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13 Beautiful And Strategic Board Games That Make For Great Christmas Gifts

The season of giving is upon us, which means it’s also the season of trying to come up with gift ideas. For geeks, be it friends or family, board games often make interesting and impressive gifts.

A beautifully designed board game can be displayed on a shelf as a decorative work of art, and can of course serve as a social activity where friends and family get together to catch up and have some fun. Board games allow people to engage in a shared experience, and the right ones can also be visually arresting. They make great gifts because they are both tangible and experiential at once. Besides, what’s not to love about games in general?

Here are some board games that will make for a fun board game night, and will also give that visual wow factor when they’re unwrapped.

Wingspan

Players: 1 – 5
Play Time: 40 – 70 minutes

Wingspan is the board game that served as the entry point that introduced many players to the vast world of well-designed and more intricate board games.

In this game, players play as bird enthusiasts, all of whom are looking to make their aviary the most attractive one. Each player will “collect” various birds by luring them with food by rolling custom dice, and then adding them to their collection to earn points. It’s a simple enough game to learn for the family, while intense enough to keep folks at the edge of their seats. There is a meditative quality to the gameplay that often comes as a surprise to those who don’t know what to expect.

Also, the art of the game is so gorgeous, it grabs attention all on its own!

Oath: Chronicles of Empire & Exile

Players: 1 – 6
Play Time: 45 – 120 minutes

Oath: Chronicles of Empire & Exile is made by the same team behind Root. In this game, one to six players take on the role of agents trying to bring a kingdom to ruin. Behind its beautiful artwork is a game rife with political intrigue, betrayal, and distrust.

Players will play crucial, hands-on roles in the rise and fall of dynasties, and make history themselves. But whether the result is one that their characters are happy with depends on both the play of the game and the decisions of other players around the table. This is a game that will seem to grow beyond the confines of the box and components, and will make a great gift for the board game connoisseur. Speaking of Root

Root

Players: 2 – 4
Play Time: 60 – 90 minutes

Root is an absolutely adorable game where players control different factions of woodland creatures, and vie for control over the wilderness. Despite its charming art, this is a complex game with a lot of strategic depth designed for those who want to try something heavier than the typical family game fare.

It boasts an asymmetric wargaming experience with each faction having their own abilities and victory condition. This is not a fairytale where everyone gets the warm fuzzies. It is war. Think Game of Thrones type of political jostling, but with a huge dose of doe-eyed cuteness to go along with it.

Everdell

Players: 1 – 4
Play Time: 40 – 80 minutes

Everdell has a very eye-catching board. Which is a point in its favour, because one would think that the board in a board game should be a key focus when it comes to aesthetics and table presence.

The Ever Tree focuses players’ attention, overlooking the players. They will play and draw cards, and place their workers, trying to build the most beautiful and magnificent village. The art is also irresistibly cute, which makes playing the cards feel just that bit better.

It is a tableau-building game that is simple to pick up but just complex enough to be engaging for the whole family.

Tokaido

Players: 2 – 5
Play Time: 45 minutes

Tokaido’s artwork is clean, elegant, and classy. The light pastel colours have a comforting, almost meditative quality to them.

Thematically, players are travellers enjoying a scenic and enriching journey down the Tokaido road. They collect a series of interesting experiences such as good meals, new friends, taking in great panoramas, visiting beautiful places, and so on.

While Tokaido is a light game with a non-combative theme, it is a competitive fare. Players do compete to see who ends up as the one with the most varied experience. However, the zen-like artwork makes the game feel less adrenaline-pumping in play, and the game is always a pleasant one to bring to the table.

Kanagawa

Players: 2 – 4
Play Time: 45 minutes

In Kanagawa, players are disciples of the painter Master Hokusai. They will build a panorama of 13 cards, forming a sprawl of Japanese-themed watercolour artwork.

The cards, which not only have multiple functions in the game, are also sets of myrioramas, where they will form a fully connected painting no matter the order of the cards.

It is a light family game that captures the feeling of becoming better in one’s craft, gradually handling more complex work and having the space to make more interesting decisions. By the end, it’s as if the players contributed to the breathtaking artwork that Kanagawa comprises.

Azul

Players: 2 – 4
Play Time: 30 – 45 minutes

In Azul, players take turns drafting beautiful tiles so they can craft the most beautiful bathroom floor for the king.

It is a colourful, simple game to pick up and play. With randomly drawn tiles and players trying to match them to the colours on the board, the joy of Azul doesn’t come from trying to outdo or sabotage other players.

Instead, it is about enjoying the process of making a tile collage, and then seeing what the other players have made. The game may encourage players to score as many points as possible, but simply laying out the tiles in the prettiest way is also a fun and valid way to approach Azul.

Mariposas

Players: 2 – 5
Play Time: 45 – 75 minutes

Mariposas is the second game designed by Elizabeth Hargrave, the designer of Wingspan. Hargrave has a certain design sensibility that makes her games appeal to a very wide audience, evoking a desire to open up the box and try the game.

A set collection game which is played out in three seasons, players have their butterflies head north in the spring, spread out in summer, and go back south in autumn. The educational aspect about the migratory butterflies in Mexico is integrated very naturally into the mechanics and visual design of the game. 

This is a game that is simple and serves as a great gateway game into the wider world of board games.

Era: Medieval Age

Players: 1 – 4
Play Time: 45 – 60 minutes

In many board games, when players have to build cities, those cities tend to be either abstractions that exist only in the imagination, or represented by cards. In Era: Medieval Age, players actually do build three dimensional, solid cities.

Players roll dice, get resources, or end up with disasters befalling them or their opponents. In the end, all players will have their own little city on a pegboard, which always makes for a great photo-taking moment.

Era: Medieval Age is a fun, simple game to pick up and play in just minutes.

Bristol 1350

Players: 1 – 9
Play Time – 20 – 40 minutes

Bristol 1350 comes in a magnetic book box, which gives it a dash of fancy and also mystery. The premise of the game is intriguing. Players are villagers from Bristol trying to escape the plague.

There is a bit of cooperation, social deduction, and strategy. All while each player is selfishly trying to get themselves to safety as soon as possible.

This is quite the unique game, especially given its theme. The way the box fits innocuously on a bookshelf gives it the extra cool factor as well.

PARKS

Players: 1 – 5
Play Time: 30 – 60 minutes

In PARKS, players take on the role of a pair of hikers exploring the different trails over the seasons from 59 US National Parks. An afternoon playing PARKS feels more like flipping through an art album than actually playing a board game where each player is trying to outdo the other.

The art in the game is stunning, taken from posters that were originally used to commemorate the many national parks. This isn’t a game that will be rife with tension and puts players at the edges of their seats. This is a game that relaxes and soothes, perfect for those who are looking to chill with friends and enjoy the gorgeous art that the game offers.

Imaginarium

Players: 2 – 5
Play Time: 90 minutes

Imaginarium takes the ‘engine’ part of ‘engine-building games’ literally. Players collect resources to build machines that produce more resources to build better machines that produce even more resources.

Players try to fight over components, competing to finish projects given out by the design office in order to gain victory points so they can win the game. While a bit more complex than the average family board game, it is definitely an easy game to pick up and start playing without much fuss.

Packaged in a beautiful steampunk aesthetic, this is a game that one feels good playing just to see and enjoy more of the art.

Sagrada

Players: 1 – 4
Play Time: 30 – 45 minutes

In Sagrada, players craft exquisite stained glass windows by drafting dice with different colours into grids. The placement of the dice will be restricted in terms of the number showing on the dice, and the combination of colours allowed. Also, dice of the same number or colour cannot be placed next to each other.

This means that in every game, players will form different mosaics of dice with varying dots and splashes of colours. This is a friendly family game, and while there is a scoring aspect, Sagrada can also be seen as a light arts and craft project that taps a little into the creative side of the players.


These are just a few games that are visually arresting. There will be more for you to find in places such as Amazon. The ones mentioned above are just a sampling of the sheer beauty that board games are capable of delivering. The range, in terms of gameplay and complexity, means there is definitely something for everyone. Maybe one of these games can be gifted to your friends and bring out the hitherto undiscovered board game geek in them.


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