No matter what you celebrate at this time of year, I think we can all agree that it’s the time of having family and friends around you and quantifying our loves for one another by how many presents you get them (I take no less than FIVE presents this year, ok mom?).

This list is for those of you who have a special gamer in mind that hasn’t completely been swallowed from playing Red Dead Redemption 2 and enjoys the finer games without wires or polygons.

The Party Gamer - Decrypto

Decrypto, published by Scorpion Masqué. 3-8 Players.

You may have heard of a little thing called Codenames that took board gamers by storm a couple of years ago. And if you haven't, that's fine because you can completely forget about it. I present a game that not only captures the same puzzly word fun, but also doesn’t hold up the game with a ton of hmms and huhs.

The idea is that you’ll have two teams with a set of their own four words. Something like “donkey” or “astronaut”. Each of these words is numbered in a sequence from 1 to 4. Then a cluegiver from each team will have a card with a three numbered sequence, “4, 3, 1” or “1, 3, 2”, and must give clues for the corresponding words to try to get their team to guess the sequence. Easy? Not so easy. While you have to make sure your own team can see the connections between your clues and the actual words, the other team is trying to decrypt (ha!) your clues and guess the sequence as well. If a team can guess the opposing team’s sequence twice, then they win the game!

You win or you lose. There is no try.

Playing off the same set of words for the entire game requires some resourcefulness and a lot of cleverness. You want clues that tie in together but also gets the other team off your scent and second guessing themselves. If you start off with obvious clues, then a clear pattern will be seen a mile away. The gamer in your life that loves to be surrounded by a big group of people will definitely get a kick out of this competitive and clever little word game.

The Newcomer - Reef

Reef, published by Next Move Games. 2-4 Players.

If you've got someone in mind that is fairly new to board gaming and you're looking for something that is accessible, short, and still maintains some thinking power, Reef, is just the game for them.

Carl! I mean, Coral! 

The goal is to just have the most points by the end of the game, and you're earning those points by building your coral reef in certain shapes and colour patterns based on cards you have in your hand. The game will literally take you about 5 minutes to learn and take about 30-45 minutes to play through, making sure that this will hold your attention and captivate you by a ton of bright colours and simple, yet strategic decisions.

The Gamer - Welcome To...

Welcome To..., published by Deep Water Games. 1-100 Players

Welcome To...the next entry on our list. But seriously, this game is no joke. Players are building their perfect neighbourhood and are restricted to how they build it by the numbers of the houses that are paired by special feature like pools and fences. Just like a real street, numbers MUST be in ascending order so you'll be stretching your neck to make sure you can put in those sweet pools and parks that you might mess up the whole neighbourhood, but that's ok because pools are 👌.

A pool!? Millennials, you can forget about living here.

What makes this the perfect game for someone already pretty into the hobby is the fact that you can just replay this over and over again and still be frustrated that you can't break over 100 points. And to make you feel worse about yourself, they give you a set of achievements like in a video game and see that you're not impressing the game designers. Did I also mention that you can basically play with as many as you have player sheets? Look out 100 player games! (not that you should).

The Family - Shadows in the Forest

Shadows in the Forest, published by ThinkFun. 2-7 Players.

Turn off the lights and keep it rated-G with a delightfully whimsical game of hide and seek in a board game. Shadows in the Forest is a game where you play in the dark. Someone will be a literal lantern of light looking for the other players represented by these adorable Ghibli-like shadows.

As shadows, it's your job to stay away from the light and not get caught, but the lantern player will be doing their best to search every nook and cranny looking for your little round butts.

You can't see me if I can't see you!

This is the perfect game for families because it's not only fun for kids to play something with the lights turn down (and not have to go to bed), but it also makes for a very fun game for adults to enjoy as well, all the while staying super immersive and feeling like a kid all over again.

The Couple - Caper

Caper, published by Keymaster Games. 2-4 Players. 

For the gamers that mainly play with a special someone that is the Magneto to their Charles Xavier, Caper is a fantastic choice for putting all arguments to end over who's better than who.

The idea is that you're hiring a crew for heists at several locations. You can equip your hench-people with different doo-dads to make fighting over a location easier, or to try to foil the other player's plans. Collect gold, art pieces, and points in a very clever back and forth battle of wits and control.

When someone asks why you went to the Moulin Rouge, you say "a heist".

And perhaps the best part about playing Caper is just how fast each game can be, so re-matches are almost entirely a must. But hey, at least if you lose, you got to gape at the fantastic artwork present and make you feel like having a good wine of glass with such a classy looking game.

So these are MY picks for your gift shopping this year for the gamers in your life. Don't forget that although you're buying these games for one day, these will surely last you more than the entirety of the year and plenty of hours of fun. A lot of these games have been a joy for me to play and it's been great sharing these picks with you. Thanks for reading!