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The Board Game Gift Guide: a selection of great games for staying entertained or giving as gifts | by Thyme is Honey

Is it funny or weird that when we moved to Denmark we relocated with just 9 boxes, but one of those boxes was board games? Ha! I think our favorite thing about the dark winters here in Scandinavia is the slow, plan-free evenings, and although we are pretty avid board-game fanatics year-round, we really take things up a notch when winter settles in, with weekly game nights always on the schedule. Needless to say, that box full of board games has been well worth it.

I often get asked about what games we are playing or which ones are our favorites, so I decided to round ’em up. See below for a list of our favorite games + puzzles:

  1. Dominion ($33.44) – This is the game you’ll most frequently see us playing. We keep all the cards in a small bag and they go with us everywhere. I think we counted recently that our Dominion Set has been on four continents and in probably at least 22 countries. I’ll never forget all the rounds of Dominion we played during the month we spent traveling through Thailand (the cards were often stuck together from the humidity). We play a round or two every week, and to be honest it’s not unusual that we spend our entire Saturday playing.  Did you know we were this cool or not? Also, if you’re ever bored just ask my husband about the time I had a 12-month winning streak (I’m still the overall champion at our house. #HumbleBrag).
  2. Hive ($35.00) – This game is reminiscent of Chess, but faster-paced (and in my opinion, more fun). It’s a 2-person strategy game with a bug theme. The tile pieces make it friendly for the outdoors (no cards to blow away) and the entire thing packs up into a small pouch making it great for travel. There are also no pieces that need to be touched by anyone but you, making it pretty COVID-19 friendly. The link will take you to the basic set, which can be as simple or difficult as you want it to be. As you get better at the game you can add expansion sets that add additional bugs with different movement methods, such as the ladybug or mosquito, that add more complexity to the game. The set you’ll see us playing with is a special edition “carbon” version that is black and white, but that is the only difference.
  3. Best Self Co. Question Boxes ($24.99) – When Josh and I were first dating he’d frequently initiate a round of what he called “The Question Game”. After 8 years of marriage (and many rounds of The Question Game) I thought we had run out of questions, but then we discovered Question Boxes from the Best Self Co. These cute little boxes are filled with questions based on a variety of topics and themes. I’ll grab a couple and throw them in my purse when we are headed out, or stick some in a suitcase before a trip. It’s not really a game, just a box full of conversation starters, but is a great way to stay entertained. We really like The Edison Deck and highly recommend it for your entrepreneurial or deep-thinking friends,  but the Intimacy Deck is also a great one for couples (the questions are a bit more personal, and many are based around Gary Chapman’s 5 Love Languages, which is one of the Ten Books that Changed my Life). They’ve also got a set called Little Talk which is filled with conversation starters for kids.
  4. Carcassonne – This is a tile-based German-style board game for 2 to 5 players. It’s named after the medieval fortified town in southern France. You build cities, all features are worth points, and the player with the most points wins the game.
  5. Odin’s Ravens – This is a racing game for 2 players based on the nordic father of God’s, Odin, who sends his two ravens out to explore the world every morning. Whoever collects 12 points first wins the game.
  6. Wingspan – Wingspan is a card-driven engine-building game in which players compete to attract birds to their wildlife reserves. We have played this one non-stop since we got it! It was created and illustrated by an all-woman team, and the artwork is gorgeous! There’s also an app that allows you to point your camera at the cards and hear each birdsong.
  7. The Hygge Game ($17.01) – We grabbed this game a couple weeks ago when we were visiting Gothenburg, Sweden, and have already had so much fun with it. Similar to the Question Boxes, the game is just a stack of question cards, but the questions in the Hygge Game are designed to spark cozy conversation (what hygge is all about). I’d say this is very easy-going and family-friendly (versus the Question Boxes which are a bit more pointed, depending on which version you get). We played this one with our neighbors the other weekend and loved the conversations it lead to.
  8. Swish ($12.49) – This is a great game for all ages, it helps young kids with logic and spatial reasoning, and helps older folks keep their brains sharp (would be a great game for a grandkid to play with a grandparent). When our neighbor suffered a brain injury last summer I introduced him to Swish to help with his rehabilitation. We love that it is super compact — you’ll often find our set in my purse in case we have a moment to play. The game is quick and can get pretty intense for those who are competitive.
  9. Farkel ($9.99) – If you like simple games that anyone can play, Farkel is a crowdpleaser. All it requires are dice and paper for keeping score, so you might be able to play simply by rounding up six dice and googling the rules. We’ve also found it to be a great game when language is a barrier since the rules are pretty simple and straightforward. It’s also another easy one to take on trips. We have this  Travel Farkel ($6.00) set that is super compact. We had just gotten into Farkel the first time we visited Denmark together, so now we often find ourselves walking into a bar or coffee shop and recalling the table where we sat and played Farkel while merely dreaming of living in Copenhagen.
  10. Settlers of Catan ($24.99) – I’m sure you’ve heard people talk about Catan or seen the iconic board (pictured above). We have an annual tradition of meeting up with my cousin, Trent, for 72 hours of non-stop board games…Catan is usually a favorite among the 3 of us and I’m already looking forward to this year’s event! It’s for 3-4 players, although one of the various expansion packs allows you to play with bigger groups. Games can be long — usually taking at least an hour (1.5-2 hours is not unusual for us), and the modular board assures that no two rounds are ever the same.
  11. Forbidden Island ($14.00) – This is a cooperative game, which means you are all on the same team playing against the game. This is a great game if you have a friend or family member who is really competitive and hates to lose (lookin’ at you, Steve). It’s also a great game if you want to get into more complex cooperative board games (Like #8 and #9, below) because this teaches you the basic procedure and strategy in a simpler format that is a bit faster-paced.
  12. Harry Potter Hogwarts Battle ($39.95) – Did they read all the books? Watch all the movies? Then they’re going to very much enjoy playing Harry Potter Hogwarts Battle. This is a pretty complex, time-intensive game that has 7 levels. You have to beat each level before you can move on to the next one, so winning this game is a marathon, not a sprint. The artwork is beautiful and as I said, HP fans will be geeked out to the max.
  13. Pandemic – This is another game that you’ve likely heard of or seen. It’s a cooperative game (all of you vs. the game) so it’s a fun one to play in groups and since you are all on the same team it can be a good game when you’re playing with people of varying ages or skill levels. I really like the format of the game and the concept, but I do wish it was slightly faster-paced. Since you are all playing on the same team each turn can turn into a long strategy session where everyone is sharing an opinion. Great for improving your communication skills….but can be a bit time-consuming.
  14. Rainbow Palette Puzzle ($16.99) – Can a puzzle be on this list? Sure it can. Our friend Becca got us into puzzles a few years ago. Honestly I thought we were too impatient for it (anyone else have a husband who never sits still?) but instead, we found absolute contentment in an activity that occupies both your brain and your hands but doesn’t necessarily require that you talk. Sometimes that’s nice, you know? Like when you want to spend an entire weekend hunched over a puzzle while binge-listening to an entire podcast series (guilty!). We’ve done a lot of great puzzles but this one stands out in my memory as being particularly fun to put together — maybe it’s because we packed 10 of our favorite humans into an Airbnb, made everyone help with the 1000 pc puzzle, and when we were done with this magnificent rainbow masterpiece our friend, Scottie, came out as transgender. One of the very best days ever. 
  15. Martin Schwartz Puzzles – $40.00 We really enjoy doing puzzles and have fallen in love with this series by Martin Schwartz. He has a series of beautiful prints featuring iconic cities and has turned them into puzzles, too! The quality of these puzzles is really outstanding and they come with a matching print to help as you put it together. They are bold and have incredible attention to detail, which means you don’t get bored while putting together a 1,000 piece puzzle because there’s just so much to look at. We’ve started purchasing them for cities we been to together, which also makes it kind of a fun keepsake.  This a Danish artist but his website offers worldwide shipping. Just sharing because we love them so much and I know other puzzle enthusiasts will, too!

Writing this blog post has made me realize how much I enjoy games (honestly just writing about them made me giddy to play this weekend), but also how many great traditions and memories I connect to them. If you have a favorite game that you recommend I’d love to hear about it in the comments section, below. Cheers!

The Board Game Gift Guide: a selection of great games for staying entertained or giving as gifts | by Thyme is Honey

My Favorite Boardgames + Puzzles

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  1. Lia says:

    I love games SO MUCH! This is a great list, and I will definitely check these out because I haven’t played a lot of these! We love to play Bananagrams – it’s super fun once you get going and it’s easy to involve people as you go. We also love playing Sushi Go!

  2. Mindy says:

    I’d like to recommend the game Splendor, a strategic tile and chip game. It’s for 2-4 players. Interestingly, a 2-player game (my fave) plays much different than a 4-player game. There are multiple strategies and it’s a fun way to spend if you have 30 minutes to spare. If you put 2 games together, you can play with 8.

  3. […] Why I love it: We purchased Hive at the beginning of the pandemic and have been playing it nonstop ever since. You’ve likely seen it in photos or in my Instagram Story because we are constantly playing it. It’s similar to chess as far as the strategy, but a bit simpler and faster-paced. It has expansion pieces you can add to make it more complex once you get the hang of it. You can click here for a post of all our favorite board games. […]

  4. […] Why I love it: We purchased Hive at the beginning of the pandemic and have been playing it nonstop ever since. You’ve likely seen it in photos or in my Instagram Story because we are constantly playing it. It’s similar to chess as far as the strategy, but a bit simpler and faster-paced. It has expansion pieces you can add to make it more complex once you get the hang of it. I love that it all fits inside this little pouch for easy travel, and it’s super COVID-friendly because the tile pieces can easily be washed. You can click here for a post of all our favorite board games. […]

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