Mel’s Holiday Gift Guide: Games!

board and card games on white background

Is it the best day of the year or what??? This holiday game gift guide is one I look forward to all year long!

If you’re new to these gift guides, here are a few notes:

  • nothing on these gift guides is sponsored; these are all games we’ve bought or been gifted by friends/family and ones we genuinely love (there are Amazon affiliate links below for the games I’ve bought from there)
  • yes, we really do play all of these games; of course we go in phases where we play some of them more than others, but I only talk about games that have become fast favorites (trust me, there are plenty of games we play that never make it on to these gift guides)
  • this year’s list might be my favorite game gift guide in the history of game gift guides (and most of the recommendations originally came from you guys in comments and emails so thank you!)
  • as a quick note, I’ll be posting the two other much-anticipated gift guides tomorrow and the next day!

Here’s a quick link to all the gift guides I’ve posted over the years

And here are past GAME gift guides:
Game Gift Guide 2015
Game Gift Guide 2016
Game Gift Guide 2017
Game Gift Guide 2018
Game Gift Guide 2019

*the game gift guides from a few years ago (2015-2018) include a lot of great recommendations for younger players.

FYI: the comment threads of all of these gift guides are amazing and filled with so many other game recommendations! 

jokers and marbles, dungeons and mayhem, decrypto
1. Jokers and Marbles: this is the ultimate game winner for our family this year. My brother and SIL introduced us to it this summer. We promptly got on the waiting list to buy it, and we’ve played it literally every Sunday night since. We love it! Easy and big enough for the whole family – but fun for 4-players, too. It’s a beautiful wood, handmade game from this seller. He’s a one-man show, so he sells out fast and has limited quantities, but it’s my favorite version of this game I’ve seen (you can also find it on Amazon and Etsy). 

2. Dungeon Mayhem: {aff. link} my cousin and their awesome family brought this game when they visited us, and it became a VERY quick favorite of the kids (Brian and I love it, too). We have the original game (2-4 players) plus the two expansion packs {aff. link} (this one is the box which can hold all the cards – super convenient), which basically just means you can play with more people and/or have more options when choosing a character to play. It’s easy to learn and surprisingly strategic and really, really fun even if you really don’t know the ins and outs of Dungeons and Dragons (ahem, me). 

3. Decrypto: {aff. link} a fabulous MKC reader, Jessie, emailed me about this game, and when she said it was like CodeNames {aff. link} (an all-time fave) with a twist, I knew we had to try it. LOVE. Love this game. We took it to a family reunion and played and played and played. It’s a great game for adults or older teenagers (although our younger kids get in on the action, too, even if they are a tad more obvious with their clues). 

Otrio le, cockroach poker, skillmatics
4. Cockroach Poker: {aff. link} ok, I hate cockroaches after some traumatizing experiences in my Oklahoma and Texas-raised youth (also, are cockroaches ever NOT traumatizing??), but I love this bluffing game. It’s extremely quick to learn and great for kids, tweens, teens, and adults. 

5. Otrio Le: {aff. link} this game is like tic tac toe on steroids, and although it hurts my brain (come on, Mel, THINK, ANTICIPATE!), it’s a favorite of Cam’s (she’s 8) and we play it a lot. The only downside is that there are some small pieces and it’s hard to find replacements. So yes, we have a few stand-in pegs for the two small pieces we lost down the vent when playing this in the semi-dark whilst watching The Mandalorian. Oops. 

6. Brainbox: {aff. link} this is where I repeat that my brain hurts a lot when I play games (er, or maybe I’m getting old??). This memorization game makes me crazy because I wish my kids didn’t beat me every single time, but I’m a sucker for punishment, because this is the game I often choose to play with the family. There are a ton of different themes. We have the world box and the animal box.

patchwork game, dutch blitz, qwirkle
7. Patchwork: {aff. link} by far, this is my favorite two-player game we own. One of you recommended it a couple years ago, and I hesitated because, even though I like quilting, I didn’t know if a quilting game would capture our interest. I stand corrected. Quilting games forever. This might be one of my all-time favorites. I love playing it one-on-one with my kids. And I actually win sometimes, so yay me.

8. Dutch Blitz: {aff. link} simple card games can’t be beat, and this is a great one. It’s fast-paced, easy to learn, and a good one to throw into a bag for trips or to bring out for a quick family game night. 

9. Qwirkle: {aff. link} we’ve had this game for years but I’ve neglected to mention it on a gift guide. Shame on me! It is simple, easy to learn and play, and one that still gets played a lot by the whole family. This is also a great, classic game to play with people (ahem, maybe grandparents) who don’t enjoy super strategic, fast-paced games. It reminds me of Rummikub or Scrabble but with shapes and colors. 

skillmatics, go gater disc slam, milles borne
10. Skillmatics Guess in 10: {aff. link} a play on the ol’ 20 questions game (but with 10 questions), this game proves that our family loves trivia-type games, especially if it’s about animals. This is a fantastic game to take on road trips or play for a few minutes if you’re waiting in line or need to kill some time. 

11. Gater Jam: {aff. link} the only outdoor game to make the list this year, this is Brian’s favorite yard game currently. We took it with us on our social distancing RV road trip this summer, and we play it frequently on Sunday evenings. There are a lot of versions out there – we’ve tried the Disc Slam one but it was flimsy and fell apart. This one has been sturdy and Brian likes it better than the official KanJam (although we don’t use the scoring tab thingie on the sides – it doesn’t work super well).

12. Mille Bornes: {aff. link} another great card game, this one takes a little bit more time to learn, but it is really fun! And apparently it is quite a classic! It’s new to us this year, but one that we’ve packed along for a few road trips, and I play it a lot with my two youngest kids (8- and 11-years old). 

farkle, monopoly deal, flipside
13. Farkle: {aff. link} another huge classic, I grew up playing this game with random dice found on the floor of our game closet. You really don’t need an official game box, but it makes a fun gift! This game of risk and quick addition never gets old. It’s a huge favorite (and although hard to find, the spicy farkle game is really fun, too). 

14. Monopoly Deal: {aff. link} I hope I don’t lose friends when I say this: but I hate the board game, Monopoly. It’s kind of the worst (I’m so, so sorry). So when someone recommended Monopoly Deal, the quick card game, I resisted. But after hearing over and over how amazing it was, we took the $7 risk and went for it. Yep, we can now add our 5-star rating to the other 12,000+ because this quick, faster-paced, easy Monopoly card game is the only kind of Monopoly I ever need to play. We love it. 

15. Flip Side: {aff. link} a little bit like Bop It with a Rubik’s cube vibe, my kids love this game. I don’t play it much because my reflexes aren’t what they used to be, but we’ve gifted it to a lot of friends and cousins because it’s so popular around here.

lcr game, trivial pursuit, azul game
16. LCR: {aff. link} another super quick, fun game, LCR is simple but surprisingly cutthroat. Ha. At least in our family. It’s a great game to play with a crowd (no limit on numbers), and it’s really easy to learn. 

17. Trivial Pursuit Family: {aff. link} we got this as a family gift last Christmas, and it’s still a hit a year later. We play it often – it’s a 6-player game so we usually team up or have one person be the card reader (that’s actually the most coveted job). You can play this with kids and adults – there’s a separate deck of question cards for younger and older players. Usually when we’re done we sit and have a competition who can get the most questions right on a single card (I always plead for them to read me the kid cards, no shame).

18. Azul: {aff. link} Cam wants me to specially mention that this is her favorite game of all time in the history of ever. She chooses it every time the game choice is left to her. There’s strategy and chance all mixed up into one beautiful, clever game, and because it’s different every time, it doesn’t get old. I have my eyes on the summer pavilion version now!

wig out game, karma, pandemic game
19. Wig Out: {aff. link} so easy, so quick, so fast, so silly, this is a great game for young kids (but fun enough to play as a family). We really like this one! The only downfall is that you can accumulate a lot of cards in your hand, and that can be challenging for some of the kids to keep organized, but it’s still very playable and very fun. It can also be a two-player game.

20: Karma: {aff. link} simple card games must be the theme this year. This one is really, really fun. I love that it can be played with a smaller group…or up to 6 players (I think you can combine two decks and play with 12 players, too). There are some unexpected elements that make this game exciting, and it’s helpful that the cards that require special action have it detailed right on the card. Thank you whoever above was looking out for me on this one.

21: Pandemic: {aff. link} you either really love cooperative games…or you don’t. And you either really feel like playing a game called Pandemic is a wise choice in 2020…or you don’t. We got this game when I was recovering from gum surgery, and we played it a lot. There’s a short learning curve, but when you get the hang of it, it’s a really great game that requires strategically talking and working together to win. Highly recommend this one!

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