We usually consider gaming our strongest and most important category. Board games, card games, and video games are something we all enjoy. It’s not surprising, then, that this guide is one of our strongest. Read on for a list of the games and game-related products we liked most this year.
Accio Funkoverse strategy game! Lead special versions of Funko Harry Potter characters through a strategy board game that brings the world, characters, and stories to life. All the Funkoverse games involve some light strategy and can be enjoyed either as a stand-alone game or mix with other Funkoverse games. The four-piece set includes two playable maps (Diagon Alley and the Room of Requirement) and four exclusive Funkoverse Pop! Game figures. Between two and four players, ages 10 and up, will enjoy the game… which typically lasts 30 to 60 minutes.
Hands-On Logic Games: Invasion of the Cow Snatchers and Domino Maze
Suggested By: Jenny Bristol
Price: About $30 each
Purchase: Hands-On Logic Games: Invasion of the Cow Snatchers and Domino Maze
ThinkFun regularly puts out incredibly fun, interesting, and challenging logic games. We’ve been buying them for over a decade! And this year they’ve come out with two new ones, Invasion of the Cow Snatchers and Domino Maze, that continue the trend.
Invasion of the Cow Snatchers has you acting as an alien, abducting cows from farms. With several levels of difficulty, you need to collect the cows while avoiding obstacles such as barns, crops, fences, and hay bales. Can you get away clean with your bovine bounty?
Domino Maze has players building domino runs that accomplish certain goals, such as knocking down targets in order; using a platform, stairs, and direction switchers; and more. The dominos only fall in one direction, which helps with setup, but the challenges get harder as you go through the levels. It take a few minutes to get oriented to the rules, but once you do you’ll want to dive right in. Read my reviews of Invasion of the Cow Snatchers and Domino Maze at GeekMom!
If you love a good mystery to solve and challenging jigsaw puzzles to assemble, you’ll love the new Escape Puzzle line of jigsaw puzzles from Ravensburger. The puzzle goes together like any jigsaw puzzle, but the image on the front of the box only mostly looks like the completed puzzle, adding to the difficulty. Once you put it all together, though, you see all the clues and evidence, and get to solve the mystery! Each puzzle comes with a little booklet containing information about what you’re trying to solve and a sealed envelope with the solution. The website has clues, too, if you’re really stumped. This line of puzzles includes other themes, such as The Witch’s Kitchen and Angkor Wat Temple. Any of them are great for a group family effort! Read my full review at GeekMom.
Risk of Rain—2013’s spectacular interplanetary roguelike—is back in the equally inspired Risk of Rain 2. Experience that same thrill of exploration as you navigate alien environments looking for helpful upgrades and hidden teleporters, fighting challenging enemies every step of the way. The catch? This time the game is presented in lush 3D. But worry not—Switch owners get both this fresh new sequel and the award-winning original all on one cartridge. It’s nigh-infinite replayability with an action-heavy slant, intuitive interface, and pulsing synth soundtrack you can enjoy alone or with your geeklings. In short, it’s the perfect game for the sci-fi fan on your list! [Review material provided by: Gearbox Publishing]
Despite months of bellyaching (and more recent coordinated review-bombing) from the more entitled corners of its fanbase, Pokémon Sword/Shield, the most recent entry in the long-running Pokémon franchise, has become the fastest-selling game on the Nintendo Switch—and with good reason. Modeled after the British Isles, the new Galar region comes packed with fresh experiences, from the requisite new Pokémon to a new approach to Gym Battles (which now take place in football-style stadiums and use all that space to their advantage with the Dynamaxing/Gigantamaxing system) to the shared, wide-open spaces of its free-roaming Wild Areas, each with a bevvy of monstrous inhabitants and constantly shifting weather patterns. Visually, the game is stunning, and the regional variants of its classic soundtrack perfectly encapsulate Galar as a variation on the game’s established themes—it’s a great big world out there, and we (like the Pokémon) just live in it. [Review material provided by: Nintendo of America]
The Tempest X Replicade is a 12” one-sixth scale replica of the original Tempest arcade cabinet (more specifically the upright design, as there were three different arcade designs). It is meant not only to look just like the original arcade game but to be playable as well, as it is running the original licensed game ROM from Atari. This is a must-have for Tempest fans and, honestly, even for those of you that had never heard of Tempest until you read Ready Player One (see my “Games of Ready Player One” article for more details). Arcade games of the 1980s had a totally different look and feel, and the only way to really appreciate that is to actually experience the gameplay first hand. New Wave Toys lets you do that with smaller and much more affordable 12” scale version of the game.
Treasure X: Quest for Gold is a fun exploration, card management, and press your luck game for 2-4 players, ages five and up, that takes about 20 minutes to play. This game is great for introducing kids to a variety of tabletop gaming strategies that they’ll use for years as new gamers. You can read our full review here!
My First Castle Panic is a fun, cooperative game where everyone works together to keep the parade of monsters from destroying your castle! This is a great game for kids to start learning some strategy and forward-thinking in their gameplay. It can also be played solo once your child learns the game. Read our full review here!
The Dungeons & Dragons Stranger Things Starter Set is a complete D&D adventure, including character sheets, rule booklets, and dice—everything you need to get playing right away. The kit includes two demigorgon minifigures, one pre-painted and one blank, so you can design your own iconic monster. The best part of the kit, though, is the adventure included, titled “Hunt for the Thessalhydra.” This adventure takes a party of 3rd-level characters through various challenges, facing owlbears, demigorgons, and more monsters as they try to put an end to the thessalhydra’s attacks on local farms and homesteads.
This kit is a great gift for your Stranger Things fan, but is still great gift for those who have never seen the show and just want to get started with D&D. The low price-point means that 6 players (a dungeon master and up to 5 character players) can dip their toes into the epic waters of the D&D universe without putting up cash for all the rule books typically needed to play. “Hunt for the Thessalhydra” will take 2-3 sessions to play through, though your mileage may vary. If your group has never played before, be prepared to get together three or four times before completing your mission.
Ascension: Alliances is an expansion for the epic franchise that is taking the world by storm. Alliances adds two-player teams to Ascension for the first time, allowing more players to join in on the fun or giving the standard 4 players a new spin on the game. The expansion is also compatible with all other expansions, meaning you can play with teams in any of the 13 versions of the game or you can play any two versions with it, making for a longer and more complex game with 78 combinations to choose from!
Ascension: Alliances is a great gift for geeks who have any version of Ascension, and makes a great stocking stuffer, too. A bonus is the deck box the expansion comes in, which is an Ultra Pro box with a unique design and a divider. This allows your geek to store extra starting decks or even another expansion in a handy portable container for game night. We suggest pairing it with Ascension: Dawn of Champions if you want to include both for this year’s gift.
The FIFA games, from Electronic Arts, are a popular video game series that brings the beautiful game right into your own home. The latest installment, FIFA 20, is a good addition and has plenty of features that up the replay value. There is an extensive selection of players and leagues to play from, including the English Premier League, La Liga, and Serie A to MLS and Liga MX. I personally enjoy the career mode, where you take control of a single player or manager and navigate the football landscape. I like how there is more than the club team aspect, as you can also manage or get called up to national teams. Like many other sports games, there is a high degree of customization where you can make your player look just like you. In addition, for managers, you can even pick out your clothes. Volta Football is a new gameplay mode that is like the “Street” equivalent. The environments are more dynamic, allowing you to bounce balls off of walls and the play has a more pick up feel with matches of three to five players on each side. As you progress, you can acquire new threads, hairstyles, and tattoos for your character. There is even an extensive story mode that takes you all over the world as your legend on the streets grows. With all the different features, FIFA 20 would be a great holiday gift pick up for any soccer fan, young and old.
Starfinder is Paizo’s hugely popular science-fantasy roleplaying game. The Starfinder Roleplaying Game: Beginner Box is an excellent introduction to Starfinder, or to roleplaying games in general. With easy-to-follow instructions, and literally pounds of gaming material, the Starfinder Beginner Box joins the Pathfinder Beginner Box as decidedly the best roleplaying game beginner sets on the market! An excellent gift that will give your happy gamer hours of fun!
Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order is the latest major Star Wars video game. Set five years after the events of Revenge of the Sith, the game tells the story of Cal Kestis, a former Jedi Padawan who has lived in hiding as a scrapper on the planet Bracca since the Order 66 purge. After using the Force to save a friend, Cal finds himself on the radar of the Empire and the terrifying Imperial Inquisitors.
This is an amazing video game that I cleared in record time, simply because the storyline was so compelling. It does an amazing job of balancing combat, puzzle-solving, open-world exploration, and storytelling into one stunning Star Wars story and with no micro-transactions or paid content—it’s a breath of fresh air in the gaming landscape. If you’re buying any video games this holiday season, put this one at the top of your list.
Dough Nab is a quick-paced, donut-themed game that will have everyone laughing as they race to be the first to snatch colorful donuts from the table and get rid of all the cards in their hand. This game is possibly the most fun we have had around a table in years, although that does come with a caveat or two; it will cause injuries as players attempt to snatch donuts at speed, and there will be arguments as people wrestle over a donut that they “grabbed first!” You’ll be too busy laughing to care though.
If you’re looking for a calm and sedate game to play while everyone is slowly digesting their turkey, this is not what you’re looking for, but for a game to get everyone out of their mid-afternoon tryptophan comas, there’s nothing better than Dough Nab.
The Search for Planet X is a deduction-style board game that funded on Kickstarter earlier this year in which you play as a team of scientists on the hunt for the fabled Planet X, lurking somewhere on the edge of our solar system. Players will conduct research, publish theories, attend conferences, and use the information they learn in a race to correctly identify where Planet X is hiding in the night sky and score the most points.
This game became something of an obsession in our house for several months and is easily our favorite game of 2019. It’s highly adjustable, so players of different abilities can compete against one another, has stunning box art, and the board itself is one of the most innovative I’ve come across in the last few years. Simply put, this is an excellent game that I would recommend to anyone.
I love this customizable controller. Works great on the PS4 or PC with Bluetooth or USB a USB cable. The build quality and design are awesome and it just feels durable. The battery lasts about 20 hours and can be charged via a long USB Micro cable. I’ve logged a bunch of hours on the PS4 with this and really love the customizable buttons. It’s easy to set them on the fly, too, so if you want to redefine a key mid game it only takes a moment.