2013 Holiday Gift Guide | Casual Game Revolution

2013 Holiday Gift Guide

Holiday Gift Guide

The holidays are upon us, which is great news for casual gamers! The many opportunities to gather with friends and family are perfect for playing and sharing great casual board and card games. We hope you will join us to make gaming a part of your gatherings this year!

If you're unsure of which games you would like to include in this year's festivities or as gifts under the Christmas tree, we have compiled this list of our favorite picks for the 2013 holiday season. These are the games from our recommended games list that we plan to play during our own Thanksgiving and Christmas gatherings.

Family Fun

Young, old, and everyone in between should enjoy these favorites! Try these as gifts or play them before the festivities begin.

Walk the Plank!

Walk the Plank (Mayday Games) – Get ready to laugh your head off as you watch a crew of dumb pirates shoving each other off the plank and into Davy Jones' Locker! During each round, each player secretly selects 3 action cards to move other pirates along the plank, frantically run around, or even retract the plank. The cards are then revealed one at a time and the actions carried out. The last 2 players to survive the madness are the winners.

La Boca

La Boca (Z-Man Games) – In this semi-cooperative game, players work with a partner to recreate a colorful 3d structure from 11 wooden blocks of various shapes and sizes. Each player has a different view of the side of the structure and must communicate with his partner to arrange the blocks appropriately. Points are scored for the speed with which the structure is completed. After partnering with all other players a certain number of times, the player with the most points wins.

Hey Froggy!

Hey Froggy! (R&R Games) – Colorful frogs are jumping around the pond on lily pads, but there's not enough room for everyone, so they tend to pile up in stacks. Your job is to race to the finish line by arranging the stacks of frogs to match the color combinations of the cards in your hand. You can also eat flies to increase the odds of scoring good combos.

Gold Mine

Gold Mine (Stratus Games) – This debut game from Stratus Games (and my own design) remains one of our favorites to share with new casual gamers, who almost universally enjoy it. Players excavate a maze of mine tunnels by placing tiles, then maneuver through the mine to gather up huge gold nuggets. To win, a player must be the first to gather the required number of gold nuggets and exit the mine—all the while avoiding the other greedy miners who will inevitably try to steal his gold or send him running away from flying bats.

The Party

When all your guests have arrived and you're looking for fun things to do, these easy-to-learn party games are a good choice for larger groups.

20 Express

20 Express (Blue Orange Games) – Any number of people can play this Bingo-like game in which numbers from 1 to 30 are randomly drawn from a bag and announced. Players write down the numbers on their score cards, which contain a train with 20 empty boxcars. The object is to create the longest sets of consecutive numbers to score big points. It's a game of probabilities and risks that always keeps everyone on their toes!

Snake Oil

Snake Oil (Out of the Box Games) – In this fun party game, good salesmanship as well as a practical sense of humor are good to have. Players pitch a weird and probably unnecessary product to a customer such as a caveman, cheerleader, Santa, or other character. Each product is a combination of 2 words, as chosen by each player. The customer chooses his favorite sales pitch and the player who gave it scores points.


AttrAction (R&R Games) – In this dexterity game, magnets are spread around the table and players take turns flicking or tossing their own magnets to try to create clusters that they can claim as their own. It is a quick and fun game that is great to have out on a table for people to jump in and enjoy for a few minutes at a time.

Off Your Rocker

Off Your Rocker (Stratus Games) – This improv party game (also my own design) was inspired by Psychiatrist, a favorite game my wife and I frequently played back when we were in college. Off Your Rocker is included in our list because it is the most frequently requested game that we own! One player is a psychiatrist and the other players are patients who are acting out a quirky problem. The psychiatrist must ask random questions trying to discover the quirk within the time limit, and he scores a point if he guesses correctly. The patients score points for having the most clever or funny answers.

The After-party

After the kids are all in bed, here are some fun options for the grown-ups who want to put in a bit more gaming before hitting the sack.


Hooyah (U.S. Games Systems) – In this intense cooperative game, players assume the role of Navy SEALs on various missions. Players must collect all the skills and equipment required to complete each op before the time runs out and without the loss of life. Otherwise, the mission fails and all players lose. There are many missions included with the game that gradually increase in difficulty, offering lots of replay value.


Mad QUAO (Wiggity Bang Games) – In this odd yet amusing game, players are under the rule of the QUAO and her left-hand bovine BullyQ. All players are trying to get rid of their cards by playing them in ascending order. The first player to get rid of his cards will be QUAO during the next round. However, QUAO and BullyQ impose ridiculous rules on all of the other players, who must draw additional cards when they're caught breaking the rules. Overthrowing QUAO is no easy task, but when it happens, it feels great!


Aztlán (Ares Games)Aztlán is among the heavier games on our recommended list, a casual strategy game in which players try to dominate the mythical land of Aztlán. Players take turns placing and optionally moving their tribe pawns on different terrains on the board. After all of the tribe pawns have been placed, conflicts are resolved, in which the player with the most control in each area can choose to either battle (remove the other player from the area) or peacefully coexist (leave the other player and draw a prosperity card, which grants a special ability). Points are then scored for the amount of control each player has. The player with the most points after 5 rounds wins.


Bazaar (Gryphon Games) – In Bazaar, players are trying to purchase the various wares (cards) that are on display in the marketplace. Each of the cards costs 5 marbles of a particular combination of colors. Players must trade and re-trade the marbles they have using conversion rates that are randomly selected at the beginning of the game (i.e., 2 blue marble equals 3 white marbles). Points are scored for each card based on the number of marbles remaining after each purchase, with fewer marbles being worth more points.

Stocking Stuffers

Forget the candy! Instead, try out these compact games that will bring smiles to your loved ones all year round (and won't cause cavities).

The World's Smallest Sports Games

The World's Smallest Sports Games (Famous Games Co.) – These little sports games are incredibly compact (11 cards each) but are surprisingly fun to play. They all are very cleverly designed and are bound to bring some smiles to the sports fans in your life. They come in 3 difficulty levels and some of them can be played right out of the box, while others require a few coins and a pen and paper to play. While they are all entertaining, our favorites include Famous 500, Famous Fairways, and Famous Fastballs.

WOW: World of Words

WOW: World of Words (U.S. Games Systems) – This small word game packs a lot of fun in a tiny package. Players set a timer and write down as many words as they can that start with a certain letter, end with another, and are 5 letters or more in length. The letters are determined by two decks of cards (the first-letter and last-letter cards). After the timer ends, players compare their answers—the first person to read each word scores a point. Words that are 9 letters or more in length score 2 points.


Hanabi (R&R Games) – In this tiny cooperative game, players try to put together the best fireworks display they can. Fireworks come in several different colors, and must be assembled in order (from 1 to 5). The catch is that players cannot look at their own cards, but must use limited communication to help other players discover what cards they are holding. When a player plays an invalid card, the fuse burns down—when the fuse has burned out or the cards are all used up, the game ends and points are totaled.

Little Devils

Little Devils (Stronghold Games)Little Devils is a trick-taking game (like Hearts or Spades) that is very simple to learn and very enjoyable. Each player simply puts down a card and one player wins the "trick" (all of the cards). The second card played in a trick determines the goal—whether the cards need to be greater than or less than the initial card. Whoever plays the greatest or least card (depending on the goal) wins the trick. Little devil icons on cards are worth negative points, so try not to get them or you'll get burned!


Casual Game Insider

Give the Gift of Casual Game Insider – A 1-year subscription to Casual Game Insider makes a great gift! If you're looking for something unique to give to your friends and family this year, our magazine offers the latest and greatest in casual gaming. You can also download and print a gift card to put under the tree or in a stocking! Click here for more information.


Christian's picture

Some great choices.

Other great stocking stuffers are small dice games such as Martian Dice, Zombie Dice or Zooloretto Dice.

Jason Lees
Christian's picture

I'm interested in Hanabi, but I'm not sure that I'd enjoy it long-term.

Chris Cormier
Christian's picture

I actually, really DO have a Casual Game Insider subscription on my Christmas list this year!   AND a copy of Gold Mine.

Trevor S
Christian's picture

I have to agree with Chris. The magazine subscription would be a cool gift for gamer friends.

Christian's picture

I'm intrigued by the "world's smallest" games.  Those sound fun and I bet they would be great for traveling!

I really like the looks of Gold Mine, might have to get that for my family!

Rachel Vacek
Christian's picture

I've played Attraction at BGG Con.  It was a quick, fun game that would be great for kids.  It took no more than 10 seconds to explain the rules.  

paula skeans
Christian's picture

I agree the gift of a gamer magazine would be great

Christian's picture

Walk the plank sounds really fun

There are some great idea!

Lauren B.
Christian's picture

The Little Devils game looks like fun!

Christian's picture

Aztlan looks like a very intriguing game....complex...worth play time for fun with friends

Barry Neufeld
Christian's picture

Where can I purchase the Christmas dice illustrated on the top of this page?