This week we assembled the whole editorial team for our 2021 Christmas Gift Guide – with everyone picking a small handful of games that are excellent gifts AND currently actually available to buy!*
Below you’ll find links and a brief description of each game, but for more detailed explanations and recommendations, be sure to listen to the podcast episode that’s paired with this post – in which the whole team go through these individual choices. Thanks for reading and listening along, and do share the article or podcast if you think it’s a valuable resource for others this year. Much love from all of us – LET’S GO!
Players roll one set of dice that everyone then uses, choosing the next nearby location with a matching die-face to send their pinball pinging off towards. Push your luck and achieve killer combos, or take the safer option? This pinball-inspired Roll & Write that plays up to 4, but our very own Tom Brewster swears that it shines brightest when played alone for high-scores. A small box of shiny, ridiculous delights. Perfect for pinball enthusiasts or solitary thinkers – just maybe don’t mention which of the two you’ve got them pegged as. Check out our review.
Alternate-reality Jenga designed by aliens, The Fuzzies is a surprisingly compelling exercise in denying physics their right to exist – players take it in turns to remove a fuzzy ball from anywhere on the tower, placing it in a higher location than it previously sat. A tiny handful of rules later, and you’re good to go – with the real joy slowly settling in as you realise that these strange grippy things behave in a way that almost feels like magic. This small, lightweight crowd-pleaser requires dexterity and deftness that not everyone has, but it’s joyful to behold – even if you aren’t playing. See it in action here, in our full review.
A multiplayer re-imagining of the Choose Your Own Adventure genre – three small stories of choices and challenges, muddled together with truly gorgeous components. Replaying through scenarios to find the optimal solutions, you’ll be tasked with small physical mini-games to pass challenges. Sky-scraper capers and exploring Koala Cove, this is a colourful, modern take on a classic style of game that older folks will be well-familiar with.
Buy US: https://bit.ly/WN-US
The small-box code-cracker that continues to delight. Two teams must work to communicate safely with one another, while not giving away so much information that the other team are able to intercept their codes. Tougher to teach and play than the mega-hit Codenames, but vastly more rewarding. A SU&SD classic we just can’t get rid of – this cerebral party game might be your next family favourite. Watch our review!
Another dramatically simple set of rules that achieves more than you’d expect – this orange box of questions each has a numerical answer that players need to estimate by offering a range of numbers that they think will contain the answer. Really though, this one requires no quiz-skills to master: party game silliness means that much of the game is less about getting things right yourself, and more about correctly estimating who you’ll think around the table is most likely to have nailed it. Discussed in Episode 101 of the podcast! Oh, and if you’re unfamiliar with the beautiful language – check out this video for the Welsh version of the game.
Buy US: https://bit.ly/Conf-US
Tile-laying puzzler with adorable bears. Collect strangely-shaped enclosures and then strategically place them on your empty plots of land, turning the chaos of bad shapes into something neat and tidy. Gently making shapes and filling gaps in your playerboards doesn’t get smoother and nicer than this – the ideal gift for those who prefer quieter games, with minimal confrontation. Although you’ll still get stressed about where to put the toilets. Watch our full review here, including the monorail expansion.
The tightly-packed version of a classic. Players must choose whether to persist with progress in expeditions they’ve already embarked on, or play it risky and start new adventures in tandem. Tricky choices and rapid hubris make this an easy crowd-pleaser. If you’re a fan of rolling dice and then writing things down, for Ava’s money this is the best gift available. Discussed in Episode 154 of the podcast!
A huge hit in the party game scene, and for good reason: there aren’t many games this clever that only require a handful of brain cells to comfortably play. A single player must guess the correct word – everyone else must guide them towards it by writing down a single-word clue, with the caveat that all duplicate clues will be erased before the guessing player sees them. A collaborative gem that takes moments to teach, and rapidly becomes raucous. Discussed in Episode 90 of the podcast!
A two-phased auction game that is light, immediate, and deeply silly – while also dripping with simple thematic charm. Will you end up stinking rich and owning a castle, or spending 15k on a cardboard box? Tactical & smart and yet lucky & light, this is a beloved classic for good reason. Discussed in Episode 99 of the podcast!
A family board game of bold exploration – build up a personal deck of cycling cards that you’ll successfully use to snag the treasures of El Dorado. Players race across an expanded board of large hexagonal tiles, in this – the most board-game-looking game of this year’s recommendations. A beloved classic by Reiner Knizia – who is widely regarded as being “The Best”, and we probably shouldn’t have spent years representing him as a deranged man in a grey wig failing to pilot a spaceship. Check out our full review of the base game, and the expansion.
The family game that Matt simply won’t stop recommending, this push-your-luck game of brewing risky potions is a joyful experience from start to finish. Earn gold to buy ingredients that you’ll then randomly pull out of your own personal bag, hoping that you won’t go too far and explode your cauldron in the process. Raucous, loud and comedically unfair, you only need look at how grubby that white token in the photograph above is to get a sense of how many times this gem has hit our table. Check out our full review, which features a frankly misguided use of paint cannons.
Hubris and silliness finally tie the knot: in SPACE. This modern classic has finally seen a reprint, and you’ve every reason to be excited – players assemble ships from a communal collection of face-down tiles, peeking and placing whilst working against the clock. The fabulous/terrible ships you’ve each constructed will then be put through their paces in the field, as you attempt to lug cargo from A to B whilst keeping your rapidly-assembled ship in one piece. If drastically unfortunate strokes of poor luck sound like the ideal recipe for a great night, this is the one you want. Watch the digital version of the game in action here, in which Matt went head-to-head against Tom.
Finally – after an extended length of time in which this game was sold out – we hope you’ll allow us to be VERY CHEEKY here and give a brief plug for a game that we made. The Serious Nonsense Box is a stand-alone expansion to the game Monikers – a beautifully produced party game in which you’ll play through several rounds, trying to get your team to guess the title of as many cards as possible – whilst against the clock.
In the first round you can say almost anything, or even just read out the card’s descriptions – but by the final round you’ll only be able to act out the titles using silent charades. What initially sounds impossible becomes a magic trick in familiarity, and we took this formula and honed it further to specifically amplify the capacity of players to be naturally funny, writing hundreds of new cards and keeping the cream of the crop.
If you want a comedy party game that doesn’t feel the need to get grim or punch-down, we’re pretty proud and confident of what we’ve crafted here. But don’t just take our word for it, obviously! Check out someone else’s review!