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7 fantastic board game gift ideas for the holidays

Today is a golden age of board games. There are thousands of titles in print with more being released almost every day.

Here are some to consider for holiday gift giving. After all, board games bring people together to have fun, can be enjoyed over and over again, and teach principles of teamwork, negotiating, math and reading.

Eight-Minute Empire: Legends by Red Raven Games is a mini war game with big options. Set in a fantasy world, the game objective is to send your armies out to control the many lands of the world. Game mechanics involve bidding on and collecting cards that provide special powers and abilities. Many strategic decisions exist for players to build their empire. Modular boards allow players to create a different playing map every time they play. The game is for two to four players and can be played within 30 minutes. Retail price is $30.

Triassic Terror by Eagle Games is a game about dinosaurs. Players represent competing herds trying to survive and take over areas of the board (the prehistoric world) to score points for being the most dominant. With each turn, players choose from various powers to complete their plans for world domination. The components of the game are first class, and the big, heavy box is filled with tokens, cards, a giant game board and plastic dinosaurs, including the Utah raptor. Retail price is $74.99, plays for two hours and is for two to six players.

A fast-paced run through the jungle searching for hidden treasure is the theme of an excellent game called Relic Runners from Days of Wonder. In this game, players are explorers searching temples for treasures that earn victory points. The entire board is a network of trails that connect clearings containing three-tiered temples. Each player selects an adventurer with a unique ability, gathers starting equipment and begins at base camp. Manage your supplies and special powers and always search for relics. The game is filled with eye candy. The relic game parts look awesome. This is a fun game for families and retails for $60. It plays about 60 to 90 minutes and is for two to five players.

The Downfall of Pompeii by Mayfair Games simulates the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in the Italian city of Pompeii. The game is played in two phases. In phase one, each player tries to place as many of the family members in buildings on the Pompeii city board. In phase two, the volcano erupts and players simultaneously place lava flow tiles around the city, eliminating competing player tokens while also making a mad dash with their own tokens to the city exits. This is a fun game with an interesting "survival" theme. It has so much variety, it plays well again and again. Retail price is $35 and playing time is about 30 to 45 minutes. It accommodates two to four players.

A Distant Plain by GMT Games is for serious military gamers. Players represent one of four factions fighting for control of modern-day Afghanistan. Each faction has its own victory conditions as players compete for provinces on a giant map of Afghanistan. Using the COIN rule system, players take actions based on play options from a deck of cards. Using politics, military maneuvers or economic subtlety, players attempt to achieve their own private goals by the time a certain card appears in the card deck. The game is brilliantly designed but fairly complex. The complexity adds to the realism, choices and excitement. Price is $78 and plays one to four players. Playing time is about three hours.

Darkest Night is a cooperative fantasy adventure game by Victory Point Games. In this game, an evil necromancer threatens to destroy a mystical kingdom by sewing corruption and raising an undead army. Players represent one of nine fantasy characters with unique special powers. The characters bond together and travel the realm, searching for clues, treasures and magic items to fight the evil necromancer and his minions. The longer it takes to defeat the necromancer, the more powerful he becomes. Darkest Night retails for $55, takes about two hours to play and is for one to four players.

Ticket to Ride Nederland by Days of Wonder is a new map expansion for the hugely popular Ticket to Ride board game. This time players are building rail lines across the Netherlands by using double-track bridge crossings. Special Bridge Toll tokens are used to pay for the bridge crossings. Players score bonus points based on the total value of the tokens they still have at the end of the game. This is a fun new addition to the series with an interesting twist. The retail price is $25, and the game lasts about an hour and is for two to five players.