The 2019 Dice Hate Me Holiday Gift Guide

holidayguideanner2019Seasons Greetings, Dear Readers! It’s time once again for that favorite seasonal tradition – the 9th annual Dice Hate Me Holiday Gift Guide! I can’t believe it’s been nine years that I’ve been sharing my tabletop favorites for Santa’s sleigh, but here we are – and I’m so glad you’re here to celebrate the season with me.

I’ve collected another great batch of gaming gifts this year – some ordinary, many unconventional – for all your family and friends. So haul out the holly and fill up the stocking, ‘cause we need a little Christmas now! Happy Holidays and Happy Gaming!

Best Game for That Special Friend Who Has a Nightmare Before Christmas Tree Every Year
horrified backHorrified

Yes, yes, I know it’s Christmas, but I’m leading off this gift guide with a hint of Halloween, because Halloween is awesome! Horrified is also awesome, and deceptively so – at its core is a fairly straightforward cooperative game that involves set collection and pick-up-and-deliver mechanics. What sets the game apart is how smoothly these mechanics allow the real fun and variability of the game – the classic Universal Studios monsters – to truly shine. In the game you’ll face off against Frankenstein’s monster, The Bride of Frankenstein, Dracula, The Invisible Man, The Mummy, The Creature from the Black Lagoon, and The Wolf Man, and each monster has different abilities and various ways in which they can be defeated. Depending on the monster mix (from one to three monsters depending on the challenge level) you and your cohorts will have to vary your strategies and tactics to stop the monsters and save the villagers from game to game. The production value is top notch with great sculpted monsters, and the flavor of these classic films permeates every play – Abbott & Costello even get in on the action! The name of the game is Horrified, but I can guarantee you that anyone finding this nightmare under their Christmas tree won’t be.

Horrified is a game for 1-5 monster hunters by Prospero Hall from Ravensburger. It retails for $34.99 and you can buy it online or at your Favorite Local Game Store.

Best Game to Move ‘Em On Up from Ticket to Ride

If you haven’t heard of Wingspan just yet you’d definitely be in the minority. And if you haven’t, allow me to enlighten you. Wingspan is the winner of this year’s Kennerspiel des Jahres award, which is German for “a really huge award for awesomeness”. In Wingspan, you’re essentially assembling a dream team of North American birds to add to your personal flock (tableau). You’ll spend turns choosing one of three actions: drawing cards (birds) into your hand, gathering food, or causing your collected birds to lay eggs in their nests. You collect those birds in a fourth action by paying the food type that attracts the bird and adding the bird in your hand to the appropriate space in your flock. Most birds have a special ability that triggers every time one of the first three actions are used, so your feathered engine builds and builds over the four rounds of play. This one is pretty much a no-brainer, and I feel almost like cheating putting it on the list. In 2004, Ticket to Ride won the Spiel des Jahres and charted the way for future gateway games. Wingspan will continue to do the same for players who have rode the rails and wish to look to the sky for their next gaming adventure.

Wingspan is a game for 2-5 amateur ornithologists by Elizabeth Hargrave from Stonemaier Games. It retails for $55 and you can buy it online or at your Favorite Local Game Store.

Best Game for Your Favorite Speed Demon

I have the need – the need for speed. So does my mom; she sure does like her racing. To that end I’m always on the lookout for a fun and exciting race game, and Downforce definitely delivers. Downforce isn’t just a racing game, though – in the game you’ll be bidding to own one of the six cars in the race, plus secretly betting on the winning driver during the race. Players maneuver their cars around the track from a set of cards in hand; the cool part is that most cards will also move the other cars in the race, so timing (and a little luck and/or cajoling the other players) is paramount. Like all of Restoration Games’ titles, Downforce is a re-imgaining of an older game that has been out of print; in this case, Wolfgang Kramer’s classic Top Race. It’s a fantastic design made even better by Restoration Games’ attention to detail and production.

Downforce is a game for 2-6 gearheads by Wolfgang Kramer, Rob Daviau, and Justin D. Jacobson from Restoration Games. It retails for $39.99 and you can buy it online or at your Favorite Local Game Store.

Best Stuffer for the Stocking

Everybody loves a good holiday party, and what better way to get that party started than with a great party game? In Medium players will have a hand of cards with words on them. Their partner for the round will play a card, then that player will play a card in return. After establishing a true psychic connection, at the count of three those two players will say a word (or phrase or name or anything, really) that is the “medium” between the two words on the cards. If they established a connection and said the same thing, they’ll gain a nice amount of points. If not, they’ll need to find the medium between those two new words. The classic example from the first time I encountered this game were the words “moon” and “crack”. One player said “crater” and the other said “butt”. Now they needed to find the medium between butt and crater. This is the fun part. This is the part where there’s often laughter and tears. This is pure Medium. In full disclosure, Greater Than Games – of which I am part owner – publishes Medium. However, that just means I know how much fun this is and, when I discovered it in 2018, why it didn’t take a psychic to tell me we needed to get this game in people’s hands and homes.

Medium is a game for 2-8 crafty clairvoyants by Danielle Deley, Lindsey Sherwood, and Nathan Thornton from Greater Than Games. It retails for $19.95 and you can buy it online or at your Favorite Local Game Store.

Best Game for Your Favorite Lovecraft Freak
final hourFinal Hour

It just wouldn’t be a proper holiday gift guide without a little Lovecraft, and this year’s selection – albeit from the usual house of Arkham, Fantasy Flight – is just a little bit different. Yes, this one is a cooperative game set in the world of the Arkham Files, but Final Hour eschews the typical long, sprawling narrative thematics for tight, Euro-centric game play. Players take on the familiar roles of investigators trying to stop a ritual from taking place on the Miskatonic University campus, keeping creepy critters at bay, and discovering clues to unravel the mystery. Each investigator has a special deck of cards with abilities that match the investigator, with each card having a top and a bottom effect. Each round, players draw one of those cards, then play one numbered card from their hand, hoping to get the desired effect. The lowest two numbers played will trigger the upper portions of the respective players’ cards, while the highest two numbers will trigger the bottom portions. Often, the top is fairly helpful, but not quite as powerful; the bottom will help the players get closer to solving the puzzle of the ritual but more than often trigger “Very Bad Things.” In a Lovecraft game, you can only imagine what those things might be. Final Hour might be a departure from the usual Arkham Files fare, but this will still be fun for those looking for a little fright on their Christmas night.

Final Hour is a game for 1-4 intrepid investigators buy Carlo A. Rossi from Fantasy Flight Games. It retails for $39.95 and you can buy it online or at your Favorite Local Game Store.

Best Game to Get Cousin Timmy Away from the Dang X-Box for Once
slidequestSlide Quest

Slide Quest is tagged as “The Video Game Board Game” and, although that’s a tad misleading, any button jockey that enjoys a good twitch game is probably going to have a good time with this one. In Slide Quest, your mission is to guide a knight through various mazes, avoiding traps and vanquishing foul creatures. To do this, you’ll be using levers on four sides of the map to tilt the field hither and yon, causing the ball-bearing-based knight to meander around. Cooperate with your fellow players and you’ll guide the knight to victory; hog the lever or fail to listen and you’ll find your poor knight falling to a fearsome fate. The game concept is incredibly simple, but the adrenaline-fueled play keeps the game fresh and challenging, insuring everyone will want to give this quest another try again and again.

Slide Quest is a game for 1-4 dexterous daredevils by Nicolas Bourgoin and Jean-François Rochas from Blue Orange Games. It retails for $19.95 and you can buy it online or at your Favorite Local Game Store.

Best Game for Your Huckleberry
westernlegendslayoutWestern Legends

Western Legends is described by the publisher as an “open-world sandbox tabletop adventure” which, in the realm of board games, is a bit of a rarity. Playing Western Legends is probably best described as the closest any board game has ever gotten to the feel of a digital MMORPG, except with more gambling and gunfights. In Western Legends, you’ll take on the role of a classic figure of the American West, from folks like Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday, to Annie Oakley and that lone ranger, Bass Reeves. During your adventures you can get legend points in a whole heap of ways – gunfighting, playing poker, driving cattle, stealing cattle, digging for gold, bringing bandits and outlaws to justice, and even having a grand ol’ time spending tons of money at the “cabaret”. You might find yourself falling on the wrong side of the law during your adventures which will put you on the run from the law, or you might find yourself as a lawmaker, chasing down those pesky black hats. The Wild West was an awfully big place, and it takes a big game like Western Legends to capture the feel of that particular piece of Americana. I recommend you rustle this one up for your holidays on the ranch.

Western Legends is a game for 2-6 gutsy gunslingers by Hervé Lemaître from Kolossal Games. It retails for $74.99 and you can buy it online or at your Favorite Local Game Store.

Best Game for Aunt Jenny Who Never Turns Off CNN

Every now and then a board game about historical politics pops up and immediately my ears perk. This was especially so when Capstone Games announced the release of Watergate since I used to work for the Washington Post. Watergate, as the name implies, involves the scandal that rocked the Nixon administration. In the game, one player will take on the role of the Washington Post attempting to connect Nixon’s administration to damning evidence, while the other player will take on the administration, trying its damndest to block the Post long enough for public interest to wane. Watergate, like its more complex historical predecessors such as Twilight Struggle and 1960, incorporates a set of cards that have multiple uses. All cards can be used to shift the influence along certain tracks, guaranteeing control of evidence as it pops up or gaining initiative for the following round. Or, cards can be used for the special event along the bottom to affect gameplay, with the more powerful effects removing the card completely from play. The resulting tug of war between Nixon and the Post creates a palpable tension from such seemingly humble mechanisms, and ultimately retells the story of Watergate in an entertaining and delightful way.

Watergame is a game for 2 resourceful reporters by Matthias Cramer from Capstone Games. It retails for $34.95 and you can buy it online or at your Favorite Local Game Store.

Best Dice Game for Players That Hate Dice
fleetdiceFleet: The Dice Game

Much like those titles involving Lovecraft, games from designers Matt Riddle and Ben Pinchback are no strangers to the gift guide. And rightly so, they’re just plain fun. This particular holiday, I highly recommend the dice-fueled follow-up to the 2012 Dice Hate Me Game of the Year, Fleet. Like its card-based predecessor, Fleet: The Dice Game sees players take control of a grand fishing fleet, reeling in the big ones for points and profit. Over 10 rounds, players will draft dice to do things during two distinct phases. Phase 1 is the Boat phase, where players will use their dice to increase their share in five fishing licenses that provide boats for fishing and special powers that manipulate dice and gameplay. Phase 2 is the Town phase, where players use dice to build specialty ships in the Harbor, increase their coin supply in the Market, or construct useful buildings in the Wharf. Although there are many roll and writes in the board game space right now, I consider Fleet: The Dice Game to be the best of the bunch. From incredibly varied strategies to try out each game, to the totally awesome and satisfying combos that can be pulled off from round to round, you or your friends and family will be fishing this one off the shelf constantly.

Fleet: The Dice Game is a game for 1-4 fancy fishermen by Matt Riddle and Ben Pinchback from Eagle-Gryphon Games. It retails for $29.95 and you can buy it online or at your Favorite Local Game Store (maybe).

Best Game for That One Friend That Drives a Subaru Outback (You Know What I’m Talking About)

Planet is a puzzle, both in gameplay and to describe. You get a blank dodecahedron that signifies your barren planet, and you spend 12 rounds drafting magnetic pentagons featuring land and/or sea types to stick to your planet (geometry lesson ends, I promise). As the rounds progress, if you have the most appropriate land/sea types for the cute animals in the card queue you get to take that animal for points, and it now populates your planet. At the end you’ll check your land/sea types to see what threshold you reached from your secret objective drawn at the beginning of the game and count up the animals you collected throughout. The highest points wins! This game is super easy to play, but the spatial puzzle of how to attach your pentagon tiles to your dodecahedron to optimize your points and plan for your planetary future can be mind-boggling. Planet also happens to be gorgeous and full of toy factor; no one will want to keep their hands off the components. Overall, this game is perfect to throw in the back of that Subaru for game nights when you really just need to save a planet – any planet.

Planet is a game for 2-4 puzzle lovers by Urtis Šulinskas from Blue Orange Games. It retails for $34.99 and you can buy it online or at your Favorite Local Game Store.

Best Game to Buy Uncle Danny So You Don’t Have To Play Splendor Anymore

In Hadara, you’re the leader of a burgeoning civilization somewhere on Earth, and you’ll guide that civilization to grand heights over three epochs. Sound kinda familiar? It doesn’t matter, Hadara’s theme is completely irrelevant. You’re not going to stand up after this game is over and talk about how your Elbonians cornered the mud market to rule the world. What you are going to do after the game is sit back, totally chill, and think “well, that was rather pleasant” and want to do it all over again. I’m not gonna lie – on the surface, the core of Hadara seems like it’s going to be like playing with an Excel spreadsheet. And there are several tracks to manage in your civilization that reinforces that. But the core of the game is in the unique, two-phase card-drafting set up that makes each epoch seem fresh. In one phase you’ll be drawing two cards from one of five colors relating to your sliding tableau. You’ll choose one and pay coins to make it happen or discard it for coins, placing the other card in the discard pile for that particular color. The rondel will spin to the next color and you’ll do that all over again, repeating until the cards are gone. Then in the next phase, you’ll choose a color and either buy the top card of the discard pile or discard it for coins. You’ll use your influence in some colors to buy tiles, create statues, or up the overall value of your civilization, all for end-game points. And that’s pretty much it. To some, it may not sound like what you’re looking for; but if you have friends or family who won’t stop suggesting Splendor and you’d rather take a hockey puck to the face than play that again, Hadara will be a refreshing – and totally chill – change of pace.

Hadara is a game for 2-5 civ builders by Benjamin Schwer from Z-Man Games. It retails for $49.99 and you can buy it online or at your Favorite Local Game Store.


Although we provide convenient links to buy many of the games in the gift guide online, we highly encourage all of you dear readers to shop at and support your local game store. Without the heroic efforts of the intrepid brick and mortar store owners, the hobby wouldn’t be half as amazing as it is today. Here is a list of Dice Hate Me-approved local game stores that we have either visited or have been helpful to us and the hobby. If you’re near one of these, buy there and give small business owners a warm glow this holiday season!

Don’t forget to check out previous Holiday Gift Guides below – there are eight more years of great gift ideas!

Related posts:

  1. The 2016 Dice Hate Me Holiday Gift Guide
  2. The 2018 Dice Hate Me Holiday Gift Guide
  3. The 2012 Dice Hate Me Holiday Gift Guide
  4. The 2013 Dice Hate Me Holiday Gift Guide
  5. The 2014 Dice Hate Me Holiday Gift Guide
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