What’s in Your Stocking
2020 was a year for the record books, good or bad, and one that will go down in infamy. However, as the year comes to a close, we’d like to offer some games that stood out as great Christmas gifts. Several of the staff here at Tabletop United threw some ideas into the mix. The criteria was simple- What game would you consider the perfect Christmas gift. The game doesn’t have to be a new one, huge, deep, or any other criteria except for the subject thought that it would make a great gift. What’s in your stocking?
After reading through the list below, let us know if you agree or disagree with our suggestions, if you gave or received any games for the holidays, and if so, did your gift appear on our list? Now, what did our writers and staff come up with?
Game name: Carcassonne
Publisher: Z-Man Games
Carcassonne is a perfect gateway game that has proven to have legs over the last 20 years since it was first published. Gameplay is incredibly easy to teach with a fair amount of depth and strategy before you even touch the added flavor that the dozens of expansions offer. There are very few lightweight strategy games that accommodate up to 8 players. Carcassonne is an evergreen title that should be a staple in every gamer's collection!
Submitted by: Shawn Hilliard
Game name: Lots: A Competitive Tower Building Game
Publisher: Royal N. Games
Lots is a wonderful big game that comes in a tiny package. This is one of our go to games for everyone regardless of age and skill level. I think we have played it over 50 times with close to 100 different people and all really enjoyed it! If you're looking for a game with a small footprint, high replay ability good for everyone look for no further!
Submitted by: Brian Shoemaker
Game Name: Root: The Clockwork Expansion
Publisher: Leder Games
I chose this expansion because it enhances the solo experience of Root. With things still under lockdown for the most part and gaming with friends an infrequent proposition, it's important to me to be able to play good, quality solo games. Root is a great game, but the first solo version was a bit on the weak side. I'm really interested to see how this expansion ramps up the challenge in the solo mode and I'm looking forward to playing against more than one opposing faction at a time. Many games have expansions that add a solo mode to the experience and I find these to be a great opportunity to get more mileage out of my collection.
Submitted by: Stefan Yates
Game Name: Vampire, the Eternal Struggle card game (5th edition)
Publisher: Black Chantry (www.blackchantry.com/)
Retail: $ 95.00 / € 82.50
This is essentially the same 1994 game by Richard Garfield (Magic the Gathering). The box comes with 5 pre-constructed decks making a good stand-alone game for a delightful PvP experience, and an even better multiplayer. Unlike most card games, VTES solved iffy card draws and unbalanced resource generation giving players an equal chance to set-up their board. The game offers card combos, resource management, and player politics. You can choose to build new decks from the 5 decks, expand with other Black Chantry releases, or even utilize cards from the entire VTES archive since its inception.
Submitted by: Milo Alejo
Game Name: Cartographers
Publisher: Thunderworks Games
Cartographers is a wonderful gift choice for Christmas (or any other holiday or celebration). Besides being affordable, and a 2020 Kennerspiel des Jahres (Enthusiast Game of the Year) nominated game, it's one of those games that is great for any type of player, whether new to games or an experienced gamer. It also plays well with any number of players, from 1 to 100 or more, so it's great for those large family gatherings if we ever get back to that, but it can also be played over zoom or while social distancing! Everyone plays simultaneously, so adding more people to the game doesn't really affect the overall playtime much. It's a pretty easy game to teach and can be knocked out in about 30 minutes (maybe 45 minutes for new players). It's very tactile and can even be artistic (though you don't have to be an artist), especially if you use colored pencils. There's also a fair amount of player interaction, though the solo mode plays almost exactly the same as the multiplayer game. I especially love that every game gives you a new map, so you have a souvenir of your game! Cartographers has been a huge hit every time I've introduced it to new players, so it'll make a great addition to any gift list. Also, look for the Cartographers mobile app and the new stand-alone expansion, Cartographers: Heroes that can be played with Cartographers or on its own (coming next year and available for pre-order now from Thunderworks Games). If, by chance, the fantasy and map making themes aren't to your taste, you might also want to check out Welcome To, by Deep Water games, which has similar mechanics, can also play 1-100+ players, but has a theme of designing the perfect residential neighborhood. Either would make a great gift this holiday season!
Submitted by: George Jaros
Game Name: Welcome to Your Perfect Neighborhood
Publisher: Deep Water Games
Welcome to Your Perfect Neighborhood (or more commonly known as Welcome to) is easily one of my favorite games of 2020. In Welcome to, players work to draw up plans for the most ideal neighborhood to score the most points at the end of the game. As a longtime lover of yahtzee, the concept of a more modern game with similar mechanics instantly drew my attention. Rather than rolling dice, you are flipping cards, but the concept is the same, turn over some cards and make a choice about which box to fill in on your grid to try and score as many points at the end of the game as possible. It’s strategic, but not overly complex and it is easy to learn. Perfect for after a long day where you want to get a game in without turning your brain to mush.
Welcome to is a blast to play in person, but one of the big reasons I think it makes a perfect gift for the 2020 holiday season is that it is easy to play with friends and family even when you cannot be physically together as long as one person has a copy of the game. Have the game owner set up their computer or phone so others can see the cards, and then everyone else just needs a scoresheet. There is a free score sheet app that players can use so as long as everyone can see the cards, they can play together no matter where they are. Welcome to can also be played with an unlimited number of players (and be played solo), so it doesn’t matter how big (or small) your game group is, you can all play together!
Welcome to also has lots of fun expansions. There is literally one for each season, plus more! Each adds a new small twist on the game, which can keep it fresh during the year.
For those that are interested in this type of game, we also recommend checking out Cartographers on this list, as players who like Welcome to also enjoy Cartographers!
Submitted by: Jacqueline Atkins
Game Name: Spirits of the Forest
Publisher: Thundergryph Games
Spirits of the Forest made my best of 2018 list when it came out and had it come out in 2020 it would still easily make the list. This game is a perfect blend of abstract play and beautiful aesthetic. The art is really good, but in my opinion, it is secondary to the play. I like abstract games, and this one is very good. Playing 1 to 4 players, it is easy to teach and games can be set-up, played, and put away in under 20 minutes. If you like playing solo, Spirits of the Forest has one of the most challengingly-fun solo modes for an abstract game.
Submitted by: Nick Shipley
Game name: Ticket to Ride
Publisher: Days of Wonder
I always have a hard time recommending what game to give for a gift because it really depends on who is getting the game. Usually though, I’m asked about what game to give to someone who plays a few games, usually the older board games many people grew up with from the big box/big retailers. What they are looking for is a gateway into “modern” games. For this situation I recommend Ticket to Ride. It has an easy to learn premise and mechanic that everyone has been able to understand. Once the new players are used to the idea of working on their own needs without taking others out, or working to block others, they have a lot of fun with the style. This allows them to learn more about games working towards victory points and individual goals, then cooperative ones. It also has a number of variations that allow the players to expand their ability with a game they are familiar with. Ticket to Ride is by Alan R. Moon and from Days of Wonder.
Submitted by: Daniel Yocom
Game Name: Abandon All Artichokes
Publisher: Gamewright / designed by Emma Larkins / art by Bonnie Pang
Retail: $12.99 USD
Abandon All Artichokes is a bright, cheerful, veggie-filled "deck-wrecking" card game in an adorable green tin. Take a card and play a card, trying to be the first to draw up a hand of five cards that is completely Artichoke-free! It's a wonderful title for families who are just starting to learn about deck-building games (where you add to your pile of cards throughout the game) and also good as a filler for even the most grown-up gamer who can't resist the hipster Broccoli or the grumpy Onion. Abandon All Artichokes has been a hit with gamers of all ages and has become one of the most often requested games at our table in 2020. I think this "heartless" card game by Emma Larkins with art by Bonnie Pang would make an excellent gift!
Submitted by: Alexa Chaplin
Gift for a casual or non-gamer:
Game Name: Gloom
Publisher: Atlas Games
Why is this a great gift? Gloom is light, cheap, and easy to learn. It's highly social and leads to epically bizarre stories. It's also tiny, so if it never get's played, at least it's not taking up much room in your friend's house. If they do like it, there are a bunch of great expansions and a Cthulu themed variant that can be played separately or combined with everything else.
Each player starts the game with a set of family member cards. Each round, you will play clear plastic cards on top of various characters to change their luck. At the start, you will make up a simple backstory for each member of your family. You play the game by adding to that story using overlay cards that represent good or bad events. There will be + or - points in various positions that modify the character's misery. Players are encouraged to embellish as much as possible, but the cards paint a pretty amusing picture on their own. You torment your own family and try to cheer the other player's characters by playing happy events on them. The most miserable family at the end of the game wins. So Christmassy!
Submitted by: Stephen Gulik
For a hobbyist gamer
Game Name: Snowdonia Deluxe Master Set
Why is this a great gift? This deluxe edition includes almost 40 versions of the classic worker placement game plus a ridiculous amount of promo trains. You only get one train per game, but it gives you a powerful special ability that changes your strategy. Even if you play Snowdonia hundreds of times, it can play differently every time. If you want to play the same scenario over and over, you can. I'm still trying to get throughall the scenarios. The price is steep, but the top-shelf components and endless variability make it a bargain at any price.
Submitted by: Stephen Gulik