Christmas Gift Shopping Tips


Hey everyone, happy holidays! I hope your days are filled with Holiday cheer, laughter, fun with family, and all around merriment. That being said, I’m sure there is also plenty of stress planning for relatives, figuring out vacation plans, and of course the worst thing of all: gift shopping. I’m obviously not saying that giving gifts is a bad thing, but if you’re like me then you definitely have had plenty of years when everything was done last minute.


Last year I wrote an article about ten great board games to buy as last minute Christmas Gifts. This year I wanted to throw out a couple ideas for good ways to get quality gifts for your friends and family with time to spare. Hopefully you’re all finished with your shopping this year, but if not I hope these tips will help you look in the right place this week. So without further ado, here is Christmas Shopping Tips Round 2, Electric Boogaloo!

Amazon Prime is your Friend

I’m not exaggerating when I say that every single gift I bought for Christmas this year was off of Amazon. It’s mind boggling to me how they are able to provide so many products atamazon a competitive price, and guarantee that almost all of them can get to you within two days. Am I fishing for a sponsorship right now? Perhaps. But I’m also serious when I say that Amazon can be a lifesaver for busy people who can’t find time to go out to a store and need gifts delivered in a hurry. In addition, if you have an Amazon Prime subscription you can get a number of games (and anything else you can think of buying) with two days free shipping! Just for reference, I did a search for board games on Amazon and was able to find the following games right away:

Check Websites for Holiday Sales

It’s hard to deny that board games can get expensive, especially newer ones. Luckily enough, around the holidays most businesses take advantage of the holiday rush and provide big sales to incentivize people to buy their products. You see this as early as Black Friday, but a lot of deals stay valid until all the way through to Christmas Day. If you want to see what type of discounts are available before going shopping, most stores now have an online catalog on their website with information about the sales that are going on. This is more common with large stores rather than small businesses, but it still is helpful to know how much you’ll spend before you walk into the store. I recommend checking out Target, Walmart, and Toys R Us to see what sales they offer.

Local Stores have a Larger Stock

If you’re lucky enough to have a local game store near you, I highly recommend going to see their selection if you get a chance. They might not have exactly what you’re looking for when you first walk in, but they probably have a lot of good alternatives and their game selection will be much larger than any other chain store in the area. On top of that, supporting small businesses is always a worthwhile venture, so if you have the opportunity don’t skip out on checking them out!


A Blast from the Past

All Board Games

This Christmas vacation, like the ones before it, has had a lot of fun surprises in store for me once I drove up to see my family. I’ve been to a cool Pittsburgh museum, had lunch at a church converted into a restaurant, saw a University of Pitt basketball game, and have gotten some much needed R&R in the process. One of the coolest surprises, however, came in the form of a large box my Grandfather handed to me my first day in PA. This box contained a large number of games for me to add to my collection.

For some background on this: my Grandpa recently sold his condo in Florida and was working hard packing everything up to take to his house in PA for Christmas. A lot of unneeded items were donated, and unusable ones were discarded, but he was always keeping an eye out for useful things he could give his relatives. He also was aware that I write this blog, so one day in November he called me up and asked if I had any use for his old board games. As I’ve discussed before in my post about old school vs. new school games, I have always enjoyed older games and like the idea of owning originals of some of the more popular ones. Remembering that I used to play original versions of Monopoly and the Game of Life at his condo when I was young, I told him that I would be happy to take those games off of his hands.

Fast forward to the present, and the box I was given was much larger and heavier than I originally expected. I open it up and to my surprise, it’s a large stack of older and newer games in all shapes and sizes! Grandpa gave me over a dozen different games, including some staples of the gaming industry as well as some games from my childhood. I’ve been delving into the games periodically throughout the trip and have found some gems, including but not limited to:

  • An original copy of Monopoly
  • An original copy of The Game of Life
  • An original copy of Battleship
  • An original copy of Parcheesi
  • Block-building games such as Blockhead!, Ta-Ka-Radi tiles, and Lincoln Logs
  • Slightly newer games like Hoopla and Tiddley Winks
  • Games I don’t remember and haven’t seen before, but am looking forward to trying out!

I’ve already gotten a chance to play a few rounds of Battleship with my sister’s fiancée, and plan on trying out some more along with newer additions to my collection the rest of the week. Needless to say, I’m extremely thankful to have such a kind-hearted Grandpa, and I can’t wait to put these games to good use!

Top 10 Board Games as Last Minute Christmas Gifts

Christmas Logo

We’ve all been there at some point in our lives; it’s the week of Christmas, the holidays are in the air, and you’re trying not to panic because you still don’t have all of your Christmas gifts figured out. Whether it’s a Secret Santa gift you’re not sure about, or a close friend or family member who is particularly difficult to give gifts to, you’ll sometimes find yourself scrambling for something to wrap up and give out on the 25th. As someone who has a tendency to pick up gifts last-minute, I’ve gotten used to going to a store with a vague idea about what to buy somChristmas Shopping its over its doneeone but not knowing for sure until I actually see it. This year was the first year in a long time when most of my Christmas shopping was done well
beforehand, so I am on the outside looking in to the hectic last-minute rush, but I can honestly say I’ve felt your pain. So, in order to help with your struggles, I’ve compiled a list of some fun and simple board game gifts that you can find easily in stores this week!

Now obviously, board games are not the perfect gift for everybody. There are plenty of people out there who, for some reason, don’t enjoy board games as much as me. But for nieces and nephews who enjoy playing kids games or for older friends who like to host an occasional game night, there are some great options out there for you to find. Below I’ve listed my top ten Christmas gift games you can find in stores this week:

  • Apples to Apples– Apples to Apples is a great family and/or party game, and luckily enough it’s still around in stores pretty much everywhere you look. The game focuses around choosing the noun card that best fits a card picked by the judge. Fun and easy to play, it’s relatively cheap and popular among friends.
  • Clue– The mystery-based board game has goClue Logone through some changes since it was first created, but at its core it’s still the same game we all played as a kid. A popular game for youn
    ger audiences, I’ve used it for the occasional game night too so it’s not completely outdated for older groups. Make sure that the person you get this for doesn’t already have the game before you buy it for them!
  • Headbanz– The new version of an old game, Headbanz takes “Who headbanzAm I” and simplifies it for younger audiences. This game is fairly popular now and can be found in stores like Walmart, Target, and Toys R Us.
  • King of Tokyo– I found this game at Target when I bought it, and its popularity hasn’t waned since so it is definitely available in a number of different places. A topic of my most recent blog post, King of Tokyo is a dice rolling game that is perfect for all kinds of gamers.
  • Pandemic– Pandemic is a very popular cooperative game currently on the market, so it can be found pretty much anywhere you look. It is slightly more complicated than the average game, but is a good purchase for people who like to have friends over on a regular basis and would be interested in trying something new.
  • Quiddler– A less known game created by the designer of the card game Set, Quiddler is not the most common of Quiddlergames but I’ve seen it in department stores and most frequently in Toys R Us. The game revolves around spelling out words with letter cards and trying to use up as many
    cards in your hand as possible. Good for kids as it helps with critical thinking and mental acuity.
  • Qwirkle– The colorful mix and match game, Qwirkle focuses on matching shapes and colors to form groups and earn points. A good game for younger audiences, but also has appeal to older groups. The game is a bit older than some of the others so it might not be in every store, but it’s considered a staple of the board game industry and shouldn’t be too hard to find.Qwirkle
  • Settlers of Catan– It’s fairly self-explanatory as to why this game is on the list. Settlers is considered one of the most important board games in the industry’s growth and is a heck of a lot of fun to play. If you know someone that doesn’t have a copy of this game, go to any store and you’ll be able to buy it for them (along with many of its expansions).
  • Sorry!– A game that brings back memories for me, Sorry has been a Sorry!popular game for a while. Based on moving four pieces around the board, the trick is to avoid getting your pieces knocked off by other players as you race towards the finish. While the original is probably hard to track down, the newer version of the game is available in most stores.
  • Ticket to Ride– The ever-popular railroad expansion game is pretty pricey in comparison to others on this list, but is worth it if your friend or family member hasn’t played the game or doesn’t have a copy. The game focuses around building rail tracks from city to city, and can be found in all of the major stores without any difficulty.

This list isn’t all-exhaustive, and is more meant to prove the over-arching point that board games can be a good last minute gift for anyone on your list this year. Walking around a game section of a department store is a good way to find something that fits a person’s personality and offers a fun and interesting gift idea for a number of different audiences. To those of you who still have gifts to buy, good luck, and enjoy your holiday rush!

Christmas: A Time for Family (and board games)

Christmas Trees

If I were to choose a favorite holiday, I would probably say Christmas gets the #1 spot in my book. I have so many amazing memories surrounding Christmas; traveling down to Florida with my family, spending time with my relatives from my mom’s side of the family, and calling my dad’s extended family in England to wish them all a Happy Christmas… The gifts were obviously a big part of my youth, but now looking back it’s really all about the family to me. I’m blessed to have extended families on both sides that get along and want to see each other, rather than the stereotypical dread that revolves around some holiday gatherings. Are these Christmas vacations I remember perfect? Of course not. Cousins bicker, Uncles and Aunts have to work late hours, people get sick (usually me for some reason…) and the magic of Christmas seems slightly less magical with the passing of my Grandma this past winter. But still, leading up to December 20th when I drive myself up to Pennsylvania (we switched venues a few years ago from sunny Jacksonville FL to snowy Gibsonia PA) I can’t help but smile at the idea of seeing my family soon.

One of the highlights about the family vacations is seeing my cousins on
my mom’s side: my sister and I are the oldest (she’s two years older than me), and then I have two cousins in college (Betsy and Lauren) and two in High School (Stephanie and Billy). Since all of my cousins are younger than me, watching them grow up can be a very strange feeling. When my mom told me that Betsy had started driving I remember looking at her and telling her that I didn’t believe her. The days when we were all under 5 feet tall couldn’t have been that long ago right? Still, it’s great to see that they are all growing up to be smart, talented, and moskeep-calm-its-just-a-family-reuniont importantly genuinely kind and good people.  Sure, we have our fights, and I know that sometimes I can be inattentive as a cousin, but there are so many great memories it’s like the bad ones don’t even exist in my mind. OK, so now that I’ve gotten the mushy stuff out of the way, I bet you’re thinking “that’s great Jack, but why are you talking about all of this on a blog about board games?” I’m glad you asked random reader, because this article has one very specific purpose: to show you how tabletop games can make Christmas better.

As I have mentioned in previous posts, I play a lot of video games in my spare time. This was especially the case when I was in High School; any chance I got to play video games I would take. The problem was that I was also a very active High Schooler, so whether I was playing in the band, singing in the choir, or hitting serves on the tennis court, I was always busy after school and didn’t have much time when I got home what with homework and that whole “sleeping” thing. So my brilliant solution to this issue was to take my Xbox 360 with me to Florida! It’s vacation, I’ll have tons of time to play the new games I got right? Well, technically yes, but it had a bit of a backlash when it came to my cousins. Now, I’d like to preface this by saying that I wasn’t intentionally trying to ignore my relatives; the issue is mostly revolving around the fact that kids change when they get older. When they were younger, my cousins all really enjoyed watching me play games like Luigi’s Mansion or Pokémon Snap (bringing back N64 game references… I must be getting old). But as we all got older, the types of games I liked changed to one-player adventure games like Prince of Persia or Assassin’s Creed, and my cousins started to become bored with the idea of sitting around a room watching me play a game they couldn’t enjoy themselves. So slowly but surely, things got more frustrating for them (while I remained oblivious) until one cousin said to me “all you do is play video games when you’re here, so what’s the point of you even coming?” And suddenly I realized that what I wanted to do when I was on vacation wasn’t the same as what my cousins wanted to do. I left Florida that year feeling guilty, but also not knowing what would happen when we returned the next year. Should I stop playing video games around the holidays? Is it alright to get a little bit of time to myself to play, or is that selfish? Luckily enough, the next year ended up being one of the better ones, and paved the way for a new tradition on Christmas.

Christmas next year started off a similar way- I pulled out the consoles I had brought with me and my cousins rolled their eyes. We had dinner, we chatted, and things were fine but there was a feeling that it could go south if I moved towards my Grandpa’s den, where my video games were all set up. And then my sister made a recommendation that I will always appreciate: why don’t we play a board game after dinner? It just so happens that one of Katie’s new gifts was 7 Wonders, and she wanted to teach us to play.

Sure enough, we all sat down and labored through the tutorial and finally started to get the hang of things in our first play through. And suddenly, it was as if last year had never happened. I can’t stress enough that games are great at bringing people together- you can focus on a fun activity, but also have time to catch up, joke around, and all in all have a great time. 7 Wonders has become a favorite of ours to play, but we’ve also brought along games like Clue, or Settlers of Catan, or the Lego creation game called Creationary. Not all games are a hit (a two hour game of Settlers of Catan has spoiled it for my cousins somewhat) but no matter what happens with the game we enjoy ourselves. We don’t spend all vacation playing board games of course: we go outside and throw a football, build puzzles, watch TV, and yes I do get some video game time every once in a while. But the games are always a fun part of what we do. I’m looking forward to seeing what new games we play this year, but more than that I’m looking forward to spending time with my family.

So if you spend time with your family this Christmas, I recommend you find something that connects you in the same way board games have connected my family. Ultimately, if you look past the gifts and the food, Christmas is a time for family, and for me that time is something I get to enjoy with some slight help from board games along the way.