It’s that time of the year. The leaves have almost all left their trees, most of my family is still in a food coma from last Thursday, and – oh yes – the Black Friday shopping has begun! As you might expect, this is also the time of year when a lot of people to go to Google and type in “top 10 board games for Christmas 2019.”
While I typically write articles strictly for board game creators, today is a little different. If you’re reading this, I’m betting that you’re asking one of two questions:
- What do I buy for the board gamer in my family?
- Why are certain games popular right now?
To answer both of these questions, I took a snapshot of Board Game Geek – Mecca of all things board games – on Saturday, November 30. I started with the trendiest games and worked my way down the list, scratching off anything that wasn’t on sale right now online. What remains is a top 10 list of games you can buy (or back-order) right now that are already drawing the attention of board gamers.
With all this in mind, let’s get right to it!
10. Brass Birmingham ($50.59 on Miniature Market)
The original board game Brass is one of the most highly regarded board games of the modern era. It came out in 2007 and people were still talking about it a decade later.
Enter Brass: Birmingham. It’s got all the elements of the original that gamers liked – the economic strategy and dynamic scoring – plus some new mechanics carefully chosen by the original creator to make the game even better. In particular, they’ve added a sixth action called “Scout” in which you discard cards and take a wild location and wild industry card. They’ve also added some new industry types, which helps add variety to the game.
If you or someone in your family is looking for a challenging board game in the $50 range, this is an excellent choice!
9. Everdell ($54.94 on Amazon)
I’ve written at length about Everdell before and why it’s a good game. Long story short, it’s got a cute fantasy theme with really well-executed worker placement mechanics. It’s a wonderful mix of gritty strategy and charm that’s reminiscent of Root.
8. Nemesis ($119.99 on Miniature Market)
In many ways Nemesis is the polar opposite of Everdell! It’s a sci-fi survival horror story heavily inspired by the Alien franchise. The Board Game Geek page does a great job of explaining why Nemesis is so interesting…
Nemesis is a semi-cooperative game where you and your crew-mates must survive on a ship infested with hostile organisms. To win the game, you will have to complete one of the two objectives dealt to you at the start of the game and get back to Earth in one piece. You will find many obstacles on your way: swarms of Intruders (the name given to the alien organisms by the ship AI), the poor physical condition of the ship, the other players that will have their own agendas and, sometimes, just cruel fate.
7. Godtear (Eternal Glade Starter Set, $49.99 + shipping on Amazon)
Godtear is a hex-based tabletop skirmish board game for two players. The whole purpose of the game is to collect the tears of fallen gods. The game is driven by different scenarios, each of which have their own rules.
What you have here is a classic, gorgeous fantasy game that never feels stale. That’s the magic of having a scenario-based game – tons of variety and tons of replayability.
6. Terraforming Mars ($45.00 on Amazon)
Terraforming Mars has been considered a new classic since the day it first came out. For all its flaws, I love Terraforming Mars – it gives players more opportunities for creative play than just about any other game I’ve seen.
The basic idea is that you and all your opponents represent different corporations trying to tame the red planet. It’s the only game I know where you can throw a meteor at a planet to purposefully cause global warming so you win.
5. Marvel Champions: The Card Game ($74.99 on Amazon)
There are few companies that have as much raw material for interesting stories as Marvel. You can see that play out in Marvel Champion: The Card Game. Again, I’ll borrow from the Board Game Geek page to describe the game.
Iron Man and Black Panther team up to stop Rhino from rampaging through the streets of New York. Captain Marvel and Spider-Man battle Ultron as he threatens global annihilation. Do you have what it takes to join the ranks of these legendary heroes and become a champion?
Marvel Champions: The Card Game invites players embody iconic heroes from the Marvel Universe as they battle to stop infamous villains from enacting their devious schemes. As a Living Card Game, Marvel Champions is supported with regular releases of new product, including new heroes and scenarios.
4. Cthulhu: Death May Die ($80.89 on Amazon)
I don’t know if you can tell, but this game has got a bit of an edge to it. Cthulhu: Death May Die feels like it crawled straight out of an H.P. Lovecraft novel. It’s a cooperative game where you and your fellow players are investigators seeking the summon the Elder Gods. Also, you start the game completely insane.
This is an intense game, but with so many thematic miniatures and a total commitment to theme, this game has worked its way up The Hotness list and stayed there for a while.
3. Tapestry ($75.73 on Amazon)
Some of the most well-liked board games of all time are civilization games. One of the most well-liked board game designers is Jamey Stegmaier.
Jamey Stegmaier made a civilization game.
2. Gloomhaven ($86.50 on Amazon)
If you’ve ever stumbled across my greatest board games of all-time list, you know Gloomhaven is at the top. Seriously, it has been #1 on the Top 100 board games list on Board Game Geek for a long time now.
Gloomhaven is so massive that it’s hard to begin to describe why it’s good. It’s heavily story-driven, huge in size and scope like Through the Ages, and it has great components. The theme, backed up by lots of story, is incredibly in tune with gamers’ desires for rich, lived-in fantasy worlds. This game captures what gamers love about literally every other game above it in this article. Gloomhaven truly is the apotheosis of gamer desire.
1. Wingspan ($59.99 on Amazon)
As we said before, new Jamey Stegmaier games are a big deal. Wingspan, however, has been particularly popular. On the Stonemaier Games website, it’s described as a “competitive, medium-weight, card-driven, engine-building board game.” It also won the 2019 Kennerspiel des Jahres award, which is a really big deal.
If that weren’t enough, it’s also got a ton of different components – cards, miniature eggs, wooden dice, a birdfeeder dice tower, action cubes, and more.
Long story short, it’s got mechanics that gamers like, gameplay that critics adore, and physical pieces to make gamers feel good about their purchase. It’s a win all around!
Final Thoughts for Buyers
There are so many great board games for Christmas 2019 out there! Any game on this list is an excellent choice – all you have to do is narrow down by price point and theme. The board gamer in your family is sure to be happy!
Final Thoughts for Gamer Designers
Gritty, complex games continue to dominate Board Game Geek! If you want to capture the hearts and minds of the most hardcore board gamers, make a smart, complex game with a big box and a lot of components. The BGG community does not shy away from the intellectual challenge! If they are the market you want to pursue, take some lessons from these games – you’ll be glad you did 🙂
Title photo credit: By PZS69, CC-BY-SA 2.0 license. Source: https://boardgamegeek.com/image/4647501/wingspan