Games as bring-along Gifts

by Aug 25, 2021Olaf's Corner

With the recent lifting of a lot of COVID restrictions, life is slowly returning to normal for most Manitobans…

In my personal life that is especially felt when it comes to my social calendar. For the last two weeks my wife and I had more get-togethers with friends and/or family then we had for most of the last 18 months…and it felt good. Although, if I am being completely honest, it was also tiring at times. I was just not used to interact with people for longer conversations anymore. Maybe I am unique here, but I heard others say the same. Either way, it was, and is exciting, and I am thrilled to be able to catch up with the people that I have missed so much. It is wonderful to be invited again for dinner, or just to visit and hang out. I feel a little more complete again by connecting socially.

When one is invited to someone else’s place, the question of ‘what can we bring?’ usually comes up. The response is often a polite ‘nothing, just bring yourself,’ which is nice.  But let’s face it – You want to have something in your hands when you enter the hosts place, just to show some form of social grace. So, my wife and I have the usual talk beforehand. What should we bring as a small gift? Wine? Dessert? Chocolates? 9 out of 10 times my response is the same: “Let’s bring a game.” 

To regular readers of this column this might not be a surprise. Clearly I love board games, but I thoroughly believe this to be a great idea for anyone who is thinking of bringing a small gift to a social event. To begin with, it is unique compared to the other standard ideas mentioned beforehand. Something that sticks out, shows that you have given some thought to the gift. Furthermore, it is a non-consumable, so it might stick around for a while. If so, then your hosts will think of you every time they play it. It can also be personalized thematically if you know the people well that you are giving it to. On the flip side, you can choose a game that has a broader appeal if you are not sure about someone’s interests. But most importantly, it brings people together and provides moments of fun and joy. This is an especially powerful aspect after all the social distancing we all had to endure. With that in mind it might also ease the transitions into interacting with others again a little. After all, a good board game creates an entertaining and often meaningful connection with the people involved.

Best of all, this does not have to be a costly venture. There are plenty of titles available that are below the $20 mark, which can often be cheaper than a bottle of wine. Of course if you want something more substantial, the sky is the limit.

As far as the actual game is concerned, here are some things you might want to think about:

  • Find a game that can easily be learned. This is especially true if you are unsure if the person(s) receiving it are seasoned board gamers. The rules should be simple and brief if possible. Ideally it would be great if you yourself had a chance to get to know the game beforehand. That way you can explain it right away and get the party going.
  • Choose a game that can accommodate all the people who are attending the gathering. If you know that there will be a larger group, get a party game so everyone can enjoy it. If you are only getting together with one other friend, don’t choose a game that needs a minimum of four or more players.
  • Get a game that has universal appeal. This can be true for both theme and age group. After all, the game might be played again with children or in-laws. Games that have strong adult themes or are based on shock-value might not be the best choice.
  • Get something fun! Games that offer deep strategies or thinking are great at times. But in this context, I believe it would be better to find something that lets everyone interact in a light hearted manner.
  • Choose a game that might be a little unknown. There are plenty of classic games out there that are wonderful, but part of the uniqueness of your gift will be a title that not everyone has heard of at first. That way you will be remembered as the guest that provided some fresh and interesting entertainment.

Hopefully I have been able to convince you to consider a board game as a bring-along gift to your next get together. If you are unsure of what to buy, then here are some titles that I would consider to bring along as a gift:



1-5 players, ages 8 and up

A cooperative game where players try to discard all 98 cards in the deck onto four discard piles in order to win, but they need to do so in the right ways.

Each player starts with 6-8 cards in hand depending on the number of players, and four discard pile prompt cards are on the table: two showing 1” and an up arrow and two showing 100” and a down arrow. On a turn, a player must discard at least two cards from hand onto one or more discard piles, with cards on the 1 piles being placed in ascending order and cards on the 100 piles being placed in descending order. If the group is able to eventually play all cards from the deck, they win.



2-5 players, ages 8 and up

A quick-playing dice game in which everyone participates, no matter whose turn it is. Each player has a scoresheet with the numbers 2-12 in rows of red and yellow and the numbers 12-2 in rows of green and blue. To score points you want to mark off as many numbers as possible, but you can mark off a number only if its to the right of all marked-off numbers in the same row.

On a turn, the active player rolls six dice and each player can mark off the sum of different combinations of their sheets. If they can’t they will receive penalty points. Once the game ends, whoever has the highest score wins.



3-10 players, ages 10 and up

Great for groups. In the Old West, the wily snake oil salesperson had a special talent, getting the most skeptical customers to buy the most dubious products. Invent your own two-word products – Rumour Mirror! Burp Balloon! – and sell them to your customers. Each player takes six word cards. The customer for the round draws a card and announces it. Inventors quickly combine two word cards from their hand to form a crazy new product to sell to that customer. When ready, each inventor quickly pitches their product. The customer decides which product to buy and gives the inventor of that product the rounds customer card as a point. Whoever collects the most customer cards wins.



3-6 players, ages 14 and up

The ultimate bluffing game. Each player plays a face-down card, then each player in turn adds one more card – until someone feels safe enough to state that they can turn a number of cards face up and get only roses. Other players can then overbid them, saying they can turn even more cards face up. The highest bidder must then turn that number of cards face up, starting with their own. If they show only roses, they win; if they reveals a skull, they lose, placing one of their cards out of play. Two successful challenges wins the game.



3-7 players, ages 10 and up

A game about multitasking under pressure. The active player must verbally answer questions asked by their left player, while spelling out an answer to a question asked by their right player with a set of dice that have letters on them. All at the same time. The more you complete, the more points you earn. Instant fun that requires few rules. For more advanced play, the game offers modes that get more challenging over time.

Are you intrigued to try a new 2-player game? Here are my top suggestions:

The Game: Are You Ready to Play?

1-5 players, Ages 8 and up.

Work together to place the cards in the correct order.

Qwixx - The Dice Game

2-5 Players, Ages 8 and up

Roll and write to gather the most points in your coloured rows.

Snake Oil

3-10 Players, Ages 10 and up

‘Sell’ a silly 2-word combintion for the most laughs.


3-6 Players, Ages 14 and up

Bluff your way through hiding your cards.

Stay Cool

3-7 Players, Ages 10 and up

See how well you do multi-tasking.

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