Ah, it's that magical time of year when we rush to the mall to get our favorite gamer friend/spouse/child/grandma a new game to unwrap on Christmas morning. Philo asked me to put together a list of some good game ideas. I haven't played all of these, but I've heard good things. Anything with a * is one I have not played.
Codenames* - One of the hottest items discussed on Dice Tower and BoardGameGeek is this great new party game. Played in teams, one person on each team is trying to get his teammates to pick the right cards, which lay in a grid of 5X5. It's Password, but better.
Spyfall - Played with a group of people, everyone draws a card. All the cards except one have the name of a location on them (same location), one cardholder is the spy. The people with the location card have to root out the spy by asking questions to the other players to make sure they know where they are. They spy is trying to figure out where they are, without looking too out of place.
Say Anything - Similar to Balderdash, the reader asks a question, everyone else writes down their answers, then everyone tries to reason out what everyone put.
Telestrations - Think telephone meets Pictionary. First person gets a phrase, they have to write down a picture of what that phrase is, next person looks at the picture, and comes up with a phrase. The weirder the phrase, the funner this gets.
Wits and Wagers - Trivia games are fun, but it's much more fun when people don't know the precise answer, but try to get close. Ask a question, everyone writes down their answers, then make bets as to which one is the closest to the right one.
Modern Day Classics
Ticket To Ride - One of the first modern board games I played. Still great fun, especially with kids. Start the game by selecting tickets with route between two cities. Next, collect cards to be able to place trains on the various train paths to complete your route.
Settlers of Catan - Build your settlements and cities and roads in between. Gather wood, ore, grain, brick and sheep (baaa) to build more and more and get to 10 points first!
Carcassonne - Classic tile laying game. Draw a tile, place it on the board, place your meeple to get points for your roads, castles, cloisters, and farms.
Dominion - The game that started the term "Deckbuilding." Build up your deck with money cards, kingdom cards, and victory point cards. Also has about 10 expansions you can add to it.
Shadows Over Camelot - Co-op game in the setting of King Arthur. Search for the holy grail, Excalibur, and Lancelot's Armor. Fight the black knight and the deadly dragon. Fend off the Picts and the Saxons. And most of all, watch out for the traitor in your midst.
Pandemic - The world is a sick place, and it's your job to find the cure. Race across the world searching for the cure, while treating the deadly diseases. Also, for a longer, deeper adventure, try the new Pandemic Legacy*
Forbidden Island / Forbidden Desert - Putting these together since they're similar, but still very different. You're working together to find four items and get away before the island sinks, or the desert overtakes you. GREAT with kids
Dead of Winter* - I've been pining to play this for over a year now. I don't know much about it other than it's cold outside, and zombies are lurking around every corner. Everyone also has their own agenda, but still trying to work together
Mice and Mystics - Wonderful adventure game that is kid friendly. Your kingdom has been taken over, and to escape, you and your friends have been turned into mice. Escape through sewers and basements and kitchens. Has a campaign mode that takes you through an entire story. Also has many expansions.
Descent: Journeys In The Dark* - I've heard a lot about this one. Plays similar to M&M, I think.
Personal Favorites - These are games that are my personal favorites, but sometimes tastes can differ, so just warnin' ya.
Castles of Burgundy - The first time I played this, I knew I had to have it. You're placing tiles (buildings, mines, animals, castles, etc) on your board (estate). You get points, bonuses, goods to ship, etc. Great for couples (so I've heard)
Trajan - Same designer as Castles. A Mancala-esque mechanic drives this game. You're trying to ship goods, influence the Senate, gain territory, all in the name of getting victory points.
Terra Mystica - Area control game that doesn't involve fighting. Take control of one of 14 races (20 with the expansion) and stake your claim. Build dwellings, trading posts, temples, strongholds and sanctuaries. Send your priests to the cult track, and build your engine to build the most magnificent empire ever. (Judged on victory points)
Lords of Waterdeep - Worker Placement game in a Dungeons and Dragons setting. You play a Lord of the city of waterdeep, recruiting warriors, rogues, wizards and clerics to do your bidding, to gain favor and.... wait for it.... victory points.
Splendor - You are a gem collector trying to be the best and most prestigious in the land. Buy mines to help you get more gems which help you get more gems and points. Incredibly quick to learn and teach.
These are some of my favorite and most talked about games right now. Let me know if you have questions about any other types of games.
Also, what have you been playing lately?