The holiday season is finally upon us, and if you are gathering a few people around the table to talk and catch up, why not break out a board game to make the event even better!. One of the easiest ways to instantly spice up your holidays is getting out one of your favorite board games to play, and while 2021 has experienced all kinds of delays across the games industry, there were still some amazing games that released this year in tabletop, and we’re to break down which ones might be perfect for you and the best place to get them. You can start checking out our suggestions on the next slide!
As for the games featured here, there’s a little bit of something for everyone, as games are broken into several categories. We’ve got Card Games, Party Games, Experienced Gamers, New Player Friendly, Licensed Games, and Our Favorites, which could be like a hundred games in itself but I’m limiting myself to just a few.
Before we get started, if you prefer to keep your weekly gaming sessions virtual still, totally understand. If you are throwing down in a roleplaying game, Roll20 has several options and features that will make your next D&D, Dune, or Call of Cthulhu session that much better. There’s a 5e Essentials Set that has everything you need to get a game up and running, and you can even find a Christmas-themed adventure for it.
You can also start up a Dune: Adventures in the Imperium game, and if you are looking for some horror, the Call of Cthulhu Starter Set has all the things you need to start scaring you and your fellow players.
Alright, without further ado, let’s get to the categories, and as always you can talk all things tabletop with me on Twitter @MattAguilarCB!
(Photo: Ultra PRO/Renegade Game Studios)
The original Ascension and its expansions have continued to introduce new layers to its already rich deck-building game, but if you’re new to the franchise, Ascension: Eternal might be the best way to jump on board. Eternal is a streamlined 2 player version of the game that is a great introduction to the game’s addictive mechanics, especially since it’s affordably priced (typically only 20 dollars) and most games take around 20 minutes to play. The core gameplay loop is simple to grasp but offers plenty of depth for those who get comfortable with the mechanics, so if you are looking for a mix of simplicity and depth, Eternal is a stellar choice.
Ascension: Eternal is available on Amazon.
Renegade Game Studios’ Power Rangers: Zeo, Transformers, and G.I. Joe Deck-Building Games
Renegade Game Studios might have just mastered the art of bringing some of pop culture’s biggest franchises into the deck-building genre, and you’ve got some amazing choices at the moment. Renegade already delivered the original Power Rangers Deck-Building Game, but now they’ve released a standalone expansion themed around Zeo, titled Zeo: Stronger Than Before.
Then we have the Transformers Deck-Building Game, which integrates the franchise’s transforming mechanic, allowing you to switch between different modes as your take on the Decepticons. Then you’ve got the G.I. Joe Deck-Building Game, which has you leading a team of Joes, complete with fan fave heroes and some of the show’s iconic vehicles, in an attempt to stop Cobra.
Power Rangers Zeo: Stronger Than Before is available on Amazon.
Transformers Deck-Building Game is available on Amazon.
G.I. Joe Deck-Building Game is available on Amazon.
(Photo: Exploding Kittens/Big Potato Games)
Funko Pop! Something Wild!
Sometimes you want a game that you can get up and running quickly that also captures just about any fan’s attention, and if that describes what you’re looking for, Funko’s Something Wild might just be the game for you. Something Wild! is an easy to pick up and play card game that has players needing to score Power Cards, and you do that by matching sets and using various Character Cards (which give you a cute little Pop! figure to use as well) and abilities. The franchise includes sets themed after Aladdin (Genie), Toy Story (Woody), Disney (Mickey), Star Wars (Grogu), and more, and you can combine the sets as well for an even richer experience. Each set is also quite affordable, so it might be worth giving it a go next time the opportunity presents itself.
Funko Pop! Something Wild! sets are available on Amazon.
If you want a perfect get-together game with a little choose your own adventure mixed in, What Next? is a great choice. Players of all ages will enjoy the discussions that come with choosing their own path and then taking on over 60 different challenging mini-games that will have you building, throwing cards, role-playing, and puck-flicking just to name a few. When you fail a challenge, you’ll stack a peril piece on the Tower of Peril, and if it falls, it’s game over for everyone! It’s one of the only games where you can meet a massive Koala and angry robots in the same place, so make sure to give this one a try.
What Next? is available on Amazon.
What’s better than playing a game of the already hilarious Exploding Kittens? Well, it turns out playing a game of Exploding Minions! Exploding Minions captures the same delightful gameplay as its predecessor, but features new cards, artwork, and a new mechanic. That new mechanic is the ability to Clone Cards, which when played on top of another card will take on the rules of the last card, essentially becoming that card. Plus, Minions are awesome, and their delightful ridiculousness is perfect for this already fun game.
Exploding Minions is available on Amazon.
Throw Throw Avacado
Speaking of Exploding Kittens, the designers of that hit game have crafted another perfect party game titled Throw Throw Avocado, a sequel to Throw Throw Burrito. The game combines card game mechanics with actually throwing the adorable plush Avocados at each other in a hilarious duel. It’s incredibly simple to learn and is a perfect game for all ages, so don’t forget to bring this along to your next party.
Throw Throw Avocado is available on Amazon.
(Photo: Fantasy Flight/Plaid Hat Games)
Sea of Legends
Who doesn’t love a good pirate adventure? You’re correct, everyone does, and Guildhall Studios has a perfect one for any gaming group with Sea of Legends. In Sea of Legends, players will take control of Captains and set sail to explore the Caribbean while attempting to amass the most notoriety, which will win them the game. To do that you’ll battle other Captains, explore ports and new locations, attack forts, gain wealth, and ally with or face off against various factions. If you can survive all that and gain enough notoriety, you will be a sea legend, but if the factions win, everyone loses. There’s a lot to love here, so you should no doubt give it a look.
Sea of Legends is available here.
Summoner Wars Second Edition
The original Summoner Wars is a favorite of many tabletop players, but it’s been several years since that game hit stores. That’s why Plaid Hat Games decided to give the game a new lease on life with Summoner Wars Second Edition, which retains the original’s premise and theme but gives the artwork a major refresh and reveals a redesign of the card layout to improve gameplay. The game has you taking control of a powerful summoner, who leads a unique army faction full of different units. You’ll need to guide your forces in battle towards taking out the enemy summoner while also defending yours, and the best part is that the already addictive gameplay can be played online. The game was already great, but now it’s even better and more accessible than ever.
Summoner Wars Second Edition is available here.
The high seas can be a dangerous place, and that is no more apparent than in Final Fantasy Games’ Unfathomable. Unfathomable has players working together to help the steamship Atlantica make it to its destination, but it’s not just the ebb and flow of the sea that they have to worry about. They also have to fight back the Deep Ones, lethal creatures that are led by two massive monarchs named Father Dagon and Mother Hydra. You’ll need to fight the Deep Ones, keep the ship moving, and retain your sanity while also working against a traitor in the group, and the game’s production values are impressive, so if you’ve got a group of friends who want a challenge, this is an easy recommendation.
Unfathomable is available on Amazon.
World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King – A Pandemic System Game
Z-Man’s Pandemic games continue to be some of tabletop’s most popular, and it doesn’t get much bigger than World of Warcraft. Now the two brands are meeting in World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King – A Pandemic System Game, offering the tried and true gameplay of Z-Man’s popular title but adding in new wrinkles and mechanics to feel as if it’s truly a part of the Warcraft world.
World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King – A Pandemic System Game is available from Blizzard.
Descent: Legends of The Dark
Fantasy Flight Games was pretty busy this year, and one of their most impressive games yet is the stunning Descent: Legends of The Dark. Legends of The Dark combines an immersive story, charming characters, and an innovative app with gorgeous physical terrain and miniatures to create a one-of-a-kind experience. It will look stunning on your table, and the choices it introduces along the way adds depth to the narrative, and that’s on top of the thrilling and tactical combat. It will eat up some space on the table, but you’ll be so taken by it you won’t care.
Descent: Legends of The Dark is available on Amazon.
The Holiday Scares
Zombicide 2nd Edition
Few forays into the Zombie Apocalypse are as fun and yet tactical as the Zombicide series, and the game recently got an upgrade in Zombicide 2nd Edition. The new edition of the game streamlines the rules and gameplay for an even better experience, and then adds new survivors, new skills, and updated components that only pull you into this frightening world even further. You’ll need to work as a team to survive but rest assured you will have a grand time while doing it.
Zombicide 2nd Edition is available on Amazon.
If you want an experience that can drift from cooperative to individual survival, Ultra PRO’s Deranged might be right up your alley. In Deranged players are attempting to survive several nights in a cursed town, and they will need to work together to survive during the daytime. At night things are a bit different though, as your sanity will slowly wane and you’ll need to fight your own inner demons. If you give into them, you might still make it out, though you just might be the only one that does. Players looking for a game with some choice baked into the experienced should give Deranged a try.
Deranged is available on Amazon.
Funko Disney The Haunted Mansion – Call of The Spirits Board Game
Funko brings Disney’s popular Haunted Mansion to the tabletop with The Haunted Mansion – Call of the Spirits Game, which tasks players with collecting matching sets of ghost cards as they explore the grounds. Along your journey, you’ll encounter spirits in well-known locations and you’ll need to be on the lookout for Hitchhiking Ghosts to make sure you survive long enough to complete your goal. If you want a game that embraces its theme and features the vibrant colors of Disney, you’ve found your match.
Funko Disney The Haunted Mansion – Call of The Spirits Board Game is available on Amazon.
Some games are perfect for your table regardless of how many years have passed or what time of year it happens to be, and one of those games is certainly Mysterium. Players work together to investigate an old murder case that has resulted in the haunting of Warwick Manor by the victim’s ghost, and you’ll collect clues by exploring the world, interviewing suspects, and even consulting psychics to get to the bottom of it. If the core game is not enough for you, there are plenty of expansions, so if you’ve been looking to get swept away in a creepy and engrossing tale, Mysterium will definitely be your jam.
Mysterium is available on Amazon.
New Player Friendly
Marvel Battleworld Series 2: Treachery at Twilight
Those who played Marvel Battleworld discovered a lighthearted and approachable gam that was surprisingly strategic as well, and now Funko’s Marvel Battleworld Series 2: Treachery at Twilight looks to upgrade the experience in every way. Series 2 features over 30 new characters to collect (as well as rare variants) and also includes a new Loki Battle Cards mechanic and new team-based and solo modes. You can teach this game in minutes, the character designs are beyond adorable, and you can purchase just one Battle Ball to start playing, though you can also snag a Mega Pack with an exclusive Captain Marvel 2099 figure. Super collectible with an economic path of entry is a pretty great combo.
Smash Up: Marvel
Smash Up is a perfect party-style game for just about any group, with quick-paced gameplay that is a breeze to teach to new players, and if anyone at your party is a Marvel fan, they are going to get a kick out of Smash Up: Marvel. The game features eight factions pulled from the Marvel Universe, including the Avengers, Masters of Evil, Kree, Spider-Verse, and more, and as you discover how each faction works you’ll be more open to experimenting with different combinations, though even if you play the same duo every time, you’ll still have a ball.
Smash Up: Marvel is available on Amazon.
Quests of Yore: Barley’s Edition
Disney’s Onward introduced fans to Barley’s favorite game, Quests of Yore, a Dungeons & Dragons’ themed RPG. Now The Op is giving fans a chance to play the game that influenced Pixar’s delightful adventure in real life, and it’s called Quests of Yore: Barley’s Edition. The game brings some of that Pixar magic into a streamlined roleplaying experience that is perfect for those new to the genre, but fans of RPGs can still get immersed in this epic world full of battles, adventure, and memorable moments.
Quests of Yore: Barley’s Edition is available on Amazon.
Ticket to Ride Europe Board Game 15th Anniversary Deluxe Edition
Ticket to Ride is one of the foundations of tabletop gaming for a reason, and for the game’s 15th anniversary Days of Wonder has crafted an impressive collector’s edition with all the upgrades. An oversized board features stunning artwork and equally impressive trains and stations with fine details, and they come in fancy tin boxes. The classic gameplay is unchanged, so if you’ve been wanting to up your Ticket to Ride experience without sacrificing gameplay, this is the perfect option for you.
Ticket to Ride Europe Board Game 15th Anniversary Deluxe Edition is available on Amazon.
(Photo: Ravensburger/CMON/Spin Master Games)
Funko is expanding the Funkoverse franchise with some of the most requested heroes, as Funkoverse Marvel brings four Avengers Funko Pops made exclusive for the game and two new modes for players to enjoy. You can explore the S.H.I.E.L.D. Helicarrier and Shuri’s laboratory on Wakanda as well, and as like other sets you can also mix and match the characters, locations, and abilities with other sets in the line, including Golden Girls, DC, Harry Potter, and more. Plus, you can pick up the standalone Thanos expansion to add the Mad Titan to the mix, making this a great choice for any Marvel fan.
The Star Trek Tridimensional Chess Set
Few games are as well known as Chess, and most everyone understands the basic premise. That was turned on its head though during the original Star Trek series, which showed off a Tridimensional Chess set being played by Captain Kirk and Spock. Now The Noble Collection has brought the Tridimensional Chess set into the modern age, and it is stunning. Featuring an authorized recreation of the classic scene from the series, you’ll find three static boards and four movable Attack Boards that shake up the gameplay and you’ll also get 32 die-cast pieces. If you’re a Trek fan and are looking for a unique spin on a classic and a slick Trek collectible all in one, this is a brilliant choice.
Star Trek Tridimensional Chess Set is available on Amazon.
CMON and Spin Master Games took on the Marvel universe with the excellent Marvel United, and now they’re back with everyone’s favorite mutants in X-Men United. X-Men United brings back the innovative teamwork system from the first game, but also adds a few new wrinkles, including the ability for a fifth player to control the villain and new Anti-Hero cards that let certain characters bounce between hero and villain roles. Throw in some sweet miniatures and this is an X-Men fan’s dream, so don’t miss out on all the fun.
X-Men United is available on Amazon.
Gargoyles has made a big comeback thanks to new fans being introduced to the show on Disney+ and NECA creating some amazing figures. Now Ravensburger is bringing Goliath, Lexington, Elisa, and more to the table in a new board game, and if you’re not stunned by the gorgeous components and visuals of the landscape, fans of the classic cartoon should definitely sway you. The game is a cooperative game that has players picking their favorite characters to take on Xanatos and Demona in four unique “episode” style scenarios, and one of them even has one player playing as Xanatos against the heroes. Fans of the original series will want to give Gargoyles Awakening some space on the shelf this holiday season for sure, and we can’t blame you in the least.
Gargoyles Awakening is available at Target.
A Few Favorites
(Photo: Fantasy Flight/Square Enix)
Final Fantasy Trading Card Game
The Final Fantasy Trading Card Game has managed to release two new sets during a very bumpy year, and the newest set is Opus 15 Crystal Dominion. The game features many of the characters from Final Fantasy 15 but it also introduces a new power that allows certain characters to utilize Crystals as opposed to Crystal Points. You can also jump into Opus XIV Crystal Abyss, which introduces Multi-Element Forwards to the game, and you can find Booster Sets of both still in stores.
Crystal Dominion is available on Amazon.
Crystal Abyss is available on Amazon.
Star Wars: Legion
It’s no secret that I’m a fan of Star Wars Legion, and the game continues to be one of the best Star Wars experiences around. The game accommodates two different eras and features multiple factions to take control of, and Atomic Mass Games continues to release new units, accessories, and vehicles to add to the fray. There’s even more on the way as well with Mandalorian sets coming next year and beyond, so the future looks quite bright.
Star Wars: Legion’s Core Set is available on Amazon.
Fantasy Flight Games’ Marvel Champions continues to introduce new Heroes to play and Villains to fight, and this year has been no different. If you’ve got the core set, there are now multiple expansions to choose from, including the most recent one The Mad Titan’s Shadow. New Hero Packs include Venom, Nebula, and this month’s release The Hood, each offering new gameplay styles to an already deep experience. Marvel Champions is one of the best Marvel games out there, and if you want to dive in there is no better time.
Marvel Champions Core Set is available on Amazon.
Marvel Champions The Mad Titan’s Shadow is available on Amazon.
Hero Packs are available on Amazon.