We’re proud to present our first annual Unfiltered Gamer Christmas Guide.
We believe board games are the perfect gift for anyone on your gift list! With styles, themes and weights covering almost every facet of life, hobby and interest we know the right game is out there. This year we’re happy to present our 3-part Christmas Guide featuring 6 different board gaming categories to help you find the right game for you! While there isn’t one game right for everyone, every game featured in our Christmas Guide comes highly recommend. We’ve played hundreds of games over the past couple years and these are some of our favorite to cross our gaming table.
Kids Games and Cards
Expansions and Roll & Writes
Family and Strategy Games
King of Tokyo: Dark Edition
2-6 Players | 30 Minutes
The classic game of monsters and mayhem gets an upgrade and an edgy, dark new look in the limited edition King of Tokyo: Dark Edition. Roll dice to do damage to other monsters as you battle around Tokyo. Purchase power cards to give you a variety of offensive and defensive advantages. Score valuable upgrades on the all new Wicked Track.
My kids love King of Tokyo. It’s easy to learn and play and it looks AMAZING. The theme and production really elevate this version of the game. Each of the 66 power cards feature unique, silly-sci-fi artwork. The board and individual monster boards all look and feel fantastic. Being able to play up to 6 players is another benefit. This might seem more niche, but it’s a great choice for family game night.
1-5 Players | 40-70 Minutes
Hike your way across America’s great National Parks in this relaxing game. Players will compete for position along the hiking trail over 4 seasons, gathering resources to earn US National Park cards. Players have the choice to slowly travel along the path or race ahead to gain additional bonuses. The trail can get crowded so choose your movements carefully.
Parks is a fantastic production featuring art from Fifty-Nine Parks featuring iconic, artistic images from 48 scenic locations. The wooden resources also feature a number of unique animals used as wild tokens during the game. Game play can be a little cut-throat at larger player counts, but overall, it’s a casual trek that creates a fun, relaxing evening of board gaming.
25th Century Games Games
2-5 Players | 20-45 Minutes
Jurassic Parts puts you in the shoes of a paleontologist competing to unearth dinosaurs bones in this set-collection game. Strategically use your sharp chisels to break off chunks of a giant slab filled with bones from multiple dinosaurs. Work to gather all the pieces of your dinosaurs while also benefiting from plant fossils and chunks of amber that can be traded and earn additional bones.
While this is a fun, Dino-themed family game, I was surprised at how much strategy went into choosing where to chisel and what pieces to go after. Players can butt in on another dig so working hard to dominate your area is critical. Players earn more points for larger animals, but they take longer to collect so carefully programming your approach is key to winning. Jurassic Parts is a good time and another great production from 25th Century Games.
Blue Orange Games
2-4 Players | 45 Minutes
Carefully construct an amusement park full of wild rides, shops and eateries while earning points as you gather meeples in Meeple Land from Blue Orange Games. Players take turns purchasing park tiles of different sizes from a community pot. Once finished, it’s time to gather the meeples! The first player to finish drawing tiles gets their first pick from the meeple buses lined up ready to deliver a group of paying meeples to your park. Gather the right amount and color combinations to earn your park the most money.
Meeple Land is more of an abstract puzzle game. Integrating the right combination of tiles is essential. Many rides will give bonuses when attached to restrooms and shops. Lose points if the pathway along your tiles don’t match up. Collect different rides to earn more points at the end of the game. A little more of a challenge than the cover of the game seems to let on, but an overall fun experience.
Blue Orange Games
2-4 Players | 30-60 Minutes
Cloud City comes from the designer of Sushi Go, Silver and Gold and Barenpark. Play as an architect competing to create the greatest city that rises up into the clouds. Earn points for successfully connecting same sized buildings with walkways. The longer the walkway, the more points earned.
Much like the designer’s other games, Cloud City is a simple process with a very satisfying strategic component. Creating your 3-D city plan is tons of fun. I found myself getting lost in the design process and completely forgetting about actually earning the most points. Cloud City brings a game that’s both visually and strategically unique to your table top and one that I really enjoyed.
25th Century Games
1-5 Players | 15-45 Minutes
This lighthearted adventure game challenges you to power up your character before venturing into the forrest to battle monsters. Kingswood features a fun rondel mechanism that creates interesting decisions in your efforts to gain hearts, weapons and magic. Often locations on the board are blocked forcing you to compromise your path. Battle your way through 2 stages of monsters that get tougher as you go. Defeat special pairs of monsters to earn extra end game points.
Kingswood is great because it’s so accessible to a younger audience. Many like-themed games might limit their audience with extended setup or complicated rules. Kingswood does a great job of keeping it simple. Kids will enjoy the video-game like RPG element of powering up your character before marching into the forest. Working to outwit your opponents will keep the adults engaged. The game features different board “locations” that can be replaced from game to game, allowing players different bonuses and keeping the game fresh. Kingswood is a great fantasy-adventure game for the right audience.
Quacks of Quedlinburg
North Star Games
2-4 Players | 45 Minutes
Play as a quack doctor creating your own secret brew one ingredient at time in this hugely popular family game. Draw ingredients blindly from your bag earning the ability to add new and better ingredients to your potion. Be careful, pulling too many of the wrong ingredients can make your potion explode.
Something like Christmas Day, reaching into your bag and pulling out a new ingredient token is exciting, building anticipation with each draw. Purchase the right ingredients to add to your bag in hopes of big gains… that is if you ever end up drawing them at all. While there are plenty of strategic decisions to be made, the heart of this game is managing the “push-your-luck” play style. Featuring a variety of game play options, Quacks of Quedlinburg stays fresh and will continue to make appearances at your game table for a long time to come.
1-5 Players | 60 Minutes
Fans of classic horror monsters have truly met their match in this flexible, cooperative game. Choose from Dracula, the Wolf Man, the Mummy, Creature from the Black Lagoon, Frankenstein and the Bride or the Invisible Man to battle. You’ve been tasked with defeating the monsters who seem intent to wreak havoc among the small village. Protect villagers from the monsters represented by classic horror movie characters. Each monster features their own unique mini-game to solve, necessary to defeat them. Introduce different monster combinations to create fun and challenging situations.
Horrified is a real crowd pleaser – the artwork is fantastic and game play is easy and engaging. The classic horror monsters, town characters and setting provide a fun and engaging theme. The cooperative style requires planning and communication to effectively save the townspeople and defeat the monsters before time runs out. Along with adding additional monsters to the game, the number of players creates additional challenges as well as providing the monsters more warm bodies to attack.
1-4 Players | 40-80 Minutes
In Everdell you’re placing workers and gathering resources to build your community of critters and constructions. Build your deck by drafting cards as well as placing your seasonal workers through the meadows and rivers edge to gather different resources and bonuses. One of the first things that stands out is the beautiful production of Everdell. Each card is wonderfully illustrated with enchanting woodland locations and engaging characters. The game’s resources are amazingly crafted and super fun to hold. A giant 3-D Everdell tree stands above the organically-rounded board.
Despite it’s look, Everdell is a very simple game that is easy to pick up and easy to play. The production is really impressive and enhances the fun. Everdell’s appeal will connect to nearly anyone in your family.
2-4 Players | 20-40 Minutes
Choose your friends and choose them wisely in this card drafting, set collection game set in the backyards of children. Score points by eating pizza and gathering stuff into your backpack – all the while hanging out with your best friends. Carefully construct your deck as you build your path toward victory. Be careful, if you don’t play with your friends, they may go play with someone else.
Fort builds a foundation on the nostalgia of those lazy days of your youth with silly kids, fun artwork and value resources such as pizza. The game, on the other hand, is anything but lazy, presenting a challenging deck building puzzle where you work to eventually level up your Fort and earn the most points. It’s a game of tough choices as you often have to leave cards exposed – allowing your opponent to swoop in and steal them. Much more of a brain bender than you might think, Fort was one of the best games of the year.
Detective: City of Angels
Van Ryder Games Games
1-5 Players | 30-150 Minutes
Set in 1940’s Los Angeles, play as a detective working your way through a series of cases exposing the seedy underbelly of the glamours location. Travel across L.A., interviewing suspects, searching locations and revealing clues to solve the case. Along the way you’ll often find a bribe or two doesn’t hurt.
Detective: City of Angels is an AMAZING production. The components are engaging and each cases storyline really immerses you in the time period. Cases always feature twists and turns and will require hard evidence to solve the case. Detective can play solo or as a group. In group play, one player acts as the Chisel working against the team of detectives to misguide and build doubt in their case. Players can gain leverage over the chisel and suspects by calling them out when they’re not so truthful.
While the base game only features 9 cases, there is plenty of fun to be had in the box with additional cases available. I do love the theme, but I haven’t had this much fun playing a game with a group in a long time.
Tekhenu: Obelisk of the Sun
Board & Dice
1-4 Players | 60-120 Minutes
Tasked with building the temple of Amun-Ra, you must efficiently gain resources and skills in this dice-drafting Euro-style game. I can’t forget to mention the amazing obelisk that rises above the board. The obelisk will rotate with the seasons, causing available dice to change their ability from pure to tainted and in between. Be careful to draft a balance of dice or face the reproductions. Manage your working class – because a happy group of workers are helpful workers.
This is definitely one of the more thinky-games on the list. With tons of pathways to victory each game could be won with a completely different approach. While pursuing the necessary resources to achieve your objective, the game often limits your opportunities and forces you to move in different directions. Tekhenu is playable in solo mode, but really shines at 3 and 4 player counts. It creates that much more anxiety, forcing you to make the best choice possible on each turn. Tekhenu is a high-end production with a fun theme and truly challenging game play.
2-4 Players | 60-90 Minutes
In this sequel to the game Whistle Stop, you manage a trio of airships and a group of workers as you race to gather resources, construct scaffolding and build crazy machines in pursuit of profits and glory. Soar through canyons of the rocky mountains (and the board) with your blimp, dreadnought and hot air balloons. Score points by creating a sturdy scaffolding structure to hold your newly created machines. Once built, every player can benefit from that invention, so helping yourself can often have competitive repercussions. Manage your team of workers to help with the process.
Whistle Mountain is just a blast to play. It’s a bit of a worker placement and tile placement game. There are just so many things to do each turn from finding just the right spot along the scaffolding to gain the maximum number of resources to drawing bonus cards and gathering a variety of tiles shapes and sizes for future builds. The theme is colorful and whimsical and invites you into this strange journey. A bit of bear to set up, but much of the charm of this game is its sheer number of wild components and options.
1-4 Players | 70-100 Minutes
Control a society of gnomes as they struggle to light mystic bonfires and bring light to their dark world. Traveling to distant islands to obtain objectives, seeking help from elders as well as building pathways for the Guardians to light your bonfire are just a few of the many actions you can take in Bonfire. None of the actions are necessarily difficult in Bonfire, but victory requires careful planning and a little luck. Mechanics include resource management, worker placement and cool polynomial puzzles to help you maximize your resources.
Bonfire is a difficult game to describe, but a blast to play. While the theme doesn’t necessarily appeal to me, it does a great job bringing the actions to life. There is so much variety in the game with tons of replay-ability. Everything from gaining a new task to rotating the great bonfire to gaining additional bonuses require decisive planning that always seems satisfying. Bonfire is great for those looking for a game that challenges, but also provides a fun, unique experience.
Abomination: The Heir of Frankenstein
Plaid Hat Games
2-4 Players | 90-180 Minutes
You have been summoned by the creature to assist in bringing to life a suitable partner. Navigate the street of Paris as you work to gather the necessary body parts to piece together an acceptable companion. Grow your reputation and expertise while attempting to keep your humanity in check. You may find it necessary to hire seedy types or even participate in unspeakable acts in an effort to gather the freshest parts.
Dripping with theme, Abomination is an immersive experience. The game also features a free app that provides a theatrical reading of the game’s interactions as well as creaky, leaky and ominous background tones to set the mood. Each player has their own laboratory where they assemble and eventually work to bring their creature to life. The art is perfectly presented, bringing this dreary scene to life. While it’s not for the faint, Abomination delivers in thrills and fun.
The Taverns of Tiefenthal
2-4 Players | 60 Minutes
Manage and upgrade a quaint German tavern as you attempt to gain income and attract the town’s most prestigious citizens. Taverns of Tiefenthal is a wild combination of dice drafting, deck building and resource management that charmingly comes together in a thinky, tight package. You’ll be required to hire work staff and entertainers as well as expand and upgrade your tavern to meet your growing needs.
From the designer of Quack of Quedlinburg, Taverns is a fun and silly experience that comes with multiple expansion modules to change and upgrade the game’s difficulty in new ways. Like Quacks, achieving certain goals provide exciting free bonus upgrades and benefits. Who doesn’t like free upgrades and benefits? As the game progresses, the decisions become more challenging, making this one an enjoyable fight to the finish.