Being at home together over Christmas – whether with family or friends – is the ideal time to play the board games and just have fun with people.
That’s one of the reasons board games are such a great Christmas present – they can be unwrapped and enjoyed with everyone else right away. (And they’re also incredibly easy to wrap.)
And as an added bonus, many excellent board games are really affordable, which makes them doubly great gifts. And we’re not talking about a strange new version of Monopoly – we’re talking clever and addicting games from the newer wave of board games.
As the referee on T3’s list of the best board games, I’ve picked five that I think are particularly great gifts – you can just choose which sounds best to you! And everything I’ve chosen is available as a bonus for under £ 30.
This is an ideal family game for 2-4 players, thanks to its very healing theme, for building the largest trees in the forest. And actually this topic makes it easy to learn because all the rules from it make logical sense. In order for trees to grow, you need sunlight. But the sun revolves around the board, and trees block the light from each other depending on where they are.
So the game becomes that interesting balance between trying to find spots on the board to plant your trees where you will spend the least amount of time in the shade – or equally finding spots on the board to provide shade others can. But at the same time, points near the center of the playing field will give you more points, so you can’t only think of the sun
You can only earn points from trees as they grow to full size and then let them “come back” to the forest – which will then free up the space you found so precious for others! So the game gives you this interesting decision on whether to hoard places to cast shadows and stiffen other people, or collect points early because the game only lasts a certain number of rounds and you may run out of time to earn your points!
It’s a beautiful looking game and people can’t help but get involved watching the different types of trees spread across the field.
• Buy photosynthesis for £ 28.99 at board-game.co.uk
This is a big hit at parties or any larger group because you don’t have to learn any rules and it can be played by any number of people. The basic rules of the game are that there is a clock face in the middle that everyone can see and two teams. One player on the team draws a card that shows a scale of two opposites: Let’s say “soft” and “hard” for this example. That player then turns the dial and secretly looks at it – the dial shows him a “rating zone” on the scale to aim at. In our example, let’s assume that it is right in the middle. The long player then covers the dial.
The player now has to give his teammates a single clue about the displayed scale, and the team tries to guess where that is on the dial. In our example, the hint might be “A memory foam mattress”. Because that’s both soft and pretty hard, right? But will your team agree with you? Will you suspect a foam mattress is closer to the soft side of things? The team will then spin a needle on the dial to where they think the scoring zone is, the dial will be revealed and you will get some points based on how close you are!
The other team is also trying to steal some points by correctly guessing which direction you are not guessing. But this is a totally flexible game – you can ditch the idea of teams and just play with no points if you want.
It also takes around 90 seconds to set it up and play, and the same thing to put it back in the box – don’t underestimate that!
This is a classic that has been around for years, and for good reason: It’s a dose of total chaos on your 2-4 player table. It’s a game in which you first build a very seedy spaceship; then you fly this spaceship in a race against other players and see it partially destroyed before your eyes.
The reason your spaceship is dubious is because it is made up of pieces that lie face down in the center of the table and are shared by everyone, with a strict time limit. You need a good mix of pieces to survive your journey (engines, crew, cargo, weapons, etc), but different pieces have different connection types and putting them together is a literal puzzle.
As soon as the time is up, everyone has their (often misshapen) ship, and then they go to Galaxy Trucking together. A game of cards tells you what obstacles everyone faces, from opportunities to make money, to space pirates stealing your crew, to open space that you can use to overtake opponents, to asteroids that will literally tear your ship apart.
The aim is to make the most money at the end of the game – but in many cases it’s just about getting to the finish line with your ship that is still technically qualified. All you need is a crew member – everything else can be lost in space, but will you make it …
Ticket to Ride: New York
This is a super small, short, and cheap game, but it feels like a much bigger game when you play it. It only takes about 20 minutes to go through a game, but you have a lot of small strategic decisions to make during that time, so like everything, it’s satisfactory.
With Ticket to Ride you have to claim routes on the board in front of your opponents in order to link certain points (which are given to you secretly on a map). Linking places means points! Claiming routes for any reason means points! And whoever has the most points wins.
The trick with Ticket to Ride that makes it so easy to play is that you can only do one thing on your turn. You can pick up colored maps, which are the resource you need to claim routes; or You can claim a route; or You can pick up a new map that will give you points for linking places. This means that the game has a high pace even with a maximum of four players.
It is a great game to push yourself to the top of the line with your elbow and it feels like you are competing hotly with the other players, but not in a way that the competition is going to be cruel. Great for families, I say – you don’t tend to end up with sore egos.
That is a great Beginner-friendly board game especially for a group of adults. It’s inexpensive, easy to set up and easy to learn, and you can play with satisfactory poker chips.
In Splendor you want to be the first to collect 15 points. You get points by buying fancy gem mines. How to buy them Use gemstones. To buy the fancy gem mines, you need to buy more basic gem mines first. The game is like a snowball rolling down the hill: every time you buy a gem mine, you have more power to buy better gem mines in the future. It’s a game where you will feel a constant sense of progression and even if you lose you have had a great time building your little jewel empire.
There’s a fun “running” aspect too, because it ends when someone hits 15 points … expect anyone who hasn’t tried this round to finish their turn, and if they score more than that other person can achieve, they will win instead. So getting 15 points is not enough – you need to make sure you get the only Person who can achieve it!