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20 Best Board Games For Birthday Presents

birthday board games - King Of Tokyo

Hello and welcome! It is great to see you have been browsing the blog and the virtual shelves of Zatu for boardgames. Perhaps, today you are interested in purchasing a birthday board game as a gift for someone special and you are looking for some suggestions and ideas. No worries if the gift is for you, we all love board games here and we know sometimes the best birthday presents are those we pick for ourselves (especially when it's a birthday board game)!

Truth said, it is very hard to not love boardgames and they have been constantly growing in popularity year after year. There are many reasons for loving boardgames starting from the fact that there is a game for every taste, ranging from classic Monopoly to more exotic and complex games. The broader the list of available boardgames, the easier is to find one that fits your group or family and that provides the right amount of fun and challenges you want. Last but not least, game components and boxes have now grown into well designed pieces of art.

For me, boardgames are a great way to laugh, to grow and to spend time together. Playing a board game does not only provides a lot of fun and some great challenges to overcome. It also provides a lot of quality time you could spend with the people you love. Gifting board games, whether it's for birthday or Christmas, is not just giving someone a new game and some fun, but also to give someone the opportunity to enjoy time together with their friends and family. In some cases, this also means gifting someone the opportunity to let you play with a boardgame you would really love to try...

Obviously, the main problem then is: which board game should I pick as my next gift? As we said, the list of available games is so long that choosing a good gift can appear daunting. Personally, a good starting point is to limit the range by considering aspects like your budget, the availability of the games in your favourite store and who will play the game.

From my point of view, this last trait is probably the most important. Therefore, instead of just providing a list of good games with different mechanics and styles, I would like to provide here some recommendation based not only on who will receive the gift but also on who they could played it with. There is no specific order on how the games are listed in each session and I added a brief summary to introduce them and help you decide. If any of them strikes your imagination, I would recommend to check out the linked product page to find out more about it.

Classic & Entertaining Games - Fun With Kids & Family

Boardgames are always a great gift for kids. They can tickle their imagination, help them develop their skills and provide the mean to spend time having fun. Most important, they could keep them away from the screen for a while. When they are younger, they will probably play these boardgames with the family but as soon as they grow a bit older, they could also start playing them with their friends.

All the games below are suitable for 7-10 years old kids. They are not too complex but also not too easy and that could be played in 30-45 minutes max. Most important, all the below are fun to play also for adults and could also be good gifts for an adult if they spent time playing with their kids or as a nice relaxed game to play with friends.

1. King Of New York/ King Of Tokyo

In King of New York and King of Tokyo each player takes the role of a gigantic Kajiu style monster trying to be the last monster standing. Dice are rolled to collect energy and fight monsters while the city around them crumble to the tremendous fight between these monsters. This game is quite fun and evocative and is usually very appreciated by all kids.

2. Ticket To Ride

In Ticket to Ride, you build train routes to connect two major cities on the board by laying small train pieces. Players score points for each route they complete and for connecting the two cities listed on their secret Destination card. Ticket to Ride is always a great entry level for young players and combine the train placing aspect with a strategic yet simple card drafting mechanism. A simpler version is also available for younger kids.

3. Kingdomino Origins

In this prehistoric version of the classic Kingdomino, players draft dominoes like tiles to create a 5×5 grid that scores points based on how many tiles share the same terrain type. Kingdomino is a very good entry level to tile laying games, which makes it a good birthday board game gift, and a lot of fun to play with the family. This version of the classic game can be played in three different variants allowing to create a nice learning curve while increasing re-playability.

4. Micro-Macro: Crime City 

Players works together to 16 criminal cases by determining motives, finding evidence and convicting the perpetrators. All the clues needed to reconstruct the case have to be found by scanning a very detailed 75 x 110 cm game map. A magnifying glass and a set of cards come in hand to guide you through the case.

5. Quacks Of Quedlinburg 

Quacks is one of the best push-your-lack games available on the market. Each player buy ingredients to make valuable potions to sell but they have to pull them randomly out of a bag. The more ingredients you pull the better the potion but also the higher the risk your cauldron will explode. If the game suits you, there is also a Mega Box with two additional expansions to increase the fun.

6. Catan 

This is a classic dice rolling resource management game. In order to win, players need to collect resources to build villages, towns and roads. Resources are unfortunately provided randomly each turn forcing players to carefully plan and to trade with other players to obtain the needed resources. Compared to other games in this section, this game requires some player interaction and negotiation that could be be very funny to manage.

7. Carcassonne 

Carcassonne is one of the most classic tile-placement game in which the players draw and place a tile with a piece of landscape on it. As more tiles are placed, a great map is unravelled on the game table and players score points depending on the size of areas with similar landscapes they control. If you are thinking of buying this game, consider the Big Box as it contains additional expansions to make this game even funnier.

Relaxed & Interesting Games - Fun With Friends

Playing boardgames with friends could be a great way to spend time together while chatting and drinking a good beer/glass of wine. As you are having fun all together, these boardgames need to be engaging enough to keep everyone interested but they also need to provide some good player interaction to keep a lively atmosphere.

Important warning: gifting these games to one of your friends for their birthday could result in mild obsession to spend hours playing it with you on the same day and in many subsequent days.

All the games below are easy to explain and allow for 4 or more players to play together. Most of these games are perfectly suitable to be played with children, although some mechanics can be a bit more challenging then the games in the previous group. Most of the games included below also feature a solo mode as this could be an added value when the game is a gift.

8. Cartographers

Cartographers is a map drawing game where players explore uncharted regions of the world. Each turn, randomly picked cards with a Tetris-style piece of terrain define what players need to add to their map. Scoring is calculated at the end of each of the four seasons based on the areas on the map that satisfy a set of goal conditions. This game fits any player count and can be very fun to play in large groups. If you like the game you could also look for Cartographers heroes.

9. 7 Wonders

7 Wonders is a pick and pass card development game based on ancient civilizations of the World. Some cards have immediate effects, while others provide bonuses later in the game. Basing on your strategy you can develop your city, score victory points, attack your neighbours or defend yourself from them.

10. Akropolis 

A tile laying game set in Ancient Greece. Players need to build the best possible city by adding houses, temples, markets, gardens and barracks tiles to the growing city. New tiles are drafted each turn and can be placed to expand the city both horizontally and vertically. Planning is key to win this game as each type of tile has different scoring mechanics.

11. Wingspan

Elizabeth Hargrave's Wingspan is an engine-building game about attracting the best birds. Your goal is to earn the most points through completing goals, playing bird cards, accumulating eggs, and more. This game will come with a gorgeous art style and fun facts about each bird species, adding a nice educational aspect to a very fun game. Wingspan could be therefore a great game for both adults and kids.

12. Sagrada 

If you fancy playing a dice rolling and pattern creation game in which players compete to create the best stained-glass windows by carefully placing colourful transparent dice. Strict placing rules and bonus actions allow players to balance the randomness of dice rolling. In Sagrada, each player can choose the difficulty of their own pattern at the start of the game making the game suitable to all type of players. If you have a bigger group in mind, consider to purchase the 5-6 Player expansion.

13. Meadow

How peaceful does the name Meadow sound? This is a birthday board game which plays as a card drafting and tableau building game with beautiful art. In this game, players take turns placing tokens to either draw cards or to take special actions. As cards are drawn, players build individual tableau competing for the title of the most skilled nature observer.

14. Azul

Azul is a tile-drafting game that tasks you with providing an ornate wall for the king's palace. Tiles are collected and can only be placed in groups forcing players to plan which tile they will take and when. The aim could either be to create more patterns to improve your wall or to force other players to take tiles they don't want. This type of player to player interaction makes the game very suitable for a game night among friends.

Challenging & Complex Games - Fun With Board Game Enthusiasts

When it comes to buying a birthday board game, these are the people you probably need to think the hardest about. Do they already have this game? Will they enjoy playing this? Do they need any new expansions? The list goes on and on.

This section is for those who love boardgames and usually collect and play them with likely-minded friends. If you are one of those, you probably know which games may be more interesting and appealing for your ageing friend. You could probably focus on games with a theme or game mechanics you know they love or games they do not have yet but always wanted. Expansions for games they own already are also a very good option.

In this section I would then like to focus on two types of games that could be great treats for boardgame lovers: heavy games (in terms of complexity or game length) and narrative/campaign games that need to be played across a lot of sessions. In my personal experience, the latter is a great gift idea if your group of players meets regularly. People often don't purchase games that need a long term commitment but this type of games will make the fun last longer as the team works together to see the story coming through.

Overall, all these games are very enjoyable to be played but the level of engagement needed is definitely higher than the one required when you are just playing for fun.

15. Ark Nova 

This game is not heavily complex and it is not a campaign game but it is one of the best games of 2021 and requires some work to find a winning strategy. In Ark Nova, players need to build and run a successful and balanced zoo carefully managing the space available for enclosures and the animals to add while pursuing research and collaboration projects.

The animals in this game are represented by more than 200 beautifully illustrated cards while the enclosures are tiles to be added to your zoo map. The game is heavy on the table and quite strategic but provides an amazing and entertaining experience.

16. Twilight Imperium 4th Edition

This is certainly a birthday board game for those who love a good lengthy play. It is an epic-scale game of galactic exploration, expansion, exploitation and extermination. Players take the role of one of the 17 races that were once part of the collapsed Lazax Empire as they compete against each other for the empty throne of the empire. The game provides a very immersive experience as players can control all aspects of the race they selected to play. In return, a game of Twilight Imperium could easily last more than 4 hours.

As an alternative, it could also be interesting consider Twilight Inscription, an epic roll-and-write game that allows 1 to 8 players to experience the fascinating universe of Twilight Imperium in a completely new way. Inscription game are faster than Imperium ones although players have still a lot of control over their race. Just as an example, this roll-and-write comes with four player boards to allow to properly manage Navigation, Expansion, Industry, and Warfare.

17. Gloomhaven 

A tactical combat boardgames set in a persistent dark fantasy world. At its core, Gloomhaven is a dungeon crawler game where players work together to clear dungeons and to eliminate foes. At the same time, the story linking all the scenarios together is determined by the decisions the players will take during the game.

Why is Gloomhaven the perfect birthday board game to gift? Gloomhaven is a great campaign game with an innovative card-based action system that will keep the group busy for a lot of time.

18. Sleeping Gods 

Now, this one is pretty cool as it is a cooperative campaign game that plays like a story in a book. The players take the role of the crew of a steamship that needs to locate at least fourteen totems of the gods hidden in a 1929 world to get back home. To find the totems, the crew will need to sail though all the maps that compose the atlas of the game and explore all the locations.

A clever log journal allows the adventure to be easily put away and players could drop and be added from one session to another.

19. The Lord Of The Rings: Journeys In Middle Earth

Journeys in Middle-earth is a fully co-operative board game that leads players across a campaign set in J.R.R. Tolkien's iconic world. The game is a classic adventure/exploration game with elements of deck building that support the development of the heroes. The adventures and the quests are supported by a companion app that also control the enemies encountered by the players. The app also allows to incorporate automatically new content from game expansions even if a campaign is ongoing making the game very flexible and increasing re-playability.

20. Spirit Island Core Game 

There is no reason this is number 20 on my birthday board game list. It is a very thematic cooperative game about defending your island home from colonizing Invaders. Players are spirits of the land, each with its own unique elemental powers that must work together to free the island and defending the indigenous population. The gameplay is quite complex as the spirits and the Invaders compete to escalate the conflict and spread faster than the opposing faction.

Due to the strongly asymmetric powers of the spirits and the amount of new spirits available in the expansions Jagged Earth, Feather & Flame and Branch & Claw, Spirit Island can be a great challenging game for a group of experienced players.

There we have our 20 best birthday board game(s) to give as gifts! Will you be buying any of these? Let us know on the Zatu socials.