Games for Everyone! The 2008 Christmas Gift Guide

Games make such fantastic gifts, but sometimes it can be difficult to find a really good one, and especially to find the right game for the right person.  So, I decided to make a few recommendations to make it easier for you to include games in your holiday gift-giving!

Party Games:

Almost everyone likes a good party game.  These games tend to focus more on simply having a good time rather than presenting a brain-hurting strategic challenge .  They can often accomodate large numbers of people, are quick to learn, and encourage lots of talking, laughing, and general hilarity.  Some of my favorites include:

Wits & Wagers – A trivia game for people who don’t like trivia.  Each round, players write down numerical answers to a trivia question.  Then, the answers are arranged in order and everyone can bet on the one that they think is closest to being correct.  It rewards good trivia knowledge, as well as being able to make good estimates and knowing the other players.  Plus, it’s a heck of a lot of fun!   

2-20 players, 20 minutes to play, Cost: $29.99 – Available at all Target Stores

Catch Phrase – Cross Password with Hot Potato and this is what you get.  Teams pass the word-giver thingy back and forth each time they get a word, trying not to be holding it when the buzzer goes off.  If you like word games at all, this is pretty much a sure-fire hit!  I’m still partial to my old-fashioned manual version, but most people just love the electronic one pictured to the left. 

4+ players divided into two teams, 30 minutes to play, Cost: $24.99 – Available pretty much anywhere

Say Anything – From the same people that make Wits & Wagers, Say Anything is a game where you can either see how well you know others or get to know them better.  It’s a light-hearted game about what you and your friends think. 

3-8 players, 35 minutes to play, Cost: $24.99 – Available at some Target and Barnes & Noble stores (click here to find local stores) as well as online

Balderdash – This is still my favortite party game, and if you or your friends enjoy being creative and having fun, then you’ll enjoy this, too!  It’s all about making up believable explanations for silly words, movie plots, ridiculous laws, obscure initials, and what odd people are famous for.  With the right group, it’s absolutely hilarious and will spawn memories for years to come!

3-6 players (or more with teams), 60 minutes to play, Cost: $29.99 – Available pretty much anywhere

Liar’s Dice/Pirates Dice/Perudo (or any of several other names for this game)  – A great dice game that is all about bluffing your opponents.  It was featured in the second Pirates of the Caribbean movie, leading to all the movie tie-in versions.  This game has been around for hundreds of years, and different versions may have slightly different tweaks here and ther, but all have the same basic core rules.  Here’s my review for more information.

2-6 players (or more), 15-30 minutes to play, Cost: $15-$20 (but you can usually find the Pirates of the Caribbean versions a lot cheaper on sale) 
– Available pretty much anywhere

– A loud and raucous card-trading game that dates back to 1904.  It’s excitement in a box… just be careful not to wake the neighbors!

3-10 players, 60 minutes to play (depends on how many points you play to), Cost: $10-$15 (be sure to get one with a bell!) – Available pretty much anywhere

Family Games:

These are some games that the whole family can play together.  Unlike most mass-market “family” games, these are all just as much fun for the parents as they are for the kids.

Sorry Sliders – A really nice little dexterity game where players slide or flick little pawns at a target area sort of like in shuffleboard.  The pawns have ball-bearings in their bases to help them slide better and to keep them upright.  I haven’t actually gotten to play this yet, but I’ve heard and seen enough about it to wholeheartedly recommend it.  Sorry Sliders is on the top of my Christmas list!

1-4 players, 30 minutes to play, Cost: $24.95 (although I’ve seen it as low as $15 and as high as $35 – Available pretty much anywhere (Target, Wal-Mart, toy stores), if they still have it in stock

Ticket to Ride – A truly great family game.  Players collect sets of train cards to claim routes between cities and complete their route around the U.S.  It’s simple enough for almost anyone over the age of 8 or so to pick up, but is still fun and challenging after many, many plays.  It’s a beautiful game with really nice pieces that will last for years to come!  There are actually several Ticket to Ride games, and here is my review of the series.

2-5 players, 45 minutes to play, Cost: $40-$50 – Available at hobby game stores (Hypermind), some bookstores and toy stores, and online

Rumis/Blokus 3D – A 3D building game where you try to end up with as much of your color showing from above.  This is a solid abstract game that can be a lot of fun if you like that sort of thing.

2-4 players, 45 minutes to play, Cost: $30 (but Barnes & Noble has Rumis on sale now for $9.95) – Available at Barnes & Noble (as Rumis), Target (as Blokus 3D), Hypermind, and educational toy stores

– This i
s a really good game about purchasing animals to go in your zoo.  It’s appropriate for ages 8 and up, and has won several awards.  Check out my review of the game here!

2-5 players, 45 minutes to play, Cost: $40-$50
– Available at hobby game stores (Hypermind) and online

– A really nice game about being an archeologist!  Players travel through Europe doing research and then head down to the locations of many ancient cultures and dig for artifacts.  The game is absolutely beautiful and is fun for anyone 10 years or older.   

2-4 players, 60 minutes to play, Cost: $50-$60 – Available at hobby game stores (Hypermind) and online

Children’s Games:

Again, if you’re tired of all the traditional children’s games that are as boring as watching paint dry for adults, these might be the answer you’re looking for.

Gulo Gulo – It’s a game about stealing eggs from a nest, but what’s really cool is that you actually have to pull the little egg pieces out of a nest without setting off the “egg alarm”.  Little fingers tend to be better at this, which means that you don’t have to “throw” the game to your little ones.  In fact, you’ll have a hard time competing with them at all!

2-6 players, 20 minutes to play, Cost: $45-$50 – Available at hobby game stores (Hypermind) and online

Rat-a-Tat Cat – This is a quick little card game where you’re trying to have the 4-card hand worth the least points each time.  The twist is that you can only see your two outer cards at the start of the round.  It’s educational, fun, and anyone over the age of 6 can understand how to play.  

2-6 players, 20 minutes to play, Cost: $10-$15 – Available at Barnes & Noble, educational supply stores, and other places

Giro Galoppo – A horse-racing game where the board is set up different every time!  Players all have an identical hand of movement cards, and secretly pick which one to use each turn.  Very fun and addictive, and fantastic wooden components that will last forever!  Good for kids and adults ages 5-6 and up. 

2-5 players, 20-30 minutes to play, Cost: $45 – Available at hobby game stores (Hypermind) and online

Castle Keep – A tile-laying game where the goal is to either complete your castle or completely destroy an opponent’s.  It’s fun, addictive, and good for anyone 8 years old or older.

2-4 players, 20 minutes to play, Cost: $15 – Available at Barnes & Noble, educational supply stores, and other places

Advanced Strategy Games:

So, if none of these seem just right for you or your gift target, and you think that a greater challenge may be called for, these games may be just right.  Or if you know that they are already interested in modern boardgames, these will be right down their alley.  Below are some of my favorite games that I think would make great gifts this season!

Pandemic – The best game of 2008 (in my opinion) and one of my all-time favorites!  This is a cooperative game where all the players work together to discover the cures to 4 deadly diseases threatening the human race with destruction.  It’s quick and very addictive, and I’ve played it over 50 times this year!  You can check out my full review here.

2-4 players, 30-45 minutes to play, Cost: $35 – Available at hobby game stores (Hypermind) and online

The Pillars of the Earth – This is based on Ken Follett’s bestseller of the same name.  In it, you are a master builder trying to help complete the cathedral in Kingsbridge.  You manage resources and hire craftsmen to make the best contributions to the construction, which is represented by the gaining of victory points.  The player with the most points when the cathedral is complete wins!

2-4 players, 60 minutes to play, Cost: $50 – Available at hobby game stores (Hypermind), some bookstores (Barnes & Noble), and online

If Wishes Were Fishes – This is one of Gwen’s favorites.  The goal is to have the most money at the end of the game, but what’s cool is that when you catch a fish, you can either keep it to sell or you can set it free and get its wish.  The wishes let you do special things like change the value of fish, expand your boat, or other useful things.  It’s a lighthearted game with a lot of fun choices!

2-5 players, 45 minutes to play, Cost: $35 – Available at hobby game stores (Hypermind) and online

1960: The Making of the President – This is a fantastic, historical board game where two people can recreate the hotly-contested presidential election between JFK and Richard Nixon held in 1960.  It uses a card-driven system where players have to choose between using a card for it’s historical event or for campaign points that can be spent to perform certain actions.  It’s a challenging tug-of-war that’s more fun than you’d think. 

2 players, 90 minutes to play, Cost: $50 – Available at hobby game stores (Hypermind), some bookstores and toy stores, and online

Race for the Galaxy – This is a complex card game that feels a lot like a Collectible Card Game (like Magic the Gathering).  Players earn victory points by exploring planets, building developments, and creating goods to be sold to their worlds.  It’s fun and addictive, and no two games ever play the same.

2-4 players, 30 minutes to play, Cost: $35 – Available at hobby game stores (Hypermind) and online

Buying These Games:

For each entry, I’ve tried to give you some indication where you might can find these games, but sometimes that can be affected by availability and other factors. 

My favorite place to buy games is Hypermind, the local hobby game store in Burlington, NC.&nbs
p; It’s located on South Church Street in the Rosewood Village Shopping Center right between the new Tuesday Morning store and the Season’s Buffet Chinese restaurant.  If you are more oriented towards the Apex/Cary/Raleigh direction, I also highly recommend All Fun & Games in Apex. 

To buy these games online, here are some sites that I recommend:

  • Boards and Bits – Good selection including some hard to find games
  • Fair Play Games – Great service and selection, friendly folks
  • Funagain Games – Huge selection of games, especially hard to find imports
  • Game Surplus – Great service and fast shipping
  • Thought Hammer – The newest games at great prices
  • Time Well Spent – Excellent family and children’s games selection

    Also check out the holiday buying guide at BoardGameGeek.  If you have any questions about any of these games or want additional suggestions, feel free to email me at


    1. Gwen Norwood

      I think this Gift Guide is a great idea and very well written! I think your passion for gaming is great. It really shows in your descriptions of the games.

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