Welcome to the PuzzleNation Blog 2017 Holiday Gift Guide!
We’re so excited to be bringing you our biggest ever gift guide! There are so many tremendously fun and puzzly products to share with you this year. We just might be your one-stop shop for all things puzzly!
This guide is broken down by age group, so we’re sure you’ll find the perfect gift for puzzlers of any age on your list!
This year’s Holiday Puzzly Gift Guide is sponsored by the new Daily POP Crosswords app!
Daily POP Crosswords offers a different themed puzzle every single day, spanning everything from TV and film to sports and music!
Available for both Android and iOS users, you get terrific content from some of the world’s top constructors! And the download is free!
For Ages 6 and Up
Roller Coaster Challenge (ThinkFun, puzzle game)
Lots of puzzles are all about figuring out which piece goes where, but rarely does a puzzle game then reward you by sending a car racing down your completed puzzle. Roller Coaster Challenge incorporates the logic puzzles synonymous with ThinkFun into a fun, track-building set that will delight solvers of many ages. Who doesn’t want to design their own roller coaster? ($29.99)
[Click here for our full review of Roller Coaster Challenge!]
Word-a-Melon (Bananagrams, board game)
To add a touch of Memory-style strategy to your word-forming gameplay, Word-A-Melon is right up your alley. Flip over the tile seeds in the watermelon gameboard, and if you can spell a word with those letters, you claim those seeds, and no one else can use them. But you better remember which letters are where, or your opponents could be enjoying the sweet taste of victory! ($19.99)
[Click here for our full review of Word-a-Melon!]
Qwirkle (MindWare, board game)
A wonderful mix of Uno and Mexican Train Dominoes, Qwirkle is a tile-placing game where you try to maximize your points while minimizing the help you give to your opponents. With six bright colors and six different shapes to match up, Qwirkle is endless fun that’s so easy to jump into! ($19.95)
GIANT Word Winder (David L. Hoyt, puzzle game)
Created for schools, libraries, and other homes of learning, GIANT Word Winder challenges solvers to locate words within a large word seek-style grid. The end goal? To create a path from one end of the board to the other. A great team puzzling activity for younger solvers, it also comes in a math-fueled version. ($475)
For Ages 7 and Up
Big Letter Bananagrams (Bananagrams, board game)
If you like Bananagrams but just want bigger, easier-to-read tiles, then Big Letter Bananagrams has your name on it (or will, when you spell it with the 50% larger tiles). Let solvers of all age groups and levels of vision indulge in some quick wordplay! ($19.99)
[Click here for our full review of Big Letter Bananagrams!]
Timeline (Asmodee Games, card game)
Timeline pits your knowledge of history against a growing timeline of important events, inventions, and historical moments. You don’t have to know exact dates; you just need to know if something happened before or after something else. Was the toothbrush invented before or after the syringe? Which came first, language or agriculture? Timeline is a fast, fun way of learning (or relearning) history! ($14.99 and up)
Scrimish (Nexci, card game)
Combine the card game War with elements of Chess and Memory, and you’ve got something approximating Scrimish, a card game that’s effortless to learn, but offers endless possibilities. Can you protect your crown card while hunting down your opponent’s? With cards for both defense and offense, there’s a lot packed into just 25 cards apiece! ($9.99)
[Check out our full product review of Scrimish by clicking here!]
Tenzi (dice game)
All of us have rolled dice in games before, but can you roll what you need as fast as possible? That’s the challenge of Tenzi, a game that pits up to four players against each other in tests of speed and dexterity. Can you roll 10 6’s before everyone else? ($14.95)
Tsuro: The Game of the Path (Calliope Games, board game)
A path-laying game with tons of style and historical spirit, Tsuro casts up to eight players as flying dragons, and tasks you with laying out your path with special tiles. Your goal is to avoid meeting another dragon or flying off the board. It’s a simple mechanic with plenty of replay value, and perfect for quick games with large groups. ($23.00)
Walk-By Scrabble Board, Lexicographer’s Extended Scrabble, and Drawing Room Scrabble (Hammacher Schlemmer, board games)
Hammacher Schlemmer has several Scrabble variants available, including the Lexicographer’s Extended Scrabble for those with mega-syllabic ambitions ($29.95) and Drawing Room Scrabble for those with swankier taste ($149.95) — not to mention the mindboggling World’s Largest Scrabble Game for $12,000! — but few are as clever or as convenient as the Walk-By Scrabble Board! Designed as a family game for people on the go, it’s a perfect way to bring back Board Game Night for busy families! ($29.95)
[Check out our full product review of the Walk-By Scrabble Board here!]
For Ages 8 and Up
Doctor Who Fluxx (Looney Labs, card game)
Could anything be as chaotic as traveling through time and space with The Doctor in the TARDIS? How about a card game about The Doctor and his adventures where the rules change every turn? Doctor Who Fluxx combines the classic sci-fi franchise with one of gaming’s most flexible rule sets to create an ever-evolving gameplay experience. Fluxx has never been better. ($20)
[Click here for our full review of Doctor Who Fluxx! And be sure to check out other Looney Labs games, like Chemistry Fluxx, Math Fluxx, and Nanofictionary!]
//CODE: On the Brink, //CODE: Rover Control, and //CODE: Robot Repair (ThinkFun, puzzle games)
Learning to program is quickly becoming a valuable skill for people of all ages, so why not get your kids started early with games that teach them the basics of coding in fun, accessible ways. The //CODE series of games does precisely that, teaching sequencing with On the Brink, and then moving onto plotting with Rover Control and logical deduction with Robot Repair. These games mix education and puzzle solving to great effect. ($14.99 each)
[Click here to read our full review of the first //CODE series puzzle game, On the Brink!]
Better With Bacon and Just Coffee (Looney Labs, card games)
These expansion packs for the sweet-serving card game Just Desserts add new faces and new desserts to keep the gameplay fresh and tasty! Whether you’re adding a bit of bite with the Better With Bacon set or pepping up your treats with the Just Coffee set, these expansions add new life (and calories) to an already terrific game. ($5 each)
[Click here to check out our full review of Just Desserts!]
Color Cube Sudoku (ThinkFun, puzzle game)
For a new twist on Sudoku, look no further than Color Cube Sudoku. Simply place one cube on the tray, and then try to figure out how to place every other cube so that you don’t repeat a color in any row or column. It’s tougher than it looks! ($19.99)
[Click here to read our full review of Color Cube Sudoku!]
Slapzi (Tenzi, party game)
Slapzi will keep you on your toes. In this quick-reaction game, you’ve got to match your picture cards to the clue cards before your opponents. But with clues like “Not sold in a hardware store” or “Two of the same letter together,” this isn’t as easy as it appears! ($19.95)
[Click here to check out our full review of Slapzi!]
Knot Dice (Black Oak Games, dice game)
Can you twist, turn, and spin these dice to complete beautiful, elaborate patterns inspired by Celtic knots? That’s the name of the game with Knot Dice, a dice game as challenging as it is gorgeous. With single-player and multi-player puzzles included, you’ll be tying yourself in knots for days! ($29.95)
[Click here to check out our full review!]
For Ages 9 and Up
Puzzle Your Kids (Eric Berlin, subscription puzzles)
A puzzle subscription designed specifically for children, Puzzle Your Kids is the brainchild of constructor and author Eric Berlin, and guarantees great puzzles emailed right to you, designed with younger solvers in mind! ($5/month, or puzzle sets available starting at $3.99; one free puzzle per week)
The Maze series by Brad Hough (puzzle books)
If you’re looking for a first-person maze-solving experience, The Maze is precisely your speed. Dropping the reader in the first room of a maze and describing the scene to you, it’s up to you to mentally put together the map as you progress from page to page (and room to room). With volumes of increasing difficulty and complexity available, you might never find your way out! ($8.49 and up)
[Click here to check out our full review of The Maze series!]
Pinbox 3000 (Cardboard Teck Instantute, puzzle game)
How about the chance to build your own game? Is that puzzle enough for you? Pinbox 3000 provides all the pieces you’ll need, plus valuable advice for brainstorming and creating your very own pinball game. It’s endlessly customizable, so you can make your Pinbox pinball game as simple or as complex as you like! ($49.95)
[Note: The box does say 7 and up can play, but CTI recommends 9 and up to construct Pinbox 3000, so we placed it here.]
For Ages 10-12 and Up
Deluxe Pairs (Hip Pocket Games, card game)
Building on the legacy already established by the bar-friendly series of Pairs decks available, Deluxe Pairs offers a new artistic spin on the classic Pairs “Fruit Deck,” as well as a companion booklet with rules for numerous Pairs variants you can play with the deck! This isn’t just one card game, it’s dozens! ($17)
[Review coming soon!]
Zendo (Looney Labs, puzzle game)
Puzzle games are all about the rules, but what if you don’t know the rules? That’s where Zendo comes in. This puzzle game is all about figuring out a given rule by arranging Looney pyramids and other shapes into various designs, and seeing if those designs fit the mysterious rule. A game of deduction and trial-and-error, Zendo is a very different solving experience. ($40)
[Review coming soon!]
Doctor Lucky’s Mansion That Is Haunted (Cheapass Games, board game)
People have been trying to kill Doctor Lucky for over twenty years, but now, ghosts are getting in on the act! Doctor Lucky’s Mansion That Is Haunted is an expansion of Kill Doctor Lucky, so you’ll need the base game to play, but with a new gameboard to explore and new movement mechanics — since all the players are now ghosts — this adds all sorts of new possibilities to a terrific game. ($16)
[Review coming soon!]
Spaceteam (Timber and Bolt, card game)
Can you repair your ship and get the engines up and running in five minutes before a black hole ends your space adventure forever? That’s the name of the game in Spaceteam, a cooperative, communication-based game where you have to accomplish various tasks with your fellow players while sharing tools. It’s delightful chaos, and the 5-minute timer really adds something to the game play. A definite favorite around here. ($24.99)
Less (InventedFor, board game)
A strategy game with the speed and simplicity of Checkers but the depth and replayability of Chess, Less is travel-friendlier than both, with a gameboard that breaks down into bar coasters. With new tiles forming the board every time you play, no two games are alike, and even the straightforward task of racing your opponent to the opposite corner becomes a worthwhile challenge. ($17)
[Click here to read our full review of Less!]
The Great Dinosaur Rush (APE Games, board game)
Bring the insane real-life rivalry of paleontologists Cope and Marsh to life in The Great Dinosaur Rush! As you collect fossils and discover your own unique dinosaur, you must also steal bones, sabotage other scientists, and more! Show off your cunning and creativity in this game that proves historical truth is weirder than fiction! ($50)
Castellan (Steve Jackson Games, board game)
Build a castle and then occupy it in Castellan, a game of strategy and opportunity. With great modeled pieces that really add to the aesthetic, Castellan has style and substance. ($34.95)
[Check out our full product review here!]
Unspeakable Words (Playroom Entertainment, card game)
Some word games might drive you mad, but only Unspeakable Words actually makes keeping your sanity part of the gameplay! As you spell different words, you have to make a die roll to see if spelling the word cost you a bit of your sanity. If you lose too much of it, you’ll start uttering unspeakable words, which can be worth more points… if your sanity can take it! A fun twist on Scrabble and other word-forming games. ($19.99; deluxe edition $24)
Puzzometry (jigsaw puzzle)
For a next-level jigsaw challenge, Puzzometry is tough to top. These beautiful pieces can be combined in seemingly endless combinations, and yet, there’s only one solution. Available as Puzzometry ($16.50), Puzzometry Jr. ($12), and Puzzometry Squares ($16.50), you’ve got three distinct challenges appropriate for different ages!
[Check out the full review of Puzzometry by clicking here!]
BRAWL (Cheapass Games, card game)
Fighting games have been all the rage in the video game world for decades, but BRAWL lets you tackle the tactics and action of a fighting game right in your hand! Each character has a signature deck with their own moves, and with 60-second rounds and additional tournament rules, you get a lot of bang for your buck. ($8.50 per deck, two decks to play)
[Review coming soon!]
The Oregon Trail (Pressman Toys, card game)
The classic computer game comes to life as you and your fellow players team up to survive the perilous journey along The Oregon Trail. With art evoking old-school computer games, rampant threats and calamities to endure, and a long and challenging road to travel, will any of you will make it to Oregon? ($14.99)
[Check out our full product review of The Oregon Trail by clicking here!]
Word Domination (Uproarious Games, board game)
Can you steal treasure and amass territory using your spelling and anagram skills? You can in Word Domination, a mix of resource management and word forming that encourages you to steal from and outmaneuver your fellow players. For a James Bondian touch with your Bananagrams, give this one a shot. ($32.99)
[Click here for our full review of Word Domination!]
Tak: A Beautiful Game (Cheapass Games, board game)
Many new games build off of classic mechanics, but very few new games truly feel like they could have been played centuries ago. Tak definitely fits that mold, using simple wooden pieces to create a game that feels both fresh and ancient all at once. Inspired by the eponymous game in Patrick Rothfuss’s KingKiller Chronicles series, Tak is a wonderful two-player game that quickly grows addictive. ($55)
[Click here for our full review of Tak!]
For Ages 13-14 and Up
The Maze of Games: The Theseus Guide to the Final Maze by Mike Selinker and Gaby Weidling (puzzle book)
The Maze of Games is one of the most diabolical puzzle books ever conceived. It allows the protagonists AND the reader to choose their own path through various labyrinths and challenge themselves to dozens of different puzzles in the hopes of conquering each of the labyrinths within the book.
The puzzle book has proven so diabolical that they’ve released The Theseus Guide to the Final Maze, a hint book designed to help solvers free Samuel and Colleen from the final labyrinth once and for all! ($9.95)
[Click here to check out our full review of The Maze of Games!]
Qwordie (Bananagrams, board game)
If you prefer a bit of word association with your word-building, then the strategy and quick-thinking of Qwordie is for you. Strategically grab tiles from the pile — or steal them from your opponent — in order to spell a word that fits your given category (color, for instance) before the other players can! ($19.99)
[Click here for our full review of Qwordie!]
Schmovie (Galactic Sneeze, party game)
Are you the funniest, punniest one in your group of friends? Find out by playing Schmovie, the party game that pushes you to scribble down the best name for an imaginary movie created on the spot! Now redesigned in a sleeker box and playable by all ages, this is the movie game for everyone. ($19.95)
[Check out our full product review of the original version of Schmovie here!]
Tavern Puzzles / Tucker-Jones House Inc. (jigsaw puzzles)
These hand-forged beauties are ready to challenge your dexterity and cleverness, as you accept the Tavern Puzzles challenge. Whether you’re trying to remove twice as many pieces in a Collaborative Effort or free the triangle from Tridiculous, you’re sure to put your skills to the test. ($24)
Lightbox (Eric Clough, jigsaw puzzle)
A puzzle box unlike anything you’ve ever seen, Lightbox creates different patterns of shadow and light as you shift and arrange the various plastic plates that make up the box. As you twist and reset them, different electrical connections are made, and different plates light up. As gorgeous as it is challenging, Lightbox is a very eye-catching puzzle that always wows new solvers. ($85)
[Check out our full review of Lightbox by clicking here!]
For Ages 18 and Up
Most puzzle books would probably fall in the Age 9-10 and Up range, but oftentimes, the cluing is geared toward an older audience, so to avoid confusion, I’ve bundled the majority of the puzzle books here.
Our friends at Penny Dell Puzzles have put together some outstanding holiday collections with puzzles galore to be solved!
Maybe you’re looking for one kind of puzzle, like Colossal Grab-a-Pencil Book of Logic Problems ($10.50) or the Fill-In Value Pack ($8.95). Or perhaps you like some variety in your solving, and you’d prefer the Home for the Holidays Word Seek set ($32.95), complete with pencils, coffee, and snacks to keep you puzzling, or the Super Grab-a-Pencil Pocket Bible Gift Set 2-Pack ($12.50). Or you’d like to unwind with their Coloring Book 4-Pack ($14.95) and sip some coffee from a vibrant Word Nerd mug ($9.50). Either way, the folks at Penny Dell Puzzles have got you covered.
And be sure to check out their deals on Facebook and Twitter throughout the holiday season. Between 10% and 20% off all sorts of puzzle bundles and books!
And while we’re on the topic of puzzle books, some of the best constructors working today have released their own books for your perusal! And with New York Times and Los Angeles Times crosswords to their credit, you’re sure to find some quality puzzlers within these pages!
–David Steinberg’s Juicy Crosswords from the Orange County Register ($7.48)
–Todd McClary’s Fresh Freestyle Crosswords ($8.95)
–Erik Agard’s Food for Thought Crosswords ($7.48)
–Brendan Emmett Quigley and Francis Heaney’s Drunk Crosswords ($7.06)
–Cynthia Morris’s American Acrostics Volume 5: Puzzling Holidays and Celebrations and CynAcrostics Volume 3: You Don’t Say? ($9.95 each)
–Foggy Brume’s One-Word Word Searches ($7.50)
And that doesn’t even cover the many great by-mail and downloadable puzzle books and sets available this holiday season!
Many top constructors and organizations market their puzzles directly to solvers, so between by-mail offers, subscriptions, and downloadable puzzle bundles, you’ve got plenty of quality choices!
—The Crosswords Club, edited by Patti Varol (puzzle bundles by mail, available in both regular and large print; $39.95 for 12 issues, $59.95 for large print)
—The American Values Crossword (subscription and daily puzzles) ($20 for 1 year)
–Matt Gaffney’s Daily Crossword ($24 per year) and Weekly Crossword Contest ($26 per year)
–Andrew Ries’ Aries Xwords ($20 per year)
–Peter Gordon’s Fireball Crosswords ($26 for 1 year)
–Joon Pahk’s Rows Garden puzzles ($20 for 1 year) and Variety puzzles ($15 for 1 year) OR get both for $30!
–Patrick Blindauer’s Broadway Puzzlefest ($20)
—The LA Times’ Crossword LA 2017 puzzle pack ($5)
–Bryant Park 2016 and 2017 tournament puzzle pack ($10)
Thank you to all of the constructors, designers, and companies taking part in this year’s holiday puzzly gift guide!
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