I always think that purchasing games for gamers is tough, so I always focus on those that will play them once in awhile, or view them as party activities.
Last year I posted a gift guide focusing on players that don't play games, so this year I will change to my favourite games for those that are casual game players.
I think the top of my list will always be Ingenious, easy to play and easy to teach. My game group has sold 10-15 copies directly due to this game, and if the vendors at last years Calgary Entertainment Expo would have had copies in stock, I would have sold a few more! It has been called "advanced dominoes" but I think there is a larger strategy as you are trying to score points while stopping (or slowing) your opponents scoring.
The game that is second on my list is also by Reiner Knizia and it is Formula Motor Racing. It has a slight feel of auto racing but the theme is tied well into the game play. It also contains some "take that" in the game as well, and only takes a about thirty minutes to play 3 or 4 races.
The new darling on Boardgamegeek is a game called Dominion. This game came out of nowhere to be one of the top ranked games on the site. It will draw players that like Magic: the Gathering and other collectible card games. I taught three new players last night and all three enjoyed it, one asked the name of it because she "likes to track the games she wants to purchase". It has a deck building structure but everyone pulls from the same piles, allowing you to customise your deck.
What the heck, another Knizia game? Yes, here is another, Winner's Circle, a fast playing betting game for up to 6 players. The horse movement is kind of odd, but there is some strategy in the game and can be a riot.
This is a list for casual gamers so I am going to include a game I don't really care for, but revolutionised the boardgaming industry. Settlers of Catan in many ways has done exactly that. It has made a game accessible for those that have primarily played roll and move style games an dgiven them a little more to chew on with trading and the suspense of getting the dice rolls they need. I don't like this game because I find that if you don't get the dice rolls the game is less enjoyable. It does play fast (45 minutes or so) and has some player interaction, so it should be a good casual game.
Ticket to Ride is always going to make this list as well, it is easy to teach, fun to play and you can always talk while playing the game. This game bridges the social activity barrier and allows people to play a game and interact.
The last game on my list is Pandemic. This cooperative game encourages table talk and helping each other out. You either win together or lose together, but you should have a great time doing it. My only complaint is that sometimes you can get a dominant player that gets everyone to do what they want and it may be less of you playing the game as it is them playing it. This is a minor quibble because as you get more experience you can slowly understand the game better.
OK, that is it for this year, have fun and happy gaming!