Mel’s Mini Gift Guide: All About Games!

Holiday Gift Guide: Games

Well, it’s officially my favorite post of the year. Ok, one of my favorite posts.

I LOVE sharing sincere, great, worthwhile recommendations, and today, it’s the best of all topics: games!

We are a game loving family! You might even say we are obsessed; we play games all the time, and our game closet is legendary (and by legendary, I mean extremely and terribly messy). If you ever want to come over and play or borrow a game, or five, I’m pretty sure we’ll have something that strikes your fancy. I should consider opening up a board game library. Hmmm…

Just as a reminder, none of my gift guides are ever sponsored. Ever! These are all games we genuinely love and have bought on our own, or they’ve been given to us by friends/family (everyone knows we love games, so we get a lot of great ones!) or we’ve played them at other people’s houses, which means, with a very few exceptions, none of these companies really know or care who I am. You are getting an unsponsored review of our faves (and trust me, I have many that didn’t make the cut because we don’t love them).

I’m so excited to share with you some of our most-loved games this year! To make it a little easier this year, after each game, I’m telling you the ages in our household that like to play the game and who can play it well (i.e. without a lot of parent help). Hopefully that will help you narrow down which game(s) might be right for you or your recipient.

And if you are looking for even more game recommendations, here’s a game gift guide I did last year and another kid gift guide here with some great game ideas, too. Let’s get started!

UPDATE: Due to some of your requests, I’ve induced my all-time top 10 games below this post if you want a concise list without sorting through multiple gift guides.

{Disclaimer: this post contains unsponsored, affiliate links for games I’ve bought on Amazon; feel free to shop around for the best deal!}

Holiday Gift Guide: Games
1. Enchanted forest. This is probably my favorite game of the whole lot today (thanks to one of you recommending it on last year’s gift guide!). We even lost one of the key pieces, I emailed Ravensburger, and they sent a replacement piece for free, which made me feel really warm and fuzzy. 
AGES: anyone ages 4+. We all love playing this as a whole family, although my 12-year old probably wouldn’t pick this out to play with his friends, he is pretty cutthroat when playing with the fam. My 4-year old sometimes needs a little help figuring out where to go, but in the interest of full disclosure, she’s also legit beat me at this one (my memory ain’t what it used to be).

2. Hover Kraft. This clever, fun game was given to us by my brother’s family last year, and it was a Christmas Day hit! We still play it all the time. It’s a unique take on a Jenga-style game with odd-shaped pieces balancing on a hover board. Super fun!
AGES: anyone ages 7+ (younger can play but it’s a little harder). It’s not necessarily a family game, since it’s really best with two people, but all of our kids dig it.

3. Castle logic (Camelot Jr).  Oh goodness, Cam discovered this clever, building game at our cousin’s house last year and literally wouldn’t even talk to anyone because she was so enthralled with this game (spoiler alert: she’s getting it for Christmas this year; good thing she can’t read or check blogs yet!).
AGES: kids ages 4-8. This is definitely for younger kids, although I know for certain my soon-to-be 8-year old will want to “help” Cam with some of the puzzles.

4. Bohnanza. Such a fun, fun game. We were introduced at our family reunion this summer and my boys went crazy, playing every second. There are tons of add-ons but we just have the plain 1st version and there’s about a 99.9% chance my kids are trying to get a game of this in before church every.single.sunday.
AGES: anyone ages 7+. It takes a few games to get the hang of the beans and their level of power, but even my 7-year old gets in on the fun (although he doesn’t grasp the same level of strategy as the older ones). This is a great option for teen/adults only, too (my brother and sister-in-law have couples over and play this very, very late into the night). 

5. Doodle dice. Our friends gifted us this game last year and we love it! It’s another one we usually play as a whole family and I like that it challenges a little bit of our right brain thinking. 
AGES: anyone ages 4+. My disclaimer to the kids’ ages is that when Cam (4-years old) is playing, she’s usually partnered with a parent or older sibling.

Holiday Gift Guide: Games
6. Wits and Wagers. Thanks to my Aunt Marilyn and Uncle Dan (their names always come up when talking games; they are even more obsessive than we are) for introducing us to this game years ago. It is a guesstimate game based on whole stack of cards with questions, and it is fun (probably one of my top favorites…love games like this).
AGES: anyone ages 7+. Super fun game to play with just adults, but also a great family game. Cam (4-years old) can’t play this but she likes helping move the pieces across the board. Some of the questions require a bit of explaining to the kids and then they are good to go. 

7. Make ‘n’ Break.  I love how uncomplicated this game is! It came extremely highly recommended by a friend, and I can attest that it is fast-paced, simple and super fun…race against the clock to build the images on the card; you can make it more complicated by having each other draw a time amount (less time for older players helps even the playing field). Love this one!
AGES: anyone ages 4+. This is a great game for all ages! Obviously younger kids might not have the same advantage but you can shorten the time for older players OR play in teams. It’s definitely easy enough to learn for anyone ages 4- and up. 

8. Ticket to Ride. An oldie, but a goodie! We’ve had this game for years and years, and it is still a favorite with the kids (and us adults). We have the traditional version, but that Europe variation is on our wish list!
AGES: anyone ages 7+. Just like many of the other games, my 7-year old can play this game, but it is more strategic when playing with probably 12- and older (at least in our family) and is great for just adults/teens. Fun either way, just a different pace! Cam (4-year old) just makes patterns with the trains…not sure if she’s being artistic or trying to bug her brothers.

9. Labyrinth. With over 600 five-star reviews, you know a game has to be good. This is a classic and one we would highly, highly recommend. I know it seems like I have a thing for Ravensburger games (don’t even get me started on their puzzles); I guess I do! They make some of the best games – this one, with the rearranged tiles and ever-changing maze is a whole new game every time you play and brings out the inner strategist (I like to think I’m pretty decent, but my kids totally school me).
AGES: anyone ages 8+. My 7-year old is still getting the hang of this one; I think it’s best for kids 8 and up, and even just for teens and adults to play with each other. 

10. Blink. Simple, fun, happy card game. That’s how I’d describe this. It’s fast and easy to play and great for teaching people a game…without having to teach hardly at all!
AGES: anyone ages 7+. Cam (4-year old) has a bit of a hard time with this one, but we’ve played it enough that even she is catching on. The rest of us love it – definitely good for a family game night. My younger boys (7 and 9) pull this one out more than the older, but it’s fun for all ages.

Holiday Gift Guide: Games
11. Race to the Roof. This is in Cam’s top three favorite games (the others being Enchanted Forest and Sleeping Queens). She looooves it. It’s like Chutes and Ladders with a hidden pictures vibe (love that part!) and it’s a great one for young game players. Because the large tiles are in a different position each game, it doesn’t get old playing it over and over and over and over (ahem, I’ve been known to hide this one so Cam chooses a different game when it’s her turn – I feel lighter now that I’ve confessed that).
AGES: kids (4-?). A good gauge for this game is anyone who still enjoys games like Chutes and Ladders and Candy Land, will love this one (and I like it waaaay better than those two classics). 

12. Exploding Kittens. Hahahaha. Exploding Kittens. This one makes me laugh, unless I’m playing with my kids, and then I have to get very, very serious so they know I’m in it to win it. With over 5,000 reviews, this is one to check out for sure.
AGES: anyone ages 7+. One of those great games that can be played by a group of kids, a get together of teens, or even for an adult game night. And it’s great for the whole family, too. Again, like I’ve repeated myself a hundred times, Cam (age 4 in case you’ve missed that memo) doesn’t care for this one, but she’ll grow into it (her brothers will make sure of that).

13. Jaipur. I bought this two-player game for my parents to play together (you know, empty nesters who need stuff to do and all) and they love it! It’s a tactical card game that moves really fast, which is nice when you want a quick game and not necessarily an all-day game of Risk.
AGES: anyone ages 12+ (I’m guessing you could stretch that to 10+ if that child picks up on strategy games fast). This is a two-player only game.

14. Quixx. My mom gave us this game in the summer, and it’s one of my faves to pull out for a quick game with the kids before bed. It doesn’t take overly long to play and is super easy to teach (I get a nervous twitch if games take longer than 3 1/2 minutes to explain). It’s a simple dice game, kind of similar to Yahtzee, but actually not really at all. Just play it. It’s super fun.
AGES: anyone ages 7+. The box says 8+ but my 7-year old plays just fine. It’s a great family game (2-5 players, so sometimes we team up in partnerships) and would be great for kids or just for teens/adults. 

15. Hive. The best way to describe this game is: it’s like chess but with bugs. It does have a bit of a learning curve trying to remember which bug can move how and where, but if you are into strategic games like chess, this one is a winner. I played it at my parent’s house and looooooved it. It’s an investment of time, but a great one. Even though my brain hurt after I played it, I immediately added it to my wish list. Great, great game.
AGES: anyone ages 8+ (with the disclaimer that younger players will need a bit more time to get the hang of how each bug acts/moves). Another great game for just teens/adults. It’s a two-player game, but it’s really fun to play this tournament-style.

Holiday Gift Guide: Games
16. Sushi Go. I giggle every time I see this game on the shelf. You really do have to love and enjoy sushi to appreciate this game, but if you do, it’s so fun. You pass the cards around in a circle, just like a good ol’ sushi belt, and it’s fairly easy to pick up on and figure out how to get ahead. Simple and clever and fun!
AGES: anyone ages 8+. Some of my boys like this game more than others; I’d say it’s most fun when we play it with 11-year old on up (would be great for just adults or tweens/teens).

17. Build or Boom. Clearly, we have a thing for building games. A mutual friend gave us this game, and literally, my boys and their friends/cousins have been playing it nonstop. It’s kind of loud (think crashing, plastic blocks) but I have never heard such fun, lighthearted hilarity. They love it, and I have to admit, I’ve kind of pushed a kid or two aside to get a chance, too. You basically try to build the construction module outlined on the card before the other person – if not, you get to “blow up” his/her project using the clever little dynamite thingie (official term). Super fun game for younger kids.
AGES: anyone ages 4+ – understanding that older kids will obviously be able to build faster than younger kids.

18. Scheming and Skulking. Ooooh, this is a goodie. Easy to learn and fun for the whole family…we’ve played a variation of this with Rook cards for a lot of years, but the official Grandpa Beck’s version has some added strategy, and this is a huge family favorite (we play it a lot on Sunday evenings before bed).
AGES: anyone ages 8+. Would be good for just adults and teens, too, but is also great played as a whole family with a range of ages (Cam is the official ref to make sure no one cheats, since she’s too young to play).

19. Reverse Charades. For an active, get up and move game, this one can’t be beat. My Aunt Marilyn and Uncle Dan have this game, and it’s the first choice of my kids when we are at their house (we also played it at a family reunion last year with my parents, siblings and families, and the hilarity was completely unreal). It’s exactly like it sounds – charades, just reversed – so a team of players acts out the cards to just one person on their team.
AGES: anyone 4+ (as long as you can whisper the clues for non-readers). Great party or family reunion game and fun for all ages. 

20. Loot. Considering we were up just last night waaaaay past bedtime playing this as a family, it’s a great one to end on. This simple card game is easy to learn and really, really fun to play. There’s a little strategy…and you’ll find yourself fighting over merchant ships and looking for pirates. One of my favorites (I know I say that a lot…but tis true).
AGES: anyone 7+. Great family game that everyone in our house, sans the 4-year old, poor girl, picked up on quickly. 

And that’s a wrap! Thanks for sticking with me today…20 games, and would you believe, I still have probably 5-10 that I decided not to cram in today. Gotta leave some for next year!

Game lovers unite!

Also, I have a few more gift guides in the works – a small, simple one will be posted tomorrow with my top kid gift picks this year. See you then!

Top 20 Games of All Time:
*This list subject to change since I just threw it together…it’s like picking a favorite child, which is why I narrowed it down to a simple 20 :)*
Telestrations (we have the party pack)
Cover Your Assets
Battle of the UFO’s
Wackee Six
10 Days in the US (or 10 Days in Africa, if you can find it)
Mastermind
Tenzi
Bohnanza
Ticket to Ride
Labyrinth
Reverse Charades
Loot
You’re Bluffing
Lost Cities
Carcassonne

For younger kids:
Hoot Owl Hoot
Enchanted Forest
Race to the Roof
Sleeping Queens
Spot It (and Spot it Jr)

{Disclaimer: this post contains unsponsored, affiliate links for games I’ve bough on Amazon; feel free to shop around for the best deal!}