For many people, the phrase “board games” immediately summons up memories of old classics.
Monopoly, Sorry, Careers, and Life are all games that have been popular for decades, appealing to families gathered around the table after filling holiday dinners.
However, what many people do not know is that there is a thriving industry of games that often utterly change the way most players look at board games forever.
Tabletop games as a medium have long expanded beyond the staple games you find in every game closet in America, but only recently have the incredible games popular in gaming subcultures begun to reach mass appeal.
Christmas 2017 is shaping up to be one of the most exciting seasons for those among us who want something more out of our board game experience; the last year has had numerous successful games, sequels, and expansions reach stunning popularity.
In order to showcase some of the best games for this holiday season, we’ve put together a short list of games to consider if you’re looking for more than the standard.
1. Mansions of Madness
Pulling on the horror motifs of H.P. Lovecraft’s Cthulhu Mythos, Mansions of Madness is an enormous game that comes with detailed figurines for both players and monsters.
With a satisfyingly complex ruleset and a dark theme, players will be challenged to think strategically and expect the unexpected.
As an added bonus, this game comes with access to a companion app that adds score tracking and narrative features to the game.
With more prolonged play sessions and incredible ‘replayability’, Mansions of Madness is sure to impress even veterans of the indie tabletop scene.
2. One Night Ultimate Alien
An app-based game from the makers of Ultimate Werewolf, Ultimate Alien is a game that encourages play beyond the board.
Each player plugged into the app will receive different directions, with the end goal of the play session to identify who is an alien and who is not.
Much like Werewolf, the game requires loads of interactivity, with players often acting out scenarios or avoiding specific activities at the behest of the game’s instructions.
Based on the stellar sci-fi video game series by the same name, the XCOM board game brings squad-based strategy to the tabletop.
XCOM soldiers are pitted against an alien menace, just like in the video game, and four players must carefully utilise their troops if they wish to survive until the end of the game.
Much like the PC game before it, the XCOM board game is very challenging.
Brought to you by the makers of the global digital phenomenon Rock Band, DROPMIX is a music game that allows even those who’ve never picked up an instrument to play awesome music.
With a vast number of expansions and ‘playstyles’, DROPMIX works with a companion app to allow a group of players to jam out like never before.
5. Beasts of Balance
Another game utilising an excellent companion app, Beasts of Balance features a number of “artefacts” which can be placed upon a minimalistic plinth bearing the symbol of the game.
The ultimate goal is to use the artefacts to create strange new creatures, balancing them physically on the plinth while working quickly to solve problems within the app, and issues of balance in the physical world bring complications in the digital world.
Following in the footsteps of worldwide successes like Skylanders, Lightseekers is a half-physical, half-digital game that allows you to “summon” your creature figurines and cards into the digital world on the app.
The cards themselves can be battled within or without the app, and the figurines can actually be utilised to control characters within the app, offering an incredible Augmented Reality experience.
7. Doctor Panic
Somewhat reminiscent of Operation, Doctor Panic is a modernisation of the concept.
A team of surgeons (players) must work together in order to save their patient’s life.
Physical pieces challenge players to measure out dosages, stitch up cardboard body parts, and make careful surgical calls. A companion app allows for additional layers of gameplay and new, downloadable challenges.
As you can see, the market for increasingly complex and interesting games has absolutely exploded.
Board games no longer are restricted to the role of rainy-day pastimes, but, instead, offer exciting gameplay that bridges the gap between the digital world and the physical world.
Most of the games on this list are now available at general retailers like Target and Walmart, so you can grab an excellent stocking stuffer for the gamer you know, or get yourself a well-deserved Christmas present early.