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2023 Board Game Gift Guide

‘Tis the season for cozy gatherings, laughter-filled moments, and the joy of gift-giving. And what better way to add an extra dash of merriment to your holidays than with the timeless tradition of board games? As the holiday spirit fills the air, we’ve curated a selection of the most captivating, innovative, and downright delightful board games and accessories. Whether you’re shopping for the competitive cousin, the strategic thinker, or the whole family, our comprehensive board game gift guide is here to spark inspiration and help you find the perfect board game to gift this festive season.

So, grab a mug of hot cocoa, cozy up by the fireplace, and let’s embark on a journey through the best board games that’ll undoubtedly make this holiday season one for the books!

2023 Board Game Gift Guide

Important Note:

All board game reviews and ratings from “A Pair of Meeples” are entirely based on the game at two players. You can learn more about our rating system by clicking below.


This post may contain affiliate links so we might receive compensation if you sign up for or purchase products linked to below. As an Amazon Associate, we can earn from qualifying purchases.

What makes a good board game to gift? That’s almost an impossible question as there are just so many options for so many different recipients. In general, a good giftable board game should be a good game first, easily accessible, and also have a wide appeal. This list covers a wide variety of categories of board games and hopefully will at least give you a starting point for picking out that perfect gift.

Classic and “Essential”

These games are the bread and butter of the board gaming world. You can’t go wrong with gifting these well-received, highly popular, and just plain good board games. Just make sure the person you’re gifting these to doesn’t already have any of these cause they its likely they do.

Azul

Azul Board Game Gift

Game Details

  • Players: 2-4
  • Playtime: 30 – 45 Minutes
  • Complexity: Low
  • Co-op: No

The Good

  • High Quality Components
  • Pretty to Look At
  • Fairly Quick Setup and Playtime
  • Extremely Smooth and Elegant Gameplay

At this point, Azul is what we would consider a modern classic at this point. It’s so simple and elegant making it a great game for almost everyone.

When we play other games we often talk about changes or ideas for improvement for the game. Azul is one of those games where we haven’t once done that.  I don’t think there’s a single thing we would change about the game. Azul is one of the most elegant and simple games in our collection and we keep coming back to it again and again.

Azul Two Player Review – A Pair of Meeples

Pandemic: Iberia


Game Details

  • Players: 2-5
  • Playtime: 45 Minutes
  • Complexity: Medium
  • Co-op: Yes

The Good

  • More of a historical theme as opposed to a modern one
  • Requires more strategy in terms of traveling than the original
  • Included variants that increase variety and replayability

Pandemic isn’t as lighthearted of a game as it used to be, but if you have been with us from the beginning you know this game is quite special to us, so a gift guide list isn’t complete without some version of this essential coop game. Iberia is a very good version of Pandemic that has recently gotten a reprint and now is the perfect time to grab it.

Overall Pandemic Iberia makes a lot of improvements over the original, and even if the new art and color scheme might not be some people’s favorite, we think in terms of gameplay it is a step up though, especially with the included variants.  If you are looking to add your first Pandemic game to your collection, in our opinion Pandemic Iberia is a great place to start, probably the best.

Pandemic Iberia Two Player Review – A Pair of Meeples

Ticket to Ride: Europe

Ticket to Ride is one of the most accessible and popular games of all time and there is a version for everyone at this point. This game is very easy to play and Europe is probably considered the essential version by most at this point.

Ticket to Ride: Europe” is an engaging board game that challenges players to build train routes, claim routes between destinations, and strategically collect cards to fulfill their ticket cards. With its blend of strategy, accessible gameplay, and beautifully designed map, this edition offers an immersive journey through Europe’s landscapes, making it a thrilling and competitive experience for players of all ages.


Game Details

  • Players: 2-5
  • Playtime: 30-60 Minutes
  • Complexity: Low
  • Co-op: No

The Good

  • Extremely easy to learn and accessible
  • Great components and artwork
  • Well balanced
  • A timeless classic

Co-op Board Games

The holiday season is about family and friends, right? Or maybe not so much for some. Either way, maybe some more friendly board games that promote teamwork instead of high amounts of conflict might be the best gifts for this time of year.

Horrified

Best Spooky Board Games To Play This Halloween : Horrified

Game Details

  • Players: 1-5
  • Playtime: 60 Minutes
  • Complexity: Medium
  • Co-op: Yes

The Good

  • Good replayability because of the unique monsters
  • Easy to learn and teach, even for new gamers
  • The difficulty is very scalable
  • Good and consistent tension

Even though the theme might be a little mismatched to the season, this cooperative game is great for a very wide audience. Horrified has players working together to fight of some of the most famous monsters from films. TV and books. Each monster has its own unique characteristics making them all feel a little different to play against.

Even better is there are now three different versions of this game allowing you and your gaming partners to pick the monsters you’re most interested in. You can find our full review of the game here: Horrified Two Player Review

Universal Monsters

Ravensburger Horrified: Universal Monsters Strategy Board Game for Ages 10 & Up

American Monsters

Ravensburger Horrified: American Monsters Strategy Board Game for Ages 10 & Up

Greek
Monsters

Ravensburger Horrified: Greek Monsters Cooperative Strategy Board Game for Ages 10 & Up

Spirit Island

One of the best cooperative board games out there but not for the faint of heart. This game is definitely for the more intermediate to advanced board gamers in your life.

“Spirit Island” is a complex and deeply strategic cooperative board game where players take on the roles of powerful spirits defending their island home from colonizing invaders. With its innovative gameplay mechanics and emphasis on collaboration, this game challenges players to use unique spirit powers, manipulate the island’s elements, and coordinate their efforts to thwart the colonizers and preserve the island’s natural balance, offering a deeply immersive and rewarding experience for strategic gamers.


Game Details

  • Players: 1-4
  • Playtime: 90-120 Minutes
  • Complexity: High
  • Co-op: Yes

The Good

  • Deep strategy and complexity provide a challenging and rewarding experience
  • Diverse and asymmetrical spirits with their own unique powers and abilities
  • A lot of game, with a lot of replayability

Pandemic Legacy Season 1


Game Details

  • Players: 2-4
  • Playtime: 60 Minutes
  • Complexity: Medium
  • Co-op: Yes

The Good

  • One of the most exciting and fun board game experiences available
  • The trickle of new content, rules, and modifications makes it easy to digest allowing even non-gamers to enjoy the transition from a gateway game to your own unique more complex game of Pandemic
  • The gameplay is great with excellent design and difficulty scaling ensuring the experience is never soured.

Alright, we know we already included a Pandemic game on this list but if you still have yet to play one of these insanely amazing legacy games you are missing out. Pandemic Legacy games will give you a new perspective on what a board game can be and are perfect for the holiday season where you have vacation time to make your way through their legacy campaigns.

If you haven’t played Pandemic Legacy Season 1 yet, you should change that!  This game gets one of our highest recommendations and we think it’s a game almost everyone should try to play at some point.  The dynamic and exciting campaign makes this game one of the most “fun” games in existence and with the right gaming partners one you will remember forever.

Pandemic Legacy Season 1 Two Player Review – A Pair of Meeples

Party Games

These are the perfect category of games for the holidays. These usually allow for a large number of players, are easy to play and learn, and are often just plain fun. There are a lot of great new recent releases in this category and sure to be something for everyone!

Decrypto

“Decrypto” is a thrilling word-based party game where two teams compete by trying to decrypt coded messages sent by their opponents while also protecting their own code. Players give clues to hint at their team’s secret words, utilizing creativity and deduction to outwit their rivals in a race against the clock, resulting in an intense and entertaining battle of wits.

You can get the special 5th anniversary edition of this currently number one ranked party game.


Game Details

  • Players: 3-8
  • Playtime: 45 Minutes
  • Complexity: Medium
  • Co-op: Teams

The Good

  • Lots of replayability with 440 unique words
  • Very social while still feeling like a true game
  • Extremely engaging and fun

Ready Set Bet

Ready Set Bet is the newest party game that is quickly rising the ranks in this category. It provides hectic and fast-paced betting fun.

It can be played with or without its companion app, but most agree that if you use the app it makes the game flow great and allows everyone to play while upping the real-time aspect. You can control the speed making the game as chaotic or as accessible as you want.


Game Details

  • Players: 2-9
  • Playtime: 45-60 Minutes
  • Complexity: Low
  • Co-op: No

The Good

  • Real-time betting creates an engaging, exciting, and fun experience
  • The app makes the game really easy to play and setup
  • Great for larger groups

Don’t Get Got

Don't Get Got Game Gift Guide

Game Details

  • Players: 2
  • Playtime: 30 Minutes
  • Complexity: Medium
  • Co-op: No

The Good

  • Excellent theme and art that perfectly plays into the gameplay
  • Asymmetric players and their goals add a lot to the game and make it very unique and highly replayable, while still feeling quite balanced
  • Quick and easy to teach and play
  • Feels like a truly modern take on trick taking

This isn’t the newest party game but it’s one that we think is unique and underrated enough that it is deserving of a spot. This is a game that isn’t so much a game as it is an activity and it’s great to have going on in the background of your family holiday gatherings or your everyday life.

This game is refreshing and great to pull out at parties, events, or just to play in the background of your daily life. It takes seconds to learn and teach but provides hours of fun as players try to outthink and outsmart each other while waiting for the perfect opportunities to succeed at their mission. It definitely fills a very niche spot in the board game market, but that’s what makes it cool. It’s fun to pull out for a day, but it’s one of the few games you could play with somebody over multiple days, weeks, or months, at least if you get that good at not getting got.

Don’t Get Got! Two Player Review – A Pair of Meeples

Without Fail

This new party game from Exploding Kittens has players attempting challenges while their friends make the challenges more difficult. Whoever makes the challenge most difficult is that player’s partner.

Without Fail is simple at its core but it is sure to have your group having a great game night filled with laughs.


Game Details

  • Players: 2+
  • Playtime: 20 Minutes
  • Complexity: Low
  • Co-op: Teams

The Good

  • Easy to learn and play
  • Great for some laughs as you work your way through funny challenges
  • Be prepared for some physical activity

Strategy

These are the games that many would consider some of the best of the best. They take a lot of mechanics like engine building, card drafting, worker placement, deckbuilding, and more and tie them together into a great game that plays well and typically is highly strategic. These games are some of the most popular and for good reason.

Lost Ruins of Arnak

Lost Ruins of Arnak Board Game Gift Guide

This game has it all with a broadly appealing theme that almost any player can get into.

 Lost Ruins of Arnak is a very well designed game that has succeeded at something many other games have failed at. It has put deck building, worker placement, and resource management into one cohesive experience that is quite easy and fun to play.  The game is even easy to teach to less experienced board game players, which is quite impressive considering it’s still decently complex due to all these different options and mechanisms.   The very accessible theme and gameplay combined with a little bit of all these different board game mechanisms is why Lost Ruins of Arnak has quickly become one of the most popular board games of all time.  

Lost Ruins of Arnak Two Player Review – A Pair of Meeples

Game Details

  • Players: 1-4
  • Playtime: 30-120 Minutes
  • Complexity: Med
  • Co-op: No

The Good

  • Has a little bit of everything in terms of game mechanisms.
  • Very Accessible Theme
  • Excellent Components and Art
  • Easy to teach (harder to learn)
  • Everything works together surprisingly well

Dune Imperium

Dune Imperium Board Game Gift Guide

Game Details

  • Players: 1-4
  • Playtime: 60-120 Minutes
  • Complexity: Medium
  • Co-op: No

The Good

  • A good amount of interaction between players.
  • A great blend of multiple game mechanics that work extremely well together.
  • Incorporates conflict in a way that doesn’t feel too aggressive, fiddly, or frustrating.
  • Very well balanced
  • Every single action matters and feels like it has an impact on the game’s outcome

Dune Imperium is one of the best modern board games we have ever played…period.  The blend of mechanics, the perfect player balance, the right amount of player interaction, and the cool and interesting theme all come together into a “must have” game in our opinion. It doesn’t matter if you are a fan of the theme or not, the gameplay is so good it grabs you and pulls you in even if you don’t know what spice or sandworms are.  It’s a game you can’t stop thinking about and want to play again and again.  

Dune Imperium Two Player Review – A Pair of Meeples

Ark Nova

“Ark Nova invites players to strategically plan and build a modern zoo, aiming to create the most successful establishment. With over 255 unique cards featuring animals, specialists, enclosures, and conservation projects, players use these cards and a set of action cards to enhance their zoo’s appeal, manage resources, and support global conservation efforts, delivering an immersive and replayable gaming experience.”


Game Details

  • Players: 1-4
  • Playtime: 90-150 Minutes
  • Complexity: High
  • Co-op: No

The Good

  • Mixes a lot of mechanics together really nicely
  • Great for those who want a very heavy optimization game
  • Very multidimensional game with quite a lot of variety and replayability

Terraforming Mars

Board Game Gift Guide Terraforming Mars

Game Details

  • Players: 1-5
  • Playtime: 2-3 Hours
  • Complexity: Medium
  • Co-op: No

The Good

  • Very satisfying card based engine building
  • Pretty thematic and one a lot of players can enjoy
  • Over 200 unique cards that are very applicable to the theme and make the game very replayable
  • Lots of unique starting corporations to explore that lead you on different strategies and paths to victory

Terraforming Mars shines because of its card play, the interactions between played cards whether subtle or dramatic make every decision seem impactful and meaningful.  With 208 unique cards, there are so many paths and card combos to explore, and every single game will lead you to a new strategic game experience, as you analyze the cards you’re dealt and decide how best to use them.

Terraforming Mars possibly does card-based engine building better than any other game we have played and also sprinkles some other game aspects on top to create a very satisfying gaming experience, and even more so if you’re a nerd and fan of the theme.

Terraforming Mars Two Player Review – A Pair of Meeples

Two Player Only

What we are known for here at A Pair of Meeples. Below are some of the best two player only games that are perfect to gift to your gaming partner.

Splendor Duel

Splendor Duel Board Game Gift Guide

Game Details

  • Players: 2
  • Playtime: 30-45 Min
  • Complexity: Low
  • Co-op: No

The Good

  • Easy to play and learn
  • Extremely well-designed
  • A game you can get better at each time
  • Very nice components
  • A lot of game in a small package
  • Feels very strategic and tactical

Splendor Duel, technically speaking, is one of the best board games we’ve played.  Everything is so well designed, every victory condition is equally achievable, every card is meaningful and balanced, and even the number of cards in each tier seems to be perfectly calculated.

Splendor Duel is almost comparable to chess, a great and extremely well-designed game but one that isn’t the most exciting, at least to those who aren’t already in love with the game. That fact is probably the most important thing to keep in mind when deciding if Splendor Duel is the right board game for you. 

Jekyll vs. Hyde

Best Spooky Halloween Board Games : Jekyll vs. Hyde

Game Details

  • Players: 2
  • Playtime: 30 Minutes
  • Complexity: Medium
  • Co-op: No

The Good

  • Excellent theme and art that perfectly plays into the gameplay
  • Asymmetric players and their goals add a lot to the game and make it very unique and highly replayable, while still feeling quite balanced
  • Quick and easy to teach and play
  • Feels like a truly modern take on trick taking

This is a pretty new trick taking game for two players that is an absolute blast to play as one player tries to maintain their sanity and identity and the other tries to rip it apart and cause chaos. This is one of our new favorites and is perfect for fans of the genre and those who want a quick little card game for just two players.

Jekyll vs. Hyde is exciting, fun, extremely deep, highly replayable, and yet still has all the familiarity of any old trick taking game.  Where others have failed to hold our attention for even a full round, this one keeps us coming back for seconds and thirds and it doesn’t appear that will change even potentially after hundreds of play.

Jekyll vs. Hyde Game Review

7 Wonders Duel

7 Wonders Duel Board Game Gift Guide

Game Details

  • Players: 2
  • Playtime: 30 Minutes
  • Complexity: Medium
  • Co-op: No

The Good

  • Multiple paths to victory
  • High-Quality Production
  • Interesting and unique theme
  • Plays Smoothly
  • Fairly quick, especially on consecutive rounds
  • Easy to play once you know how

7 Wonders Duel is a great game, it plays quickly and smoothly while also being deep enough for more experienced players. One of our favorite things about this game is just how quickly you can play it while still having a really satisfying gaming experience. There’s no denying it’s very well-designed but it still has some minor flaws. There are expansions that alleviate some of the main complaints we had about the game though.

7 Wonders Duel Review – A Pair of Meeples

Stocking Stuffers

These games are your small, and usually pretty cheap and affordable games. Just because they come in a small package though doesn’t mean a small amount of game. The games below have a lot to offer and make some of the best gifts for family and friends.

The Crew Mission Deep Sea


Game Details

  • Players: 2-5
  • Playtime: 20 Minutes
  • Complexity: Medium
  • Co-op: Yes

The Good

  • Unique Co-op Trick Taking
  • Increased Replayability
  • Gradual Increase in Difficulty of Missions
  • Quite Portable
  • Tasks are easier to understand
  • A lot more variety than in the original

The Crew Mission Deep Sea takes everything from the original and improves upon it by increasing the puzzle variety without greatly increasing the complexity of the game.  What was already a great, new, and unique implementation of trick-taking in a game has been made even better by the new task cards.

Overall The Crew Mission Deep Sea has succeeded at being a great and improved sequel to an already amazing genre-defining game.  If you have extensively played The Crew The Quest for Planet Nine and enjoyed it, don’t hesitate to add The Crew Mission Deep Sea to your collection.

The Crew Mission Deep Sea Two Player Review – A Pair of Meeples

The Mind

The Mind Board Game Gift Guide

Game Details

  • Players: 2-4
  • Playtime: 20 Minutes
  • Complexity: Low
  • Co-op: Yes

The Good

  • Quick & Simple
  • Unique
  • Very personal
  • Small and takes little tablespace

The Mind is such a simple game without any strategic depth to it.  You have only one decision to make over and over again, and that’s when to lay your cards down.  The initial rounds can be a little boring and uneventful depending on the deal but this is quickly resolved after a few rounds. Even given all this, The Mind still ends up being super fun and exciting.  It provides something unique and quick, that’s a perfect filler game. 

The Mind Two Player Review – A Pair of Meeples

Hanabi

Hanabi Board Game Gift Guide

Game Details

  • Players: 2
  • Playtime: 30 Minutes
  • Complexity: Medium
  • Co-op: No

The Good

  • Excellent theme and art that perfectly plays into the gameplay
  • Asymmetric players and their goals add a lot to the game and make it very unique and highly replayable, while still feeling quite balanced
  • Quick and easy to teach and play
  • Feels like a truly modern take on trick taking

Hanabi is a perfect quick and easy filler game that offers an excellent co-op experience in a very compact package. It’s so simple to teach and learn but hard to master especially with more players.  Its unique card-holding mechanism makes it a blast to teach to new players and it’s a joy to watch as rounds progress and players get better at giving and understanding clues.

Hanabi Two Player Review – A Pair of Meeples

Clothes, Accessories, and More

Sometimes it’s just easier to pick something other than a board game as a gift for the gamer in your life. From shirts to accessories and more, these are the much more broadly appealing gift ideas.

Board Game Buddies Meeple Shirts

We’re not even going to deny this is a shameless plug. These board game buddy shirts are made by us personally and are a great way to claim your color. If you’re wearing your player color shirt nobody better be arguing when you take that color on game night.

Or even better get a set for your gaming group so you can match and show your love for board games together.

Board Game Storage Bowls

Board gamers can’t have enough of these handy dandy storage containers. They make it easy to organize board game pieces and make playing much more convenient.

Meeple Keychain

Give that gamer in your life a gift that lets them take their love of board games everywhere they go with them. These keychains are also directly made and sold by us, but hey if you already got a t-shirt you may as well get a matching keychain.