Tabletop gaming is more popular than ever, so give the gift of happiness this year with our top choices.
James BricknellSenior Editor
James has been writing about technology for years but has loved it since the early 90s. While his main areas of expertise are maker tools -- 3D printers, vinyl cutters, paper printers, and laser cutters -- he also loves to play board games and tabletop RPGs.
Expertise3D printers, maker tools such as Cricut style vinyl cutters and laser cutters, traditional paper printersCredentials
6 years working professionally in the 3D printing space / 4 years testing consumer electronics for large websites.
There was a time not too long ago when the concept of gifting someone a board game may have ended with a forced, yet polite, "Huh. Thanks." That was then, though. Board games have gone through a cultural evolution over the years and can now bring hours of fun to pretty much anybody. This gaming revolution has spawned easy options, like these two-player games, more competitive and challenging items, like strategy board games, and we're just scratching the surface. I went ahead and sifted through every one of our best gaming lists to compile a collection of the best board games, strategy games, card games and any other sort of genre you can think of. Below, you can find a roundup of our staff favorites that just might become your giftee's favorite, soon enough.
For decades, I've enjoyed playing tabletop games and receiving them as gifts is an absolute joy. Further, I've grown fond of 3D printing my own custom accessories to enhance games, from improved monster miniatures to token holders. If you want to get into that whole universe, get started here.
Villainous is a fun game where you take control of the villains from a plethora of different movies. Disney, Marvel and Star Wars have their own branded versions of the game, and each is a little different. The main aim of the games is to be the biggest villain and defeat the others by controlling or exploring scenes or sectors.
Villainous has a lot of main games and expansions, but unlike most game expansions these can mostly be played as smaller, standalone versions or merged into the larger games for more variety.
Don't let the lack of cards in the image fool you (I just really liked the image I took): Star Wars Rivals is a card game, but made by collectible figure-maker Funko. To win you have to capture iconic Star Wars locations by having more influence on that location than your opponent. Character cards and action cards let you change the amount of influence and the turn-based style means you can never quite anticipate what your opponent might do. Each round is played pretty quickly, but it's a lot of fun to play multiple rounds.
The fun hook for Star Wars Rivals is the collectible aspect. You can purchase light- or dark-side booster packs, which each have a new figure, two new locations and three action cards, adding a huge amount of variety to the game for just a few dollars more. This means you can buy the starter pack as a gift and then booster packs as small gifts forevermore.
I keep this on the list with every update because it's easily my favorite "modern" board game, with tons of floor tiles you can use to create a haunted mansion, plus dozens of plastic miniatures for investigators and monsters -- the vibe is classic H.P. Lovecraft. This board game requires you to use its companion app, which creates the layout, spawns monsters and even adds sound effects.
Munchkin has been around for a long time now, but it's still a mainstay of our game nights. Imagine playing a game of D&D where everyone only cares about maxing out their characters and you will have some idea of how to play. The goal is to level up to level 10 by defeating monsters and collecting loot. You do this by using your loot to make your character as powerful as possible, or by asking others to help. They won't always help, but that's part of the fun.
Because Munchkin is such a beloved game, there's a huge number of add-ons that take the game from a 30-45 minute game all the way up to several hours of monster-killing fun, and all of it is played only with cards. It's truly a great time had by all.
The original and more expensive trailblazer Gloomhaven is a modern classic. But Jaws of the Lion is a streamlined version for more mainstream audiences at a fraction of the price, and was easily my favorite new game of 2021. The cleverest part is that all the map tiles are replaced by a spiral-bound book of premade maps. The $25 price doesn't hurt, either.
Finding fun games for smaller kids is tough. The Floor is Lava! incorporates aspects of the classic Twister game with a lot of jumping around your living room. The soft foam tiles can be spread over a large area and have the added complication of challenges as you play. If you're the last person to get to the right color, your tile is removed until no tiles are left. It's a great game and a budget-friendly option as a gift, too.
It's time to get the Fellowship back together. Another board game with a tech twist, it starts with tons of cards, map tiles and miniatures, but it also uses a free iOS, Android and PC app, which adds extra narrative content, and tells you how to lay out the map and which monsters to fight.