2020 Gift Guide

Originally published to the Daily Worker Placement on December 2nd, 2020.

Board Games make excellent gifts! Unpopular opinion, I know. Aside from the fact that they bring people together and can lighten the social tension in a room, board game boxes are also super easy to wrap or store in a gift bag. No need to find a discarded shipping box to make sure a gift’s identity is properly obscured!

Although this year’s holidays are going to be unlike any other, the number of requests we’ve received for game gift suggestions has not slowed one bit! So I’d like to offer up a small list of games to consider purchasing for your family, friends, or maybe even a secret santa target! 

All of these suggestions are through the Little Thumbs, Big Thumbs filter, meaning that they must play well with children of varying ages, but also offer some degree of fun factor for adults as well.

In Canada, many of these titles are available to purchase from Canadian board game retailer Board Game Bliss, which offers affordable (and in some circumstances, free) shipping throughout the Country. However, we strongly encourage you to seek out your local game shop. Many are struggling throughout this challenging time, and could really use your support! A good game shop will welcome special orders, and even if they don’t keep some of these games in stock, should be willing to order a copy for you!


FOR YOUNG CHILDREN


HEDGEHOG HABERDASH
Players: 2 to 4, Ages: 3+, Time: 10 minutes, Cost: $20 USD

We spend a LOT of time playing the wonderful games of HABA, but the one we’re most keen to get our hands on is Hedgehog Haberdash. Players roll dice, trying to collect leaves of a particular colour, all the while hoping the wind doesn’t blow the wrong way and steal your leaves! In true HABA fashion, it’s a simple game with absolutely beautiful components to enhance the overall experience, laid over mechanics that will keep players coming back again and again.

Our list for Santa has the footprints of these adorable fuzz-pigs all over it! For other options from HABA, check out our recent article covering a trio of games from this excellent publisher.

SAVE THE DRAGON
Players: 2 to 4, Ages: 5+, Time: 15 minutes, Cost: $20 USD

We started operating a game-centric after school club this fall, and the most popular game with our group by a wide margin is Save the Dragon from Blue Orange Games. Players are climbing a literal staircase by rolling dice, racing to the top where our buddy dragon is being held captive! However, a boulder is occasionally rolling down the steps, so positioning your heroic adventurers is important!

Save the Dragon might not offer a rich learning experience, but it makes for an excellent first gaming experience, and most importantly this game is FUN! For more information, check out our full review.


FOR OLDER CHILDREN


ZOMBIE TEENZ EVOLUTION
Ages: 8+, Time: 20 minutes, Cost: $25 USD 

It’s been nearly two years since Zombie Kidz Evolution came on the scene, which we reviewed for the Daily Worker Placement back in July of last year. The child friendly legacy aspect grabbed the attention of both myself and my oldest daughter, with evolving complexity and a brilliant sticker system for unlocking new content. All of the same exciting elements remain as the franchise grows more expansive with Zombie Teenz Evolution.

Hopefully my Big Bean doesn’t read this article, because we already have Zombie Teenz wrapped up and ready for a Santa delivery later this month. My hopes are obviously high for the sequel from Scorpion Masqué, and if Sean’s recent review is any indication, we won’t be disappointed!

GRIDOPOLIS
Players: 1 to 4, Ages: 8+, Time: 30 minutes, Cost: $40 USD

Using the classic game of checkers as a launching pad, Gridopolis is an entire game system that encourages creative exploration through game design. Inside the box are over 200 sturdy plastic components, which are used to introduce a three tiered abstract game. Using those building blocks along with a full design guide, even novice players can be on their way to crafting their very own in no time. Read our Little Thumbs, Big Thumbs review of Gridopolis here.

Of all the games on this list, Gridopolis is the one that has the most potential to hold a child’s attention for the longest stretch of time, which could be critical this holiday season!

(Note – At this time, Gridopolis is only available for purchase directly from the publisher’s website.)


FAMILY GAMES


THE KRINGLE CAPER
Players: 1+, Ages: 12+, Time: 60 minutes, Cost: $12 USD

Christmas themed games have a tendency to fall flat for us, but one game that has completely subverted those expectations is The Kringle Caper from Grand Gamers Guild. In this 18 card escape room style puzzle, players will be working together to solve a holiday mystery. The game is challenging without being overly complex, and the Christmasy cleverness had us laughing heartily throughout!

Aside from perhaps a Toblerone bar, there isn’t a better item to stuff into a stocking than The Kringle Caper. Any family that embraces Christmas traditions will fall in love with this game, with a collaborative experience that practically guarantees a strong sense of togetherness sprinkled with a bit of holiday magic!

(Note – At this time, The Kringle Caper is only available directly from the publisher’s website, with purchase options including a production copy of the game, as well as slightly less expensive a print and play version.)

CALICO
Players: 1 to 4, Time: 45 minutes, Age: 13+, Cost: $40 USD

Our overall favourite tabletop game of 2020 might very well be Calico from Flatout Games, with its positively adorable artwork and gear-grindingly difficult decision space. What makes this a potentially great game for the whole family is an optional family mode, where the complexity is reduced to allow for younger players to participate. Having the available possibility to toggle between a game that induces brain sweat and one that is a pleasant tile placement game makes Calico an absolute gem, and an ideal game to wrap up as a gift for nearly anyone!

One game that we wanted to include on this list, but hasn’t quite arrived to the North American market is the 2020 Kinderspiel des Jahres (Children’s Game of the Year) winner, Hedgehog Roll. Emanating from Russian publisher Lifestyle Boardgames, this is a game of rolling a tennis-like ball to capture velcro backed items in what ultimately winds up being a goofy race game. We can’t suggest picking it up this holiday season, but keep an eye out for it in the coming months!

The board game market is absolutely flooded with fantastic options to offer as holiday gifts this year, and sometimes, that selection can be a bit overwhelming. Hopefully our limited offering of some absolutely delightful options will inspire some gift giving decisions, and ultimately facilitate plenty of quality together time!

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