It’s that time of year again—time to hang up the lights, dust off the tree skirt, and fight over who gets to hand out the gifts.
It is no secret that the Christmas season has been slowly encroaching on other holidays. Thanksgiving, at this point, seems doomed and is destined to be lost in the tinsel and wrapping paper. Halloween has been eking out an existence, but still has to contend with Santas and ornaments on the aisles of the big box stores. And now it seems even the 4th of July is in danger of seeing Christmas decorations alongside American flags and fireworks.
But in today’s world, where everyone is always getting busier, finding the time to do Christmas shopping is becoming difficult. So I present to you this list now so that you have plenty of time to get your holiday shopping over with, letting you get back to planning out your turkey dinner. These are the top 10 board games to buy this Christmas that are sure to be a hit.
10. Uno Ultimate Marvel
This Mattel offering is one of the most unique and entertaining ways to play the classic game of Uno. For starters, each player gets their own deck of cards by choosing which Marvel superhero they want to play as. And, yes, there are add-on packs. Each deck is different, and each character has a special, asymmetric ability. Not only that, but it adds event cards and enemy cards in a separate Danger Deck. Certain cards have a “danger icon” that forces you to turn over the top card in the Danger Deck. In this version of the game, there is no reshuffling once your deck runs out, which gives players a second way to lose—by decking out. With endless replayability, a popular theme, family-friendly rating, and collectible cards, this new twist on Uno is a must-have. (2-4 players, 7+)
9. Sorcerer’s Arena: Epic Alliances
The Op created this game as a board game version of the popular online title, Disney’s Sorcerer’s Arena. Players get to pick 3 different beloved Disney characters, hero or villain, to duke it out on a hexagon-tiled battlefield. The characters all play very differently from one another, and with 4 expansions available, the team-building itself becomes part of the fun. There is also no player elimination—taking out a character only causes them to respawn on their next turn. There are several ways to score points, and the first to 20 is the winner. It only takes minutes to learn and minutes to play, so don’t be surprised if you get in 2 or 3 games in a row. (2 or 4 players, 13+)
8. Tamashii: Chronicle of Ascend
This is Awaken Realms Lite’s newest game, so it might be difficult to find. Tamashii is a story-telling, cyberpunk-themed, co-operative board game for players who enjoy more meat to their board games. Players move around a map of face-down tiles, trying to avoid being discovered by the evil AI that has taken over. Each space a character lands on increases the chances that they will be traced and an enemy bot will begin following them around. But staying still is even worse, because it’s easier to trace someone who isn’t moving. Players activate various programs using 4 different kinds of resources, trying to move them around like a puzzle to match the program’s code. If your body gets destroyed, however, no need to fear—simply hop into one of your other cybernetic bodies and keep going. Each scenario has a different goal, and there are plenty of choices players must make, so replaying the same scenario could lead to a different outcome. And if cooperative games aren’t your thing, there is also a competitive mode. (1-4 players, 13+)
7. Sushi Boat
Japanime Games hit it out of the park with this one. Sushi Boat is a deceptively simple game about picking out the best sushi as it goes by on a conveyor belt. Each dish has a different color and a different type of sushi on it. Players move their meeple to different locations in the restaurant to select the dish they want to eat, which immediately gets put on a stack on their player board. Points are scored by having runs of the same color of dish (with only white dishes NOT breaking up the run), but also by eating a variety of different types of sushi. When a dish is taken, a new dish is added to the start of the line, pushing the other dishes along the belt. There are also different employees you can pay off to gain their special ability for a turn, which can be quite useful if you can’t quite get to the dish you need. However, you need to be paying attention to what is on the belt; there is a section of the belt that hides 2 dishes from view, and whenever a “wasabi challenge” is announced, players must guess which two colors are hidden to gain bonus points. Sushi Boat is great for the whole family, just don’t be surprised if they all demand some sushi afterwards. (2-5 players, 8+)
6. Really Loud Librarians
From the makers of Exploding Kittens comes Really Loud Librarians, a word, party game that is perfect for the logophiles among you. In the middle of the table is a race track with various letters on it, as well as a shouting librarian highlighting 3 of those letters. Players split into 2 teams and the first team draws a category card. Then, they race against the clock, shouting out words that start with one of the 3 highlighted letters and match the category (for instance, if the category is “office supplies” and an “S” is highlighted, “stapler” works). When they get a word, the librarian covers that letter and highlights the next 3 letters on the track. The goal is to get your librarian as as far around the track as possible in 60 seconds. The other team then does the same thing with a new category. Whichever team went further around the track scores a point and the first to 12 points wins. But each round, a bonus tile is added, giving an extra point to the winning team if they manage to match a word with that letter. Sounds easy? That fight, flight, or freeze response our brains get when under pressure will make you think otherwise. (2-12 players, 8+)
5. Lords of Ragnarok
Awaken Realms’ massive hit, Lords of Hellas, came out 5 years ago, and in that time, they learned a thing or two. They took these lessons and created its spiritual successor, Lords of Ragnarok, a wargame that takes place in world of high-tech Norse gods. Players select one of the heroes to lead their army, and each hero has an asymmetric ability. Throughout the game, players attempt to build monuments, level up their armies, fight over land, hunt monsters, gather artifacts, and muster more forces. When a monument is built and owned, it provides special blessings that often create unique combos with the heroes’ innate ability. Special runes also impact how you level up your armies. There are many ways to win, so keeping track of who is ahead for which win condition is essential, but if you don’t pay attention to what your opponents are doing as well, you may find yourself the victim of a sudden reversal. With stunning miniatures and endless possibilities, Lords of Ragnarok will make any serious gamer happy. (1-4 players, 14+)
This word game by Gap Closer Games is perfect for families. Illiterati is a cooperative game where players race the clock to use up as many letter tiles as they can. Every player gets a certain number of books to complete, and each book has a category, minimum number of letters, and suit requirement in order to complete it. Letter tiles can be shared, so players who are behind can get help from the others. It is a mad dash to put every tile into a word (even if it doesn’t fit any of the categories) before the timer runs out. At the end of the round, if enough tiles are left over, a tile is “burned” and the Illiterati attack. This could mean players losing letters, having to reform their letters into new words, or even losing entire words. If that isn’t bad enough, when the same member of the Illiterati attacks in a later round, every one of their previous attacks ALSO goes off. Once players satisfy all the requirements for their books, they must word together to satisfy the requirements for one final book, but all must do so in the same round. If too many tiles get burned, the players lose. Anyone who loves words will love Illiterati. (1-5 players, 7+)
Paverson Games created this euro-style board game because there were already plenty of games about making beer or wine, but not very many about making hard liquor. However, you don’t have to enjoy alcohol to enjoy Distilled. This board game does an amazing job of imitating the distilling process and making it fun at the same time. Players get a board of potential recipes they can learn and try to create the best spirit they can each round by matching the requirements of those recipes. Like in real life, it takes water, yeast, and some sort of sugar to create a spirit. Players start the round by hiring experts or buying recipes, equipment, or ingredients from the marketplace, then put the ingredients they want to use together into a small deck. After shuffling that deck, take the top card (the heads) and the bottom card (the tails) and discard them. Here is another place where the theme shines through, because the first bit of alcohol in a given batch is toxic and recycled for later use, and the last bit is weak and either recycled or discarded. What cards remain determine which learned recipe the player can make. Each player also gets an asymmetric ability and a signature recipe that only they can make—it gives a lot of points but can be difficult to achieve. Some recipes must be aged in pots or barrels, imparting bonus flavor cards and points if you can be patient enough. This game has a lot to offer and a lot of options, so it might hit the table rather often. (1-5 players, 14+)
2. Ticket to Ride: Legends of the West
Ticket to Ride has always been a staple of Days of Wonder. It has passed the test of time and then some, plus, with over 15 different versions and spinoffs, each offering a unique twist, there’s certain to be version for everyone. The latest addition to the line-up is Ticket to Ride: Legends of the West. Unlike most editions of the game, this one is a campaign-style legacy game—each time you play, you affect future games with the choices you make. Starting on the East Coast, players embark on 12 scenarios across the continental United States as a 19th century entrepreneur. Not only will you have to set up rails to meet your goals, there are obstacles and adventures along the way. Players will need to improve their skills to succeed. The box also contains content that will only be unlocked in later scenarios, including new rules. Each player takes on a unique role, so everyone gets their own experience. After the campaign is over, the game can be replayed infinitely, but remains affected by the choices made. If you are new to Ticket to Ride or an old hand, this is a game not to be missed. (2-5 players, 10+)
Scott Brady, with Smirk & Laughter Games, made a splash with boop. When I worked at the 2023 GenCon, I saw only 2 games that had lines: Disney’s Lorcana and boop. This strategy game is easy enough for kids to learn, but still a challenge for even serious gamers. The concept is simple. Players take turns putting kittens onto a quilt that has been divided into a 6×6 grid. If a kitten is placed next to another kitten, it “boops” them by moving them one space in a straight line away from the new kitten. It doesn’t matter if this is friend or foe—all kittens get moved, unless the space they would be moved to is already occupied. This can even push kittens off the quilt altogether, though they can still be used in later turns. If you can get 3 pieces in a row (AFTER booping), remove all of them from the board. Any that are kittens are removed from the game and replaced with adult cat pieces (so players always have access to 8 pieces). Cats act the same as kittens with one exception; kittens cannot boop cats. The goal of the game is to either get 3 adult cats in a row or upgrade all your kittens to cats and have them all on the board at the same time. The first player to do that, wins the game. But this isn’t such an easy thing to do, and if you aren’t careful you may win the game for your opponent! boop. also has a new edition, BOOoop., that has a Halloween theme and adds ghost cats which move in predictable lines between spaces on the board. This insanely cute game is perfect for kids (my 7-year-old had a blast with it) but everyone will get a kick out of it. (2 players, 10+)