.

Wavelength

The premise of Wavelength is simple: split into teams, read a two part clue, then get your team to read your mind. Easy right? Okay, you might not really be reading minds, but you’re going to feel like it after playing Wavelength. Two teams of players take turns reading off clues with “ranges” like “hot / cold”, “wet / dry”, or “smelly in a good way / smelly in a bad way”. The clue giver then gives a one word clue to as to encourage their team to rotate a dial on the gameboard to a precise location only they know. Wavelength is crazy fun, and simply a blast to play with friends. Not to mention that setup is a dead cinch because you don’t even have to take the game out of the box to play it! Simply take off the lid, raise the dial and you’re off to the races!

2-12 players, ages 14+, 30-45 minutesBuy now

Chai

In Chai, you will step into the shoes of a tea merchant, combining tea flavours to make the perfect blend. Specializing in either rooibos, green, oolong, black or white tea, you will buy and collect ingredients to fulfill your customers’ orders. Take turns visiting the markets, selecting additives to your blend, and reserving customers. Chai is lush, gorgeous, and “quali-tee” from start to finish.

1-5 players, ages 8+, 20-60 minutesBuy now

Strike

“You’ll never have so much fun throwing dice into a plastic arena” – You, trying to tell your friends about Strike after your first play session.

It’s simple; toss a die into a small plastic version of the Colosseum. If your die, and any of the dice already in the arena, show multiples you get to keep them (3 twos, 4 fives, etc.). Any dice with an X facing up are removed from the game. The game is over when only one player has any dice left. Complex this game isn’t, but super fun it is! There’s even a Harry Potter version

2-5 players, ages 8+, 15 minutesBuy now

Kitara

The gift for the family that likes to fight a little bit, without anyone getting too bent out of shape. Kitara is an area control game where you don’t remove your opponents’ pieces from the board. It’s fast and loose, playing in around 45 minutes, and manages to be an engaging experience every time, with minimal rules overhead.

2-4 players, ages 10+, 40 minutesBuy now

Horrified

The Universal Studios Monsters have come to town — and it isn’t just to dance the monster mash; they’re here to terrorize the local villagers and it is up to your team to rescue them and defeat the Monsters. Horrified is an amazing cooperative game for the family and it is also wonderfully thematic too — you feel like you’re really a team of heroes trying to corral Frankenstein as he wanders the board aimlessly or you’re especially wary of board spaces near water in fear of the Creature from the Black Lagoon emerging. The game also includes varying difficulties of play so you can customize how challenging your gameplay experience is to the one that best fits your family.

Read our review of Horrified.

1-5 players, ages 10+, 60 minutesBuy now

Pyramid Arcade

With 22 games in the rule book and even more to discover online, Pyramid Arcade has games for every type of player in the family. Want a dice-rolling game? Check! Want a game with Chess-like strategies? Check! How about a shorter version of Risk? Check! Want games that can include every member of the family? Check! Even better, the Pyramids, dice, and game boards lend themselves to new games so well your family could create your own games!

Read our review of Pyramid Arcade.

1-10 players, ages 5+, 5-180 minutesBuy now

Trekking the World

Whether you’re making a major trip these holidays or bemoaning your canceled travel plans, Trekking the World from Underdog Games is your passport to family fun! This kid-friendly game from the makers of Trekking the National Parks checks every box: it’s beautiful, educational, and enjoyable to play for gamers of any age. See the world from the comfort of your living room with Trekking the World!

Read our review of Trekking the World.

2-5 players, ages 10+, 30-60 minutesBuy now


Best Games for the Young Gamer

Board gaming is a family affair, but your young kids probably aren’t capable of playing the newest Euro games. The titles on this list are geared for younger kids who will appreciate their bright colors and simple gameplay, but each of these games is also fun for all ages. If this list isn’t enough, then check out our top lists of games for younger kids, and for older kids.

Zombie Teenz Evolution

The Zombies are back! But so are a new crop of heroes. Building upon the fantastic Zombie Kids Evolution (the best gaming experience I’ve ever had with my kids), Le Scorpion Masque is releasing the next chapter in the zombie story your family will love. The goal is simple, clear the zombies from your town. The gameplay is simply, roll a die, move your character, defeat some zombies. But over time you’ll open different mystery envelopes which will permanently change the rules of the game. Fans of the original will love this new version, but first timers can jump straight to Zombie Teenz Evolution without having played the original. As an added bonus Zombie Teenz and Zombie Kidz can be combined for even more fun.

2-4 players, ages 8+, 15-25 minutesBuy now

Mia London and the Case of the 625 Scoundrels

If your little ones love Guess Who (and who doesn’t?) then they’ll love Mia London (girl detective). Use clues found in a clever flip book to determine which one of the 625 notorious scoundrels has committed a mischievous crime. Help your child learn deductive reasoning as they laugh out loud at some of the clever and humorous illustrations.

2-4 players, ages 5+, 10-15 minutesBuy now

5er Finden

5er Finden is a roll and write game with two modes of play: puzzle and speed. Each round, players are tasked with finding and outlining the 5 symbols rolled somewhere on their player board. The catch? The symbols must be arranged on a player’s board in the configuration of one of the game’s 12 polymonino shapes. In the speed version, players can draw up to 5 of these polyomino shapes and score points at the end of the round — then erase their boards in preparation for the next round. 5er Finden is an excellent introduction — for kids and adults — to the roll and write genre and a great way to have young gamers work on pattern recognition and improving their puzzle/problem-solving ability. Regardless of the mode you play, 5er Finden is sure to keep both children and adults engaged.

1-4 players, ages 7+, 20 minutesBuy now

Best Games for the Experienced Gamer

So you have a board game connoisseur in your life. Someone who lives and breathes board games? The gifts on this list are certified hits and belong in the collection of every discerning gamer.

Wingspan

If you haven’t heard of Wingspan then you’ve been missing out. This massive hit by first time designer Elizabeth Hargrave took flight last year and proceeded to dominate the gaming landscape, even winning the prestigious Kennerspiel des Jahres. Wingspan is a card driven, engine-building game which features a unique theme (birdwatching) and over 170 distinct illustrations of birds from all over North America.

Read our review of Wingspan.

1-5 players, ages 10+, 40-70 minutesBuy now

Fort

Pizza, toys, and best friends; what more does your inner child need these days? Fort is a highly anticipated deck-building game from the publisher who brought you Root. Whimsical artwork from artist Kyle Ferrin, clever gameplay from designer Grant Rodiek, and killer components, Fort is a game that embraces the best parts of childhood!

Read our review of Fort.

2-4 players, ages 10+, 20-40 minutesBuy now

Forgotten Waters

There once be magic that hovered these waters, mateys, but now t’is gone beyond the mists. Join me crew and let’s find what lies beyond! Forgotten Waters is a cooperative narrative pirate adventure game set in a fictional world of swashbuckling magic and adventure. It utilizes an app to cue story points which includes some top-of-the-crow’s nest voice acting. Sometimes mysterious, a little bit creepy, and most often downright hilarious, Forgotten Waters utilizes a timed worker-placement mechanism for players to explore locations in a location book. Your pirate crew inevitably will find themselves in pop-culture riddled ridiculous situations as they sail through explosive action and adventure.

Watch our review of Forgotten Waters.

3-7 players, ages 15+, 120-240 minutesBuy now

Empyreal: Spells & Steam

The industrial age has come at last to the World of Indines! Use your ingenuity and the skill of your team of technomancers to cross the continent of Indines while connecting towns and building a vibrant trade network. Empyrea:l Spells & Steam is a fantasy themed train game set in the mythical land of Indines from publisher Level 99 Games.

Watch our review of Empyreal: Spells & Steam.

2-6 players, ages 12+, 30-75 minutesBuy now

Raiders of Scythia

Raiders of Scythia is a worker-placement game that sets players as one of eight asymmetric Scythian Heroes in a bid to win the most Victory Points at the game’s end. Raid Settlements, take Plunder and complete Quests in your push for victory. Players will also need to assemble a Crew, train Animals and gather Provisions in order to win the game. Based on the hit title Raiders of the North Sea, Scythia is a spiritual successor of sorts and offers a number of improvements over the original including killer new artwork and a solo mode straight out of the box.

1-4 players, ages 12+, 60-80 minutesBuy now


Best Epic Games

For gamers who want to take their gaming from entertaining to epic, the games on this list will take you on a deep dive and keep you immersed from beginning to end. Just make sure to stay hydrated, and don’t forget the game night snacks!

Chronicles of Crime: 1400

Chronicles of Crime: 1400 takes the original mechanisms from Lucky Duck Games’ hit, Chronicles of Crime, and transports players back in time to medieval Paris. The first game in the three-part Millennium Series, Chronicles of Crime: 1400 follows Abelard Lavel as he’s tasked with solving crimes thanks to his premonitory gift. Chronicles of Crime: 1400 introduces a new setting, characters, stories, and mechanisms (like Perceval the dog and Vision Cards) to this cooperative, app-driven experience. For any fan of the original Chronicles of Crime game, Chronicles of Crime: 1400 is a sure winner.

Check out our Chronicles of Crime: 1400 written review or video review for more info.

1-4 players, ages 14+, 60-90 minutesBuy now

Gloomhaven: Jaws of the Lion

The multiple-award-winning Gloomhaven gets a spinoff treatment in Jaws of the Lion. Players take on the role of one of four battle-hardened mercenaries through a 25-scenario campaign. While Jaws of the Lion replicates the original Gloomhaven’s card-driven gameplay, it introduces some significant improvements over the original. Jaws of the Lion features a token organizer, a map book that eliminates a ton of setup time, and a Learn to Play guide that lets new players dive right into the dungeons with step-by-step instructions that teach the rules over the first five scenarios. Best of all, the four all-new characters play wildly different from each other and are fully compatible with Gloomhaven! If this ends up under your loved one’s tree, be sure to share our spoiler-free Top Ten Strategies to Win More in Gloomhaven, which also applies to Jaws of the Lion!

Read our review of Gloomhaven.

1-4 players, ages 14+, 30-120 minutesBuy now

Tidal Blades: Heroes of the Reef

This game doesn’t just drip with theme, it comes at you like a tsunami. Players take on the role of one of four asymmetric heroes-in-training who utilize unique decks of cards to compete in various “arenas” (sections of the board), accomplish challenges (bonus cards), and try to impress the judge (a standee who travels the various boards). And in their spare time, they fight gigantic sea monsters who are trying to invade! All of this is driven by combining worker-placement, resource collecting, and dice collecting mechanisms. Players will upgrade their dice to more powerful forms over the course of four very tight rounds of gameplay. Points are awarded for accomplishing challenge cards in the same location as the judge standee, fighting monsters, and increasing the four attribute dials that govern the abilities of each character.

1-4 players, ages 14+, 60-90 minutesBuy now

Star Wars: Outer Rim

Board your own bucket of bolts and blast off for narrative competitive adventure in Star Wars: Outer Rim. This board game functions like a simulation for anyone who’s wanted to become like their favorite Star Wars rogues. Players can build their crew, combat ships, smuggle cargo (illegal or otherwise), accomplish missions, upgrade equipment, and even hunt bounties as they seek to become the most (in)famous character in the Outer Rim.

1-4 players, ages 14+, 120-180 minutesBuy now

Pandemic Legacy: Season 0

Pandemic Legacy: Season 0 drops you back in 1962, in the heart of the Cold War. The Soviets have developed a deadly bio-weapon called Project Medusa, and your team of scientists have been recruited by the CIA to investigate and prevent it from seeing the light of day. You and your team will travel between Allied, Neutral, and Soviet cities in your feverish race to stop armageddon. But beware, the situation (and the very board itself) is ever-changing and you’ll have to watch for enemy agents intent on stopping you before you can stop them.

2-4 players, ages 14+, 45-60 minutesBuy now


Best Two Player Games

Sometimes you just want to play head to head, skill against skill, and see who comes out on top. Or sometimes you just want to spend quality time with that special someone in your life. In any case the games on this list are custom made for two. Just add a table, and let the gaming commence.

Stellar

In Stellar each player works to create a card tableau of celestial objects and fill their notebooks with their space-related findings, all in only 11 turns. Stellar has an incredible table presence and is a very thinky and involved two-player experience. Every move you make will not only impact your opponent, but also the cards you end up putting in your tableau. Stellar has largely flown under the radar (likely because of the unfortunate timing of its release). If you’re looking for a great two-player card game, don’t let Stellar fly past you this holiday season.

2 players, ages 8+, 30 minutesBuy now

Aqualin

Dive beneath the deep blue sea in this fast-paced tile laying game built for two. Face off against your opponent as you place and move 36 tiles featuring 6 different geometric animal shapes (each in 6 different colors). During the game, each player attempts to group together as many matching tiles as possible, and to form the most groups. One player works to create groups of the same colour, while the other makes groups of the same type of sea creature. The bigger the group is, the more points it’s worth.

2 players, ages 10+, 20 minutesBuy now

Mandala

If you’re looking for a quiet, thoughtful game for 2 players then look no further. The meditative swirls of Mandala hide a fierce tactical challenge you won’t want to miss. Play colorful cards to various areas of the eye-catching cloth playmat, hoping to snag high-scoring sets for yourself while denying them to your opponent. What sounds simple is elegantly complex and endlessly engaging. Mandala is a perfect choice for couples, close friends, or any other dueling duo you might know.

Read our review of Mandala.

2 players, ages 10+, 20 minutesBuy now

Fairy Trails

Fairy Trails is a 2-player tile laying game in which the players are trying to build the highest scoring paths along the forest floor. Each tile depicts a series of roads belonging to either the gnomes or the fairies, as well as houses for each branching off of the paths. The object of Fairy Trails is to complete paths with as many of your houses on them as you can in order to score the most points. Small in size, but not in depth, Fairy Trails is a quick and easy game that will keep you coming back for more.

Read our review of Fairy Trails.

1-2 players, ages 8+, 15-20 minutesBuy now

Robin of Locksley

King Richard has been captured and held for ransom. Since his evil brother John, the self-titled Sheriff of Nottingham, refuses to pay, it’s up to you to save the King.

In Robin of Locksley the players go head to head in a contest to see who can make the most trouble for the Sheriff. The play takes place on a 3 x 3 grid of tiles, each depicting a specific type of loot. Around the outside of this area in an array of objectives the players will be racing to complete. With elements of set collection and area manipulation, this racing game designed by Uwe Rosenberg is sure to delight!

Read our review of Robin of Locksley.

2 players, ages 10+, 30-45 minutesBuy now

Unmatched: Cobble & Fog

The Unmatched games are essentially two-player tactical, miniatures, compete-to-the-‘death’ game experiences. (The bigger Unmatched sets can technically be played with four players in teams of two, but ultimately Unmatched feels perfectly designed for just two players.) What makes the Unmatched game system so special is how simple the rules are. But, the Unmatched games’ complexity and genius boil down to each individual character deck: they are unique, relate thematically to the character, and have different play styles. What’s also amazing is how the designers manage to balance the asymmetric gameplay of each.

Unmatched: Cobble & Fog features some of our favourite characters to play — Invisible Man, Dracula, Jekyll & Hyde, and Sherlock Holmes — and is the set we recommend you start with if you’re looking to dive into the world of Unmatched. As an added bonus, Restoration Games currently has an official (and free) Tabletop Simulator mod if you’re looking to try Unmatched: Cobble & Fog before you buy.

Learn more about Unmatched in our review of the first Unmatched set: Battle of Legends, Volume 1.

2-4 players, ages 9+, 20-40 minutesBuy now


Best Import Games

There are a lot of great games in the US, but some of the most interesting games these days are coming from Japan, Taiwan, and Korea. They’re hard to get your hands on, but they’re totally worth the hunt! Check out the list of import games that we’ve reviewed for more ideas.

Demeter

Many roll and write games are light-to-medium abstract experiences where players roll coloured dice and fill in spaces on a scoresheet. Demeter is one of those rarer roll and write games that is both complex and highly strategic, and offers a nice helping of theme. In Demeter players act as scientists exploring a new moon in search of dinosaurs and other goodies. With only 12 turns in a game, one of the key elements of Demeter is trying to pull off efficient (and super cool) combos that will propel you to victory.

Currently Demeter is only available in Europe, but we’re hoping that it will receive a wider distribution soon.

Read our review of Demeter.

1-100 players, ages 14+, 15 minutesBuy now

Praga Caput Regni

Praga Caput Regni is Euro-style gaming at its finest: a box filled with a beautifully busy board, hex tiles, resources and components galore…what more could you ask for? The designer of Praga Caput Regni, Vladimír Suchý, is no stranger to making really crunchy and strategic Euros. (Some of Suchý’s other games include Last Will, Pulsar 2849, and Underwater Cities.) What makes this particular game especially noteworthy is how the game’s 3D components elevate (pun intended) the gameplay experience. Praga Caput Regni was one of our most anticipated Spiel.Digital releases this year and, if you’re like us, you might not want to wait until 2021 for Rio Grande Games to release it in North America — instead importing it over from Europe could be your best bet this holiday season.

1-4 players, ages 12+, 30-120 minutesBuy now

Remember Our Trip

In Remember Our Trip, players try to recreate a map of a city they visited together. After returning from your visit, you and the other travelers have gotten together to try to recall the map of either Kyoto or Singapore (depending on your choice of game board). You’ll piece together the scenery of the map using fragments from your memories, with you earning bonus points if your memory matches that of the main board and other players.

Read our review of Remember Our Trip.

2-4 players, ages 10+, 30 minutesBuy now

Bruxelles 1897

Art Nouveau is taking over the streets of Brussels, in 1897, as the World’s Fair opens its doors. Now is your time, the time to cement your name in the History of Art. To achieve all of your hopes and dreams, you must construct magnificent buildings, create, sell and exhibit works of art, and shake hands with the city’s noblemen. Bruxelles 1897 is a card game based on the Bruxelles 1893 board game.

Read our review of Bruxelles 1897.

2-4 players, ages 10+, 40-60 minutesBuy now

Solar Storm

In Solar Storm, you are crew members on board a ship that has had its energy core taken out by solar flares. Even worse, the ship is caught in the sun’s gravitational pull which is causing even more damage. It is only a matter of time before you and the rest of the crew perish. You and the other crew members must repair the ship while using resources to divert what little power is left, back to the energy core. You must work together if you have any hope of survival. Get moving. You have limited resources and more solar flares are continuously causing more damage. Can you survive this Solar Storm, or will you perish in the burning abyss?

Watch our review of Solar Storm.

1-4 players, ages 10+, 30-60 minutesBuy now

Best RPG Games & Accessories

The last few years have seen an explosion in role playing games (RPG), and 2019 especially has given us some great options for our list. Whether you’re a first-timer or a seasoned pro, the games in this section are sure to give your RPG group tons of fun, and perhaps just a bit of danger!

Dungeons & Dragons

D&D has three recent products out that will make great gifts for DMs and Players alike:

Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything

This highly-anticipated tome contains new options for D&D characters like custom heritages, subclasses, and spells. Dungeon Masters will find fleshed out rules for sidekicks, new magic item types, and a whole section on puzzles. Just flipping through this book will give you ideas to kitbash your latest campaign.

 Buy now

Dungeon Master’s Screen – Wilderness Kit

DMs can never have too many DM screens! This kit focuses on wilderness exploration, something that has been sorely lacking in 5th edition. Besides the beautifully illustrated DM’s Screen the kit contains reusable hex grid mats for drawing terrain, rules for tracking supplies, time, and weather, and includes a handy deck of reference cards for status effects to be handed out to your players as needed.

 Buy now

Icewind Dale – Rime of the Frostmaiden:

What’s a better way to spend your holiday season than having your D&D characters trek across a frozen wasteland in search of long forgotten artifacts, dark mysteries, and showdowns with icy hearted gods? Doing all of that while remarking the cuteness of a snowy owlbear cub and ice fishing for knucklehead trout, of course! This campaign book will provide all of the arctic adventures needed while you sit next to your fireplace this season.)

 Buy now

Board Game Apparel

There’s no better way to let friends, family, and perfect strangers know just how much you love board games than by wearing it everywhere you go. We’ve got some great t-shirts for you.

The Tennessee Meeple T-Shirt

Are you, or someone you know, proud to live in the Volunteer state? Is Nashville or Memphis your second home? Mix your two favorite loves with the Tennessee Meeple tshirt, printed on soft and comfortable 100% ring-spun Anvil 980 t-shirts and is available in sizes S through XXXL.

 Buy now

Meeple Coffee To Go Boardgame T-Shirt

The “Meeple Coffee To Go” tee is part of the Board Games & Coffee collection. Perfect for the Board Game Geek that is also a coffee geek. A beautiful t-shirt with one-of-a-kind artwork that consists of a to go coffee cup with a meeple sticker on it. The text reads, “Coffee and Board Games”. Available in sizes S through XXXL.

 Buy now

Omnigamer Board Gaming T-Shirt

Perfect for those board game geeks who love to play everything under the sun and over the table top. This t-shirt is everything you’ve dreamed of and more. It feels soft and lightweight, with the right amount of stretch. It’s comfortable and flattering for both men and women. Available in sizes XS through XXXXL.

 Buy now

Board Game Addict

Board gaming is life. Being addicted to board games is fine right? We can quit any time we like. But have you seen that new Kickstarter board game? And there’s a sale at Target and Amazon! Available in sizes S through XXXXXL.

 Buy now


Looking for something we've recommended before? Check out the ghosts of Holiday Gift Guides past!

Disclosure: Meeple Mountain receives a commission from any of the Buy Now links pointing to Amazon.com.

About the author

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Andy Matthews

Founder of Meeple Mountain, editor in chief of MeepleMountain.com, and software engineer. Father of 4, husband to 1, lover of games, books, and movies, and all around nice guy. I run Nashville Game Night, and Nashville Tabletop Day.

6 Comments

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  • What a great guide! I’ve been thinking about getting The Mind for my mom as she enjoys quicker card games that play well at 2 or 4. It’s a great game that deserves its popularity.

    I wouldn’t have thought to buy game apps as a gift, either. I’m glad to know that Cat Lady has an app. I might need to get that for myself soon!

    • Cat Lady is a great card game, and the app is a perfect translation to digital form. In fact it’s even better than the card game because it offers fun achievements, and some buttery smooth animations.

  • Thank you so much for this guide! we were looking desperately for a good game to ship to our Croatian friends who are very passionate about board games, shipping was a whole different problem, but this article gave us some great ideas to follow!

    • Turns out we were a little aggressive in linking to the “old” version of this page. We’re in the middle of building out the newest version of the guide for this holiday season. Thanks for letting us know Taylor.

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