Written by Stephen Mingo
It’s not all doom and gloom this year. The fat jolly man with his great big bushy beard will soon be headed for chimneys across the world with his sleigh full of presents (and a face mask). We thought we would put together a short list of the best board games to buy for the budding gamers in your family this festive season. I put the word out on the East Devon Tabletop Gaming Group social media and have curated a few responses to formulate the following collection of ideas you can try if you’re stuck for gift ideas. So, let’s dive straight in!
This one isn’t on the list just because we reviewed it earlier this year, it is genuinely a very enjoyable game. It’s quick to learn, simple to play and feels like a mix of Ticket to Ride and Carcassone with a sprinkle of vibrant color on top. Designed for 2 to 4 players, it is a game most certainly suitable for the family table after you’ve finished your turkey, had your argument and endured the Queen’s speech. A quick Google search reveals this game coming up for around the £28 – £30 mark at most retailers, making it a fairly priced addition to your library and one with absolute re-playability.
We’ve yet to review this one officially here on the website, but we will because this is a very, very beautiful game. Alex Davies from our group writes, “This game looks like a peaceful and relaxed trip through eastern Japan. In reality, this game is incredibly vicious and ripe for family debates and vicious backstabbing”. I personally have found this to be a relaxing yet strategy based experience, you can calmly and efficiently formulate your winning plan be it visiting the hot springs to look for monkeys, or donating to the temple. Just don’t forget to leave some money aside to buy a decent meal at the next tavern. The collector’s edition comes with weighty tokens for the currency and incredible expansions are available to widen the gaming experience. The pricing online is wide and varied, but the base version of the game can be picked up for around the £35 mark.
3. VAESEN RPG
We’ve mentioned a couple of board games, it’s only fair to throw a roleplaying game into the list. Without a doubt this year’s breakout entry into the market is Free League’s Vaesen RPG. This… might not be as family friendly (it IS Nordic Horror after-all), but the core book should have the RPG fan among your family and friends delighted by its contents. I’ve written a review already, and will be writing another whenever we finally get to meet up and play the expansion campaign, A Wicked Secret. In an age where tabletop gamers are looking for alternatives to Dungeons & Dragons, I think Vaesen provides the perfect escape. I predict big things for the game in 2021. A quick Google search suggests prices around the £33 mark for the core rulebook, about the same price I paid years ago for my first D&D core book.
2. BETRAYAL AT HOUSE ON THE HILL
An old game, but an absolute favorite among our community and one that makes repeat appearances at game night. Taking around an hour to play, this game for 3 to 6 players where you assume the roles of classic horror film tropes and explore a haunted house. The best part comes when one of the players “betrays” the rest and heads off to a corner to read their own special rulebook and find out what eldritch horror they have been turned into, and what requirements need to be met for the remaining players to win. The base game has over 50 scenarios and expansions are available, so there’s plenty to enjoy. There’s also a legacy game version which I’ve added to my wish list this year. Alex Davies from our group is back and he says, “One of the most varied games I’ve ever played. The classic horror scenarios are plentiful and the betrayal mechanic is a superb alternative to secret traitor games”. The pricing on this is even more varied than previous entries to this list, with prices as low as £25 and as high as £45. Somewhere around £35 is what I would expect for a game that will be played again and again by you and your friends.
What else could possibly take the number 1 spot on this list. Of course, with everything going on this year (you know, an actual pandemic) it seems only fitting this game makes an appearance this Christmas. However, that’s not the only reason. This is genuinely one of the best games I’ve ever played. You work with the other players as a team to race around the board, a map of the world, and try to find a cure and treat four diseases. There are a ton of variants on this too, including limited edition games such as Pandemic Iberia with stunning artwork or the complex and involved Pandemic Legacy Season 1 and 2, as well as the latest edition season 0. You can pick up the base game for around £28 to £30, just be sure to specify “board game” when you type it into Google!