GeekMom Holiday Gift Guide #3: Tabletop Games

Many geeks sure love their tabletop games. From family game night to weekend-long game fests to gaming conventions, tabletop games play a pretty big role in our lives. We’ve come a long way since the days of Monopoly and Sorry (though those games still have their uses). What are GeekMom’s favorite games this year? Check them out!

Timeline by Asmodee, image courtesy Asmodee
Timeline by Asmodee, image courtesy Asmodee

Timeline
$11-14
When was gum invented? How about the toothbrush? Was it before or after the lightbulb? Asmodee’s Timeline seems simple, but the card-based challenge of arranging discoveries in chronological order grows in difficulty and charm the longer you play. Love this game for travel, nerd nights, and gifts. Eight and up. Great packaging, beautiful design. Numerous other packs available.

Image: The Creativity Hub
Image: The Creativity Hub

Rory’s Story Cubes: Batman and Moomin
Prices vary
If there’s one game I encourage everyone to buy, it’s Rory’s Story Cubes. It’s affordable and portable, there are a variety of themes to suit everyone, and it’s a fun game, whether you’re using it for education, language development, writing inspiration, as an ice breaker, or just on a regular game night. Roll the nine dice and begin to tell a story. Each die is an element in your story. It can be as long or as short as you’d like. Make it to The End. Then pass the dice to the next person. The original sets cover more general topics, but the newest sets begin reaching out to fandoms, specifically Batman and Moomin. I don’t have to explain Batman to you, but Moomin is new to many in the United States. It is based on Tove Jansson’s sweet and gentle Moomin book series. Give both new Story Cubes sets a look!

Laser Maze Jr. from ThinkFun. Image: Lisa Kay Tate
Laser Maze Jr. from ThinkFun. Image: Lisa Kay Tate

Laser Maze Jr.
$29.99
Laser Maze Jr. is ThinkFun’s age-appropriate answer to its award-winning (and highly recommended) Laser Maze. The goal of both Laser Maze and Laser Maze Jr. is to use both science and logic to guide a laser beam from its starting point to an end point, by the placement of mirrors, space blockers, and beam splitters. The junior level includes 40 challenge scenarios ranging from easy to difficult. Even if you already own the original Laser Maze, this junior level is a great choice for letting players of all age warm up to the challenge.

Image courtesy of Foxtrot Games
Image courtesy of Foxtrot Games

Lanterns: The Harvest Festival Board Game
$23.43
Lanterns: The Harvest Festival is a simple but dynamic tile-laying game. Each turn, players place a tile and are rewarded with Lantern cards, which they collect and exchange for points. There is no need for reading or math skills, as the game-play is based on colors and shapes. Very young kids can play, but don’t mistake: This game has enough strategy for players of any age and skill level. Lanterns is a great game for families and parties, making it a perfect gift for geeks of any age.

Image: Bezier Games
Image: Bezier Games

Castles of Mad King Ludwig
$39.25
One of this year’s Mensa Select award winners, in Castles of Mad King Ludwig, players build castles, one room at a time, by collecting money, purchasing rooms, and placing them adjoining their other rooms. The role of Master Builder rotates; this role has a big impact on game play. Otherwise, on your turn, you buy new rooms and satisfy different bonus conditions. At the end of the game, the person with the most points wins. There is a quick instructional video on the publisher’s YouTube channel. This game is from one to four players.

The X-Files © IDW Games/Sophie Brown
The X-Files © IDW Games/Sophie Brown

The X-Files: Board Game
Amazon $39.95
The X-Files: Board Game combines collaborative play with a betrayal element. Players choose to play either as X-Files agents Mulder, Scully, Skinner, and Krycek (an odd choice considering his allegiance was often against the X-Files) or as the Cigarette Smoking Man who works to foil the agents’ investigations. The X-Files agents work to move around the map, gathering evidence toward cases based on episodes of the TV show. Once enough evidence has been gathered, the agents may solve the case, granting them one of nine pieces that fit together to create Mulder’s iconic “I Want to Believe Poster.” The Smoking Man may spend his influence points to play cards which hamper the agents’ progress, and to conceal evidence by replacing tokens in the evidence bag with cigarettes which the agents may pull out instead of useful clues. If the agents manage to collect all nine pieces of Mulder’s poster before the Smoking Man can conceal 25 pieces of evidence, they win the game. The X-Files: Board Game will really suit more experienced gamers who are unfazed by a fairly steep learning curve, and fans of the show.

Image: IDW with modification by Rory Bristol
Image: IDW with modification by Rory Bristol

Machi Koro
$32.95
Machi Koro is a dynamic game requiring short-term and long-term strategies. Each turn players roll one or two dice, the results of which affect every player, providing simultaneous play every turn. Best for kids 10+, Machi Koro is a great hit with adults as well. With a quick play time (roughly 30 minutes), it is a great game to pull out and play at the drop of a hat. Machi Koro is a fantastic game for number geeks and those who prefer games of chance.

Image: Tasty Minstrel Games
Image: Tasty Minstrel Games

Martian Dice
$12.95
Enjoy Zombie Dice but wish there was a bit more strategy to it? Martian Dice to the rescue! With much cuter pictures on the dice as well (who doesn’t love cows and chickens?), Martian Dice from Tasty Minstrel Games is a fun, press-your-luck game that has many possibilities for weighing your options in each turn. Your job is to abduct people, cows, and chickens before the tanks outnumber your alien ships. Bonus points if you get the trifecta of Earth species. It’s a quick, portable game that is fun for family groups, adults, or older children.

Colt Express © Ludonaute/Sophie Brown
Colt Express © Ludonaute/Sophie Brown

Colt Express
Amazon $26.95
In Colt Express, players take on the role of bandits holding up a train in the American Wild West. Using a deck of cards, players can move around the train gathering loot, attacking rivals, and influencing the Marshall. At the end of the game, whoever is holding the most loot is declared the winner. The game is played over a number of rounds, each of which is divided into two parts: schemin’ and stealin’. During the schemin’ phase, players choose which cards they wish to play from their hand and in what order (for example, move horizontally, pick up loot, shoot a rival, move vertically). During the stealin’ phase, these cards, now collated from each player into a single stack, are read out in order and the action unfolds. The game is fast-paced, fun, and great to play in a group (the more bandits running around the train the better the experience becomes) which makes it perfect for parties and games nights.

Image courtesy of Blue Orange Games
Box art: Blue Orange Games

Battle Sheep
$18.26
Battle Sheep is an abstract strategy game in which players try to fill fields with their herd of sheep. The modular board is made up of identical 4-hex tiles, placed in rounds before play starts. Players then move stacks of sheep tiles across the board as they maneuver for strategic positions and try to trap opponents pieces. No reading, writing, or language skills are required, making it a great game for all ages. With 2-4 players, families and small groups can pull out Battle Sheep for a quick, intuitive play experience. Battle Sheep is a great gift for parents and kids because the plastic tiles are near-impossible to destroy or stain!

Image: Breaking Games
Image: Breaking Games

Letter Tycoon
$35
Another of this year’s Mensa Select award winners, this game has players making words to earn money and stocks. Collect patents on letters to make other players pay you royalties. Make the most points and become the Letter Tycoon. Adding to the fun gameplay is the game’s style, with beautiful colors and line drawings, reminiscent of clean, industrial architecture.

Image: Gryphon Games
Image: Gryphon Games

Roll Through the Ages: The Iron Age
$40.49
Roll Through the Ages: The Iron Age is a complex game focused on progressing the technology and accomplishment of your small population. Play is recorded each turn on score sheets, and resources are managed on a high-quality peg-board. Play can be sluggish for new players, but after a few games, play speed increases dramatically. Each turn, players roll special dice to gain resources, population, and scientific research. At the end, the most civilized player wins. Requiring a high level of strategy, this game is a great gift for critical thinkers and players who love a challenge.

Image: Tasty Minstrel Games
Image: Tasty Minstrel Games

Flip City
$15.95
Flip City is a deck-building game with an abstract goal. Players develop their cities in a rush to get enough points to end the game. The catch? Players have to score enough points or play enough cards in one turn in order to end the game, without ending their turn prematurely with dissatisfied citizens. Flip City is a great game for kids who like to be able to play a large number of cards each turn, or cash in big for a dramatic edge-of-the-seat finish. It’s also a great solitaire game for geeks who like to play alone.

Get the GeekDad Books for the Holidays!

   

Jenny Bristol is an Editor at GeekDad and a founding Director at GeekMom. She is a lifelong geek who spends her time learning, writing, homeschooling her two wickedly smart kids, losing herself in history, and mastering the art of traveling on a shoestring.