2018 Holiday Gift Guide: Games

Reading Time: 5 minutes

Games and geeks go hand in hand, so it’s no surprise we have a lot of suggestions for this holiday season. Read on for our favorite games of the year.


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Image: Laurence King Publishing

Match a Leaf: A Tree Memory Game
Suggested By: Jenny Bristol
Mfg: Laurence King Publishing
Price: $16.99
Purchase: Match a Leaf: A Tree Memory Game

Not your basic memory game, this one has players matching leaves with their accompanying trees, all gorgeously illustrated. Fun and educational, nature lovers of all ages will come away from this game with a renewed interest in, familiarity with, and education in trees. The set comes in a very sturdy box and includes a fact-filled pamphlet with plenty of information on all of the tree pairs. The game was made in association with the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, but the included tree specimens come from around the world.


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Skeeball Image Courtesy of Target

SkeeBall The Classic Arcade Game
Suggested By: Dakster Sullivan
Mfg: Buffalo Games
Price: $29.99
Purchase: SkeeBall The Classic Arcade Game

Skeeball goes from the arcade to the living room (or the driveway) thanks to Buffalo Games. My family has fun setting up a quick game and seeing who can talk the talk and roll the roll. It’s a whole different experience when you’re doing it at home but it’s just as much fun.


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Image: Retrogames

The C64 Mini
Suggested By: Jenny Bristol
Mfg: Retrogames
Price: $58.80
Purchase: The C64 Mini

If your idea of a game involves Commodore 64-era nostalgic graphics, you can once again have the games of that well-loved console/computer in your hands (literally). A diminutive version of the original, the C64 Mini comes with dozens of games included, with the additional ability of uploading your own games, or even programming in BASIC right on the console (with a separate USB keyboard, not included). Relive the ’80s this holiday season and show your kids what gaming was like when you were a kid. Read my full review.


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Puzzle books can hold brain teasers, mazes, logic puzzles, or even mysterious adventures!

Puzzle Games: Dubious Documents, Hoakes Island, Puzzle Ninja, and Other Puzzle Books
Suggested By: Jenny Bristol
Mfg: Various
Price: Varies
Purchase: Puzzle Games: Dubious Documents, Hoakes Island, Puzzle Ninja, and Other Puzzle Books

Sometimes we love a good puzzle. Mazes, logic puzzles, riddles, and adventure stories full of mysteries and clues… Challenging our brains in these ways can either be a group or solitary pursuit, and they’re inherently portable. Plus, they’re fun! I often prefer my games in book form, and these puzzle book games are my favorites from 2018: Dubious Documents, Hoakes Island, and Puzzle Ninja. Read my full reviews for them here, here, and here.


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Image: Tasty Minstrel Games

Orléans Board Game
Suggested By: Rory Bristol
Mfg: Tasty Minstrel Games
Price: $49.16
Purchase: Orléans Board Game

Orléans has been delighting gamers for several years now, and is a staple in many groups. This game combines the best of deep strategy play and bag-building games to facilitate a unique experience each game, and hours of fun in every playthrough. Players use their workers to accomplish individual feats or contribute to the greater society in exchange for rewards. There are countless ways to get points, so you play how you like, and you don’t have to worry if someone else is using a strategy similar to your own.

Orléans is playable for 2, 3, or 4 players, and runs for about 90 minutes on average. Some games take longer, and some are quicker than others. The longest games take place when multiple players try whole new strategies. Early on, this will be a consistent struggle, as there are countless strategies to be employed.

For a full review of Orléans check out our coverage here.


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Image: Tasty Minstrel Games.

Orléans: Trade & Intrigue Expansion
Suggested By: Rory Bristol
Mfg: Tasty Minstrel Games
Price: $22.95
Purchase: Orléans: Trade & Intrigue

Orléans: Trade & Intrigue Expansion expands on the world of Orléans, bringing players whole new challenges and improved mechanics. This expansion is a great gift for gamers who already own Orléans or are also receiving that game for Christmas as well. This expansion makes everything bigger and more exciting with new choices, but it replaces simpler options, so players don’t have to manage too many possibilities at once. The Intrigue board also changes gameplay by giving players a direct method with which they may attack other players!

Though the expansion cannot be played alone, collecting both games comes in at under $75 for the game pair. Also, players who have never played Orléans in any fashion before will still have fun pairing it with the Trade & Intrigue expansion, since it is just another facet of a well-designed game for all audiences.


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Slap me some skin, Pikachu!

Pokémon: Let’s Go
Suggested By: Z.
Mfg: Nintendo/The Pokémon Company
Price: $58.90-$99.99
Purchase: Pokémon: Let’s Go

I’m not sure if Pokémon: Let’s Go, Pikachu! (and its sister title, Pokémon: Let’s Go, Eeevee!) is my game of the year, but, at the very least, it’s close. Engaging, accessible, and—most importantly—incredibly fun, the Let’s Go games keep the spirit of the core franchise intact while shedding repetitive random encounters and much of the grinding that typified its earliest entries. Add to this Pokémon Go integration and support for the new Poké Ball Plus accessory that lets you literally toss your in-game Poké Balls at your quarry, and you’ve got an unquestionable winner. Available alone or bundled with the Poké Ball Plus, either game would be the perfect pick-up for the Pokémon Master on your gift list. [Review materials provided by: Nintendo of America]


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Sadly, he’s not voiced by Danny DeVito either.

Detective Pikachu
Suggested By: Z.
Mfg: Nintendo/The Pokémon Company
Price: $35.49
Purchase: Detective Pikachu

While many missed this quirky 3DS title when it originally dropped in March of this year, the newly released trailer for the Warner Bros. film of the same name has served to stir up interest in Detective Pikachu. Help Tim Goodman search Rhyme City for his missing father in this point-and-click-style throwback. You’ll conduct interviews (with both people and Pokémon), comb scenes for clues, and then solve puzzles to piece together each case with a gruff and grumbly Pikachu—sadly, not versed by Ryan Reynolds this time around. [Review materials provided by: Nintendo of America]


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Topiary. Simple yet strategic.

Topiary
Suggested By: Robin Brooks
Mfg: Renegade Games Studios
Price: $25
Purchase: Topiary

Writing for GeekDad and spending time behind the scenes with its authors can be an expensive business. There are so many great games being talked about. The board game I’ve enjoyed most in 2018, originally reviewed by Dave Banks, is Topiary.

Quick to set up and easy to explain, Topiary looks great on the tabletop, sporting some of the finest meeples I’ve ever seen. The simple hedge-building mechanic (it’s all about sight lines) belies a challenging strategic depth that gives you plenty to think about. Despite that, it’s not possible for deep-thinkers to cover every angle, meaning more casual players can compete too. With games completing in 20 minutes or less, Topiary can easily be slotted into a hectic holiday schedule. Better yet, some of the tiles even look like Christmas trees.


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Warhammer Underworlds: Nightvault. My favorite miniatures game got even better in 2018

Warhammer Underworlds: Nightvault
Suggested By: Robin Brooks
Mfg: Games Workshop
Price: MRSP $60. $51 on Amazon
Purchase: Warhammer Underworlds: Nightvault

Warhammer Underworlds has been my Geek Gaming obsession during 2018. It’s a great game. When its second season, Nightvault, arrived, things got even better with new warbands, new cards, and the introduction of spellcasting. With a new official list of restricted cards from season 1, there’s never been a better time for new players to enter the game. You’re on a level playing field with everybody who has been playing for the last year or so.

Warhammer Underworlds: Nightvault is a small model-count tactical miniatures game. It’s great for people thinking of entering what can be an expensive and time consuming hobby. Games are fast paced and entertaining and with 12 warbands currently available to play, there’s plenty of opportunity for variation without breaking the bank. Check out my full review, here.


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Trash Pandas from Gamewright Games

Trash Pandas
Suggested By: Jonathan H. Liu
Mfg: Gamewright
Price: $11.99
Purchase: Trash Pandas

One person’s trash is a raccoon’s treasure! Tip over garbage cans and dig for goodies, but watch out for doggos and kittehs. This press-your-luck dice game is easy to learn and features adorable artwork with silly names. It’s fairly light, family-friendly gameplay in a small package. (Read the full review here.)


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Tiny Epic Zombies by Gamelyn Games

Tiny Epic Zombies
Suggested By: Jonathan H. Liu
Mfg: Gamelyn Games
Price: $25.00
Purchase: Tiny Epic Zombies

The Tiny Epic game series just won’t die… which is great news if you love zombie games. Tiny Epic Zombies packs a lot of undead action in its compact box, allowing for cooperative or competitive humans, various scenarios, and player-controlled or automated zombies. Who knew brain-eating corpses could be so flexible? (Read the full review here.)

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