Incredibly fun, new in 2019—plus our quick reference for who they’ll be “Great For”
Starting to feel the holiday shopping pressure? Let’s start crossing out names!
With this guide to our favorite board game releases from the past year, you should be able to find something for just about any empty entries on your shopping list, and maybe even a game or two for your holiday get-togethers!
They’re all new in 2019, they’re incredibly fun, and each listing has a quick reference for the loved ones who I would personally consider them to be “Great For.”
Side Note: If you’re more of a watcher than a reader, I recently featured ten of these games in a video.
Okay—Ready to find a great new game? In no particular order, here are our Top 20 Favorites for 2019!
GREAT FOR: Kids, Families & Young Adults who want to focus intensely and work together for 5-10 minutes at a time.
AGES 7+ | 2-4 PLAYERS
Let’s rob a bank! In this cooperative game, you and your fellow players are going to work together to open the vault and get out with the loot!
Everyone chooses their role—your options are Money Man, Hacker, Lookout and Explosives Expert—and then your team leader, the talking box in the middle of the table, will give you commands to either exchange tools, or use the tools in front of you by pushing your button.
This game is all about staying focused and getting in rhythm with your fellow players. There are five difficulty levels, as well as a mythical sixth level that legend says unlocks if level 5 is completed flawlessly.
TOTY NOMINEE: Heist has been nominated for a Toy of the Year (TOTY) award!
Harry Potter: Death Eaters Rising
GREAT FOR: Potter Fans & Game-lovers looking for a challenging cooperative showdown in the Harry Potter universe!
AGES 11+ | 2-4 PLAYERS
In Harry Potter: Death Eaters Rising, you and your fellow players will assemble teams of witches and wizards from the Order of the Phoenix, Dumbledore’s Army, and Hogwarts to fight against Voldemort. Choose to begin with our central heroes like Harry and Hermione, or jump in with a fascinating alternate in McGonagall or Sirius Black. Rally a variety of year-5 characters to your side, then work together to stop the spread of dark influence throughout the wizarding world.
At its heart, Death Eaters Rising is a dice rolling game. Each turn, you’ll roll your character’s starting set of dice. Use the results to defeat villains or to recruit new friends like Ginny Weasley, Luna Lovegood and Alastor Moody—each of whom will give you new special upgrades, like re-rolls, special abilities or extra dice!
GREAT FOR: Families and game-lovers looking for a quick (~15 minute) game that looks amazing on the table and features unique planet spheroids.
AGES 8+ | 2-4 PLAYERS
In the gorgeous game of Planet, you’ll build your very own 3-D planet, complete with oceans, forests, deserts, and most important—Animals!
Each round, you’ll set out five new tiles and an animal card. When your turn comes, you’ll choose one tile to add to your core. At the end of the turn, we’ll see who has the most hospitable planet for this turn’s animal. For instance, Camels love deserts that are near water, and Squirrels loves forests, but not if they’re next to icy tundras.
At the end of the game, the player with the most animals on their planet is the winner!
GREAT FOR: Kids and Young Adults looking for a puzzle game that can be played solo, or with one other player.
AGES 6+ | SOLO or TWO PLAYER
Ready to tackle puzzle after puzzle in this Tetris-style puzzle game? The first thing you’ll do in each game of Genius Square is roll all seven of the included dice and place your wooden “blockers” on the spaces you rolled.
The goal is then to use your shape pieces to cover all the remaining spaces. Every puzzle you roll has at least one possible solution, and there are more than 60,000 puzzles and solutions in total!
The puzzles generated can be played solo or in a race to find the solution between two players.
GREAT FOR: Families and Friends looking for a hilarious and absurd party game about being silly and thinking on your feet.
AGES 10+ | 3-12 PLAYERS
You’ve procrastinated for weeks, stayed up late last night and overslept this morning—and you have a meeting this morning with the world’s worst movie executives.
Pitchstorm is a party card game that puts you and your fellow players in the position of unprepared writers pitching movie ideas! During each round, one player acts as the executive, and everyone else attempts to pitch them movie ideas based on a character card and a plot card. Your pitch might be: A fraternity on the verge of suspension—tries to escape an island full of hungry dinosaurs!
At some point during each pitch, though, the executive may add a note card to the pitch and force the writer to add some really terrible new elements to their movie. At the end of the pitches, the executive chooses which movie they liked the best, with that person scoring a point, then the game continues from there.
GREAT FOR: Kids and families looking for a fast-paced cooperative game that’s one part programming and two parts chaos.
AGES 7+ | 2-4 PLAYERS
Each robot in the house has a task, but those tasks are more easily said than done. In this game of robot programming silliness, you and your fellow players will contribute to the programming of an adorable robo-friend—in real time! The trouble is, you won’t know which commands the other players will be tossing in.
Will you be able to help the little robot complete its task, or will you unleash automated mayhem? Work together to complete each task before your robot’s battery is drained! Quirky Circuits features 21 scenarios of increasing intensity, promising HOURS of brain-bending fun.
GREAT FOR: Families and friend groups looking for a slightly “thinky” party game, especially fans of Codenames.
AGES 8+ | 3-7 PLAYERS (Best with at least four)
Think you know your family and friends? What if you had to help them guess a simple word by writing JUST ONE other word? Well, you’ll have some help, because in this cooperative game, everyone around the table gets to write down one word to help them guess.
Here’s the trick. You don’t get to share what you’re writing with anyone else, and if you write the same word as someone else, neither of you gets to show your word this round. So you’ll need to think carefully and make your clues unique. And up to seven players can play!
GREAT FOR: Kids & Families looking for an inventive game that adds extra thought to the classic “Roll & Move” gameplay.
AGES 5+ | 2-4 PLAYERS
On your mark, get set, SNAIL! In the decision-making game of Snail Sprint, you’ll get a secret race card to see which snails you’re supporting. On your turn, roll the two dice and see which colors come up. Let’s say you roll yellow and green. Now you have to choose: move the yellow snail to the next green space, or move the green snail to the next yellow space?
The strategy in this game is in making the most of your rolls—and did we mention that you’ll be racing up the sides and across the top of the magnetic game box?
GREAT FOR: Kids & Families who want to work together and save the dinosaurs!
AGES 7+ | 1-4 PLAYERS
It’s up to us to save the dinosaurs! The volcanoes on our island are erupting, and we’ll need to help our dinosaur friends gather their eggs and get to safety on the mountaintops.
SOS Dino is a cooperative board game that can be played in a group, or as a solo game experience! On your turn, you’ll pick a lava tile from the bag, place it on the board to extend one of the lava flows, and then move one of the Dinos toward safety. Then it’s the next player’s turn.
At the end, we’ll score points as a group based on how many dinosaurs made it to the mountains, and how many eggs we collected along the way.
AKA (Also Known As)
GREAT FOR: Adults and young adults looking for a quick-thinking twist on classic trivia games.
AGES 12+ | 3+ PLAYERS
We bet you know the movie, “Insomnia in the Pacific Northwest,” also known as… Sleepless in Seattle
How about those inventors, “The Correct Siblings,” also known as… The Wright Brothers
Or the clothing garment, “Lengthy Stamoses,” also known as… Long Johns
You’ll be shocked at the AKA clues that click in your brain! Played in teams, each game of AKA comprises two rounds: the Main Round followed by the Final Round, where you’ll guess as many AKA clues as possible, all in a single category, such as Fruits: “Adam’s Protrusions” (Apple), “The New Black” (Orange), “Unable to Secretly Marry” (Cantaloupe), and more.
GREAT FOR: Families & Game-Lovers looking for a game that involves some strategy and spatial skills.
AGES 8+ | 2-6 PLAYERS
All right, captain. We’ve got an empty hold except for a few uninvited rats. Let’s set off and see what we can stow away before our voyage’s end.
Each turn in ShipShape, we’ll all play a card from our crew for the chance to be the first to pick our next crate tile from the central stack. Then the challenge is in turning those tiles to give us that best possible arrangement of gold, cannons and contraband for the round.
We’ll play three voyages total, each becoming slightly more challenging than the last!
Call to Adventure
GREAT FOR: Game-lovers, Young Adults and Dungeons & Dragons Players looking for a rich strategy game with TONS of room for imagination and storytelling.
AGES 9+ | 1-4 PLAYERS
Your destiny is yours to create in Call to Adventure, an amazing story and character-building game.
At the beginning of Call to Adventure, you’ll choose an Origin, a Motivation, and a secret Destiny that is hidden from all your fellow players.
Perhaps you were an Orphan motivated by Love, who is destined for a Valiant Fall. Or you may be a Soldier motivated by Revenge, destined to become the Tyrant villain in the end.
The story elements are yours to add, as your character acquires new abilities and attempts to overcome challenges as they grow.
One of the nicest and most thematic parts of this game is the rune-throwing system. Instead of dice, Call to Adventure uses a series of two-sided runes that you’ll “throw” to attempt your challenges.
GREAT FOR: Young Adults & Adults who enjoy being rewarded for figuring out how other players think.
AGES 10+ | 3-8 PLAYERS
Who would make a better babysitter: Harry Potter or the Queen of England? Whozit? is a game of co-operative deduction!
Every round, one member of the team chooses a secret target character (Let’s say you draw Dracula) from six drawn at random. Then you’ll draw two phrases from the phrase deck and rank them from Definitely to Definitely Not. Would Dracula drive an expensive car? What he be likely to handwrite a Thank You note?
The rest of the team then judges who among the six characters doesn’t match up with how the two phrases have been ranked. Score a point as a team for each name they correctly eliminate, then move in to the next round!
GREAT FOR: Families, Young Adults & Game-lovers looking for a medium-length (45-60 minute) game where they’ll need to pay close attention to the other players.
AGES 14+ (We say 11+) | 1-6 PLAYERS
Tiny Towns is a game about building… yep, a Tiny Town. Each game will feature seven different buildings that you can construct by adding resource cubes to your town in the correct patterns. On your turn, you can say one cube that you’d like to add to your town, but here’s the trick—each time a player adds a cube on their turn, ALL of the other players must add that same type of cube to their town.
The strategy in Tiny Towns is in planning ahead and guessing what your opponents will do next. If you need a Brick and a Glass cube, and you think someone else will add a Brick on their turn, then you can add Glass on yours and hope for the best!
Do You Know Me?
GREAT FOR: Adults looking to see how well they know one another with a less extreme alternative to Never Have I Ever.
AGES 17+ | 3+ PLAYERS
This one’s not for the young players, but it’s a great way to test how well you know the other players around the table. Each player takes a turn in the hot seat. When it’s your turn, the player to your right will read five hilarious yes-or-no questions about you.
Can you name three people Taylor Swift has dated?
Have you ever thrown up in a cab?
Did you stay home last Saturday night?
And so on.
Place your Yes-or-No answer cards facedown in order, and your fellow players will do the same. Then it’s time to reveal them, and see who knows you best. At the end of the game, the player with the most correct answers is the winner—but really, the game is all about proving how well you know yours friends—or discovering something new about them.
Marvel Champions: The Card Game
GREAT FOR: Marvel Fans and Game-lovers looking for an expandable game experience that can develop over many sittings.
AGES 14+ (We say 12+) | 1-4 PLAYERS
Ultron and his fellow villains are wreaking havoc across the city! Select your deck and become Captain Marvel, Black Panther, She-Hulk, Spider-Man and Iron Man in order to defeat the villain before their scheme comes to fruition!
This game will make you feel like a true hero as you pull off super-powered combos as early as your first game. It can be played solo, or with up to four players. Plus—it’s a Living Card Game, meaning there will be a TON of optional add on game content that players will be able to pick and choose from, like the upcoming Green Goblin and Captain America packs.
Once you have the hang of the game, you can customize and build your own hero decks to become even more formidable.
GREAT FOR: Groups of four or more looking for a creative deduction game with incredible art, in which you’re rewarded for figuring out how other players think.
AGES 8+ | 4-8 PLAYERS
In each round of Detective Club one Active Player will secretly team up with another random player—the Conspirator—and try to make them guess a hidden word using just two illustrated cards! Other players are detectives, who also know the word, but don’t know each others’ identities.
Here’s how it works:
- First, the Active Player will think of a word and play a card from their hand that they think represents that word.
- Next, the Active Player writes their word in all-but-one of the small notebooks, then passes them out.
- The player who receives the empty notebook is the Conspirator!
- Now we’ll go around the circle twice, and each player will play two cards from their hand related to the hidden word.
- At the end of the round, the Active Player announces the hidden word, and each player must try to explain why they played their chosen cards. Then it’s time for everyone to guess who was the Conspirator!
GREAT FOR: Larger groups looking for an action packed timed game with at least a little back-stabbing!
AGES 13+ | 4-10 PLAYERS
We’re doomed! The world is coming to an end! We must act now to survive!!! You and your fellow players are the most powerful leaders in the world working to build and be on a starship that escapes a dying world. We’re Doomed! is a quick, timed, panic-inducing game of international collaboration, retaliation, and blowing each other up for fun!
During the Action Phase, players take one action in turn order to produce or steal either Resource or Influence tokens, which are used to build the escape ship. The bigger the ship, the more players can escape to victory at the end of the game.
During the Contribution Phase, players can negotiate as they pledge their Resources to building the escape ship, then we draw the event card for that round changing the game drastically with secret missions, ethical dilemmas, physical challenges, robots, aliens, lizard-people and more.
After 15 minutes, play stops. Time to board the starship. Who gets in first? The players with the most Influence board the ship first. Once full, the ship launches and the remaining players are left behind to die!
GREAT FOR: Adults & Families looking for a party game that rewards them for thinking the same way as someone else at the table.
AGES 8+ | 3-8 PLAYERS
Each round in Blank Slate, we’ll pick a cue card with a word and a Blank space. For example: Play _____
Next, each player writes the word they think best completes the phrase, trying to exactly match another player’s word without giving a single hint.
If your word matches exactly one other person’s answer, you both score 3 POINTS! If you match more than one other person, you all score 1 POINT. And if you don’t have a match, no points this round.
GREAT FOR: Families & Game-lovers looking for a fairly quick (20-30 minute) collecting game about cute little sushi.
AGES 8+ | 2-5 PLAYERS
In each round of Sushi Roll, you’ll attempt to assemble the perfect plate of sushi dice. You and your fellow players will randomly draw your starting sushi dice from the bag, then roll them and place them on the conveyor belt tile in front of you.
Each sushi type is scored differently. For instance, tempura scores you points for every set of 2 you have, while maki awards the player who has collected the most of it.
Once everyone has rolled their dice, you’ll take turns selecting a sushi die to keep from your conveyor belt, using menus and chopsticks to re-roll your dice or swap in sushi from other players’ conveyor belts. Once everyone has decided on which die to keep, you’ll all pass your conveyor belts to the next player, and make your next selections until the conveyor belts are empty!
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All of these games are available on our shelves, and if none of them sounded like your cup of tea, then we’d be thrilled to chat with you at any of our Board Game Barrister stores and show you a few games that are more your style.
Thanks for reading, and we hope you find some great games to play this holiday season!