Favorite Games for Christmas

by Kelsey Norwood

in Family Fun,Reviews,Shopping

Christmas is coming up quick, and I don’t know about you, but I have no idea what I’m going to get my husband and son. Especially my son. I would never have thought that buying a few Christmas gifts for an 18 month old would be that hard, but… I just don’t know!

One thing I do know is that we will be getting a game for our family as an “Allivar” present. (When I was a kid, there were always a few presents under the tree for “Allivar.” Allivar is not a person, it’s just the label for a present that’s All of Ours. My mom is clever, huh?)

We love games at our house, especially card and strategy games. If your family loves games, here are our 3 favorites. These are for older children and adults, so if your family is older, these would be great family Christmas gifts.

1. Settlers of Catan, Catan Seafarers, and Catan Cities & Knights

settlers of catan seafarers of catan cities and knights

This really is three separate games, but they all build on each other so they’re kind of like one… Start with Settlers of Catan and you will become addicted and buy the other two next year for Christmas. This game is so much fun if you like strategy games. The whole point is to earn resources and build up your own little village on the game board. The other players are trying to do the same thing, so land is scarce and you have to play quickly and be smart. You can trade resources with other players, earn double the resources, and get specialty cards that allow you to have an army, etc. Things can get pretty intense, so remember…it’s just a game. I want to play right now!

2. Ticket to Ride


This is another great strategy game, although it’s not nearly as intense and competitive as Settlers, which is a good thing. This is the North America version – we actually have the Europe version but have played both. The rules are a bit different, both are great games.

In this game, play begins with each person getting 3 “tickets” with routes between two different cities. Each ticket has a different route, and each route has an assigned point value. Longer routes are worth more points, etc. You have to keep at least 2 of these initial tickets, and throughout the game you will be building along your route with your train car playing pieces. Players get to draw cards each turn that allow them to build sections along their route. Once one player has used all their train cars, each other player gets one more turn. Then you count up points and see who won.

Like I said, this game is not nearly as cutthroat as Settlers, but it’s still a fun strategy game. Younger kids could easily play this game (maybe 10+).

3. Nertz

playing card collection bicycle hoyle playing cards

This is the best card game around, so if you don’t know how to play, you should definitely learn. Pretty soon I’m going to do a video tutorial on how to play, but for now, you can read the instructions here.

You can buy a special Nertz deck, but we just use regular cards. You can use regular cards as long as each person has a deck with a different design on the back. Nertz is the whole reason I began collecting cards (betcha didn’t know that about me!) and now have over 50 decks of cartoon, movie, etc. themed playing cards (my favorites are pictured above).

Tutorial coming soon!

Hopefully I’ve given you at least a few options for family Christmas presents. Games are a great family activity and will definitely get you spending more time having fun together.


1 Barbara H. November 5, 2008 at 9:44 am

Our guys love the Settlers of Cataan games, too, as well as Ticket to Ride.

2 syeda November 5, 2008 at 10:06 am

All three games would make terrific presents. Thanks.
Also, looking forward to the tutorial.

3 Trish November 5, 2008 at 12:33 pm

We love Settlers! Our friends introduced us to it several years ago and we used to get together with them every month or so to play…unfortunately life is so busy, we are not able to play as often as we like. GameSurplus.com is a great website with all kinds of games.

4 Jessica November 5, 2008 at 2:16 pm

One thing my children have loved is Geotrax…just an idea for your little one.

5 Adele November 5, 2008 at 2:32 pm

Oooh.. I love Nertz- I have never gotten into Settlers of Catan… I don’t like how competitive it is… but maybe I would like Ticket to Ride better if it isn’t so competitive… But, I do love Nertz!

6 nertzfan November 5, 2008 at 5:17 pm

Hi, I found your blog post through a search for “Nertz”. It is cool to see others that know about the game. I hope you don’t mind but I wanted to let you know about playnertz.com, the site for the National Nertz Association. There is a bunch of interesting Nertz information there and you can also find out how to play Nertz online there. I hope you will check it out. Feel free to join and also let your friends and family know. Thanks

7 Sarah A November 6, 2008 at 3:24 pm

Big Nertz fan here, too! Thanks for the suggestions!

8 Creative Triplet Mom December 21, 2008 at 12:27 pm

I have never heard of the game NERTZ and I am always looking for more games to play with the kids. I have looked at that website and also tried to play the game but I’m just not getting it. I also looked on youtube to see if I can figure it out how to play there but still not sure. I see you can play with a lot of people. I’m assuming each person gets a full deck of cards. You put 5 cards down in front face up from what I see and then shuffle 3 cards at a time and start from 1 to 13 in same suit but what I’m not getting is how do you win? Is there a score? Please post your tutorial as I’d love to learn how to play this. thanks.

9 Creative Triplet Mom December 21, 2008 at 12:28 pm

Oh also where are you purchasing all these cute decks of cards? I’m sure my kids would love their own set.

10 Kelsey January 3, 2009 at 2:51 pm

You have most of the rules down. I will do a video tutorial, hopefully sometime this month, that should help you. This is such a great family game, you’ll have a great time once you learn how to play!

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