The best board games for Christmas 2018

The best tabletop games for families and adults to banish the boredom this Boxing Day

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In the last decade or so, board games have hit the big time again. The new wave of tabletop games is full of inventive ideas, beautiful art, and themes that are much more fun that property trading (although they do sometimes still include that).

The rise in popularity has partly come from improvements in the quality and variety of games, and partly because people see a growing value in spending time enjoying each other's company in person, in a world where more and more of our contact with friends happens online. 

The fantastic games we have here will stretch your mind and your dexterity. We've got top board games for families and friend groups, or for two players to enjoy. 

Don't forget to check out our Black Friday deals 2018 page for all the latest discounts over the Black Friday period!

1. Beasts of Balance

A top game and a fine piece of shelf candy when not in play too

Reasons to buy
+On-screen graphics are works of art+NFC-infused artefacts+Competitive game available

This high-tech game uses an app to ask you to balance differently shaped creatures on top of each other, which grows the digital world on your phone, tablet or TV. The system uses NFC to know whether you've placed the right piece or not. It's not just about the creatures either: a new expansion includes Battle Cards, with power-ups you can place to cause havoc with other people, and there are other expansions with more creature shapes in.

2. Photosynthesis

Why don't you make like a tree and… have a lovely time

Reasons to buy
+What a looker+Straightforward to play+Superb strategy for any age

Take your place as Mother Nature, controlling a forest, with trees of all sizes ready to plant. The shifting sun piece on the outside of the board alters the way shadows form on your trees, and your seedlings being blocked from sunlight from is bad news – the way you cultivate your bark-based charges to full-bloom revolves around the sun (so to speak). Where you sow and grow can affect other players, so there's some great strategy between you without being too cruel.

3. FReNeTiC

Wordplay on the periodic table

Reasons to buy
+No waiting for your turn+Fast and frantic

Race yourself against others and the clock to create the most Scrabble-worthy word you can, but without all that hanging about and thinking – this is a free-for-all game. Draw tiles and lay them on the periodic play space and… start round one. Simply make words using the elemental symbols on the tiles, write them down and, after 45 seconds, score. As the game progresses toward the winning score of 1,000, more tiles means more word opportunities.

4. Azul

Become an interior designer for the king

Reasons to buy
+Finely crafted play pieces+Easy to learn rules+No grout needed

Play with up to four others as you vie to claim the title of tile layer to the king in this award-winning game that’ll transport you to the palace in Alhambra, where these miniature tiles called azulejos were used. You select your tiles from the central factory spaces, with different options being offered by each manufacturer, and build your design on your own personal board. The aim is to complete rows and columns on your play area, with no wasting of tiles – anything you don't use ends up on your floor and will be subtracted at the end. It's jammed with strategy, and the satisfaction of building something beautiful (or the fun of trying to).

5. Ninja Rush

Concentration, focus and a very quick hand are needed

Reasons to buy
+A grabby game that'll lead to expletives+Nice playing pieces+Perfect party game

Time is very literally of the essence in this game. The ninjas on the board have sand timers, and on your turn it's your job to keep moving the ninjas as directed, while keeping the sand flowing. Eventually, you'll flip a card passing a turn to the next player – if you kept all the timers going successfully, you'll get a star (get it? Because they're ninj- ah, you get it), and the first to get stars wins. But the quick wits and fingers needed make it all a lot less simple (and a lot funnier) that it sounds.

6. Monopoly Cheaters Edition

Everything you’ve always wanted to do, made legal

Reasons to buy
+Few similarities to the regular version+Plays in about half an hour+Marvel as good people show their devious side

Monopoly has been a Boxing Day staple for a very long time, which is madness, because it's not a very good game. This version from the dark arts team at Hasbro brings everything we’ve ever wanted that game to be and changes the property trading game hugely. Cheat to create an advantage, acquire money from the bank via stealth, don’t pay your rent… but if you get caught, in the slammer you shall go, plastic handcuff in place to highlight your fate. Basically, it embraces the things that actually make normal games of Monopoly interesting. And possibly makes a much more cutting  commentary on business in the process…

7. Fog of Love

Romantic comedy in a box anyone?

Reasons to buy
+No rulebook – learn as you play+Fully cooperative game for two

Utterly unique, and innovative in the extreme, Fog of Love has two players travelling along the rollercoaster of a relationship: heartbreaks abound, compromises must be made, hidden desires will drive your action, and perhaps you’ll split leading to the end of the game… but try again. Along the way, players will create a new story of love each time, and it can't help but lead to smiles and laughter. It's a really thoughtful game, and a forthcoming revised version improves the option for playing as same-sex couples, including new cover art.

8. When in Rome

Introducing the only Alexa-powered board game

Reasons to buy
+Get in on a world-first+A great new alternative to Trivial Pursuit

This game has teams moving around the globe, city to city. Enable the game's Alexa Skill and you’re ready to play by answering multiple-choice questions from voices local to your city, delivered via your speaker. The question range from easy to hard, so families can play and pick up facts along their journey. Categories include arts, culture, myths, food and drink – get questions right and the local becomes your friend, and on you go.