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board game gift guide 2020

I love board games. Video games are great but board games provide a more tactile experience for me. There is just something about sitting at a table with friends, looking down at sea of opportunity on the board game, moving physical pieces around, and enjoying everyone’s reactions. They provide a social, community experience in a world of increasing isolation at our individual smart devices.

The best part is while you were sleeping on board games, they’ve been bringing the heat recently. I compiled a short board game gift guide for the financial independence enthusiast in your life.

board game gift guide

Join the board game renaissance

Board games are back, baby. Granted, they never really left but most of us played the classics as a kid, grew tired of them, put them away, and never looked back. I don’t blame you either. The classic games Monopoly, LIFE, Risk, and others had a lot of flaws that made liking them hard. They had player elimination, high luck to strategy ratios, and an overall lack of balance for players.

We all had that experience growing up of someone flipping the table during Monopoly out of frustration, getting annoyed at the lack of agency in Candyland, or getting knocked out of the game early in Risk. Nobody has fun in those scenarios and they can be hard to avoid in many of the classic games. Those features are designed into the game. Or those flaws weren’t handled perhaps.

Board games are so much better than you remember

Newer board games (and the ones I’m going to recommend) have good interaction with the other players, generally don’t involve being eliminated, and try to balance luck with skill. They try to keep all of the players engaged and in the game until the very end. Nobody likes a game where you have no chance of winning.

Similar to video games and movies, there are board games for every type of person. My favorite types include bluffing games, economic engine games, and strategy games but there are so many more. You can readily find amazing games in just about every genre, using any mechanic, in a theme too. We really do live in an amazing time for board game fans.

Board Game Gift Guide: Gateway Games

Let’s start with board games for beginners

These recommendations aren’t for children nor are they overly simple. These are the rock-solid games I recommend to anyone trying to get into board gaming. These are the new classics. They are simple to learn, offer a variety of play, and very re-playable. I honestly can’t recommend these three enough.

Ticket to Ride
One of our favorite board games ever. This is the game that introduced us to the world of new games. In this game you are a railroad mogul collecting cards to claim train tracks between major cities in a bid to connect your routes. Better get those routes before your friends do!

A little close to home right now, but still one of the best cooperative board games made. Everyone plays as a team against the game itself to stop the spread of 4 viruses around the world. Simple game play coupled with a great theme.
This game will be the most fun you ever have losing.

Sushi Go!
A quick, portable drafting game where you try to build the best sushi platter. Collect sets of sashimi and dumplings or block your friends from getting their favorites. The artwork on these cards is adorable.

A great game for nearly all ages.

Board games for family time

Family board games need to be simple, adaptable, and most importantly fun. We regularly play the three games below with our 5 year old and our parents because they check all of the boxes. These are all simple placement games easy enough for a young child to play along but complex enough for the adults to really compete. The rules can easily be adapted or loosened for kids like not playing for points or matching recognition.

Take turns drafting tiny dinosaur meeples to add to your obviously doomed theme park. What could go wrong? I love the dinosaur theme, the colors, the art, and simple game play.
Our son loves the meeples.
Up to 5 players

Tsuro – The Path
Be the last stone standing. Take turns placing paths for your stone to move along. Stay on the board and avoid the other players. Kids love to match the shapes and move the stone
Up to 8 players and matches are very quick.

A real classic tile laying game where everyone adds to the kingdom while claiming roads, castles, and anything else. Our son loves to match up the tiles to build the castles while we play.
Up to 5 players

Advanced Board Games

As a reader of this blog, these are the games you will probably love. My favorite advanced board games are like tiny versions of the financial independence and retire early path. They are games where you have limited resources and time and are trying to build a wealth engine along the way. Deciding where to put your workers, what project to fund, and in what order to do all of these things is the heart of these games and I’m here for it.

The FIRE path to financial independence appeals to us because of how much fun designing your life can be with all of the elaborate spreadsheets, investments, and projects. The problem is there is no immediate payoffs. These plans take 5, 10, 15+ years to play out entirely and waiting is hard. These games allow you to design your life, build your engine, and build a new world on your table in one evening. They really scratch that optimization itch.

Build your gem economy and out-score your opponents. This easy to learn, portable game is beautiful and I love the heavy poker chip components.
One of our favorite games to take to the brewery or on vacation.

Terraforming Mars
You are a corporate trying to build cities, forests, and oceans on Mars to rule the planet. I love, love, love this game and themed story.
The FI game in my opinion for spreadsheet lovers.
Has a great 1-player mode but up to 5 players

Lords of Waterdeep
A worker placement game where you recruit meeple adventurers and complete quests. The art is fantastic and the theme light enough for people to enjoy who never played Dungeons & Dragons.
2-5 players

The theme makes the game more fun

These games also tend to have a more immersive theme to them as well. Fans of Dungeons & Dragons will probably love the references the ‘Lords of Waterdeep‘ game makes to the iconic role-playing game. I’ll be the first to admit I never got into D&D but still love this game for the worker placement mechanic and interesting quests you complete.

Terraforming Mars really feels like you are rebuilding a planet for future guests and the decisions reflect that. Some are very reasonable like when you raise the temperature high enough the ice caps melt and you can place a newly formed ocean. Other decisions are just ridiculous and fun like dropping a nuclear bomb on the planet to raise the temperature. It really builds an fun, shared story. Who doesn’t want to build a martian zoo and nuke the spot your opponent wants to build that forest on?

Other board game types to look for

  • Bluffing: Love to trick your loved ones by artfully bending the truth?
  • Press your luck: want a game with more gambling?
  • Party games: want to include a lot of people in more informal game?
  • Role-playing: classic story building
  • Legacy: want the decisions you make in one game carry over to the next?

BONUS: The best board game made

I can’t have a board game gift guide without recommending the best board game on the market. Feel free to fight me about this, but Pandemic Legacy is still the best board gaming experience I’ve ever had. The base game is the same as Pandemic above but decisions and outcomes in one game carry over into the next game for good or bad. You play a campaign style game where twists and turns present themselves along the way. There are also a lot of secret boxes you open during play and who doesn’t like mystery treasure?

Your turn

Do you have a board game that you love and want to share? Tell me in the comments below.

Additionally, if you have bones to pick with my recommendations let me know below and we can argue about it. Haha I have strong opinions on board games but realize everyone likes their own thing. As long as you find a new game to love and share with your friends/family we all win.

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