Need a Christmas Gift? Try a GAME!

I have always loved board games, but it wasn't until my husband and his brothers and sisters introduced me to "thinky" board games that I really fell head over heels.  Now I spend my downtime beating other stay-at-home moms at online Ticket to Ride. I miss playing board games with our brothers/sisters in law and hope to get together again for game night SOON!  

I have gathered up my favorite board games, ipad games, and games & activities for the kids. I can pretty much buy a game for almost anyone on my Christmas list and they will be a happy camper.  It is just a matter of getting the RIGHT ONE.

Board Games

Ticket to Ride - Based on trains, this strategy board game is fairly simple to understand and then more complex as you begin to memorize routes and calculate out your opponents routes, cards and block their next move. While "blocking" is looked down upon by some, it is really the fun way to play.  Consider chess without trying to actually get your opponent's just isn't really fun, right?  Blocking is the name of the game in Ticket to Ride. Note that there is the original American version and then additional countries and an early American version (1910) as well.  I like Europe -- and I still have not mastered Asia.

Carcasonne Extensions - Carcasonne is a super chill game with little action and a lot of strategy. Let's just say it is the opposite of "spoons". There is the original game and a bunch of extensions, but the one I linked to above is the "big box" of 5 for $50 which is quite a good deal for all that you get.  It would make a great present for the board game lover in your family :()

Puerto Rico - We started playing this before the real Puerto Rico was even an option for us.  It is interesting that only ONE of the commodities traded in the game is produced in a significant commercial way by Puerto Rico in its current economy. (Coffee is still going pretty strong!  Tobacco, Sugar and Tobacco are not.)  Sugarcane used to be a massive industry in Puerto Rico, and with a forced minimum wage and unions that seem more powerful than they do in the states -- the sugarcane industry completely died.  There are now abandoned sugarcane plantations scattered around the island (I know to turn for Costco thanks to one crumbling smokestack!) According to the 2012 Annual Financial Report, Puerto Rico received more than $6.5 billion annually in federal aid from the United States with most going towards welfare. 6.5 BILLION. Meanwhile, the TOTAL value of country’s exports stood at $46.9 billion f.o.b. according to the 2001 figures and the value of country’s imports stood at $29.1 billion c.i.f. according to the 2001 figures. Those numbers are really sad when stacked up against each other. I didn't mean to go on a political tangent when talking about board games, but there you go. Board games can turn into political discussions when they are good ones! (PS My favorite export in Puerto Rico is of course coffee for its trade value, but only if paired with the office. A close second is sugar which has a good trade-in rate with less players gunning for it and can be partnered easily with the +2 market.)

San Juan - Yes another Puerto Rico game!  This one is similar to Puerto Rico, but played with cards instead of on a board and the strategy is slightly different. The "library" is gold in this game, so get it early, but make sure not to play a "chapel" TOO early or you will pull money out of your business too early a la Kevin O'Leary. The game overall is well-balanced and holds up to multiple strategy twists and turns.

We are also big fans of OLD old board games from the 50's, 60's and 70's.  Hunting on ebay turns up a few sometimes, but Alex had a good haul once from Craigslist that has kept us satiated for years now.  Our favorite? The SUPER nerdy Facts in Five.

For iPad -- all found in the app store

Apps can be a great stocking stuffer that gets used over and over and over again!

Ticket to Ride -- YES, again!  ...and I dare say it is MORE fun playing electronically. All the other versions (Europe, Asia, etc.) are available as well and they are worth the $5-10.

Carcasonne -- YES, YES again!  Although I prefer this one on the board, I do enjoy a peaceful game of Carcasonne on a tablet.  It is the perfect game to concentrate on during a long, long flight.  The music will put a baby to sleep (for reals...I used it for 2 years!)

Puerto Rico -- Yup, this one is available on ipad too and is MUCH much faster to play than the board game. Do you see a trend here?  Like it as a board game, LOVE it as an app.

San Juan -- Again, this game is different than Puerto Rico because it is a card game as opposed to a board game, but there are many crossover similarities.  

For the Kids:

Kids LOVE a good craft kit, especially one that is well suited to their interests (Cars!  STEM!  Construction!).  

Squirrel King hits the nail on the head with interesting, fun building kits.  From a gardening scene 
to a beachside umbrella stand to a simple car (with working axle!) my boys ate these kits right up.  

They are a perfect stocking stuffer!

Oddly Obvious -- Fun for kids, and great for working on vocabulary skills.  It was just right for our 7 and 9 year old...too much for the 5 year old.

Toca Builders - This is hands down my kids' favorite tablet game and it is great for building spacial reasoning skills.

Geometry Dash is a family favorite, as is Drive Ahead and Cut the Rope if you are looking for downloadable apps.  (Those are recommendations straight from my sons!)

Monkeys in a Barrel -- At under $3, the price cannot be beat!

Crazy Legs - As a board game, my kids were kind of "eh" on this game at first.  However, a week later, they pulled out the cards and were doing all sorts of yoga poses and exercises around the house - essentially making up their own new games. These cards with actions on them are constantly showing up around the house and the kids definitely find more to do with them than a deck of cards. If you consider the amount of workouts they have completed vs the $15 cost of the game, I would say it is like 25 cents per workout?  Not bad, eh??

Monkey's Up - This game is a math game with cute little red monkeys.  The kids again decided to make up their own games including a tower "Jenga-like" game which they loved.  

This game can challenge a 4th grade math student, but is also good for tiny hands:

 Speaking of Jenga --- BOOM.

I hope I have given you a few new ideas or sparked old gift thoughts you might have had!
Happy shopping and Merry Christmas!

Curious? Here is my wishlist for Christmas this year!

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