And so we return once more to the most popular genre of games at this time of year, Family Games. Nothing gets families together better than a good board game and we've got six great titles for you here. See something you like? Just click on the title and you'll be whisked away to somewhere you can buy it. Right, on with the show, it's time for a Gamer's Guide to Giving Gifts - Family Edition.
When making my picks I looked for games that I've played with my family this year that offer a different and interesting experience than the usual fair. Hopefully the uniqueness of these titles will pique your interest and entertain your families this holiday season.
Karuba - Haba
Karuba is an interesting racing game where players compete to reach four temples and claim the four treasures within. To do so the players are laying path tiles to connect their four meeples to the four corresponding temples, or discarding tiles to move their adventurers along the paths. The trick here is that all the players play the same tile at the same time. The player with the most points in treasures and gems at the end of the game wins. This is a fun little racing game that is easy to play and easy to teach with just a sprinkling of an Indiana Jones theme.
Mike Says - I’m thoroughly annoyed at Chris that he thought of this and not me. Really quick to play has some top drawer components and its a really cool game with a great theme. A hundred times better than anything your find on the shelves of your local Toys R Us.
Editorial Note: Karuba is currently out of stock with Gameslore so I'm dropping in an alternate suggestion here: Terra/America both of these games use the same mechanism. They are trivia games where you have to guess various statistics. In Terra the trivia is more general, the Journey of Marco Polo or the Easter Island Heads. In America the questions are tailored to american culture, such as pop songs and corn dogs. You don't have to know the exact answers, you just have to be close. Lots of fun and easy to learn and teach.
Flash Point Fire Rescue - Indie Boards & Cards
Christmas is a time for families and nothing brings people together better than a good cooperative game. In Flash Point the players take on the roles of Fire Fighters attempting to rescue helpless victims from a blazing inferno. The game may be no looker with its simplistic art style, but it has a lot of heart. The base game comes with a large variety of roles to keep things interesting, two different maps for a different challenge, plus a set of family rules and optional expert rules to really shake up the difficulty. However where Flash Point really shines is in the plethora of expansions available for the game. The inexpensive Map Pack expansions add two new boards and a whole host of new challenges. Dangerous Waters places you on a submarine limiting your access to the fire engine and ambulance, while Honor and Duty has an exploding plane or a cramped subway station. Whichever map you choose the game is full of tense moments but simple moves and easy choices.
Mike Says - I’ll come clean and say I’ve never played this. Its essentially Pandemic but with Fireman Sam or probably to make it cooler if Pandemic is Outbreak than this is Backdraught now everyone wants to be Kurt Russell well now you can be. And obviously you can rescue a puppy in this from a burning building and who doesn't want to do that while being Kurt Russell. Thought not.
Paperback - Tim Fowers
Scrabble may be sat at the back of the shelf gathering dust as the Ticket to Rides and the Pandemics of the world take over the gaming spotlight, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t any good word games out there in the modern gaming world. My final pick then is Paperback, a deckbuilding word game. Simply spell a word using the letters in your hand and a common shared letter on the table. Add up your points for the word and use them to buy new letters that go into your deck. Rinse and Repeat building bigger and better words and using your points to acquire new letters or victory point cards. Once two stacks of Victory Point cards are gone the game ends and the player with the most points wins. Paperback doesn’t require you to be a great wordsmith, most of the time you will only be able to play a six letter word, so it’s accessible for all players. The deckbuilding aspect adds a layer of strategy. The game plays fast and is fun with all player counts from two to five.
Mike Says - This is such a cool mix of game mechanics and ideas and the mash up of deck building and word game is very cool. It's a little bit more on the edge of hobby game for me as it does include quite a lot of gamerly bits and will require the full attention of all participants when you teach it. Definitely one for the fartys to enjoy whilst the younglings are busily building Lego sets.
OK anything but bloody sodding Monopoly or any of the other mass market drivel that's had the latest hot new cartoon/movie slapped on it was basically my mantra on this. These should be games that get the clan around the table not only enjoying each other's company but also discovering just how gosh darn cool our hobby actually is when the word Hasbro isn't on the box.
Pandemic Legacy - Z-Man Games
There was no way I couldn't stick this on the list, I’ve recently picked up a second copy to play through with the family. Pandemic is a great introduction to our hobby and was a big hit with my clan, but with the added legacy, oh my! The legacy element turns this into the equivalent of a Netflix thriller with its breathtaking twists and turns of the plot and with the slowly uncovering mysteries in each of the legacy boxes it's like a little christmas morning every time you play. Love this, roll on season 2 next year.
Chris Says - “Vanilla” Pandemic is a great game and I hear the Legacy element is just the icing on the cake. *Adds to cart*
Survive Escape from Atlantis - Stronghold Games
This evergreen classic is just distilled tabletop fun, race to see who can get they’re meeples off the sinking island to safety first all the while setting sharks, sea monsters and mischief on your opponents. Its fast, its great with any age group and never disappoints.
Chris Says - Clearly Mike doesn't want to speak to any of his relatives come Boxing Day because Survive is one of the most cutthroat games I've ever played! Don't get me wrong, it's great but underneath that cutesy exterior lies a game that will unleash your inner monster!
This is a cheery bit of fun that involves dice chucking and worker placement. Play as a colony of busy little bee’s as you build your hive and race to harvest pollen from the flowers. Its got a unique and cutesy theme wonderfully colourful components and should sit proudly on any gaming family's shelf this season.
Chris Says - Not played this one but beautiful graphics, worker placement and great British design… I'm in!
Next time on A Gamer's Guide to Giving Gifts
Chris Bowler is the lead author at Unboxed The Board Game Blog and The Duke of the Blood Keep. He also runs the UK Gaming Media Network and in his spare time he likes to… yeah… like he gets spare time!
Gaming since birth Chris enjoys a vast collection of Board, Card, Miniature and Role-Playing games, with eclectic taste in both Style and Theme.
Mike B is the founder of Who Dares Rolls, Host of the sporadic Who Dares Rolls Podcast that nobody listens too and occasionally produces videos on the WDR You Tube channel that nobody watches.
Mike displays almost no taste or appreciation of the finer points of game design despite this potentially debilitating personality defect he continues to critique board games.