The 2020 Holiday Shopping Guide for Board Game Lovers

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‘Tis the season of being grateful and thankful…for holiday shopping guides.

This is a holiday shopper’s guide to all things Board Games. It’s so big that we’ve split it up into different sections to make it easier for you to navigate. Nothing shows up twice and all items can be found on Amazon or Etsy.

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The categories are as follows:

Are you excited? I sure am! Let’s get started.

Hobby Board Games

Tasty Humans – $25

Tasty Humans is a 30-60 minute, tile-laying, pattern-building game for 1-4 players.

You are a fantasy monster trying to sate your insatiable appetite. As you and your fellow monsters toss around the village king, you attract a steady buffet of adventurers who try – poorly – to put up a fight!

Description from publisher’s website. (And, yes, we are the publishers so we’re biased!)

Betrayal at House on the Hill – $30

Betrayal at House on the Hill quickly builds suspense and excitement as players explore a haunted mansion of their own design, encountering spirits and frightening omens that foretell their fate. With an estimated one hour playing time, Betrayal at House on the Hill is ideal for parties, family gatherings or casual fun with friends.

Description from Board Game Geek.

Carcassonne – $32

Carcassonne is a tile-placement game in which the players draw and place a tile with a piece of southern French landscape on it. The tile might feature a city, a road, a cloister, grassland or some combination thereof, and it must be placed adjacent to tiles that have already been played, in such a way that cities are connected to cities, roads to roads, etcetera.

Having placed a tile, the player can then decide to place one of their meeples on one of the areas on it: on the city as a knight, on the road as a robber, on a cloister as a monk, or on the grass as a farmer. When that area is complete, that meeple scores points for its owner.

Description from Board Game Geek.

Splendor – $38

Splendor is a game of chip-collecting and card development. Players are merchants of the Renaissance trying to buy gem mines, means of transportation, shops—all in order to acquire the most prestige points. If you’re wealthy enough, you might even receive a visit from a noble at some point, which of course will further increase your prestige.

Description from Board Game Geek.

Photosynthesis – $38

The sun shines brightly on the canopy of the forest, and the trees use this wonderful energy to grow and develop their beautiful foliage. Sow your crops wisely and the shadows of your growing trees could slow your opponents down, but don’t forget that the sun revolves around the forest. Welcome to the world of Photosynthesis, the green strategy board game!

Description from Board Game Geek.

3 Player Chess – $50

Play chess with 3 people at the same time with this three player chess game. Without compromising any of the rules, strategy, or fun of Chess, this variant board has been developed that accommodates three players.

The only changes from conventional chess are some protocol issues that must be followed to maintain order where the teams border each other, which is simple and necessary. The complexities of the third player are infinite. Your threatened piece may be allowed to maintain occupancy as your position is beneficial to the threatening player.

Description from Manufacturer.

Azul – $29

Azul is a tile-placement game in which players compete for the highest score by claiming tiles and arranging them on their board to score points.

Extra points are on offer for collecting sets of the same colour of tile, or for creating particular patterns, while there are penalties for taking tiles that you’re unable to use.

But every tile that you claim affects what your rivals can take next. You’ll have to make choices that help you without helping them too much!

2-4 Players, Ages 8+, Play Time 30-45 min

Description from Manufacturer.

Ticket to Ride – $40

Ticket to Ride is an award winning, cross-country train adventure game. Players collect train cards that enable them to claim railway routes connecting cities throughout North America. The longer the routes, the more points they earn. Additional points come to those who can fulfill their Destination Tickets by connecting two distant cities, and to the player who builds the longest continuous railway.

Description from Manufacturer.

Yellow Mountain Imports Go Game Set (Gomoku) – $23

I LOVE GOMOKU! I only knew of it as this game I played online with a guy I dated back in high school (shh, don’t tell Brandon) and we would play for hours. If you think Chess hurts your head….

Essentially, Gomoku is a game of Connect 5 along a grid. Instead of using the boxes of the grid, however, you use the points of the intersecting lines. You have to think sooo many steps ahead! And I absolutely love this game. The version linked here is the travel version, as it is cheaper, but there is a nice $35 version that I added to our registry!

Sherlock Holmes – The Thames Murders & Other Cases – $50

The gaslight streets of Victorian London. Horse-drawn broughams, hansoms, and dog-carts rattle over the cobblestone streets, pulling their passengers through the pea-soup fog. On every street corner, you pass booksellers, clubs, prisons, music halls, doctors, tea houses, and steamship companies.

Yet in the shadows and dark alleys of this great city, horrible and cunning crimes are committed daily, confounding the policemen of Scotland Yard. Still, even the most ingenious crime is only a puzzle for the world’s only consulting detective—Sherlock Holmes!

Description from Manufacturer.

7 Wonders $45 (and 7 Wonders Duel $25)

7 Wonders: Make the right decisions to lead your civilization to prosperity! Lead one of the seven greatest cities of Antiquity. Develop your civilization on a military, scientific, cultural, and economic level. Once built, will your Wonder bring you glory for millennia to come? No downtime, renewed fun in each game and perfect balance regardless of the number of players. 

7 Wonders Duel: One of the most celebrated games in the world can now be experienced in a two-player arena. 7 Wonders Duel takes the game play and excitement of the original and adapts it for one-on-one battles. Take control of your civilization and decide to invest in science, military or prestige.

Two New ways to win will keep you on your toes and watching every move your opponent makes. If you fail to build defenses your capital city may be destroyed, but ignore technology and your people may be left in the dark ages. It’s a constant tug of war.

7 Wonders Duel is an exciting New way to play the game that took the world by storm. Great for both fans of the original and those New to the hobby.

Description from Manufacturer.

Dune – $50

Imagine you can control the forces of a noble family, guild, or religious order on a barren planet which is the only source for the most valuable substance in the known universe.

Imagine you can rewrite the script for one of the most famous science fiction books of all time. Welcome to the acclaimed 40-year-old board game which allows you to recreate the incredible world of Frank Herbert’s DUNE.

Who will control DUNE? Become one of the characters and their forces from the book and . . . You decide!

Description from publisher’s site.

Parks Game – $50

In PARKS, players will take on the role of two hikers as they trek different trails across four seasons. While on the trail, these hikers will take actions and collect memories of the places your hikers visit. These memories are represented by various resource tokens like mountains, forests, and wildlife. Collecting these memories in sets will allow players to trade them in to visit a National Park at the end of each hike.

Description from publisher’s site.

Catan the Board Game – $44

If a board game has been out since 1995 and is STILL a cult classic, then there is a reason why. Catan has absolutely had a major impact on the gaming industry (in fact, Brandon has done a number of blog posts specifically on Catan) but it is also a really fun game taboot. There are tons of expansions, themed versions, and even custom boards like this gorgeous one on Etsy. While this is a bit of a pricier game, it’s a lot of fun and I think worth the money. I’ve even played the game just me and my dad and I really enjoyed the change in dynamic.

Terraforming Mars – $68 (fluctuates)

Naturally I had to include a bunch of my favorite games on this list, so that includes Terraforming Mars. I don’t even care of this is too mainstream of a game in the hobby game world to include, I like it. It is SO MUCH FUN and a game that I love to play with my husband. I am still so grateful that my brother-in-law got it for us during our first Christmas together! Later on this this post you will find loads of Terraforming Mars organizational opportunities, and even some neat art. What can I say, it’s a great game.

Dominion – $34

Below is a description from the manufacturer:

You want a Dominion!

You are a monarch, like your parents before you, a ruler of a small pleasant kingdom of rivers and evergreens. Unlike your parents, however, you have hopes… dreams! You want a bigger kingdom, more pleasant, with more rivers, and a wider variety of trees.

This is a game of building a deck of cards

The deck contains your resources, victory points, and the things you can do. It starts out a small sad collection of Estates and Coppers, but you hope that by the end of the game it will be brimming with Gold, Provinces, and the inhabitants and structures of your kingdom.

Family Card Games

Five Crowns Original – $10

Five Crowns is one of my all time favorite card games. I love it so much, in fact, that I wrote a whole blog post about it! The game was first introduced to me by my Grandma, and she completely took me for a fool when I played.

I think that the game is small enough to be tossed into a purse or suitcase, but if you want it to be even more accessible, they have come out with a Mini version for $5! I think this would make for a great stocking stuffer or round out gift for a card game enthusiast.

Uno Original – $10

There was a period of time in my life where I felt Uno was just “too kiddish”. It wasn’t until after college where a friend of mine would always keep a deck of Uno cards on her and would whip them out for impromptu game parties. Since her, I have found a renewed appreciation for the game!

I haven’t played the other versions, but I am intrigued by the other versions, including Uno Dare ($5.50), Uno Attack ($20), and Uno Flip ($10), to name a few!

Rack-O – $13

I feel pretty late to the game. Rack-O has apparently been out since 1956. Yes, you read that right. THE FIFTIES. I heard of it the first time last Christmas when my Grandma drove down from Maryland and packed this along. Looks like a great game for 2-4 players, and can even be played with kids as young as 8. Sounds like a winner to me!

“Players randomly slot ten cards on their rack. The race then begins to draw and discard until one player positions ten cards in numerical sequence. Sound simple? It is but you will need skillful play, concentration and just a little luck to win.”

Description from Manufacturer.

Sequence – $20

I love this game and have been playing it since I was a kid. We played guys against girls, so it was really my mom and dad playing against one another while my brother and I just mucked up the waters, lol! It’s a combination of Connect 5 with cards and tokens. And old game, but a good game, and highly recommend it be included in anyone’s game arsenal!

Card Game: A Beginner’s Guide to The Most Popular Card Games – $16

I LOVE card games. Really love them. But I also don’t actually know that many! This book will teach you how to play 10 different card games. I know I’m going to add it to my own personal Christmas Wish List!

Learn to Play: Bridge, Canasta, Cribbage, Euchre, Hearts, Pinochle, Runny, Solitaire, Spades, Whist.

Skip-Bo – $8

This is a fun and simple game that is great if you want to play a competitive game that also isn’t hard to pick up at all. It is essentially a glorified way of making solitaire more social.

Phase 10 – $10

I think that Phase 10 and Five Crowns are of the same family. Don’t play this game if you are having adult beverages though, because, well just don’t. The game is based off of Rummy, and players complete against one another in a race to complete 10 specific card configurations in order.

Hanabi – $9

Each player is dealt a hand of 5 cards, but the catch is that you can see everyone’s cards except your own. Working together, you must share (and remember!) vital information to play cards in the proper launch sequence. Light them all to create a dazzling display and avoid a fizzling fiasco!

Description from Manufacturer.

Family Board Games

Forbidden Island

My favorite thing about this game is the artwork. Oh it will make you swoon! The colors are so rich, the detail is impeccable. Each little tile could practically be framed and make a really interesting gallery wall piece! The game itself is fun too, ha!

Brandon and I played this while we were dating. It is similar to Catan in that he board is never the same as the tiles are shuffled and then placed down randomly in a grid. The game then steers away from Catan in that the tiles will actually sink into the ocean and are removed from the game! This is the first of 3 Forbidden games, and is the easiest of the three.

Forbidden Desert – $27

This is the second of the Forbidden Game series. I really like this in that it combines the general elements of the Forbidden Island with a Treasure Map. It is definitely harder than Island, which is another aspect to the game I appreciate. I’ve only played this with 2 people and I found it to be enjoyable. Kids would enjoy it (game recommends 10+).

Adventure Games – $20-55

These are similar to Exit: The Game, and are made by the same creators. I really want to look into these, though, because I’ve heard that they are a replayable version of the Exit games!

From the Manufacturer: “Discover the story! This thrilling adventure starts when you and your teammates wake up in a dank dungeon, with no Memory of how you got there! You and your teammates have to figure out what to do to get out: explore places, combine items, find clues, and talk to people to grasp the plot and devise a plan to escape. With each new action, the story unfolds, similar to a PC adventure game. Replayable: enough story content to play approximately three times with different stories each time

There are a lot of options, like the below, so here are some links to get you started!

The Dungeon – $20

Set of 3: The Dungeon, Monochrome Inc., The Volcanic Island – $55

Exit: The Games $14-16 each

I did a whole blog post on these games as I am obsessed with them. So obsessed, that I wasn’t embarrassed the least to include them on our wedding registry!

Besides the fact that these are like an Exit Room in your own house, I like that there is such a wide range in difficulty levels. Linked here is a starter pack for beginners, but I think there are currently around 18 different games in the series that go all the way up to Expert level. The hardest one I’ve done so far is “The Secret Lab“.

Awkward Storyteller – $25

The Awkward Storyteller is a straightforward party game for 4 to 11 players aged 16 and up. The format is certain to get participants smiling, interacting and thinking up original twists and plot lines for their story, which they make up as they go along, for the entertainment of the other players and anyone else who is listening.

Description from Manufacturer.

Cribbage – $13

Fifteen-Two, Fifteen-Four, Fifteen-6, Pair for 8, Knobs for 9!

That’s what I always hear playing in my mind whenever I think of Cribbage. That and my Grandma laughing so hard as my dad starts razzing her about miss counting something or whatnot. Those two crazy kids…whenever my grandma arrives in town, they often spend the first night staying up extremely late playing cribbage. And they always play blood. I even included these fond memories in my blog post about nostaglic board games.

Anyways, nostalgia aside, this is a fun classic card game with board game that tracks the scored points. You can even get gorgeous custom boards or even custom pegs on Etsy!

Poetry for Neanderthals – $16

Poetry for Neanderthals is a competitive word-guessing game where you can only give clues by speaking in single syllables. So, instead of saying “broccoli,” you’d say something like “green thing you eat for live long and have good health.” If you mess up and use a big word, such as “vegetable,” you get bopped on the head with a NO! Stick. It’s a game that forces you to explain complicated ideas using simple vocabulary.

Description from publisher’s website.

Monopoly: Star Wars The Mandalorian Edition Game with Figure – $50
(or THIS Lockdown Monopoly from Etsy)

Pre-Order now the newest Monopoly Star Wars edition: The Mandalorian. Currently, you can pre-order directly from the Hasbro site for $50 (not available to ship to Quebec, Canada).

From the publisher’s site: Includes gameboard, 4 Character tokens, 1 The Child token, 4 Character Ability cards, 1 The Child card, 1 Moff Gideon token, 1 Incinerator Stormtrooper token, 1 Death Trooper token, 9 Imperial Enemy cards (1 Moff Gideon, 4 Incinerator Stormtroopers, 4 Death Troopers) 16 Hideout cards, 20 Signet cards, 75 plastic Imperial Credits, 2 dice, Retro Collection Remnant Stormtrooper figure, and game guide.

If Star Wars isn’t your jam, but you want a funny Monopoly, check out this Etsy listing for a handmade Monopoly Lockdown! We can all relate a bit too much, right?

Game of Life – The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel – $24

Inspired by Midge Maisel’s life in the Amazon Original Series, The Game of Life: The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel Edition board game has players seeking fame and fortune during 1950s New York City. Maybe you’ll get married, have kids, buy a dream home, go on vacation in the Catskills, and make it as a stand-up comic.

Then again, maybe you won’t. You could get divorced, bomb at the jokes, and end up in a dumpy apartment. Choose a path and find out what life has in store for you. The player with the most money at the end of the game wins – unless someone hits it big time in comedy!

Description from Manufacturer.

Marrying Mr. Darcy – $30

One of my favorite games of all time is Marrying Mr. Darcy. Granted, my favorite book of all time is Pride & Prejudice…so I suppose one could say I’m slightly biased…

Anyhoo. This is a great game, especially with a group of people who don’t mind looking silly becuase the more you get into the game the more fun it is! You can read all about my thoughts on the game in my blog post.

There’s also an Emma Expansion kit that is $16! Isn’t that great? I’ve played this as well (because, obviously) and is is more than just switching out the cards. Similar game play but a different kind of strategy. Fun if you have played MMD!

Rummikub – $7.50

Oh Rummikub, the game that is supposed to be a “fast” tile playing game. I say “supposed to be” because if you play against my dad, you can practically make an entire sandwich during his turn. Love him dearly, but good heavens he takes forever.

This is such a fun game and one that I have watched/played since I was easily 5 or 6. I remember one time I was too young to play, but I wanted to be included, so they let me add up the scores on an old tax calculator with the print out and everything. And that calculator belong to none other than Aunt Sue, by whose rules we steadfastly follow when it comes to the wild card.

Magnetic Wall Scrabble Board with hanging bags – $63+

Does your family love to play Scrabble, but maybe your schedules don’t line up to where you can sit down and play a whole game? Check out this Etsy listing for a magnetic Scrabble board to play the game throughout the day! There are even hanging bags to hold your tiles in secret (something that other listings don’t offer).

Jumanji Board Game – $119 or $189

This is the perfect gift for someone who is obsessed with the original Jumanji movie and loves high quality work. Etsy shop WalkingLegends created an exact working replica of the board game from the movie. Well, let’s hope not too exact, because the last thing we need is a stampede of Rhinos and Elephants through our streets!

Party Games

Codenames – $15

This game is SO MUCH FUN and works great with a group of 6-8 people. We’ve played it with more than that, but it does get a bit unruly. If you want a version for 2 people, check out Codenames Duo ($20), and if you are looking for one more geared towards kids then try out their Codenames Disney ($20) or Codenames Marvel ($25)! There is a great variety of themed Codenames if you want to change things up a bit.

Spy Alley – $35

Per BoardGameGeek: “Each player assumes a secret identity (nationality) at the start of the game. The object is for each player to collect all the necessary items of their nationality and land on the winners square. (players need to get a codebook, disguise, key, and password)”

This sounds like SO MUCH FUN. Granted, I love pretty much anything having to do with spies and espionage (in the world of fiction) so this sounds like a great game to play.

Pictionary – $20

A family game list wouldn’t be complete without Pictionary. I’m showing my age a bit, but I remember playing this before dry erase markers were a real thing, so it did always feel either wasteful to use separate sheets of paper OR trying to scribble pictures into different corners of the same page. But now? I bet this game is so much more fun. And it was already starting at a pretty high place!

Taco vs. Burrito – $25

Taco vs. Burito is a deliciously unpredictable card game where players compete to create the weirdest, wildest meal.

But beware! The Health Inspector and Order Envy can ruin your meal.

Gameplay continues clockwise with players drawing and playing cards until the draw pile is gone. Once any one player is out of cards the game is instantly over and the player with the most points wins!

Description from the designer

Exploding Kittens – $10

Exploding kittens is a card game for people who are into kittens and explosions and laser beams and sometimes goats. In this highly-strategic, kitty-powered version of Russian roulette, players draw cards until someone draws an exploding kitten, at which point They explode, they are Dead, and they are out of the game – unless that player has a defuse card, which can defuse the kitten using things like laser pointers, belly rubs, and catnip sandwiches.

Description from Manufacturer.

Unstable Unicorns – $20

Unstable Unicorns is a strategic card game about everyone’s two favorite things: Destruction & Unicorns. The goal of Unstable Unicorns is to be the first person to collect seven Unicorns in your play area, also known as your Stable. Use Magic, Instant, Upgrade, and Downgrade cards to hinder your opponents’ progress and destroy their Unicorns. But beware — each player has all of these tools at their disposal as well, and you may just find your plans foiled by a well-played “Neigh!” card. Get ready to destroy your friendships…but in a good way.

Description from Manufacturer.

Bullets on Broadway: A Flexible Murder Mystery Game – $25

Become a party legend by throwing a Murder Mystery party by Broadway Murder Mysteries for your next office event, game night, backyard BBQ, birthday, or gathering! Make memories with this ready-to-print kit playable by up to 20 people! Virtual rules are included to play on Zoom or other video chat programs! The game takes approximately 1-3 hours to play and we recommend estimating 10 minutes per person.

Description from Manufacturer.

Game Accessories & Storage

Magic the Game Card Storage Box – $40

This is specifically for Magic the Game, but I feel like this would be helpful to have on hand for any kind of deck builder, playing cards, you get the idea.

Smonex Wooden Organizer Set

Smonex Wooden Boards

Etsy: CRE8Online Option
Smonex Wooden Organizer for Terraforming Mars – $70

When I started researching box organizers for this post, I thought I was going to be finding some small boxes or bins. I was NOT expecting to see such a large range of beautiful wooden organizers. I also wasn’t expecting to see how many of the organizers would specifically be for Terraforming Mars!

This is just 1 of many, but what I like about this is that it also includes the wooden player boards with ridges to help hold the cubes better than the flat cards. It is a pretty penny, but if your person loves Terraforming Mars then this will get you some bonus points.

Per the manufacturer, this collection will “fit cards with premium protector up to 80 microns/sleeved cards” and that it is “suitable for Terraforming Mars base game and All Terraforming Mars expansions (Hellas and Elysium, Venus next, Prelude, Colonies, Turmoil).”

If you want just the wooden boards, check out this amazon listing, as you can snatch up 5 boards for $40.

And if you want a more economical version, there are tons of options on Etsy, like this one, that will meet your needs!

Tabletop Gaming Dice Box by ENHANCE – $35

So, as we continue through this section, you should probably know that I have a nearing unhealthy obsession with bins and all things organization. If you saw my office you would think otherwise…but just trust me on this. I LOVE BINS.

This is 1 of many bin styles to hold your gaming dice! I’m a heathen and store mine in a ziploc…but I really really like this container. It has a zippered half, an open half (“Dice Arena”), and zips closed and has strap/clip to hang by. Isn’t that fun?

Shoe Storage with Cover – $40

OK, hear me out. This is meant for shoes, but would work perfectly for board games! It has a roll down cover, shelves to nicely organize the games. The one linked here has a roll down cover which would be nice to cover the visual stimulation.

But I could also see it being annoying if you are constantly going in and out grabbing games. So another couple options would be a Storage Lift Coffee Table or a Storage Bench. These would be big gifts, but maybe it will cover all gifts for the whole year!

Hermitshell Travel Case for Five Crowns – $11 plus shipping

I’m purposefully not going to let my Grandma see this post until after Christmas because I’m getting her this! The box the cards come in is great, but this hardshell looks like such a great way to keep the cards more protected!

Geekon Quad-Mod Game Piece & Storage – $34

Here is an interesting new way to store a boardgame – put it in it’s own packing cube! This isn’t just any packing cube, but one that is specifically designed with boardgames in mind. It stores like a square, but expands in a rectangle formation, as each fold has various zippered compartments to hold game pieces.

The description says that 1 square can hold up to 6 entire games! This would be great for games with a lot of pieces (that you don’t want to lose if there is a hole in the original game box) or would also be great for travel!

Storage Bins for Pandemic Disease Cubes – $12

We use little Ziploc baggies, but I love how these are themed to the game and would be a great way to keep he table organized while playing!

Collapsible Board Game Storage Bowls – $15

I feel like these would work great for Terraforming Mars. I use little mini bowls, but I love that these can go flat and would be great for travel too. The link is for an Amazon listing, but if you want to support small businesses, just search Etsy for “Collapsible Fabric Bowl”!

Enhance Board Game Backpack – $110

With a vaccine hopefully around the corner, going back to game night might be sooner than I feels! Go ahead and get board game travel bags now so you are ready to go the moment it is safe again to congregate. This one is slightly bigger than the next listing (also different companies). This has as interior of 21″x12.5″x12.5″, thick padded foam reinfored with polymer sheets, can support up to 60lbs of games (yikes!) and has varying compartment options for other game pieces.

Board Game Bag – $44

Here is a great padded board game carrier by Board Game Tables .com! It is 20″x12″x12 inside, has padded backpack straps, a horizontal handle, and even a luggage slip! I know some guys who use HUGE duffle bags for their games, and I feel like they could use this listing and the one before!

Wooden Baseball Dice Game – $25

Have you ever played the wooden Baseball Dice game? I haven’t, but it looks like a lot of fun and reminds me of a slightly more involved type of game you would play at Cracker Barrel. Roll the Die to see how your players perform and move the marbles around the board! Etsy listing includes board game, marbles, and a drawstring pouch.

4 Pack Premium Wooden Card Holders – $18

This is great for all ages, specifically the littlest of hands all the way to arthritic hands. Plus, these will be helpful for game nights that fall on Taco Tuesday.

Box for Metal Coins (Scythe or Plain) – $14

If you play a lot of Scythe (or a game with metal coins) then this box might be just what you need! Made out of plastic from a 3D printer, you can have a great way to store your coins without spending a lot of coins on it! (See what I did there?)

Terraforming Mars deck Inserts – $6.17

From the Creator:

I use this deckholder for Terraforming Mars – With a couple of these I can have all the cards safely stored in the gamebox. This organizer is 69mm high and approximately 94mm wide depending on how you measure it. It is a handy deck holder will keep your modifier decks well organized on the table. And they are an inexpensive substitute for a custom printed player dashboard.

These deck holders are printed with thin enough walls to keep them inexpensive but sturdy enough to hold the sleeved/non-sleeved cards.

If you need a custom color, we will be happy to work with you.

The dimensions of the box are:
65mm x 94mm x 69mm

Terraforming Mars Tracker Rovers – $4.78

These are seriously cute, and you get a set of 5 little rovers! These are 3D printed and hold the player cube that goes around the board edges. Adorable stocking stuffing/round out gift.

Terraforming Mars Full Upgrade Kit – $120

On the flip side, this isn’t what I would call a “round out gift”, but it would definitely get you some major points if your person loves Terraforming Mars! Make the gaming experience more life like with these 3D printed forests, cities, domes, venues, etc!

Pandemic Board Game 3D Tokens – $39

In a similar vein of the Terraforming Mars Upgrade Kit, this one is for Pandemic! 3D printed virus tokens and research centers give this game a little more pizzaz.

Imhotep Boats and Sleds Upgrade: $10-$33

I’m new to Imhotep, but have had a nice time playing the game. I think that these little cute boats and rafts would really enhance the whole experience! D

Wooden Azul Player Boards – $25-90

If you want to take your Azul gaming experience to the next level, enhance the game’s naturally gorgeous tiles with this Etsy listing for wooden engraved player boards.

Splendor Organizer – $34

Ok, I need this. I love Splendor (fun fact – this was one of the first games that Brandon introduced me to when we were first dating!) and I would love to have a nicer way to organize the box! Remember, I love bins and organizing.

The Etsy shop is TowerRex and if you are in need of other game organizers, check out their storefront here.

Terraforming Mars Card Holder (for played action cards) – $2 each

If you’ve read my blog post on Terraforming Mars, then you know that it is one of my favorite games of all time. Well I think that I need this little card holder doohickey. It simply holds the played action cards up in the air rather than having them take up a lot of valuable table space. And at only $2 a pop, perfectly worth it to me!

Home Décor & Other Gifts

Posters for Your Favorite Board Games

As it turns out, on Etsy, there is no shortage of wonderful board game themed posters. Here are some of our personal favorites from Etsy shop owner MeepleDesigns. Their minimalist board game posters are gorgeous, and affordable (all in the $25 range). You can check them out by clicking any of the images below – they’ll open in a new tab!

More Posters the Board Gamer in Your Life will Love

Of course, the posters aren’t just limited to specific board games. You can find posters for board gaming in general, too, and there are a lot of great choices. Just like above, you can check them out by clicking any of the images below – they’ll open in a new tab! A lot of these are also in the affordable range, some even starting around $10!

Have you checked behind the couch?
Set of 6 Meeple Adventure Art Prints – Print at Home File Download – 8×10
Board Games Patent Print Set of 6 – Board Game Poster Set
I Wouldn’t Trade You for Anything Print- 8 1/2 X 10-Color Print
Clue Movie Poster
Customized Tabletop Board Game Room Sign Poster
Abstract 20 sided Dice, Single Line Drawing
Printable Customized Hobby Game Wall Art~Custom Board Game Wall Art
Vintage Chess Art Print

More Board Gaming Accessories for Your Home

Board Game Room – door frame décor – $39

This is a laser-cut acrylic sign to hang over the top of your Board Game Room door or positioned around a window in your Board Game room. Makes a great board game room decor item! Gift it to your board gamer friend or family member!

Description from Etsy.

Top 100 Board Game Scratch off – $24

Top 100 Board Games Scratch Poster is a perfect wall decor for any board game geek.
Officially licensed by BoardGameGeek.

Track your progress by scratching off the games you have played. Get inspired on what to play next!

Description from Etsy.

Wooden Catan Clock: Natural AND Painted – $60 each

A clock featuring the design of your favourite board game – Settlers of Catan 🙂
Gift for gamer. A good present for a player for her/his birthday, Christmas, New Year or any other holiday.

Description from Etsy.

Giant Scrabble Letters to spell a word – $20

These board game letters are a fun way to decorate any room (especially a playroom). Each wood board is roughly 12 inches by 12 inches (actual dimensions will vary slightly) and is engraved with a letter of your choosing and its corresponding number value to resemble Scrabble pieces.

Description from Etsy.

Board Gaming Coasters

I have an entire section dedicated to coasters because Brandon is OBSESSED WITH COASTERS. I swear, the man’s obsession with coasters knows no bounds. When we were moving his things in, I just kept finding coasters. And I mean, I already had a fair amount of coasters. I had to sit him down with a box of all the coasters and pick out only his favorite ones. (In fairness…he had to do the same thing with me and trivets…). The below coasters are just a sampling of what you can find on Etsy, and many range from either $2 each, to $10 for a set of 4.

Tile Coasters (Game Boards)
Tile Coasters (Board Game Box Art)
Two Pips D20 Coasters
Meeple Board Game Coasters (most expensive at $17)

Other Gifts

Cribbage Ornament – $19

This beautiful wooden ornament is made from laser cut alder wood and is designed to last a lifetime.

Customize the ornament with any text you’d like.

Perfect for putting great memories on your Christmas tree or to give as a gift to a friend or loved one.

Description from Etsy.

Board Game Hero Scratch off – $23

This scratch-off poster is a Challenge for a Real Board Games Hero!

Complete different fun challenges and improve your skills!

Description from Etsy.

Dice Keychain – $9

A great small gift for the gamer in your life! This listing is for one keychain that is created with your choice of black glitter, blue glitter, green glitter, pink glitter, purple matte, red glitter, white glitter, yellow matte, or a color of your choice vinyl. It measures approximately 4 inches long (without hardware) by 2.75 inches at its widest point. It is a recreation of a 20-sided die.

Description from Etsy.

Personalized Giant Meeples – $18

Personalize yours today with no extra cost or delivery time!

We were sitting around at game night talking about how funny it would be if there was a big meeple that could eat all the other meeples. Someone said there should be an even more giant meeple that can eat the big meeples, like the T-Rex in Jurassic World.

Description from Etsy.

Meeple Pillow – $20

A custom-made pillow shaped like a board game meeple.

Description from Etsy.

Baking/Kitchen

So, I’ve become that person who decided to learn to bake during the pandemic. It’s a good thing we have a treadmill otherwise I would be in some serious trouble. One thing that I want to figure out how to do is make the perfect cookie for cookie cutters! So here are some adorable gaming cookie cutters I found on Etsy.

D20 Cookie Cutter
Meeple Cookie Cutter
Domino Cookie Cutter
Tetris Cookie Cutters
Chess Pieces Cookie Cutters
Zelda Cookie Cutters (not a boardgame, I just love Zelda)

Boardgame Plates: These are specifically geared towards to children, but I think that these would be fantastic for parties with a lot of dips. Each dish could hold a different dip and then the plate portion would hold the chips and veggies.

Apparel & Funny Gifts

Trying to find the right type of T-Shirt for a boardgame lover that isn’t super painfully dorky or trying too hard is, well, hard. Here are some that I found that look cool or have just the right amount of dork factor. These are all in the $20 range, and many come in multiple colors.

Meeple Word Cloud of Board Games
Meeple Word Cloud of Game Mechanics
Vintage Meeple
Best Cribbage Player
Never Settle – Catan Shirt
The Cones of Dunshire

That’s all!

Thank you for taking the time to read this whole shopping guide. You’re bound to find a gift for the board gamer in your life here. Feel free to recommend other great ideas in the comments below as well 🙂





Board Game Review: Pandemic

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Maria here again! Today’s post is the last of my “Top 5 Games” series. I hemmed and hawed over whether I would do it, too. If you haven’t noticed, the game Pandemic pulled a Jumanji and now we’re living it. But I decided that I would be remiss if I did not include it, as it was the first modern board game and it really reignited my love for board games.

If you’re curious, the other four games in the series are:

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In my first blog post for Brandon, I talked the games that formed my childhood. What I didn’t discuss was the fact that I also played a lot of videogames as a kid.

Sure, I still don’t consider myself a “gamer” in the video realm. But I knew my way around our Nintendo 64 back in the day!

The reason I bring this up is because it was one of the ways that I hung out with my brother. From kids in the basement to “adults” in college – we would always play co-operative video games, regardless of where we lived. Despite the hefty price tag, I forked over $50 a year for Xbox Live so I could play Halo with my brother and even Call of Duty with a friend stationed in South Korea.  I LOVE co-operative games.

To me, Pandemic was the first time I was getting to have that videogame co-op experience without a screen. And that, my friends, is why I decided to still talk about this game.

Sadly, I do not know when I will actually be able to play the game without it feeling “too soon.” Even still, it would have almost been disrespectful to the game creators to not include it in my Top 5 games.

Objective

The same thing we do every game. Try to take over the world! Oh wait, that’s something else. No, the objective is actually to try to SAVE the world by curing 4 diseases. You have to do this before either running out of city player cards, having more 8 or more outbreaks, or running out of disease cubes for a specific color.

Gameplay Overview

I’m going to do my best to describe the game play as succinctly as possible, but if you want to read the 8 page rulebook, you can read it here.

The general idea of the game is that each player has a character role that has a unique skillset. Players work together moving from city to city trying to both clear infection cubes and collect enough city cards of specific colors to cure that color infection. Players get these city cards at the end of each turn where they draw cards. What also happens every turn (well, almost every turn) is the Infection Stage where city cards are drawn that are now considered newly infected.

A city can only hold 3 infection cubes of the same color at the same time, so if another infection of that color occurs in that city, then it causes an outbreak where any surrounding city with a connecting line to the infected one will get the same infection.

This is what we would call a “game over” situation.

Take the above picture as an example. If any one of those cities with 3 cubes of the same color gets drawn again, it will set off a chain reaction of outbreaks. If Karachi gets pulled, then it would cause an outbreak into Tehran, Delhi, Mumbai, Riyadh, and Baghdad. But, as you can see, The first three of those also have 3 black cubes, which means they also would have an outbreak. And it’s then just a vicious never-ending cycle.

While we are looking at the picture, let’s go ahead and look at Jakarta & Bangkok. See how they have black cubes instead of red? That’s because Chennai had an Outbreak which spread the black cubes into a red region. If this wasn’t such a disaster game setup, technically Jakarta and Bangkok could each have up to 3 red cubes as well as the black cube without an outbreak. Because remember – the outbreak only occurs if you have more than 3 of the same colored cube.

Why are outbreaks (and especially chain reaction outbreaks) so bad? Because each outbreak counts against your team, and if you hit 8 outbreaks in a game then you lose. And believe me, 8 can arrive before you even know it.

There is a bit more to the game, including hail mary cards and trading cards with your team members, but that’s why there is the rulebook (and YouTube)!

What I love

Co-Operation

To start off, this was my first co-operative board game which practically gave it an approved stamp in my book from the get go. Then, coupled with a shot of nostalgia and a vial of communication, this game got the MAP stamp of approval! Co-operative games aren’t for everyone (“but how do I win??” -My Dad), but I love the fact that they are a growing segment of the boardgame market.

Well Researched and Represented

If Michael Crichton were to create a board game, it would be this. Holy Tamole, this game is eerily accurate. I’m almost upset as to how accurate the game is because now I can’t play it!

I love the fact that players start in Atlanta, where the actual headquarters of the CDC is located.

The specific cities chosen to include on the board are beyond creepily accurate. I remember Brandon saying a few years ago “well, if there ever was a pandemic, these would be the cities that would get hit, and probably the direction it would travel”. Flash forward to this trash fire of a year and Matt Leacock was right. Probably the first time someone didn’t actually want to be right either. 

I also am digging the diversity represented in the game! It is a game that represents the entire world, and I think that the game developers did a great job in representing that in the role cards. As a woman, I loved seeing the Scientist, Researcher, AND Quarantine Specialist roles are all female characters.

Not to mention that the lead character on the box is a woman! The diversity in cultures represented also was so refreshing while making sense in the context of the game. And can we just talk about how the Medic is an army medic? And dreamy too. Don’t tell Brandon I said that. 

Replayability

My fear of playing the game set aside, this game has incredible replayability. Just like deck-building games, or even Settlers of Catan in a way, the fact that the board game is never the same is the perfect foundation for a multi-dimensional game. 

Another contributing element to the game’s replayability is the range in difficulties. I like that you can choose to have 4-6 epidemic cards in the game depending on the desired difficulty level (not going to lie, I’ve played with 3. Sometimes I just want to feel good about myself.)

Lastly, and somewhat tied to the second point, is the changing team members. There are 7 different roles, but you can only have up to 4 players play. Meaning, if you randomly select your roles then the game has even more changing variables.

Could Use Improvement

Game Setup

This is kind of a dumb thing to say that needs improvement, but I guess call me Custer. The game setup takes a hot minute, and the ability to lose takes way less time, so it is a real buzzkill to set the entire game up, lose within 5 moves, and then have to set the whole thing up again. Not even sure how this could be solved since the setup is part of what makes the game so replayable, but it is what it is. I never said I was rational!

Rulebook

Maybe it is the fact that I’m not a hobby gamer, but while this rulebook is better than the Terraforming Mars one, it still isn’t great. The fact that I was cheating for well over a year of playing the game, and didn’t find out how fully until another year after that (thanks app!) kind of proves that the rulebook needs some retuning.

I will admit, this linked rulebook is better than the one that came in my game. So, well done Z-Man Games, well done.

Preferred Game Mechanics
  • Dynamic character roles
  • Great art or colors
  • Incorporates a clicking noise
  • Tactile, but not needlessly fidgety 

BoardGameGeek: 7.6 out of 10

Victory! All Posts Have Been Made!

Congratulations! You have made it to the end of this post and have now officially read about my top 5 favorite games. I’ve got a few other board games that I really love and enjoy, but they don’t quite make the “favorite” tier.

Again, my name is Maria and this is the last post in a 5 post series where I break down my 5 favorite games as a non-gamer-who-likes-games. The other four games/post in the series are: Marrying Mr. Darcy, Terraforming Mars, Exit: The Game, and  Five Crowns. In this series, I also shared with everyone the games that formed my childhood, which you can read here.

I hope you enjoyed today’s post, and the series as a whole. If you liked it, great! I’ll probably be back again sometime with more post ideas to share in the future.

But for now? I think Brandon wants his blog back 😬


Board Games, Seen By a Non-Gamer is written by Maria Polcari, Brandon’s wife. The series is meant to both make you think about games in a different way, and to give Brandon a much needed break!

This is the sixth and final post in what was originally a five-part series!





Board Game Review: Five Crowns

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Happy Monday to all! Can you believe that we are in NOVEMBER? I sure can’t. But with November comes Thanksgiving, Christmas/Hannukah, and New Years, so in my family that means the season of family games.

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This year will look a lot different than prior years, which is no surprise to anyone. But I still want to share with you all one of my family’s “new” favorite card games. After all, memories don’t have to social distance!

As previously mentioned in my Growing Up With Board Games post, I grew up on card games. Gin, Rummikub, Cribbage, Spades, Uno – all awesome classics. Well, one of my biggest gamer-influencers influenced me again in my 20’s by showing me Five Crowns. And if you’ve been following along with this guest series, then you probably guessed who it was – my grandma.

My Introduction to Five Crowns

About 7 or 8 years ago I was visiting Grandma up in the DC area and she suggested we play this card game called Five Crowns. I will go into more detail later as to how to play, but basically, it is a card game like Rummy but with a rotating wild card. I am good at Rummikub and I like card games. At the time I was a cocky 23-year-old, so I was thinking that I was about to school that old crone at her own game.

First few rounds go by, all is good. Then we’re on, say the 5th or 6th round, and she starts being all “what’s the wild card again?” as she peers under her eyeglasses, clutching a tissue in one hand. She makes a few misses here and there. “Aww, sweet Grandma, she’s not used to playing a youngin like me.”

She was lulling me into a false sense of security is what she was doing. Because yup, you guessed it. She clobbered me.

Absolutely clobbered me.

Never play Grandma in Five Crowns.

Fast forward a few months and Grandma comes to visit and brings along her cutesy little deck with her and says excitedly to my dad, “Oh! We should play this fun new game your sister and I have been playing!” I warn my family that the game is not as easy as it is cute. Did they listen? Of course not.

My whole family gathers round the kitchen table and we play a few practice rounds. Based on the gleams in my dad and brothers’ eyes, they were ready for the real game to begin and take down Grandma. So we start up a fresh new game. Grandma starts pulling all the same tricks she did with me. She pretended she didn’t know where her glasses were. She acted like she forgot what the wildcard for the round was. Allll that same nonsense.

I warned them. I warned my family before the game and I warned them during the game. Do you think they listened?

She won.

Yup.

So anyways, all that to say that we now play Five Crowns at every single family gathering. If Grandma isn’t there, we are sharpening our skills. If Grandma is there, then it’s war.

How to Play

Objective

It’s just like golf in that the lowest score wins after all the rounds have been played. I guess a more appropriate reference would be Uno, but where’s the fun in that?

Video of Rules
Basics

There are the 4 traditional card suits, plus a 5th suit (Stars!). The game lasts a total of 11 rounds, where the first round is 3 cards, second round is 4 cards, and so on until you have 13 cards in your hands. Lastly, there is a rotating wild card (in addition to jokers) that changes every hand. On the first round with 3 cards, the number 3 is wild. On the round with 4 cards, the number 4 card is wild. When you have 11 cards, the Jack card is wild. Get it?

How a Round Plays

During the first round, deal 3 cards to each person playing. Place the deck in the middle and flip the top card over and lay it next to the stack. The person to the left of the dealer goes first and can either choose to take the flipped over card or take the top card from the deck.

After selecting a card, the player must decide to either keep that new card and discard one already in their hand, or they can just discard the newly drawn card.

That’s a really longwinded way of saying that if the round has 3 cards then the player must still only have 3 cards when they complete their turn. Then it is the next person’s turn! You continue playing until someone puts all the cards in their hands into some type of grouping. See the next section!

A Book or Group consists of multiples of the same card (five 3’s, three Kings, etc.). A sequence of numbers such as 4/5/6 is called a Run. You must have at least three cards in a Group or Run, but you can have far more.

How a Round Ends

How do you know if you want to take the discarded card or the top from the deck? You are wanting to get your cards into little groups (at least 3) of either the same number (suits don’t matter) or a run of sequential cards (same suit). Once you get all cards grouped up and you’re still able to discard a card, then you can lay all of your cards down.

Making sure you can still discard is a key part! Also, keep in mind that if the number of cards allows then you can have a mix and match. For example, the round with 6 cards – you can have both a group of the same number and a run, you just can’t have 1 card be split between the groups.

Once someone has laid the cards down, each person has 1 remaining turn to try and get their hands into as many little groups as possible. What’s nice is that the points scored against you are only the cards in your hand that are not able to be grouped. For instance, you had a group of Kings, and a 3/4/5 straight but you still have a random 9 and Queen; luckily, only the 9 and Q will count against your score because you were able to group everything else.

Scoring

It’s pretty simple! A card’s value is a card’s value. Meaning, a 9 is a 9, a Jack is 11, a King is 13. The only “fancy” ones would be Jokers (50 points!) and Wild Cards (20). Anything you are able to group and play has zero points since the “perfect game” would be a score of 0 by the end of the entire game. So in the example mentioned previously, if a person had a 9 and a Q, then their score would be 9 + 12 = 21! You could certainly have some fun with house rules on scoring to make things more interesting.

What I Love

First off, this is just a fantastic spin on Rummy. I absolutely LOVE the rotating wild card aspect.

The theme is simple but also carried through well.

The art is bright, ties beautifully with the theme, and has a pleasant amount of diversity in the face cards! Sure, there is always room for improvement, but considering this game has been out for a while it is a pleasant surprise to see more than just the typical white-washed figures.

As for what makes the game truly great is that not only can it still play well with 2 people (scales very well the more people playing) but the game really isn’t over “Until the Kings Go Wild” because this is a game practically designed for the comeback kid. There was one game where I had zeroes the entire game until the Jack round, and I got destroyed with a huge point-heavy hand. I ended up losing the entire game because of 1 round.

Lastly, the game can have great pace. Rummikub is supposed to be “fast paced” but in my house it never is. Five Crowns on the other hand? It actually is! The game is also a bit snappier than Phase 10 and plays better with smaller audiences than Skip-Bo.

(Wait a minute. There is a solo mode???)

What Could Be Improved

It is honestly kind of hard to find areas that need improvement in this game.

Constantly shuffling such a large deck can be a pain (since there is a 5th suit there are a LOT of cards), but in my family we just won’t shuffle until all the cards have been used, which adds a sort of card counting element to the game.

And it can be frustrating to play a fantastic game and then lose because of 1 single round. Luck is important to the game, which makes it that much more exciting.

Otherwise, all I can come up with are ways to enhance the current game experience:

From an art perspective, rereleasing the cards with different cultures would be beautiful and inclusive.

From an accessibility perspective, they already have symbols and numbers to resolve any color blindness challenges, so they could go one step further and release a braille set.

As for extras, it would be a nice for the game company to sell a branded card shuffler, and a card holder for kids, or even a tray to put the cards in to make it more travel friendly (such as playing on an airplane or in an RV).

So as you can see from the above, I had to really stretch to come up with ways to improve the game It has so many fantastic elements already considered!

Preferred Game Mechanics

  • Great Art & Colors
  • Tactile, but not needlessly fidgety 

BoardGameGeek: 6 out of 10

Final Thoughts: The Kings Have Gone Wild

All in all, Five Crowns will always be a go-to-game for me to have on hand. It travels well, is easy to explain, and plays well with small groups and large groups alike. Plus, ANYONE can be the comeback kid.

I would highly recommend this game to anyone who enjoys card games or numbers. Oh, and if the card box is still too big for you, they just released a Travel-Sized version that is for shorter rounds and can fit in your pocket. I’m definitely asking Santa to leave that in my stocking this year!

Have you ever played Five Crowns? I’d love to hear if you have any “house rules”!


Board Games, Seen By a Non-Gamer is written by Maria Polcari, Brandon’s wife. The series is meant to both make you think about games in a different way, and to give Brandon a much needed break!

This is the fifth in a ???-part series!

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