Every year for the past six years or so I’ve put together a list of 40, then 60, then 80 and then 90+ games and things for the geek in your life that cost (mostly) $20 or less. This year is no exception! Except again, I’m not going to assign a number to it – I’m just putting together everything I’ve found that rates as both entertaining, a good value for the money and affordable. So here it is: The Mega-List for 2018! Okay, I lied. I put a number in the title, then thought of a few more games I’d missed and now that number’s wrong.
I put this list together originally to help people looking to buy good, fun gifts outside of their realm of experience, without spending an arm or a leg. If you’re buying a gift for a gamer and don’t want to get them another copy of Monopoly, well here you go.
These less expensive games tend to be smaller, making them easier to store and lug around. By way of disclosure, many of these are through amazon, and yes I get a small percentage of any sales. This goes directly in to keeping this site alive.
Items that have red prices cost over $20. Items that are green are 20 bucks or less. Click the images to go directly to Amazon or the site selling the item. All prices are subject to change at the unreadable whim of Amazon.com. PLEASE NOTE: I don’t control the pricing at Amazon, as much as I wish I did. These prices change constantly! They may be off by a dollar or two, or you may get really lucky and they may be $5-10 less.
As an added bonus, I’ve added a bunch of games, toys, books and movies that I very much enjoy, but which don’t even come close to falling into the under $20 or game categories. You’ll find those at the end.
If you have any suggestions you’d like to see on the list, feel free to let me know!
Now, in no particular order, a whole bunch of games and table top gifts costing mostly under $20.
One Deck Dungeon – $18.00
This is an excellent, solo or two player dungeon crawl using a bunch of dice and, well, one deck of cards. Adventure calls.but you don’t have four hours or the desire to set up hundreds of pieces. One Deck Dungeon lets you jump right in, bash down doors, roll dice, and squash baddies with style. By using cards in four different ways (as an encounter, XP, a skill/potion, or a stat-boosting item), all the experience of dungeon delving has been fit into a compact package.
Cosmic Run: Rapid Fire – $20.00
Looking for cool roll and write games? Another fun and quick game from Dr. Finn’s Games, the “King of the Filler.” Players race through space on their way to new planets to save their peoples. It’s a “roll and write” game, i.e., you roll dice and write on the “planet sheets”. It’s highly portable, quick, and a lot of fun.
Castles of Burgundy: The Dice Game – $15.00
Speaking of roll and writes…. As influential nobles you do your best to lead your duchies to prosperity through careful trade and diplomacy. Combine the die roll results to your advantage and find a strategy that will lead you to victory. Your options are endless-trade commodities, or raise cattle, build mighty cities or support the church there are many paths to prestige and prosperity! game also includes solo player mode. Based on the hugely popular the castles of Burgundy strategy game.
Spyfall – $18.00
This is a great party game that plays up to 8. During the 8 minute rounds the players ask each other questions to figure out who’s a player and who’s a spy. The goal of the players is to give enough information to ward off suspicion but not enough for the spy to figure out the location. As the spy, your job is to figure out the location or to remain hidden as the spy through the questioning. You win if you can guess the location or if no one can guess that you are the spy.
Orchard – $15.00
Orchard is a quick solitaire card laying game that plays in under 10 minutes. The aim of the game is to harvest fruit (score points) by playing cards so that their fruit trees overlap other trees already in the orchard that bear the same fruit. The more trees you can overlap, the more fruit you’ll pick. Boy do I love this game. I’m not yet great at it, but it’s so, so good! If you enjoy solo games, I can’t recommend this enough. Note: It is from a Print on Demand site so may take some time to get to you. Order it early!
Help Me! – $10.00
This is a wonderful, quick little filler that plays in 5-10 minutes and costs $5-10. Totally worth it! The spirits of nature are in danger! Can you help? By making use of your bluffing and tactical skills, carefully move the game tile while trying to determine the identity of your opponents creatures. My review!
Karuba: The Card Game – $20.00
On the legendary island of Karuba there are huge temples and valuable treasures hidden away deep in the jungle. You are the leaders of an expedition, and must skillfully plan the paths for your adventurers. You will only be able to collect all the treasures in the jungle and reach the temples if your adventurers
don‘t block each other, and if you can do better than competing expedition leaders.
Illusion – $15.00
Can you trust your eyes? is that actually what you see? illusion is a raucous good time in which perception is everything and players must use a keen eye to decide what is reality and what is illusion in order to win. Who has the right perspective not to be fooled?
Kingdominio – $17.00
Kingdomino lifts the time-honoured principle of dominoes to a new level – without losing any of the sleek elegance of its predecessor. On the contrary: the dual mechanics of planning the far-reaching lands surrounding the castle and the clever method of selecting tiles fit together extraordinarily well, they are expertly reduced to their essential components. I really, really enjoyed this one.
Great Heartland Hauling Co. – $16.00
It’s pickup and deliver! Players take on the role of medium haul Midwest truck drivers doing their best to make a living by hauling goods for big suppliers. Players truck to various locations around America’s Heartland, picking up and dropping off goods using matching cards from their hands. Most locations have native goods that require fewer cards to load; other locations may pay a premium for those goods but may also require more fuel – and time – to get there with the cargo. A tight, fun game.
Go Nuts! – $9.00
Take your cheeky chances on this quick playing dice game of nut gathering nuttiness. Pile up points by rolling the dice and adding up acorns, while avoiding any cars along the way. If you roll all squirrels, scurry to score as many nuts as you can before your opponents’ dogs chase you away! The player with the most points wins.
Patchwork – $22.00
I love this 2 player game! In fact, you can ready my review right here! Patchwork is a form of needlework that involves sewing together pieces of fabric into a larger design. In the past, it was a way to make use of leftover pieces of cloth to create clothing and quilts. Today, patchwork is a form of art, in which the designers use precious fabrics to create beautiful textiles. The use of uneven pieces of fabric in particular can result in real masterpieces and is therefore being practiced by a large number of textile artists. To create a beautiful quilt, however, requires effort and time, but the available patches just do not want to fit together. So choose your patches carefully and keep a healthy supply of buttons to not only finish your quilt, but to make it better and more beautiful than your..
It turns out I’d make a terrible city planner. It took me a few plays to crack this nut but I’ve finally been able to design a city or two that worked.
Sprawlopolis is the latest published offering from Button Shy Games, a wonderful wallet game that actually will fit in your pocket. Featuring variable win conditions with tons of combos so no two games are ever the same. Tight decision making, great graphic design, easy to learn. All that in 18 cards. It may actually take you longer to read this little review than it would to play a full game.
In Sprawlopolis, 1-4 players work together to build a new city from the ground up. Using only 18 cards and a variable scoring system, the game is never the same twice. Each turn, players will play 1 card from their hand to the growing city, trying to score as many points as possible. Players will have to communicate and plan without revealing their own cards in order to most efficiently develop large areas in each of the 4 zone types. Watch out though, the city hates paying for road maintenance so each road will cost you points in the end. When all cards have been placed, the game ends and players see if they have met dynamically generated minimum score for their game. Can you meet the demands of the officials, work with your fellow planners and build the ultimate urban wonder? It’s time to find out!
When I say tight decision making, I mean it. With 18 cards in a standard game, and only 15 of them comprising your city, every single card placement is meaningful.
To begin, the player shuffles all 18 cards, and then draws and flips over 3 of them to reveal the scoring objectives and the number of points needed to reach a win. You then place down the first card to start your city, draw a hand of 3 more cards and have just 14 more cards to (hopefully) meet or exceed the score you need.
Each card consists of 4 blocks of the 4 different colored zones. And also a few roads. After you draw your initial hand of 3, you place 1 card at a time, drawing it’s replacement from the deck before placing another card. Your objective is to place cards next to or overlapping each other so that you create a city tableau that matches your unique scoring requirements.
Every city will score base points for their largest contiguous grouping of each of the 4 different zones. Then you add up how many completed roads you’ve made and subtract that number from yoru score. Ouch! Check your unique objectives to see how many more points you can scrape up and then compare your final score to the total on the objectives.
It’s not anywhere near as easy as it sounds.
I’ve played this game mostly solo and it’s one I very much enjoy. In 10 to 15 minutes I can get in a thinky, intense little game session that’s got my brain buzzing, but isn’t long enough to actually have smoke coming out of me ears. It’s perfect for me when I want something relatively deep but don’t have the time or energy to invest an hour of brain power or more. As an added bonus, it takes about 10 seconds to set up a new game of Sprawlopolis!
The game features clear, concise graphic design and artwork – really the two are on here, and there’s not any ambiguity as to what’s on any particular card.
To be honest, I prefer this one as a solo game, though it can accommodate up to 4 players. In co-op mode it can create some interesting conversations around the game but depending on who you’re playing with, this 15 minute gem could drag on a bit longer than it should.