Board Game Gifts

Our family loves board games… so do take this with a grain of salt… but we think games make a great gifts. Game gifts are a great way to introduce your loved ones to new and fun games. And during the holiday season, playing games with the family is a great way to combat those post-holiday doldrums.

But sometimes it’s hard to know what’s a good game and what’s going to be a complicated mess that you’ll never be able to learn.

On this blog, we’re going to showcase games that you’ll love… and the gift recipient will too! We like games that are easy to learn, hard to master, and all around engaging.


This week on Board Game Gifts we are going pay some homage to a board game that may be the first board game mentioned in history. This game that has been widely played worldwide in countries including Persia, Egypt, Greece, Rome, China, and Turkey for many millenniums with its very own seal of approval from Mr. Locke from Lost is Backgammon.


How do you play?

In this two-player game the goal could not be any simpler. One player races the other player to be the first to move 15 of their pieces from one side of the board to the opposite side and off the board. Here is a more detailed blurb from Board Game Geek:

Each player has a set of 15 “men” that must be moved from their starting positions, around, and then off the board. Dice are thrown each turn, and each player must decide which of his men to move based on the outcome of the roll. Players can capture each other’s men, forcing the captured men to restart their journey around the board. The winner is the first player to get all 15 men off the board.

Why is Backgammon such a great game to gift?

There are three key reasons that Backgammon makes such a great gift to give to anyone:

  • First of all, it is a game of strategy that is very easy to understand and play since there are such a few number of rules involved .
  • When one owns Backgammon, one literally owns a piece of history which is pretty darn  cool.
  • Finally this is one board game I can call a classic because if a game can stay popular for over five thousand years, it deserves to called a classic.

Try out this boardgame for timeless fun!


Ok. Now we’re moving on the mother of all games. Well, that’s my opinion anyway. This one is a bit more of a challenge: it took me quite a while to parse all of the instructions so that I could play the solitaire game without dying. Oops.

The challenging game is Agricola, and it was published in 2007.

agricola : complex board game

In Agricola, you are a family of peasants. You and your spouse begin in a small wooden hut. The players take turns putting their family tokens out in community spaces to help improve your farmyard, e.g. a player may harvest wood to build fences or plow a field to plant grain. Every few turns, you harvest your fields, butcher some livestock, and feed your family. Sounds simple right?

In this game, the challenge is turn scarcity. Each placement needs to have a big impact for your family to survive and thrive, and you’ll often have to link several moves, over several turns, to achieve your goals. If this sounds like it might leave your head spinning, you’re right.

But the complexity is worth it. Agricola is currently the #2 board game on BoardGameGeek. And as addictive as it is challenging.

Puerto Rico

The CheckedTwice founders often look for the private islands where they’ll retire when CheckedTwice goes public. (It’s nice to dream, no?) Well this game allows you to live it, and for only about $30.

Puerto Rico : economic board game

Puerto Rico allows you to manage your plantation and in-town holdings to amass greatest wealth and curry favor back in Europe. This turn based game was published originally in 2005 and can be played with 2-5 players. The strategy behind it can be fairly complex, and it has risen to the #4 on BoardGameGeek’s rankings. Here’s their description:

The players are plantation owners in Puerto Rico in the days when ships had sails. Growing up to five different kind of crops—corn, indigo, sugar, tobacco, and coffee—they must try to run their business more efficiently than their close competitors: growing crops and storing them efficiently, developing San Juan with useful buildings, deploying their colonists to best effect, selling crops at the right time, and, most importantly, shipping their goods back to Europe for maximum benefit.

 The game takes a little while to master, but the process of mastery is pretty fun. It gets the CheckedTwice nerdy boardgame seal of approval.

Catan Junior

Kid’s week continues at CheckedTwice, and for Thursday’s Game Night we have the perfect gateway game: Catan Junior.

catan junior - strategy game for kids

For those of you who don’t know, Settlers of Catan is one of the best selling nerdy board games of all time. The award winning game has oodles of expansions and has become a standard of board game nights everywhere. One problem, though: it’s a little complex for the youngsters.

That’s where Junior comes in. The game keeps elements of the original game (varied resources, strategic building), while simplifying some of the more complex aspects (trade, affect cards). This should be a great way to instill a love for nerdy board games without the tears and gnashing of teeth that would come with the full version.

I think Official CheckedTwice 6-year-old Tester Kate is getting a copy of this one for Swick Family Christmas 2012. Good thing she doesn’t read this blog. 🙂

Kill Doctor Lucky

Kill Doctor Lucky

Kill Doctor Lucky - Games For Grownups

In the classic board game Clue, you race to be the first to solve the murder.  In Kill Doctor Lucky, you race to be the first to commit it.

Doctor Lucky progresses in a stately fashion through the rooms of a mansion, unaware that all of the house guests are out for his blood.  If you catch him alone in a room, and nobody has a clear line of sight to that room, you can make an attempt on his life.  Of course, then everybody else will try to throw obstacles in your path to make you fail… because they want to be the ones to do the deed.  Why should you have all the fun?

The game is easy to learn, entertaining, and usually quite quick (a rarity in the Games For Grownups genre).  The board represents the mansion.  Cards provide an amusing assortment of weapons (to use on the attack) and obstacles (to stop another player’s attack).

And let’s face it.  When you really get down to it, nothing brings people together like a good old fashioned assassination.  The family that slays together, stays together.

Lost Cities

It my pleasure this week to introduce you to a great two-player game. Two-player games are nice because you don’t need to coordinate much. You need just one friend or a significant other, and voila! You’re ready to play. And if you don’t have one friend, let us know. We’ll be right over.

This great two-player game is called Lost Cities.

lost cities : two-player card game

In Lost Cities, you are an Indiana Jones era archaeological explorer, venturing into the ruins of ancient and amazing cities. Or, at least that’s what I picture as I lay my cards down. The game dynamic is a little like Coloretto. You try to get many of one thing, while not getting too little of another.

You and the other player take turns laying down cards, trying to mount profitable expeditions to different cities. You have to get over twenty points in an expedition… otherwise the expedition is a loser, and you lose points.

The game play is pretty quick. You’ll commit to an expedition and typically move steadily on that track. But amidst the standard play, there are a few moments where you can lose yourself in strategy. Should I start an expedition to the gold city or the green city? The green is a bigger risk but with a bigger reward. Am I up for the risk?

Those moments keep the game engaging and fresh for many a replay. Try it out for a great gift!


Happy November everybody! I feel like this is the real start of the holiday season, so it’s a good time to check in with CheckedTwice. It’s also a great time to share CheckedTwice with a friend!

And it’s also the time when the leaves are really changing. Even here in Houston we’re starting to see spots of color in the trees here and there in between the green live oaks and green loblolly pines.

The colors though reminded me of one of my favorite new games: Coloretto.

coloretto : family card game

Coloretto is a card game that’s quick to learn and that takes less than 30 minutes to play. It’s a great family game and you can play with 2-5 players. And it’s cheap enough on Amazon to make a great stocking stuffer.

Here’s the blurb from BoardGameGeek:

Game play in Coloretto is simple: Either draw a card to play to a row, or take a row of cards to add them to your collection. A row can have at most three cards, so at some point everyone is forced to take a row. Once all the rows have been claimed, players start a new round, drawing or taking once again.

What are you trying to do with these cards? Collect huge sets – but only in three colors as every color beyond the third will cost you points.

If it sounds a bit complicated, you’ll try it once, and quickly get the hang of it. So to sum up:

  • It’s easy to learn
  • It’s fun to play
  • It’s great for the whole family
  • And it’s cheap!
Great game. Great gift!

7 Wonders

Each Thursday, we’re going to showcase one game that you’ll love… and the gift recipient will too! We like games that are easy to learn, hard to master, and all around engaging.

7 Wonders

And our first pick definitely meets all three requirements. 7 Wonders, published in 2010, is reasonably new to the board game scene, but it’s a great addition. You play as an ancient city civilization, building buildings (represented by cards) that contribute to your military, science, trade, and culture. If it sounds pretty epic, it is. But the epicness (epicosity?) doesn’t extend to learning to play.

You play your civilization through three ages, and in each age, you’ll play one card in each of six turns. That means in the course of the game, you’ll only need to make 18 choices. Once you get the hang of it, you’ll be able to play a game, from setup to clean up, in less than 30 minutes. (Count on an hour for the first time you go through it. Then count on playing again immediately. Trust us.)

But even with the ease of play, there’s a lot to this game. You can play with 2-7 players, and each of the seven civilizations has different specialties. And beyond that, which civilizations are closest to you makes a big difference as well. Each time you play, the game feels different and your strategy will change.

7 Wonders is an all around great game and an all around great gift.