Tabletop Times: The latest hotness for Christmas

So, this title just sort of came to me.  I'm gonna roll with it.

Someone asked earlier for Christmas gift ideas for their board gaming friends.  So, here's a more comprehensive list featuring some of the most talked about games on, or as it's referred to on the site: The Hotness!

Fair warning, I have not played all of these, but I've heard many good things.

Codenames: Pictures - One of the biggest games from last year has a new trick to it. Instead of trying to get your team to guess code words, now they need to select the correct pictures that your clue directs them to.

Terraforming Mars - While I have not played this, I have heard many good things.  Develop the right atmosphere, water, and living conditions to terraform Mars to just the right condition and earn the most points while doing so.

Mansions of Madness (2nd edition) - A wonderful mansion exploration game in the vein of Betrayal at House On The Hill, but with the Cthulhu mythos instead.  Very fun and adeptly controlled by the app that you'll download when you get the game.

Love Letter Premium Edition - An expanded game of Love Letter (now up to 8 players) with nicer cards and heart tokens.  I'm planning to pick this one up for the kiddos.

Scythe - A personal fave, if you can find it.  Set in an alternate universe 1920's Europa, this area control game has a touch of combat and lots of strategy to keep you busy.  Expansion Invaders From Afar is due out any day now.


Old Favorites - Games that are not new this year, but still really fun and highly recommended:

Castles of Burgundy - This is often called a "couples" game.  Great for 2-4 players, and my personal all time favorite.

Viticulture Essential Edition - Great game about making wine in Italy.  Essential Edition gives a little bit of the Tuscany expansion (the best parts).  Pour a glass of your favorite wine and enjoy!

Lords of Waterdeep - Fun worker placement game set in D&D town of Waterdeep.  Send warriors and mages on quests and develop your underground empire to take over the city!  (and earn victory points)

Terra Mystica - Deep and immersive area control game.  Take control of 1 of 14 races (6 more in the expansion) and expand across the land.  Earn Victory Points!

Splendor - Quick and easy game about growing you gem empire and earning prestige from the nobles.  Plays in about 30 minutes with 2-4 players

Forbidden Island / Forbidden Desert - These are pretty similar games.  By the same designer as Pandemic.  Find the treasures before the island sinks, or find the parts to you airship before the sandstorm takes over.

Pandemic - The ultimate classic co-op game.  Race across the globe to fight diseases, build research stations and find the cures.  If looking for a longer more immersive experience, check out Pandemic Legacy Season 1 (Season 2 out next year)

This is just the start.  The wide world of table top games is ever growing.  Check out your friendly local gaming store to see all the wonderful options they have in store!

38 thoughts on “Tabletop Times: The latest hotness for Christmas”

  1. We just started introducing basic board games to the boy like Trouble, Sorry, etc. Try as I might, I just can't seem to beat the little bugger. Beginner's luck, or something.

    1. How old? We're big on games with our kids, and have been trying to get away from the simple dice/counting games. To that end, once they're old enough, I recommend:

      Sequence Jr.
      Chinese Checkers
      Engineering Ants
      TransEuropa (or TransAmerica)
      Spot It

      There are others, but those are the ones that come to mind immediately.

      1. For younger kids, I recommend Outfoxed as a cooperative game. It's sort of like a cooperative clue, and is a favorite for both our 6 year old and 4.5 year old.

    2. I just picked up Candyland because the oldest has reached the 3-6 range the game recommends. I suspect it will be closer to 4 when he is capable of consistently playing.

    3. We got "Race to the Treasure" from ... somewhere? and the little one (4.5 yrs) loves it. Super simple, but involves actual strategic thinking and a cooperative win/loss mechanism that works pretty well.

      Everyone is working together to build a path that has to pick up various tokens before getting to the end. At the same time there are ogre cards that turn up and move the ogres ever closer to the treasure. Lots of fun and short games (5-10 minutes).

  2. Every year a group of our friends get together on the Friday after Thanksgiving for The Annual, a night of tacos and board & card games. (This year was the 23rd annual Annual.) I didn't play as much this year as in years past, but did get to try a few new-to-me games. I watched a group of folks play through Secret Hitler, which was developed by one of the Cards Against Humanity people. I don't know what plans there are for post-Kickstarter production, but the game looked really well thought out.

    Speaking of Cards against Humanity, if you enjoy that game you might want to check out Joking Hazard, which is similar in concept (and coarseness) but provides a fun wrinkle: you are attempting to complete the last panel of an hopefully funny, likely offensive comic strip. If you like to work blue, it's probably up your alley.

    I'm not really a fan of Catan-style economic/strategy games, but I really enjoy playing Suburbia. The goals change every time you play, which alleviates the tedium of Catan. (It also prevents any hardcore Cataners from demolishing any less-dedicated opponents. I had a friend who was obsessed with Catan and was out for blood every game; after a few occasions we refused to play anymore because it just wasn't fun to be someone's Catan speed bag.)

    If you're looking for fun, mixed-company games for gamers & non-gamers alike, you might enjoy Flapjacks & Sasquatches. If you like guessing games Concept, SiXeS, and Guess the Mess! are worth checking out.

    1. I played Joking Hazard for the first time this weekend. We only got to play for about 20 minutes, but it was fun. It seems to have more opportunities for wit than CAH, and maybe less likely to get stale. We played liked 10 rounds, and I would say there was about 3 genuine laugh out loud moments. Definitely some duds, though.

    2. Reposted from me from 2014

      Last year at Thanksgiving, my BiL and I completely ruined a game of Suburbia just to mess with my brother. I, running a town I christened "New Birmingham" had concentrated largely in manufacturing and he in cheap housing over in "New Detroit" Once our towns touched, we formally announced the merger of our towns and formed the new town of "New Birmingtroit". Article I of the new town charter was "Suck it, Boog." as there was nothing in the rules that said we couldn't. And he looked for a long time.

      Needless to say, the combined might of New Birmingtroit was no match for Boog and his - then - girlfriend - now - fiancée. (ed:now wife)

    3. A guy from work supported Secret Hitler. We've been playing at every work event (we congregate in NYC a few times a year) since. It's a blast.

  3. I got roped into playing Monopoly over the holiday break. It was somewhat interesting to re-acquaint myself with the game--probably the last time I played it I was in middle school--but there are a lot of aspects about it which I don't like. The worst is that players get eliminated as you go and the game can last for hours after that. I don't necessarily mind some randomness in a game, but it seems like at the start, at least some of the properties should be put up for auction, rather than waiting for people to land on them.

    Anyway, I would put votes in for Dominion and Race for the Galaxy. They incorporate a lot of the aspects that I enjoyed about Magic: The Gathering gameplay, but without having to go out and collect cards (which I never bothered to do anyway, I would always just borrow someone else's cards.) I've also played Roll for the Galaxy lately, which I like as well and might be a better option if you like a bit more randomness injected into the gameplay.

    1. I got to play some Dominion over Thanksgiving. I am not a fan of the Dark Ages expansion, relative to some of the others. I say that having won the game with the expansion, despite almost never winning.

    2. The rules do say to auction off any property that isn't bought. I haven't played in quite some time but it seemed that all of the house rules people add make the game last even longer. Then people complain about how long it takes so they don't want to play.

      1. Any property that is landed on and isn't bought. We were playing by that rule, but everyone bought every property they landed on. It's pretty hard to argue against purchasing a property unless you happen to land on so many more properties than everyone else that you are starting to get too cash poor. Even then, if you've got some property banked up, you can mortgage it if you are only a little short on cash and have some properties earning income to make you whole again in a few turns.

        The one house rule that we were using (which I wasn't aware was a house rule when I got roped into taking over for my wife) was putting taxes, etc. in the middle and doling it out for free parking. That definitely extends the game, and I think it's a bad house rule.

        The way our game was playing out, the guy who got knocked out first basically only landed on something like three properties that hadn't already been purchased. He never really had a chance to get in the game. If all the properties were auctioned off either at the beginning, or just when someone lands on them, he at least would have had some choices to make. Or maybe some compromise like auction off all the unpurchased properties after everyone has passed Go two or three times.

        1. Or maybe some compromise like auction off all the unpurchased properties after everyone has passed Go two or three times.

          I've played this way before. I believe it was 3 (or 4) rounds, and it did seem to help. Doesn't remove the luck of the roll completely, which is a main component of the early game, so that's nice.

          1. We set a timer. Then, when the timer goes off, whoever's turn it is gets to flip the board off the table and storm off, vowing never to play again. That way we reach the end without taking too much time.

        1. It is a trick-taking game like spades. Sometimes called "Oh, Hell" or "Oh, Heck".
          We play it with 13 hands (1-card trump, 2-card trump, ..., 6-card trump, 7-card no-trump, then back down the river to 1-card trump). Best played with 4-6 players.

          1. That's a favorite at our house. We only pay thirteen hands, though.

            We taught it to my in-laws, and now it's a favorite over there, too.

                  1. Right, I do sort of like your way for the rare occasion where we have more than four who want to play. Or less, I suppose, since the full 13 doesn't really work very well with LESS than four players, either.

                1. We play it a lot at the in-laws. Up to 7. First and last hand (1 card) are played with the card on your forehead, such that you know everyone's card but your own.

                  1. That is dealer's choice for the last hand in our version. Works best when alcohol or children are involved.

          2. Oh, I was more interested in Cribbage Variations.
            We often play "Captains", a 3-player variation where each game has one dealer. The other two are partners. Dealer deals 5 and a 6th to himself, gets both of the discards and gets to create two hands (one crib) out of all eight. Rotate once around and add up win/loss deficit.

            I've been trying out slight rule changes of classic two-hand with my FiL, just for variety:
            "Backwards", where you try to score as few points as possible. This was fun, I'd play it again.
            "Five Card", each player is dealt seven and one straight to the crib. After too much grumbling about having to split great deals. I think this had too many points available with a lot of variability, so you could get way far ahead or behind.

            1. How long does a Backwards game take? Twice as long? Or do you accidentally get a lot of good hands with the cut?

    1. You should set up an account at and join Punman and me in a game or two, so's to learn it before gifting it...

  4. Some of my website's players hung out for a week over my birthday in October, and we spent the vast majority of the time playing games.

    I can't suggest The Resistance enough. It gets emotional and intense, and is just the exact type of rush I'm looking for when I play games. It's kind a Mafia/Werewolf game where as few as five people can play. We played the five-handed version four times up at the cabin (twice with nibbish). God, I adore it.

    Another we took up there was Party Playoff, a ridiculous and fun party game where you get a randomly-generated 32-item tournament and argue the virtues until there's a winner. There's a point scheme, but it feels secondary to the laughs along the way. It's been out for years but I'm not sure it ever got its due.

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