This year has been absolutely wild with great game releases. I feel like our game shelves have overflowed because of some of the games we’ve had the chance to play. For my annual Holiday Buyers Guide, I’m breaking it down so that you can find just the right game at the right price for the right person on your shopping list.
Stocking Stuffers – These game are small and inexpensive (under $15), but they’re a lot of fun.
Family Gaming – Some of the best gaming experiences are with your loved ones. These games will bring young and old players to the table no matter what their gaming experience may be.
Head-to-Head – Do you love a good conflict? We’ve got some great head-to-head games that are just right for 2 players or a team of gamers
Game Table Warriors – These are the games you pick up for your family members who are looking for a crunchier game to lose 2 hours in.
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Marvel Remix is a fast-paced card game that is all about creating scoring combos using a variety of hero cards and villains. Players have a choice of picking a card from a Remix deck, Villain deck, or the communal discard pile. Each card will give you points or take away points based on the other cards in your hand. Every card draw is a risk, but drawing from the discard pile can be a sure thing since you see what you’re getting.
Games of Marvel Remix are quick and players have control over the length of the game. Once 10 cards fill the discard pile, the game is over and it’s time to score. I love how the scoring criteria on the cards connect to the Marvel characters on the cards. The deck is filled with great artwork and the game is small enough to carry with you on vacation or out to dinner. For that Marvel fan in your life, Marvel Remix is a no-brainer.
Similo is such a clever card game for families. A grid of cards sit in the center of the table. A single clue giver will use a hand of cards to give clues if a target card on the table is “similar” or “different” from the card that they play. Ultimately, the clue giver is trying to have everyone else eliminate everything except for the target card in the grid.
The guessing players have to work together as a team to eliminate just the right cards. The clue giver has to make tough choices as players eliminate more cards each round of the game. What I love about Similo is that you can mix and match the decks of cards. Are you into History? Pick up the Similo Histories deck. What about Fables? They have a deck with that theme too. If you’re like me, Similo Spookies is a must own for Halloween game nights. Dropping a different Similo deck in each of the kids stockings is going to lead to a lot of gaming this season.
Coloretto is one of our most played card games and it pretty much goes wherever we are. Players are working to collect colored chameleons, scoring points for the 3 largest chameleon collections. Everyone loses points for those chameleons outside of the largest 3 sets.
Coloretto moves fast, it’s cutthroat and so easy to teach. This sub-$15 card game is so much fun and it’s easy to play 2 or 3 back-to-back games. The game has been around almost 20 years but it’s a card game that doesn’t get old with our family and friends. Hopefully someone in your home will find these colorful reptiles in their Christmas stocking this year.
Sunny Day Sardines
Everyone wants to be “Employee of the Month” at Sunny Day Sardines! This quick card game fits inside a tin that easily fits in your pocket or bag. During your turn you’ll collect colorful sardines from the center of the table or turn in sardines to meet the goal requirements for canning.
Sunny Day Sardines is a game that is easy to get our teenaged kids to play. The simplicity of set collection and fulfilling orders moves fast and the portable tin means it will hit the table outside the house often. Do you have what it takes to be Employee of the Month?
This charming worker placement game is like a hot meal on a cold day. Creature Comforts has players collecting resources as they prepare for Winter in the village of Maple Valley. These resources will let you craft foods, household goods and more as the seasons change. Each player has to focus on their collection as they use community and family dice each round.
In my original review of Creature Comforts last year, I described it as “board game comfort food”. A year later it’s still true. We’ve already had the game hit the table as the temperatures drop outside. This game is made for family time. Whether you’re playing with your kids, older adults or extended family, Creature Comforts is a game that I can’t recommend enough.
One of our most played game this year is the wonderful city building game called Akropolis. Three piece hexagon tiles are drafted and placed into your city to build points based on their placement. Akropolis can be so deceptive. In the final rounds of the game, decisions become more difficult as you try to maximize your points.
I’m a big fan of how this game gets better with time. Each time I play, I feel like I’m getting more efficient and creative with where I place tiles. Drafting just the right tiles can get competitive as you build your city both horizontally and vertically. For families that enjoy light to medium-weight games, Akropolis would be an amazing gift. The game is easy to teach and tough to master which means it hits the table in our house often.
That Old Wallpaper
Remember that old wallpaper at your grandparents house? Yeah, this is a game about that. That Old Wallpaper is a bidding and drafting game where players work to create tacky wallpaper to score points. The game is really fun and deceptively cutthroat. Points are scored by finishing sets of large and small patterns. Even when you don’t get what you want, hazy memory cards can help you complete a pattern at the end of the game.
That Old Wallpaper does a great job of being accessible for new players and still engaging for gamers. The game moves quickly since everyone is building their wallpapers simultaneously during the course of 3 rounds. This is a game that the whole family can enjoy as they reminisce about that tacky wallcovering you’ll never forget.
You can’t go wrong purchasing a game from designer Phil Walker-Harding. Planted is (I believe) a Target exclusive game about growing and caring for house plants. During each of the 4 rounds, players will draft cards as they are passed around the table. You’ll use beautiful tokens to give the plants the sun, water, and food that they need to grow.
Gamers who are familiar with games like Sushi Go, 7 Wonders, and It’s a Wonderful World will immediately feel at home with Planted. Buffalo Games did a fantastic job with premium components at a great price. For that family member that loves nature and may play games with a younger audience, Planted would be a great gift to slide under the Christmas tree.
Marvel Dice Throne
We’ve looked at Dice Throne from afar over the years but this year we got to experience it first hand! Marvel Dice Throne feels like a great entry point for anyone who’s interested in this head-to-head style dice game. While we normally play this at 2-players, it’s open to playing 3 or 4 at a time.
Players roll custom dice and activate abilities on their character. Spending cards and CP will give added abilities and special powers. The game has a Yahtzee style mechanic as you try to get just the right dice to damage your opponents. Roxley and The OP did a fantastic job with making each fighter feel unique, and the artwork is top-notch. You can pick up a 2-pack of Marvel fighters or the 4-pack which includes Thor, Loki, Scarlet Witch and Spider-Man. All fighters are compatible with older Dice Throne fighters which means even more gaming.
Disney Sorcerer’s Arena
Did we need another head-to-head battle game in our house? Absolutely not. But somehow Disney Sorcerer’s Arena came out of nowhere and shocked us. This arena battle game is built for 2-players or 2 teams of 2-players. Players recruit Disney and Pixar characters to do battle in the arena until one team wins.
Disney Sorcerer’s Arena is built with families and gamers in mind. The rulebook eases players into the mechanics over a couple of games without overwhelming new players. The game has enough going on that it easily sinks its hooks into gamers who enjoy skirmish games like those on this list. We cannot wait to see how this series expands going into 2023. For the Disney fan on your shopping list, Disney Sorcerer’s Arena is sure to be a magical gift this season.
It’s not a list if Unmatched doesn’t show up at least once! 2022 has been another big year for this fighting system. Restoration Games released 2 Marvel themed 3-packs along with the long awaited Houdini VS The Genie set and the final Jurassic Park set. That’s a lot of Unmatched!
For those family and friends on your list that enjoy head-to-head skirmish games, Unmatched has a fantastic catalog to pick from. A 4-pack like Cobble & Fog or Battle of Legends VOL 2 gives you a lot of gaming. You could check out a 2-pack like Little Red vs Beowulf or Sattler vs T. Rex to ease new players into the system. For the comic fans, either Redemption Row or Hell’s Kitchen will scratch that Marvel itch. With every fighter feeling unique with asymmetric powers, there is loads of exploration in this game system.
Game Table Warriors
I really dig resource management games and Anno 1800 is one of my favorites. This game is from designer Martin Wallace and is based on a Ubisoft video game that I’ve never played. Ultimately players are using resources and members of their community to specialize in supplies that become more extravagant. There are 5 classes of workers from farmers to inventors that will help you grow the industries on your island.
Anno 1800 was a release that I initially missed in 2020. The balance of building the right resources and using trade ships to get what you need from your opponents can be tricky. Since the end of the game is triggered when a player sheds all the cards in their hand, the game feels like a race to fulfill orders. But sometimes fulfilling those orders means new workers, which means more cards in your hand. Anno 1800 is a game that I love to teach, and watching the mechanics click as the game plays out is really satisfying.
The Red Cathedral
The Red Cathedral is a strategic construction game set in Moscow during the building of St. Basil’s Cathedral. Players are tasked with constructing the cathedral using one of three actions on their turn. The game uses dice around a rondel that works really well as you collect resources to build in future turns. Construction in The Red Cathedral is competitive as only one player can earn favor from the Tsar at the end of the game.
Each time I play this game, I’m impressed with how players have to plan ahead but are limited in the number of resources they can keep on hand. At times the game feels tight as you look for opportunities on the rondel that will give you additional resources. The Red Cathedral is a game that will challenge and bring out the competitive side of the gamers in your life.
Terraforming Mars: Ares Expedition
I’m a big fan of great engine-building games like Terraforming Mars. If I’m honest with myself, owning these heavier games that take 3 hours to play rarely hit the table. Last year Terraforming Mars: Ares Expedition was a huge surprise. This game serves up a great engine-building experience that can be enjoyed in about half the time. With all new artwork and card synergies, Terraforming Mars: Ares Expansion hits the table regularly for Erin and I.
Picking up a copy of the Collectors Edition for that gamer on your shopping list would be a fantastic gift. With three modular expansions for the game hitting retail in 2023, Terraforming Mars: Ares Expedition can be an even deeper experience.
I could have easily picked 20 additional games to include in this years buyers guide. Hopefully one or more of these games will bring a smile to your family members face and lead to a memorable game night.