2021-hgg-games-featured

2021 Holiday Gift Guide – Games

Crosspost Featured Gift Guide Products

If there’s one thing we here at GeekDad and GeekMom can agree on, it’s gaming; we are unapologetically for it!

Some of us prefer console or PC games, while others are pen-and-paper roleplayers. Others still devote countless hours annually to help determine the winner of our esteemed tabletop Game of the Year award. (This year’s list of finalists just went live, and it’s a fantastic resource for those interested in the crème de la crème of 2021’s GeekDad Approved titles.)

Today’s entry in the 2021 Holiday Gift Guide series focuses on old and new favorites—from puzzle, card, and stacking games to pulse-pounding action to resource management and simulation titles. In short, we cast the widest net possible to help you find the perfect gift for the gaming enthusiast on your list.

Disclosure: Some of the links below may be affiliate links. This means that the GeekMom/GeekDad contributor may make a small commission if you click through and purchase the item—at no extra cost to you. We may have also received the item for review from the manufacturer, and this in no way influences our opinions. If we don’t like something, you will not see it here.


The Beholder Puzzle: A Dungeon & Dragons Jigsaw Puzzle

The Beholder Puzzle: A Dungeon & Dragons Jigsaw Puzzle

Mfg: Penguin Random House
Price: $19.99
Suggested by: Z.
Thanks to a recent spate of quality puzzle posts at both GeekDad and GeekMom, I have decided that this is the year to bring back an old, forgotten tradition—the holiday puzzle. Like my mother before me, I cleared off some extra table space in early November to play host to this often asynchronous family activity. Now, whenever the kids and I have some idle time, be it on a phone call or just waiting for a kitchen timer to ding, we bide it assembling the frightening visage of the classic beholder. This faithful reproduction of the cover image from the fifth-edition Monster Manual is richly colored, deceptively difficult, and—if you’ll excuse the pun—instantly eye-catching. It’ll also make for a great post-Thanksgiving meal wind-down as we try to finish up the project before moving on to decorating the house for the coming Christmas. (Review materials provided by Penguin Random House.)


Big Brain Academy: Brain vs. Brain

Big Brain Academy: Brain vs. Brain

Mfg: Nintendo
Price: $29.99
Suggested by: Karen Walsh
Get the whole family playing together and stretching their biggest muscles—their brains!—with this interactive puzzle game by Nintendo. Each player sets their own difficulty level, so kids and adults can compete on a level playing field. Kids can play at their own level against their parents, whose game is set to a harder level, so everyone can challenge themselves and still have fun while doing it.


Cards Against Humanity: Family Edition

Cards Against Humanity: Family Edition

Mfg: Cards Against Humanity
Price: $25
Suggested by: Dakster Sullivan
Cards Against Humanity has never been known for being “family-friendly,” but thanks to this new edition made specifically for families, it is now. Take this classic game and play safely against members of the 18 and below crowd without any awkward family conversations that involve explaining things you were not ready to explain yet. This edition includes 600 cards, and they were designed a little wider for the smaller hands at the game table. Make sure to check out the glow-in-the-dark expansion pack.


Cloaked Cats

Cloaked Cats

Mfg: HABA
Price: $20
Suggested by: Will James
If you’re looking for a fun, quick game that can be played by (almost) all ages, but requires some brainpower and not just random luck, then Cloaked Cats is a great game to have in your library. We try to steer even our youngest kids away from games with random mechanics that determine gameplay, as we want them to have some control over their ability to play and win a game. Cloaked Cats satisfied not only our parental desire for a more cerebral game the kids could play but, as cat lovers, all of our kids really enjoyed and understood the game and ask to play it frequently since we got our hands on it. For a game to make it into our standard kid rotation is a major accomplishment itself. Cloaked Cats is a great game for the entire family and makes a great small gift or stocking stuffer at its size and price point! You can read my full review of the game and how to play here!


Confident?
Confident?

Mfg: Confident Games (Distributed by Asmodee)
Price: $24.66
Suggested by: Rory Bristol
Confident? is the easiest trivia game to learn ever. Each question card requests a specific number. Numbers can be large or small, but the answers don’t have to be exact. Each player or team provides a range for their answer. If the question is “How many bits are in a byte?” you can either give an exact range, such as 8 to 8 with a range of 0, or you can give a range of 8 to 1,073,741,824 with a range of 1,073,741,816. Both would be correct, but the smallest correct range gets the most points, and the other ranges get fewer points. But watch out! If everyone has a correct range, the largest range gets no points, so don’t guess too large a range unless you really don’t know the answer. The game includes dry-erase whiteboards for answers, dry erase markers, a scoreboard, and a decently large deck of questions. If you want to extend the life of the game, any number-based trivia game can be used with Confident? Or you can write your own questions if you want to stump your friends.


Dixit

Dixit

Mfg: Libellud
Price: $30.59
Suggested by: Rory Bristol
Dixit is an all-ages family game with a simple premise. All players have a hand of cards with unique (and visually stunning) art. The player whose turn it is picks a picture card from their hand, places it face-down, and provides a short verbal clue to the other players. Then, each other player picks a card and places it face-down, trying to match the verbal clue. The pictures are revealed in a random order, and players try to guess which is the original image to gain points. But beware! If you vote for another player’s card, they get points for picking a competitive image. When it comes to games for all ages, Dixit has become my new standard. With cute art, no need for literacy to play, and hyper-intuitive gameplay, Dixit is the ultimate game for all ages and abilities. Counting up to 10 is required for scoring, but players who struggle with math or numbers should find this to be inconsequential in most games.


Dream Crush

Dream Crush

Mfg: Mondo
Price: $30
Suggested by: Paul Benson
This fun, silly party-style game for 2–6 people has you trying to guess who the other players will choose as their crush. Dream Crush plays out over 5 rounds, each of which reveals more and more information about three different suitors up for grabs. Whoever can best guess which crush their fellow players choose each round will ultimately be the winner. Eagle-eyed players may even notice a famous face amongst the potential dates. Look for a review soon on GeekDad.


Fire Team/Bladeborn

Fire Team/Bladeborn

Mfg: Games Workshop
Price: $50
Suggested by: Robin Brooks
Want to give the gift of Warhammer but don’t want to break the bank? Don’t have a lot of time to play, space for sprawling armies, or the brainpower for complex rules interactions? Check out either of two new small box games from Games Workshop. Fire Team (out now!) and Bladeborn (out 27th November) offer all of the above and are easy to learn and play straight out of the box. (Though both require some glue-free assembly.) Both games are hex-based and have a surprising amount of tactical depth for a comparatively simple ruleset. Simple to learn, difficult master definitely applies here. Variation is added to both games via differing missions and artifact cards. Both have great mini-campaign systems to build a story over a number of matches. These are gateway games that may well be more appealing than the games they are meant to lead to! (Fire Team is set in the Warhammer 40,000 universe and Bladeborn in the Warhammer: Age of Sigmar Universe.) The games are available through Barnes and Noble in the US and Game in the UK.


Jurassic World Evolution 2

Jurassic World Evolution 2

Mfg: Frontier Developments
Price: Approx. $60
Suggested by: Sophie Brown
Jurassic World Evolution 2 is, perhaps unsurprisingly, the sequel to the popular Jurassic World Evolution. As with all Jurassic franchise games, you’ll find yourself breeding dinosaurs, building habitats for them to live in, and containing them when the inevitable happens and life, uh, finds a way to break out and cause carnage. Fans of the original (and also other Jurassic franchise park-building games, or just theme park management games in general) will find a lot to love in this game. There are all your typical theme park management features such as placing enough restrooms in busy areas, laying out your park in practical yet aesthetically pleasing ways, and turning a healthy profit, but also zoo management, research programs, and scientific expedition to handle. Jurassic World Evolution 2 is a solid new edition of an already great game with stunning graphics and easy-to-learn gameplay.


Land v Sea (tabletop)

Land v Sea (tabletop)

Mfg: Good Games Publishing
Price: USD$30/AUD$40
Suggested by: Evil Genius Mum
This has quickly become one of my fave family games, and I fully intend to gift a bunch of them to loved ones this year. (You have now been warned.) It is a tile-placement puzzle game, designed for two, three, or four players. The rules are super simple to pick up, the game can be played within 45 minutes, and the eventual map at the end is different every time! For me, the real magic is found in 3P mode, when the third player is a bit of a sneak strategist playing Land and Sea against each other for bonus points. Shout out for the medieval-style artwork, which is almost as entertaining as the game! Great game, well packaged, and easily affordable. Wins all round! (Check out the full review here.)


Lost Cities: Roll & Write

Lost Cities: Roll & Write

Mfg: Thames & Kosmos
Price: $12
Suggested by: Dakster Sullivan
Lost Cities is one of my favorite games to play with my husband. I love it so much, I downloaded it for my phone. Now, they have a new version for dice lovers. Made for ages eight and up and two to five players, this is a great family night game. Playtime is relatively quick, so you can fit more rounds in a single evening.


Mad Tea Party

Mad Tea Party

Mfg: Funko
Price: $19.99
Suggested by: Sarah Pinault
Mad Tea Party is a card-based stacking game in which you stack teacups on the table provided based on the cards in your hand. Special cards may give you an advantage or take an advantage away. Who you are playing with will determine how you set up the game. If you have younger players, or just want a little less challenge, then you will set the table up without the wobbly table base. If you have a little kid that loves to play with the family but has little patience, then this is the game for you. It’s also a great game for kids to teach the grandparents or babysitter. The rules are easy and easy to learn/adapt for grandparents and babysitters alike. Based on the 1951 Disney classic Alice in Wonderland, Mad Tea Party is thoroughly entertaining and yet another beautifully made game from Funko.


Metroid Dread

Metroid Dread

Mfg: Nintendo
Price: $59.88
Suggested by: Z.
The fifth and final chapter of the Metroid saga assures that the tale of Samus Aran ends just as it began, with an engaging, mold-breaking side-scroller that blends intuitive controls with challenging (and equally rewarding) gameplay. Launched alongside the Nintendo Switch OLED Model, Metroid Dread is another pitch-perfect example of a first-party Nintendo property, an ambitious and atmospheric affair that demands to be played. Taking place after the events of Metroid Fusion, Dread begins with the revelation that the X parasite still survives on planet ZDR. Having lost contact with its seven Extraplanetary Multiform Mobile Identifiers robots dispatched planetside to investigate, the Galactic Federation turns to our favorite space-faring bounty hunter to get to the bottom of this mystery. Along the way, she’ll plumb the depths of this alien land, reacquiring her Power Suit’s abilities to learn helpful new moves and face ever-fiercer enemies. Whether the gamer on your gift list lives for throwback thrills or has a more modern, refined palate, Metroid Dread is sure to please. (Review materials provided by Nintendo of America.)


Mind MGMT Deluxe Edition

Mind MGMT Deluxe Edition

Mfg: Off the Page Games
Price: $88
Suggested by: Jonathan H. Liu
This hidden movement game, based on Matt Kindt’s comic book series and featuring new artwork created just for the game, pits a team of rogue agents against a recruiter for this covert agency of psychics. After each game, the losing side gets to unlock new modules in the SHIFT System, giving them new abilities (and introducing new game mechanics) for the next play. It’s a tense cat-and-mouse chase right from the start, but the SHIFT System adds even more layers (and mini-comics!). Even the packaging and the components have a lot of hidden secrets to discover, keeping to the themes of paranoia and deception from the comics. Read my review of the Kickstarter prototype here.


Pokémon Brilliant Diamond and Pokémon Shining Pearl

Pokémon Brilliant Diamond and Pokémon Shining Pearl

Mfg: Nintendo
Price: $59.88
Suggested by: Z.
With all the charm of the Nintendo DS originals and a heaping helping of contemporary goodness, Pokémon Brilliant Diamond and Pokémon Shining Pearl are wonderful on their own, but even better when enjoyed together. Either flavor of the latest Pokémon title will be warmly received as a holiday gift, but for multi-Switch families, more copies mean more fun. Not only does this allow players to exchange version-exclusive Pokémon, it also opens up a suite of local multiplayer options alongside the titles’ already expansive single-player and online offerings. Spend those winter holidays battling, training, and participating in Hearthome City’s famed Super Contest Shows together as a family in this newest iteration of the beloved Pokémon franchise. (Review materials provided by Nintendo of America.)


Pokémon Labyrinth

 

Pokémon Labyrinth

Mfg: Ravensburger
Price: $19.99-$34.99
Suggested by: Sarah Pinault
Labyrinth is a classic game from Ravensburger, and this year they have put out some amazing franchised versions. In Pokemon Labyrinth, you are wandering the maze, but instead of seeking treasure you are, of course, trying to “catch ‘em all.” It’s not completely random, however, and you can’t just catch the nearest one you see. Each player gets a set to find, and when you flip over the top Pokeball in your pile, that’s the one you can catch. We like to play a house rules version of this game in which each person gets three Pokemon face up (your starter Pokemon), and the first person to catch all three wins, with one person being Team Rocket and simply trying to steal wins from the others! Labyrinth on its own is a fun game to play as a family, and for any Pokemon fan, this is a fun and novel way to play with your favorite characters.


Powerwash Simulator

Powerwash Simulator

Mfg: FuturLab
Price: Approx. $20
Suggested by: Sophie Brown
Powerwash Simulator is… exactly what it sounds like. You’ll start up your own power washing business in the game and clean everything from vans and dirt bikes to houses, gardens, playgrounds, and even the Mars rover. I absolutely loved Powerwash Simulator right from the first time I played it. It’s a game that sticks to two core concepts of simple and satisfying—there are no complicated storylines to keep track of, no stress to complete jobs as fast as possible, or while under difficult conditions, you can’t even hurt yourself if you happen to misstep and fall off a high roof. It’s all just laid back in a way you rarely see in video games, and I love it for that.


Something Wild

Something Wild

Mfg: Funko
Price: $7.99-$10.99
Suggested by: Sarah Pinault
Last Christmas our house was besotted by a simple card game from Funko, Something Wild. So much so that three other editions ended up in stockings for Christmas 2020, and were frequently played all year. Happily, Funko has complied this year and released several new editions of the game to stock our stockings in 2021. Something Wild is a simple card game that is easy to learn, quick to play, but oh so much fun. It’s a great game to pull out to diffuse a wound-up kid, or to provide a palette cleanser between bigger games or Christmas specials. Each game takes between 15 and 45 minutes to play, depending on the age of your players. Our then five-year-old took to the game easily, but it’s entertaining enough to keep our twelve-year-old happy. On top of last year’s Disney classics, this year you can play with Dr. Seuss, Star Wars Classic, Star Wars: The Mandalorian, and Marvel editions of the game. Each comes with a miniature Pop figure and with cards that correspond to each franchise. One of the fun bonuses about this game is that the rules remain the same regardless of theme, so the games can be combined into one giant game with multiple characters. This allows for variations on the game to be played based on the figures you decide to use with your jumbo game. For a last-minute gift, a stocking stuffer, or something fun for a gift exchange, this is the second year that this small game has occupied a large place on my shopping list. I can’t wait to see what 2022 brings; personally, I’m hoping for some ’80s throwback editions.


Sonic: The Card Game

Sonic: The Card Game

Mfg: Steamforged Games
Price: $19.95
Suggested by: Robin Brooks
Steamforged Games has something of a name for bringing beloved video games to the physical tabletop, whether they be sprawling miniatures games like their Dark Souls series or Sonic the Hedgehog with Sonic: The Card GameIt’s an entertaining way to spend an hour or so with family, young and old. The game is a push-your-luck affair as each player tries to hold on for as long as possible collecting rings as they go. But beware—push too far and you’ll be caught by one of the iconic villains that are hidden in the deck. Players can play as one of six of their favorite Sonic characters as they race through randomly generated levels, hoping to hold their nerve. No game of Sonic: The Card Game is ever the same!


Ticket to Ride: First Journey
Ticket to Ride: First Journey

Mfg: Days of Wonder
Price: $22.50 (down from $35)
Suggested by: Mordechai Luchins
I’m a recent convert to Ticket to Ride, and my son found the rules a little confusing. Luckily, Days of Wonder sent me First Journey. An absolute must-have starter game for any TTR family, it is good for fast games, simple play, and an understanding of the game mechanics. Thanks to First Journey, my son is now playing TTR: Europe with us, and we may be starting Rails and Sales next.


Willen Games

Willen Games

Mfg: Willen Games
Price: Various (But good value!)
Suggested By: Robin Brooks
This one is probably only of use to our UK/EU readers, but during the last 12 months, I have discovered the greatness that is Willen Games for all my wargaming needs. They’re a small outfit in a small UK town, but they have great stock levels and, more importantly, excellent customer service. I’ve struggled to consistently find a reliable source for my Warhammer/Crisis Protocol/Marvel Champions hobby, but now I just go straight to Willen. They always have excellent Games Workshop preorder day prices too! I would definitely recommend them for Christmas shopping for the wargame geek in your life.

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