December is upon us folks, so if you haven’t already done so, get those shopping lists ready. To help, we’ve got some staff picks below, which is just a sampling of our favorites. And, since most of our picks fall into the adult strategy category, we’ve included a selection of top picks for kids and family games based on personal experience, play time in the game room, and customer feedback. Settle in, the list is a bit big, so many good ones to choose from. Happy December everyone.
Escape from the Temple Curse: A real-time dice-rolling cooperative game. With everyone simultaneously rolling dice and hollering for help, this should be a silly stupid game. It is a completely refreshing experience though. If it grabs you, you’ll have a very hard time playing just one round, and as soon as you win, you’ll want to make it harder. This was voted one of the best games shown at the Spiel board game convention by the boardgamegeek community, the same community that votes a 6-hour 2-player game as best game of all time. Those crazy geeks.
7 Wonders the Leaders and Cities expansions: 7 Wonders was a marvellously novel experience when it hit tables in 2010. This city building card game that plays in about an hour incorporates a drafting mechanic whereby players choose a card from their hand to play, then pass the remainder of their hand to their neighbor. Brilliant and satisfying out of the box, but add the expansions and the re-playability and depth expand well over 7-fold.
Alien Frontiers with the Factions expansion: Dice game with a retro space theme, sounds like a luck-fest huh? Not quite. You’ll get to puzzle out how best to use your dice rolls to collect resources, expand your space fleet, and ultimately construct colonies to send to the central planet. It’s quite satisfying to find just the right solution, and frustrating to watch as your opponents block all your best moves. Add the expansion to this one and you’ll have a more complex and unique experience every play.
Mage Knight: I am the only staff member to vote for this one, so I’ll be brief: best game ever. Ok, maybe a little more info. Imagine playing a board game version of a fantasy roleplaying game, but instead of hacking your way through horrible AI monsters, you get to burn your brain finding just the right combination of cards to explore, fight, and gather valuable treasure, allies, and skills. This game can feel a bit like running a marathon with your mind, so fuel up first.
Game of Thrones Board Game: Of all the deep intricate games in the shop, this one has seen more play than any. Choose your family and get ready to constantly scuffle about who to trust while you are secretly scheming to ensure your own personal victory. Lots going on with this game, and at each step the plans of your opponents will nag at you. Oh, and don’t forget that Winter is coming, along with the wildlings. Though this is a long one, it is the best way to experience George R.R. Martin’s rich world without donning armor.
King of Tokyo with Power Up expansion: No Cloud Cap staff pick list is complete without this wacky game. Imagine playing Yahztee as a Japanese movie monster and trying to become king of the hill and you have some idea of how a game of King of Tokyo rolls. Lots of luck in this one, that said, a single person won every game he played in our recent tournament. While the base game let’s you spend energy cubes to alter your monster’s capabilities, the Power Up expansion adds even more customization options.
Dixit: A creative apples-to-apples style party game with unique style.
Forbidden Island: Grab treasures as a team and get off the island before it sinks.
Ticket to Ride: Perhaps the epitome of modern family games. Use your sets of colored cards to claim train routes across the map while trying to block your opponents from doing the same.
Timeline: New this year and a huge hit. Each of your cards has a historical event and your goal is to get rid of them by placing them in proper chronological order. Simple but very engaging, and now in 4 flavors.
Chef Cuckoo (Ages 7+): Can you make the worst omelette or best sandwich with your hand of cards? The judge has the final say.
Eleminis (Ages 7+): Collect one of each of the five cute elements, or block your opponents, your choice. Simple but challenging for the kids, and they’ll keep asking for more.
Spot It (Ages 7+) and Spot It Jrv (Ages 5+): Completely child and parent approved. This fast object recognition games keeps all ages engaged.
Catan Junior (Ages 6+): Finally a great Settlers of Catan for the young ones, and with a great pirate theme.
Race for the Treasure (Ages 5+) and Mermaid Island (Ages 5+): 2 great cooperative games with great themes and just enough decision making to challenge budding gamers.
Hisss (Ages 4+): Make some snakes by matching colored sections. Nothing too complicated here, but effective for its target age.
Chicken Cha Cha Cha (Ages 4+): How’s your memory? Better be great or you’ll have your feathers nabbed.
Feed the Woozle (Ages 3+): It will take some serious dexterity to satisfy the Woozle’s hunger.
Go Away Monster (Ages 3+): Pesky monsters make it hard to clean your room, just toss them away!