Best Board Games for Christmas Gifts — 2017

There are thousands of board games available to buy in all genres for all audiences. Games can take hours or minutes, be brain-draining or light and silly, and include every theme imaginable. If you love board games or know someone who loves board games, it is often overwhelming (and overwhelmingly exciting) to figure out what to buy. In our Christmas gift buying guide below, we included favorites from several genres as well as games for kids and brand new games in 2017. Use the table to jump to different categories.

1. Board Games Released in 2017

There have been some amazing games released in 2017--so many, we haven't played all of them (but we're getting there!). We've included some of our favorites. Who wouldn't want the latest and greatest board game for a Christmas gift?! Check out a few of the best board games for gamers from 2017. 

Nmbr 9 (1-4 players, 20 mins.; Abstract, Tile Laying)

This is a cool, abstract game that challenges your problem-solving and strategy skills. It's quick and easy to learn, and a great game for all ages. Players flip cards, take matching tiles and stack them as high as they can to get as many points as they can. Pieces have to overlap so stacking isn't as easy as it sounds. The game ends when the cards run out. This is a great gift for the puzzle lover, the friend with kids, or the family member who needs a new challenge in their game collection. It would be a great option to pull out during the holidays, even after a big turkey dinner!

Codenames Duet (2 players; 15 mins.; Two Player, Cooperative)

Codenames Duet plays like its mother Codenames, only now you're working with your partner to identify 15 agents without being assassinated or running out of time. It's simple, takes nothing to learn, but still provides a challenge as you need to think like your partner and can only give one-word clues. Plus, an assassin for you may not be an assassin for your partner, so you have to stay sharp and out of your own head! With 100 double-sided cards and mission maps, replayability is huge. Codenames Duet is a bit cheaper so it makes a perfect stocking stuffer from Santa.

Sagrada (1-4 players; 20-40 mins.; Card/Dice Drafting)

Time to become an artist! Players roll and draft dice to build the most beautiful stained glass window using unique template cards. Public and private objectives will help your points tally and hopefully win you the game. Sagrada is fairly easy to learn, but it has more rules and information to remember, making it a bit more complex. Replayability is solid, and a game lasts only 10 rounds over 30-45 minutes.  It's a pretty game and it challenges your brain, making it a win and a fun Christmas gift for your favourite board game lover.

Sheriff of Nottingham -- Merry Men (3-6 players, 60 mins.; Expansion, Card Drafting, Bluffing)

We have such a great time playing Sheriff of Nottingham and were so excited when the expansion came out. In the original game, players take turns being Sheriff and policing goods players are bringing into Nottingham. Bribes and lies abound. The Merry Men expansion introduces a black market, laws, deputies (instead of the Sheriff) and more. It also increases the player count to six which we love (being a group of six and all...). Sheriff requires a bit of strategy, and you need to pay attention to your opponents, but it's a lighter game and is fun to play with non-gamers and hardcore vets alike. 

Ex Libris (1-4 players, 30-60 mins.; Card Drafting)

As far as themes go, Ex Libris is quite unique and certainly appealing to bookworms (like Whitney). To become the Grand Librarian and win the game, players collect books and build a library--but not so fast! Things like alphabetical order, variety and banned books are all considered, so strategy and forward-thinking is important. There are quite a few rules, several actions during rounds and special effects that can occur, so Ex Libris is a heavier game and better for older board gamers. If your giftee likes books or simply appreciates strategy, this is a great board game gift for them. 

Photosynthesis (2-4 players, 30-60 mins.; Strategy)

This is a visually stunning game. The trees you're trying to grow from seedlings to tall trees are 3D, and players spend turns growing or buying trees, collecting points, casting shadows and figuring out how to get the most points to win. Photosynthesis is played over 18 rounds so it takes about 30-45 minutes, and while there are more options, it's not overly complex. It's a fun and interesting game, suitable for strategists and families alike, and it doesn't shy on pitting players against each other to win!

Century Spice Road (2-5 players, 30-45 mins.; Deck Building)

We're huge fans of Splendor, so Century Spice Road was a natural progression for us. It's a beautiful game where players collect spices, trade them for cards (build your deck) and earn points with the deck. It's played as easily with two as it is with five, and it has two further editions being released in the next couple of years, so the game will continue to grow and challenge players. It's fairly quick and easy to learn but a little more intense strategy-wise, so better for older players. We know Splendor released an expansion but we were looking for a different challenge, and Century Spice Road provided it. It's a fantastic Christmas gift for Splendor fans and board game fans both.

2. Group, Party and Family Board Games

Whether you celebrate Hanukkah, the Flying Spaghetti Monster, Christmas or Kwanzaa, parties are plentiful in December. Often, these include people of all ages and of all opinions and experience levels when it comes to board games. Party games are a great way to bridge the gap, and more, they're generally easy to learn. A couple of our top picks are below, and our best party board games list also includes reviews for these and others.

Time's Up! (4-18 players, 60 mins.)

Time's Up! is a fantastic game for people of all ages. It's a charades-style game with a few extra challenges thrown in as the rounds progress (no sculpting or drawing, but humming and miming come into play!). Time's Up! is played over three or four rounds recycling the same cards, so use your memory. There are several different versions and expansions so the game stays fresh, and it is a fun, light and easy game for any time or any group large or small that includes kids, adults, friends and family.

Codenames (2-8ish players, 15 mins.)

Codenames is a fun and challenging game for small-ish groups, split into two teams. Double-sided cards are laid out, and the spymasters of each team have a map of sorts, dictating the cards (secret agents) their teammates need to guess. Spymasters can only give a one-word clue, and if their teammates hit the assassin, they lose. There are hundreds of cards and the maps rotate, making replayability huge. It's a great game for people of all ages and doesn't take any time at all to learn, making it the perfect board game to unwrap and play right away on Christmas morning. (As an additional bonus, there are tons of versions, including a Disney one for the young and young at heart.)

Dixit Odyssey (3-12 players, 30 mins.)

This is an abstract party game that removes the team element and puts everyone in a race to finish first. Players are dealt cards with -- what else? -- abstract images and take turns being the storyteller. The storyteller secretly selects one of their cards and says something (anything!) to describe it without giving it away. Every player secretly selects one of their cards that they feel matches the description, they're all shuffled and laid out, and players vote on which card they think is the storyteller's. Points are awarded, and the next player gets to be storyteller, rinse and repeat until someone wins. This game plays as well with young players as it does with experienced, with non-gamers and gamers alike. It can be tough but it's still a fun party game without squeezing your brain too hard. Better, you can pick it up and put it down while you check on your Christmas turkey!

3. Board Games for Newbies & Casual Gamers

We chose just a few to highlight in this category. These three, among others, are a little lighter in play and help teach foundation skills for board games. We left out the obvious, Catan, as we're pretty sure most everyone has heard of it. If you haven't, check out our Catan review and know that Catan withstands the test of time for a very good reason. You can also read our best gateway board games list if you or someone you know is just getting into the hobby.

Sushi Go! and Sushi Go! Party (2-5 players, 15 mins.; 2-8 players, 20 mins.)

This is fun, easy to pick up, quick to play and has super cute illustrations. It's also a great board game for people just starting out without overwhelming them, but it's also excellent for strategy lovers. Players select a card from the hand they're dealt, and everyone reveals their chosen card simultaneously. The hand is then passed to the next player, and another card is chosen and revealed. This is repeated until all cards are played, and repeated for two more rounds, calculating score after each round. There are more rules and a greater ability to modify the game in Sushi Go! Party, and both games require you to track just what kind of sushi you're going for in order to get the best points tally. It's definitely playable with ages 7+ but you may want to start in teams while you're all getting the hang of it. Either way you play, this is a great and quick game to play while you're waiting for dessert!

Ticket to Ride (2-5 players, 30-60 mins.)

Ticket to Ride is a classic for a reason. This is a fun game even for people who don't like board games -- and how can you say no to trains at Christmas?! (Polar Express, anyone?) Players have secret routes and spend their turns collecting train cards and building paths to connect cities and complete the routes. The player with the most points at the end wins. It takes a little longer to play, but it's also a good time to start imparting some geography and history on the younger ones. For more advanced players, Ticket to Ride requires strategy and advanced planning -- and a little sabotage and secrecy! There are so many versions of Ticket to Ride for different countries with different rules, and even for teams (Ticket to Ride Asia), and a junior edition (My First Journey). This is a game you can and will play over and over again.

Ticket to Ride Europe

Carcassonne (2-5 players, 30-45 mins.)

Carcassonne is a tile-flipping game so luck and chance have a bit to do with the results. Players build a map with cloisters, farms, roads and more, and lay claim to these with a set number of meeples in their hand to score points. It's excellent for gamers who like strategic games, without them being too heavy or intense. Carcassonne requires lots of decisions and laying each tile is bit like a puzzle. You'll need to pay attention, but it's definitely a good game to get your brain juices flowing. We like that there are so many versions and expansions for Carcassonne (including a junior edition) so you can tailor the game to your liking (and increase player numbers). If you're looking for a foundation game that can grow with you, this is a solid buy. (If you're feeling generous, you can even buy one of the Big Box Carcassonne editions with the original game and several expansions included!)

4. Board Games for One or Two Players

We listed only a few options below, so check out our Best Of lists for two player board games and solo play board games for a more comprehensive list. One and two player games are hard to make so they flow and play well, but those we listed have done an excellent job of of this.

7 Wonders: Duel (2 players, 30 mins.)

7 Wonders: Duel is one of our favourite two-player games. It doesn't expand beyond two people (no ghost player--win!) and relies heavily on strategy. Even for those who love 7 Wonders and play it to death, Duel presents a new challenge.  Players take turns choosing cards (called card drafting) over three rounds to build their civilization with science, war, commerce, civic and resource cards, and wonders to get the most amount of points. It's fun to play but definitely challenges the brain, and when players master the foundation, they can add the Pantheon expansion. Duel is one of the best for competitive players and for couples who game together. It's a thinker, but it's also quick and varied enough that you can play several games without being bored. 

Hive (2 players, 20 mins.)

Hive is a great game for travelling as it only requires tiles to play. Players have 14 tiles inlaid with different insects, and use their turns moving them in different patterns to surround the other player's queen. The first to surround the opponent's bee wins. It's a quick and simple game, and easy to learn, so it's great for couples as well as parents and kids. Hive is strategic but it's as intense as you play, making it a good intro into heavier board games. When you need a new challenge, you can add new tiles that move in totally different ways.

Akrotiri (2 players, 45 mins.)

If you're a fan of Puerto Rico or Catan, Akrotiri will be up your alley. Players are explorers, travelling, shipping, connecting land and making money. Goals, maps, temples, excavating and oracles all change outcomes and create challenges as players race to excavate their sixth temple first-and have the most points at the end. Despite the complexities and numerous tasks and options, Akrotiri is fairly easy to learn. It takes a little longer to play, but the time invested is worth it. We recommend Hive or other simpler games for the absolute beginner gamer, but you should keep Akrotiri on your list for when you are ready for a bigger challenge.  

Friday (1 player, 25 mins.)

It may seem weird to some, but solo board games are perfect for improving your skills, trying new strategies and playing when others aren't around, or aren't up for a game. (Also, they can distract kids and provide quiet time for parents!) Friday pits you against pirates and the board by stranding you on a deserted island. You'll spend three rounds building your deck and surviving dangers, then another round fighting pirates so you can escape home. Friday is easy to set up, making it a decent travel game, and you can increase the challenge as you get better at the game. This is an awesome game and cheap enough for a stocking stuffer for your favourite person (or even for yourself--thanks Santa!). 

Imperial Settlers (1-4 players, 45-90 mins.)

Imperial Settlers is a little Civilization-esque. If you have a computer gamer in your life who likes Civilization, Imperial Settlers is a good buy. Players choose one civilization and work to build your empire to gain the most points as possible. In solo play, players can either play against a ghost player or in a campaign where end events impact score. We love that you can play by yourself or with others, that it's a decent price and that there are expansions. These factors make this game a win in our books and an excellent gift for Hanukkah, Christmas or whatever holiday you celebrate.

5. Board Games for Kids

These board games are great for teaching some life skills (sharing, turn taking, losing, critical thinking, problem solving), academic skills (colour, letter and number identification and matching), and even skills players need for board games as they grow up. You'll be spending some time with your little ones around the holidays, so why not give them a gift you can enjoy together and with all your visitors?

Snug as a Bug in a Rug (2-4 players, 15 mins., ages 3-6)

This game is adorable and one of the best to grow with your child from ages three to six. One player rolls a die that dictates what you're searching for: shapes, amount or colour. On each turn, players spin the spinner and then find a bug with that specific trait (triangles, three shapes, a blue bug, etc.). Each found bug is tucked under the rug and the game gets harder until you're down to a few bugs, relying on luck and strategy to put all the bugs to bed before three stink bugs appear, ending the game. It's a fast game and engages the little ones, even the two year olds and three year olds, which is huge. We love that the challenge evolves as kids get better and the pieces are high quality. This is definitely a great game for any occasion, Christmas included.

Hoot Owl Hoot (2-4 players, 15 mins. 4+)

While not as complex as Snug as a Bug in a Rug, Hoot Owl Hoot is a fun, colourful and light game that steps up its challenge by adding more owls to the game. Players work together by drawing cards to help the owls back to their nest before the sunrise. There are more sun cards than spaces for the sun to move, so it makes the game a bit harder, and it teaches strategy and critical thinking when deciding which owl to move. Wes and Whitney's three year old likes to play this game all the time (all. the. time.) and will even pull it out and play by himself (incorrectly, but he's entertaining himself!). Hoot Owl Hoot is an excellent game for the littles in your life and so easy to learn you can unwrap it and play right away on Christmas morning.

Race to the Treasure (1-4 players, 20 mins., 5+)

While the game suggests 5+, Peaceable Kingdom says players as young as two can participate. Race to the Treasure reminds us a bit of Carcasonne and Saboteur. Players work together to flip cards, lay a path to three keys and then lay a path to the treasure before the ogre gets there. It's a great strategy game combined with a little luck, and as with all Peaceable Kingdom games, the company will replace any pieces that grow legs and walk away. We like how simple and quick it is to learn and play this game. We also really like that kids can play by themselves, and it's so engaging, they may not even want your help! (Maybe then the adults can get some peace and quiet, or play a game of their own.) This is definitely a great gift idea this Christmas.

Junior Editions of Adult Board Games

If you're already a big gamer, you might be interested to know that there are a few "junior" versions of board games you already enjoy, including:

My First Carcassonne

Ticket to Ride (First Journey)​

My First Stone Age

Catan Jr.

Apples to Apples Jr.

Buzz Word Jr.

6. Cooperative & Team Board Games

Cooperative board games are surprisingly fun, even for super-competitive board gamers who just want to win. Co-op games pit you against the board, and they're usually quite challenging and often they adapt as your skills improve. What's better, for people who want to introduce younger players to board games, these are also a great gateway to formulate skills and critical thinking for when you want to take each other head-on in other games. These ones are a great way to get the family together for a game over the holidays without the anger and fighting that can occur with a game like Monopoly!

Pandemic (1-4 players, 45 mins.)

While Pandemic may seem an obvious choice, we find it one of the absolute best co-operative board games to play. It has many expansions for the base game and many standalone versions, as well as Pandemic Legacy where the game physically alters after each decision you make. (Pandemic Legacy is a game you can play only once, but it takes a long time to finish.) Players work together (or solo!) to fight and cure diseases that are taking over the world. Each player has a special ability to help the fight, but any turn can dramatically change how the diseases spread and how you fight them. This is a challenging but fun game you can play over and over with friends and family alike.

Flash Point

In Flash Point, players are firefighters working together to extinguish a spreading fire and rescue victims before too many are lost or the building collapses. Each firefighter has a special ability and the fire adapts and changes at the end of each player's turn. You'd think it would be easy, but it definitely isn't. We love the unique theme and the well-illustrated boards. When you've mastered the basic game on both sides of the board (one is more difficult) at every difficulty level, you can add expansions or other boards to up the ante and add new elements to tackle. This game is tough but it is fun to play. A big plus: when you're first learning, there's a basic family walk-through option that helps you get a feel for strategy and gameplay before you tackle the next level.

Betrayal at House on the Hill

Betrayal at House on the Hill is hugely popular, and while it isn't our favourite, we can't discount how many people enjoy it and its utterly unique idea. If you're not into horror or you have little ones, this game is probably a pass, just a warning. Players explore a haunted house together and stumble on items and omens that can help or hurt, and events that change the game. Eventually, the haunt is triggered and someone turns traitor, leaving the rest to fend for themselves or fight together against the traitor. See? Neat. It's an extraordinarily difficult game and some elements need improvement, but for co-op players who want a different challenge, this is a good one to try.

7. Secret Identity & Social Deduction Board Games

These are some of our favourite games to play. If you want a game that's ultra-engaging while leaning heavily on fun, a bit of bluffing and some good thinking, this is where you shop. Check out our top 10 list for games that run from zombies and pirates to solving murders and foiling Hitler's plans.

Bang! The Dice Game (3-8 players, 15 mins.)

Giddyup, partner! Set in the old west, players are assigned secret roles from sheriff (this is the only public role) to outlaw, and have secret missions including being the last man standing and killing the sheriff first. Each player also gets a public persona with some special benefits, and players take turns rolling dice and dealing out gunshots, taking hits, fuelling up (on beer) and so on. It's certainly a good vs. bad game, but if you're too obvious in your strategy, you'll be killed off and unable to help your team with more than your opinion. Bang! The Dice Game is silly, light fun but it still requires covert teamwork and an eye for detail--or liars! 

Saboteur 2 

Saboteur 2 is an expansion for Saboteur, but it adds so much to the original we had to recommend it. Players are dealt a secret role, and only some are teammates. Some are working for themselves while others reap the benefits of every other player--but you never really know who's who! Saboteur is a card game making it easy to pack around. Players work semi-cooperatively to create paths from a starting point to the goal cards at the end, only one of which has the gold (most) players want. Reaching the gold ends the round, points are tallied, and the entire process--including dealing new roles!--is repeated for two more rounds. It's difficult to know who's helping whom, and if they're really helping you or just yourself. Changing roles and different action cards can create additional, fun challenges, and we really enjoy playing this game with kids and adults both.

Avalon (5-10 players, 30 mins.)

Avalon is a game better suited for a slightly older audience (13+ is the recommendation, and we agree). Set in the King Arthur era, Avalon demands a lot of bluffing and casting suspicion. Every player gets a secret role and only some get special powers; however, it's a team game through and through as evil and good battle each other to win. If players aren't careful, their roles could be uncovered and they'll lose the chance to join missions and help their team to success. We play Avalon a lot as a group and immensely enjoy the high level of interaction and talking. If you have an older group and want to play a boisterous and fun game, Avalon is an excellent bet.

Secret Hitler

Secret Hitler is a Kickstarter game and is currently difficult to obtain, so we can't include it on our list. But, if you find it for a decent price, we definitely recommend you buy a copy. (As a heads-up, it's recommended for ages 17+.) Read our overview on our social deduction board games list.

8. Board Games that Make you Think

Arguably, most board games (including social deduction games) will use your brain, but these games will challenge your critical thinking and long-term planning skills. Most are long games and have a larger learning curve, but this doesn't take away from their fun. Your hardcore board gamer will love getting a deep board game for Christmas.

The Gallerist (1-4 players, 30-120 mins.)

The Gallerist is a heavy and complex game that we discovered after writing our best worker placement board games list. It takes more time to learn and the rules can be difficult, but once you pick it up, it's a lot of fun. There are several actions you can take on every turn, adding to the game's complexity. Players take turns buying, selling and promoting artwork in an effort to become the top gallerist. Actions waterfall, meaning you can't take certain actions until you've done something else, and your actions can help or impact other players--hence the long-term planning. It's an expensive game and certainly better for an older audience or a group that has more time to play, but it is a worthwhile investment.

Lords of Waterdeep (2-5 players, 60-120 mins.)

Lords of Waterdeep is one of our favourite worker placement games.  Players become lords, fighting for control over a city through bargaining, trickery and force. Players use agents to go on quests and return with rewards to help you on your way. Your actions can help or hinder other players, so critical thinking is a must. Players earn points through building, cards, quests and other players using your buildings. It's a tough game and is played over eight rounds, so your brain often feels depleted after one game. However, it's a lot of fun and it's fun to adapt your game and strategy as the game unfolds. This is a great game to fill some time on your Christmas holidays (and if you're ambitious, you can buy the expansion, too!).

Stone Age (2-4 players, 60-90 mins.)

Stone Age is a fun blast from the past, and can be played with a younger audience (maybe there's some good teaching tools here!). Players are transported back to the stone age, hunting, trading and mining to help them build the biggest civilization. Food is utmost importance, though, so players need to keep this priority if they're to be successful. Tribe members move to different areas on the board, and the tribe leader decides what order to use them in, so there's quite a bit of puzzling and problem-solving involved. It's a heavier and longer game, but it's also a lot of fun to build up a civilization and see it grow. Stone Age is quick to play and fairly simple to learn, and there's an expansion available for when you master the base game.

Wrap Up (har har)

So there you have some of the best board game gifts for Christmas. We tried to include lots of different options for you from stocking stuffers to Santa-esque presents. We recommend trying to look through your giftee's shelf to make sure that you are buying them something they don't already have. (They may also have a Board Game Geek profile that will help you here.)

If you are looking for something a little different than a Christmas gift for the board game geek in your life, then you might also want to check out our gift buying guide for board gamers which features items like board game accessories, apparel and more. (More, if your giftee is a huge Settlers of Catan fan, check out our Best Settlers of Catan Gifts.)

Be sure to let us know if you think there should be a different game on this list. For some people, finding hidden gems in the comment section is what they come for!

Good luck, and remember that spending time with your friends and family is what the holidays are all about... but be sure to count how many times you win just in case. 🙂

About the author


We are the HexaGamers. Six good friends that love all things game related that gets us together to enjoy each other's company.

Mark Rickert - October 21, 2017

I would add Mysterium to the co-op section. It’s got card art that is reminiscent of Dixit with very cool asymmetric play that has the ghost giving non-verbal clues to the psychics via the Dixit-like cards.

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