Unplugged: GamerDad Holiday Guide 2023

Happy Holidays! Boardgaming continues to make inroads to wider audiences, and there’s no better time to get (or get your friends and family) into the hobby than an extended holiday break. There are boardgames out there to meet up with almost any taste.Boardgames are timeless, just as good today as they will be years in the future, so a purchase today will still be serving you well after the lockdowns go away. As we at GamerDad have done for the past 20-odd years, it’s time for an annual rundown of recent boardgames well worth your time. Feel free to delve into some past year’s guides for 2022, 2020, or older as they’re still great candidates for your consideration. You might not find all these titles at your local mega-mart but many can be found online or in a friendly local game store. Some may argue $60+ boardgames (or more) are expensive, but compare that to video gaming (and where multiple copies are required for multiplayer play) and the economics of boardgaming shows their true value. For each game, I’ve provided the publisher (to help you find it), an approximate MSRP (you can probably find it lower), the number of players, the expected time for one game, and the manufacturer’s recommended ages. These age listings are often set for legal reasons and I would say most could easily be skewed lower for experienced younger gamers.

On with the show!

Games for and With Kids

Games suitable for kids old enough to sit still and play, but contain enough interesting activity to entertain adults.

Miller Zoo (Hachette Boardgames – $35) 1-6p 30min 8+ yrs
Miller Zoo has players cooperating to rehabilitate rescue animals as they come into the zoo. Players spend cards to move around the board, bring in new animals, and provide needed care to current zoo residents. Admit all the animals to win the game, use up all the cards and you lose. The game is also a “Legacy” game that changes each time you play – adding in more difficult animals, new goals, and other rules as you go through the campaign (consisting of 6 different envelopes of content along with challenges and stickers for completion on the back of the board. The campaign is non-destructive so it can be completely reset to the start of the campaign if desired.) Fun fact, the game based around an actual zoo found in Quebec. All the animals, and even the workers, are taken directly from the actual zoo.

Capt’n Pepe: Treasure Ahoy! (HABA – $50) 2-5p 20min 6+ yrs
The youngest “Legacy” game of which I’m aware, the cooperative Capt’n Pepe: Treasure Ahoy! game has players trying to solve the puzzle of rearranging colorful pirate tokens on top of their pirate ship in order to match the colors of the oars on the side. A handy little red ball indicates the active player, who is able to move one of the pirates a single space before passing the ball on to the next player. In the center of the ship is a sand timer that is ticking down time, the pirates must match their oars before time runs out. At first, this is not much of a challenge but later versions of the game ad in complexities such as boxes that must be moved out of the way of the pirate figures. One cannot have a legacy game without stickers and envelopes (cool little paper pirate chests in this case) and the game comes with several options to explore. There is a 25 chapter storybook with progressively more difficult setups (still a kid’s game, though) along with rewards for excellent play. A typical game consists of three attempts at arranging the pirates, with “thumbs up” awards provided for each successful match. Depending on how many thumbs-up tokens are earned over the three games, players can earn even more reward stickers.

Party Games

The more, the merrier! Party games can accommodate at least 6 players and, unlike some games, tend to be more fun with more players. If you’re only aware of Charades (a classic) or Trivial Pursuit (only fun for know-it-alls) checking out some of these more engaging games will be a real treat.

Blob Party (WizKids – $25) 4-8p 15min 8+ yrs
Blob Party is a quick co-op party game of trying to get everyone to guess the same answer. Players are given a blob of playdough with a googly eye in it. This serves more as a visual reference than a game mechanic. A category card is flipped over and one player is give three word cards and picks one. All players then secretly write down an answer that matches both the chosen word and its category. This could be a single word or several. The goal is for all players to put down the same word. After writing is concluded, the words are revealed. Any players that match (by whatever criteria players wish to use) combine their two blobs into one larger one with multiple eyes. A new round (new subject, new word card chosen from three) begins. This time, players with combined blobs work together as a team to pick a word. This continues round to round, with additional players joining together until everyone chooses the same answer. If players can do this within 7 rounds, it is considered a win.


Family Games

As your family gets older, they’ll have more fun with games with a bit more “punch”. Games in this category are playable by most any age level (so even the young ones can participate) but have enough strategy so that the older players have a chance to use strategy to increase their chances of winning.

Sky Team (Le Scorpion Masque – $30) 2p 15min 12+ yrs
You and your co-pilot partner try to land a plane in this two player cooperative game. Designed in consultation with commercial pilots, it really does give the feel of juggling everything needed to land a plane. Players roll and assign dice each round to accomplish all the necessary steps of landing: clearing the flight path, putting out the flaps and landing gear, etc.. However, players MUST each place a die in the speed and roll (level) slots and then the dice combine to determine how quickly the plane descends and which way it tilts. Use your limited extra dice to accomplish all the side-requirements and then land at the right elevation, clear of planes, and on the level, to “win.” The game comes with oodles of options to make things more complicated. It was an instant favorite for my pilot friend.

Fit to Print (AEG – $40) 1-6p 15-30min 10+ yrs
Players draft polymino newspaper articles and photos and then attempt to fit them together on the “front page” (a board filled with a square grid) to earn points depending on the goal tiles in play. Players need to balance the different types of articles (the subjects – not the shapes) as well as blank space (which I think I recall is advertising space.) So you’re competing against other players to get the tiles you need but then also need to be sure you can fit them on your paper. In addition, you want to place them (number of articles, types of articles, how they’re placed, etc…) in such a way to score points off of the goal cards. I love the theme and how it is implemented. There are little tiny “publication desks” you can use to store your article tiles before placing them on your paper. The tiny article polyminos even have actual articles (I think – the text is just so small it is pretty much unreadable.)

BOOoop. (Smirk & Dagger Games – $35) 2p 25min 10+ yrs
In this exceptionally cute game, players take turns placing kittens onto the little quilted bed. When placed, any kitten adjacent (orthogonal or diagonal) to the newly placed kitten will get “booped” and bumped one space away. If they are on the edge of the bed, they will be knocked off. However, if they would be bumped into another figure, they don’t move. The goal, at first, is to get three of your own kittens in a row (after any booooping…) Those three kittens are removed from the game and you are awarded adult cat meeples. Sets of three mixed adult and kitten tokens are also removed, with only the kitten tokens removed from the game and replaced with cats. Cat meeples cannot be booooped by kitten meeples but can boooop each other. The goal is to be the first player to get three full-grown cats in a row. I’m not a huge abstract fan but this one has cuteness all over it and was an instant hit with my boys.

King of Monster Island (IELLO – $70) 1-5p 45-60min 10+ yrs
King of Monster Island is a co-op game that is based around the King of Tokyo mechanic of rolling 6 dice three times, setting aside dice if you wish. After three rolls the dice are used to take actions or resources. Here, players are on the same team, putting aside their Tokyo angst and joining together to defeat the big bad guy and defend the island, possibly the world. The big bad evil guy (BBEG) moves around the edge of the island, triggering bad things to happen when they enter an area. Meanwhile, the player monsters maneuver around putting out (figurative) fires while they power up to try and take on the bad guy. If one player is reduced to zero by the start of their turn, or if the big bad guy places too many “pylons” on the board, the players lose. Players slowly upgrade their monsters (by rolling stars) and board locations (rolling wrenches.) On the BBEG’s turn, dice are literally dropped into the center volcano, effecting the board location on which they land. Of course the BBEG can also roll upgrades for itself. Players are attempting to line up super-good turns where they can eliminate all the current bad-guy minions, with any leftover damage applied to the BBEG. Defeat the BBEG before any of the player monsters are knocked out, and everyone wins the game!

Family Strategy Games

These are great games for most families – or a group of adults looking for a medium-weight game to play casually around the table to end an evening. These are a notch up in complexity kid’s or party games, but are simple enough for teens or preteens to enjoy.

Kapow! Volume 1 & 2 (Wise Wizard Games – $37 each) 1-4p 20-60min 12+ yrs
Kapow! is a dice-pool building game of superhero combat. Players simultaneously roll their dice and secretly assign them to actions, keying off the symbols on the dice. (Each of the five symbols tend to favor a certain action – like attack or defense.) After placement, actions are revealed. Players’ attacks are compared to opponents’ defenses, with any spillover damaging the opponent. Most turns also have players improving their dice pool. Dice come in two styles, colored dice (each with a specific symbol emphasis) and black dice (which have empty faces that players customize by swapping in and out new faces.) Fights have a great story arc as players slowly build up in power by gaining additional dice until late game battles have damage flying everywhere. One of the best features of the game is that players take on the role of a specific hero (or villain, there are six total in each volume) and battle it out complete with their own special powers to give the game a unique feel. There are two Volumes and enough dice and accessories for two players in each (or a decent solo game if you prefer.) If both volumes are used, a 2v2 battle (or co-op vs AI) can be held. The game is quite fun and the variety of heroes change up the game to make each run a bit different. I don’t think all the heroes are quite balanced in the 2v2 game but it is not game-breaking since all the basic abilities remain the same for every character.

Ticket to Ride Legacy: Legends of the West (Days of Wonder – $120) 2-5p 20-90min 10+ yrs
Ticket to Ride is a popular game of rummy-like set card collecting used to make connections on a common playing board to score points. This new “Legacy” edition means the game grows and changes (often permanently) from one play to the next, responding to decisions the players make during each game. This makes each new game slightly different than the previous one. In this game, the game board consists of the northeast of the USA and has the potential to expand south and west in future games (there are 12 linked game scenarios in all.) Some of the fun is discovering new things like changes to the board, new rules, etc.. However, one should be able to expect a game with “Legends of the West” in the name will eventually add more maps to the western side and having “Legends” in the name is also a hint that the game won’t always be entirely historical.


Robo Rally (Renegade Games Studios – $50) 2-6p 45-90min 12+ yrs
Robo Rally is a rerelease of one of the first games designed by Richard Garfield (the designer of Magic:the Gathering, the grand-daddy of all collectible card games – looking at you Pokemon…) In this game, players take on the role of a robot trying to race through a crazy factory full of conveyor belts, lasers, pits, other disasters, and (of course) other robots. To move, all players “program” out their next several moves by placing their cards in order, face down. Once all orders are placed, robots step through their moves, one at a time. More often than not, someone will make a mistake or a robot will push another one early in the round, and then a player’s turn becomes a wild ride of pre-programmed chaos. Its loads of fun if you don’t mind the spatial thinking required to figure out which cards to be using. There are also two new expansions just released: Wet & Wild and Chaos & Carnage (going for about $20 each.) Both expansions add in new maps, several upgrade cards, and more ways for robots to get themselves into trouble (can you say teleporters, water works, and crushers?)


Serious Strategy Games

I typically mention a few games for the more serious boardgamer. These have a few more rules and take a bit longer to play. In a year of contrasts I’m featuring one fully cooperative game and two all-out wargames. None are as complex as past years’ serious strategy recommendations, but best played by people willing to put up with a few rules in order to find a game that has substance.

Forest Shuffle (Lookout Games – $30) 2-5p 40-60min 10+ yrs
Forest Shuffle is a tableau building game where players start with a tree card and then add to the tree (often animals) to expand the tree’s capabilities by sliding a new card partially underneath previous cards. The base tree card has four sides, so you have four slots to fill. Most cards you add are split down the middle and a player must choose which side to slip behind and which to display. Players draw new cards and can play them by discarding from their hand. If the discarded card matches symbols on the played card, bonuses might kick in. Cards are both animals (to be played on trees) and trees (to provide new open places for animals.) Cards can provide an ongoing effect, a bonus effect, or provide points in some fashion (acorns = points.) As one would expect for a game like this, players are trying to find cool cards they synergize well and become more powerful in combination. The fun theme and short playing time helps make the game stand out in the crowd of games of this type.

Raising Robots (Nauvoo Games – $60 ) 1-6p 60-90 min 14+ yrs
In Raising Robots, players are young engineers designing robots for a competition. Players first pick which two “phases” (out of several) they want to happen, and then all players simultaneously run through all the chosen phases. The five phases are: upgrade – spend resources and upgrade your robot card, assemble – build a new robot, design – basically draw cards or gain resources, fabricate – run a “row” of robots, gaining the benefit of all robots of that power level (based on those cubes) or lower, or recycle – used to trade and/or exchange stuff. The phase-choosing cards indicate a level of energy. When a phase happens, a player can activate all robots at that location that have a cost equal to or less than the energy on the phase card played. It’s a somewhat standard “engine-builder” where players get better at everything as time goes on (through upgrades and more robots, etc…) Players may also choose to start with a “young inventor” card that gives a minor, unique bonus during the game, but can be upgraded to provide an even stronger power. What makes this game stand out are two things. First, it’s a great theme and the art really brings it to life. Second, and more importantly, the core of the game (going through the phases) happens simultaneously so there is very little downtime, even at higher player counts.

After Us (Pandasaurus Games – $50) 1-6p 40-60min 12+ yrs
After Us is a 1-6 player deckbuilding / engine building game set in the far future where apes have evolved and now control the earth. Players draw and place cards in a line. Each card has action symbols on up to three different rows. Once cards are placed, they are activated and players use the actions on all of their cards in order. The top row left to right, then the second, then the final row. Only actions with “filled” boxes are taken, which is important as may actions are only half-boxes on the edge of a card. Players must place an adjacent cards with corresponding box in order to use those abilities. All players do this at the same time, which keeps the game moving. At the end of the turn, players are able to purchase a new card to add to their growing line. It’s a fun game since players really feel like they’re building up a fun “engine” to run through each turn, however it is important at some point to change over from making a better engine onto generating points with that same engine.

Adventure Games

Boardgames with a strong role-playing look and feel continue to flourish in the boardgame world. Perfect for gamers who want that role-playing feel without having to dedicate the dozens of hours needed to play traditional pencil and paper RPGs. These games run the gamut from simple and inexpensive to detailed and very expensive. This year, there are several titles with tie-ins to popular videogames.

Tales of the Red Dragon Inn (SlugFest Games – $100) 1-4p 60-120min 14+
Tales of the Red Dragon Inn is a co-op dungeon-crawling experience for those who find most games in the genre as far too fiddly. Players take charge of one of six different heroes and leap into a dungeon to fight bad guys together. Combat takes place on fold-out maps which makes setup a breeze but the maps also can fold out as you play, allowing players to discover new areas of the dungeon mid-game. Combat is dice-based but there are lots of ways of fiddling with, improving, or otherwise messing with the dice so outcomes are far from random. Player order is a bit different – you get half a turn, then the bad guys, and later a full turn – so players spread out their actions over the course of a round which keeps everyone focused on the game. This is a true campaign game spanning 25 different scenarios grouped into 5 chapters. Players unlock new cards, equipment, and abilities as they progress through the game. In a nice touch, the first five scenarios serve as a great introduction to the game as they slowly on-board game rules over the course of several games. There is some great humor here (the cover has a giant robot threatening a bunny, for goodness sake) although it is slightly more teen-centered than for younger kids. The game is probably one of the easiest and fast playing dungeon-crawl campaign games I’ve seen. It manages to preserve lots of the fun gaining-more-power experiences but keep the rules and time overhead down. There’s even a solo mode which changes the rules specifically to make it a more fun solo experience.

Deep Rock Galactic (MOOD Publishing – $80) 1-4p 60-150min 12+
Deep Rock Galactic is a cooperative videogame where up to four dwarves (players) each choose one of four character classes (like driller or gunner) and then get together online and adventure through a cave system. Adventuring through a mine means killing off bad-guy bugs and whilst trying to collect minerals and special ore. As a boardgame, players go on missions to accomplish almost the same feats The hexagonal boards are placed out with specific terrain, monsters, and assorted cave bits while players and monsters are both represented by nice plastic figures. To start, players drop in to the cave and then must accomplish that mission’s goal – most commonly collect up specific items or ores. Players take a turn of two actions (move, fight, etc…) and then draw a “bad stuff” card which can activate the bad guys, warp new ones in (via one of three locations), and/or advance the danger track. Some spots on the danger track are particularly vicious, spawning lots of extra bugs and activating them to boot. As in the game, ammunition is a limited resource. Players have a primary and secondary weapon, each using a separate ammo pile. More can be obtained mid-game but shouldn’t just be spent willy-nilly. There is a book of scenarios that get progressively harder that can be played as a sort of campaign, but it is simple to just hop into whichever scenario you want. I think the 150 minutes upper limit on game time is a bit misleading as nearly all our games are under an hour. As a cooperative game of fetch the item and squash the bugs, it is a hit with my teenage sons.

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim – The Adventure Game (Modiphius Entertainment – $140) 1-4p 60-120min 14+ yrs
A videogame juggernaut, the action RPG Skyrim has been ported over to almost everything that moves. Now, it has been ported over to a boardgame with its (optional) own pile of plastic miniatures. One to four players (up to 8! with an expansion) take control of a character and set out to adventure in a fairly open game world. In fact, choices are the name of the game here. There are six starting races, each with a special ability, but they are extremely customizable and can easily lean into non-standard areas to make a traditional warrior-type person into a master of magic or even switch back later if they find a cool weapon they like. Even the piles of weapons, armor, and trinkets can be customized through enchantments and other upgrades. All of this is tracked through a players hand of cards and slotted cardboard character track. Stamina or Magicka pools power up combat and other challenges which use dice for resolution. Roll the dice to meet the skill limit of your item/spell/weapon, and it is successfully used. The game has two campaigns, comprising three chapters each. The campaigns make a (resettable) legacy-style game where actions in early chapters have ongoing effects in the game world in later chapters. An expansion gives you another three chapter campaign. Players can also simply jump into a single chapter for a quick(er) game or play in a more pvp style “free-roaming” game mode (which is the only mode available for 5+ players.) It’s more complex and a bigger time investment than Deep Rock Galactic but fans of the videogame and fans of RPG/Adventure boardgames won’t be disappointed.

Monster Hunter World: The Board Game (Steamforged Games – $120) 1-4p 60-90min 14+
The Monster Hunter franchise is known for its gameplay loop of killing things and using their parts to make stronger weapons to kill stronger things. The miniature-rich boardgame is no different. Players hunt down monsters – often even given a choice as to how to approach them – and then take them down via player abilities and cards. Weapons play the role of a player’s class, and use cards and upgrades to slowly build up the power of a character. The solo version of the game has a player controlling two characters as they quest around the game board.





Got a bit of space left in your sock over the fireplace? Here’s a great small game that you might be able to cram into the toe, or at least it’s easy on the pocketbook…

Risk Strike (Avalon Hill – $22) 2-5p 20min 10+ yrs
Risk Strike attempts to capture the feel of the boardgame and cram it down into a fast 15 to 20 minute game. In place of specific countries on a map, cards represent each continent. Players are trying to control continents by having the requisite number of cards of that type. Gain enough cards (depending on the “size” of the continent) and you can claim ownership of the continent. Claim two continents to win the game. The game has two types of cards, the continent cards which are always placed in front of you, and a special tactics deck that provides various special powers including additional “armies” for a single fight (the most common card in the deck.) Players draw cards and then may make a single attack, similar to attacks in the original Risk game. The attacker and defender roll dice with the attacker able to roll three against the defender max of two dice, however defenders win all ties. Cards lost by the defender go to the attacker (who can attack again) while cards lost by the attacker go into the middle of the table and can be drawn by other players later. A handy player aid displays the number of cards per continent (you need more cards to control Aisa than to control Australia) and their connectivity – only Aisa cards (or other Australia cards) can attack another Australian card. The game really does succeed in capturing much of the fun of Risk but with a small (and inexpensive) box that truely does last less than 20 minutes.

Scram! (Bézier Games – $10) 3-6p 30min 15+ yrs
The card game, Scram! has two teams attempting to get the lowest score each round. The deck (which is thematically full of animals straight out of the Great Smoky Mountains) consists of cards from 1 to 13, plus a few wilds. Obviously, low numbers are better but cards worth 5 or more have some nice special abilities which mean they aren’t just there to be shed as soon as possible. They let players peek at face down cards or in the case of the 13, you can hand that nice 13 points to your opponent. Players start with five cards face-down in front of them and they flip up two to start. Cardplay then proceeds with players attempting to make sets in order to clear out their highest point cards. When one player decides they’re sure they have the lowest score, the round is called but each player gets one more play. Hopefully, no one slips you the Skunk card at the last minute. Since it is a team game, it is playable 1×2, 2v2, or 3v3 which puts it in a somewhat unique category for card games. For the scoring-challenged folks in the audience there is another Bézier app available to assist in managing the game.

Chicken! (Keymaster Games) – $20) 2-8p 10-20min 8+ yrs
Chicken! is a quick little exploding egg push-your-luck dice game. When I say exploding dice, I am referring to a specific style of rolling dice that is found in some games. For example, if you roll a “6” you get to keep that number but also roll again, and so on. In Chicken!, up to 8 players are trying to earn points by rolling chicken faces, but not three foxes. The active player picks up the currently active dice, rolls them, and then may reroll any black sides and any chicken face. If three foxes aren’t shown, the player then banks all their points earned on the round. The exploding dice bit comes in when a player rolls an egg. Anytime an egg symbol is rolled, another die is added to the active pool. This occurs during a turn’s reroll as well as when dice are passed on to the next player. There are twelve dice, four each of white, yellow, and orange. The white dice have lots of eggs and a few chickens, the yellow have lots of chicken heads, and the orange dice even have sides with double-chickens but they also have lots of fox symbols. In this way, every time the dice are rolled the dice pool increases. The risk-reward is right there, more dice will mean more chicken heads for more points, but that means there are also a lot of foxes on the dice. If a player rolls 3 foxes and “busts”, they gain no points that turn and the pool of dice get reset to the 4 starting white dice. If, at the start of a player’s turn that player thinks rolling all the dice is too dangerous, they may give up one point to reset back down to the 4 white dice. The first player to earn 25 total points, wins the game.


Solo Play

Whether it’s hard to find an opponent, or just hard to get out of the house, the realm of solo gaming (playing a boardgame solo) has been on the rise. Traditionally the realm of a dedicated wargamer, there is now a large breadth of solo games available. Many games come with solo rules but a few are designed specifically for solo play.

Lost Ruins of Arnak: The Missing Expedition (Czech Games Edition – $30) 1-4p 30-120min 12+
The Missing Expedition is a new expansion to the very popular boardgame, Lost Ruins of Arnak, that adds a solo or co-op mode, see the expansions section below for more information. Lost Ruins of Arnak is a great middle-weight strategy game with many different ways to score points. Players slowly purchase cards and use their decks and resources to travel the board for resources or spend resources to pursue advancements for points and more abilities.

Legacy of Yu (Renegade Game Studios – $60) 1p 60min 12+
Legacy of Yu is a solo game that has a very strong euro game feel – worker placement, managing resources, and slowly building up one’s economic engine. Rather than competing against an AI opponent, it is a race against an oncoming flood to build up canals to channel the river before the flood arrives. Workers are one of the consumable resources in the game and they come in various colors so one must manage the quantity and color of workers needed for actions. Building channels ahead of the flood opens up areas for building. Constructed buildings open up new abilities and options for upgrades. Meanwhile, players have a hand of peasant cards drawn from a limited stack, running out of cards also ends the game. Meanwhile, at the end of each turn, barbarian invaders start moving in and must be defeated (with workers) or players are penalized with loss of more resources. The game is actually a (resettable) campaign complete with a choose-your-own-adventure style booklet and a deck of cards that are added into the mix over time. The goal is to win six games. Each win will add in a few cards to make things more difficult while losses add in cards and abilities to make things just a little easier. Many solo games throw in dice or other antagonists to provide a challenge for the player. Legacy of Yu has come closer in feel to a true worker-placement engine-building boardgame than any other solo game I’ve tried.

20 Strong (Chip Theory Games – $30 + $20 for an expansion) 1p 30-45 min 14+ yrs
20 actually represents a new game system of 20 dice that can be used in multiple solo games. 17 of the dice display a number of hits and misses, depending on the die’s color, while the last three dice are used to help track player statistics like health or other abilities. There are currently three games available. The basic game (that comes with the dice) is call Solar Sentinels. Here players are choosing opponents from three piles and rolling dice several times to defeat them. The player picks how many dice they want to roll, and can even add more dice between rolls. Since each colored die has different numbers of faces, some are more powerful than others. However, dice that are rolled are used up and only return to a player slowly over time. Committing too many dice on early enemies means you will have fewer left when you fight the final boss. The two additional games/expansions (without the dice) are Too Many Bones and Victorum. Both are still combat-oriented, using the dice to attack, but how they are rolled and when they return to be reused is different. Too Many Bones is more of an adventure mode where a player can upgrade their abilities over the course of the game while Victorum is about defeating a series of opponents in gladiator combat.


If you already have favorite games in your collection, you may be pleasantly surprised to find there are expansions available to breathe new life into old favorites. Here are a few I like that expand some of the meatier games I’ve recommended in the past.

Star Wars Villainous: Scum & Villainy (Ravensburger – $30) 2-3p 50min 10+ yrs
In Villainous, players take on the role of a villain and try to out-villain all the other villains at the table. Not only are you armed with your own special cards and unique abilities, but you bring with you a set of your special good-guy enemies that your opponents can use against you. There are several versions of the game (Disney, Marvel) with a host of villains to choose from (although the various lines are not compatible.) Scum & Villainy is a stand-alone expansion for the base Star Wars Villainous game. It can be played with 2 or 3 players or mixed and matched with the base Star Wars game. This expansion has Boba Fett, Cad Bane, and Seventh Sister enter the Villainous universe. As with all Villainous games, each character plays slightly differently, even their overall goals may differ. Cad Bane uses allies to set himself up to make the final blow, Seventh Sister uses all her allies from the Rebels animated series, and Boba Fett tries to solo without any allies. He makes relationships with various bounty-hunters, attaching bounty cards to other “contacts” and gaining rewards when they are taken out. The bounty hunter cards can be played for or against Boba Fett, depending on what is useful at the time.

Lost Ruins of Arnak: The Missing Expedition (Czech Games Edition – $30 expansion, $60 base game) 1-4p 30-120min 12+
As is traditional, Arnak’s The Missing Expedition expansion adds more of everything: There are two new, very different new leaders (player powers.) The Journalist collects newspapers spread around on the board in order to slot them into their player board to gain benefits. The Mechanic has spinning wheels that can slot in assistants or cards. There are new item cards and five new assistants (player helpers.) What catches my eye are the solo and co-op opportunities. The expansion provides a six scenario solo/co-op campaign that changes up the game with unique setups, along with an ongoing story arc told through events and flavor text. In general, the game setup is substantially changed and players are presented with a main goal along with 2 to 3 secondary objectives. The scenarios often feel a bit puzzle-y oriented with players trying to work out the best way to take advantage of what they have. Event cards and secondary objectives are present in the game and can lead to unlocking additional bonus cards later in the campaign. The story conclusion of the six scenarios will vary depending on player choices during the campaign.


No matter what toys and presents the holidays bring, be sure to keep time in your schedule for playing with friends and family. While the games here come highly recommended to provide fun for a wide range of players, there are plenty other choices available. Ask your local game store, a boardgaming friend, or check some of our past recommendations.

*Disclaimer, many of these games were provided by the publishers for review purposes. Of course, plenty others were provided who didn’t make the cut.

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