My post on gifts for a depressed person has been really well-received, so I know I hit a nerve there. I thought I would follow up with some talk about board games, why you should buy them, give them, and play them.
Board games are a really wonderful way to bond with other people, even people with which you (think you) don't have anything in common. As an angry young teenager I would willingly play Trivial Pursuit with all sorts of people that I thought were absolutely horrible, even my parents. I learned that Dad, even though he was a complete idiot, was really pretty smart, and so was my brother-in-law and even my grandmother. Better still, I learned that I was pretty smart, too.
Board games depend somewhat on chance, so there's a good possibility of doing well even if your heart isn't in it. I think the games that require teams are best, because you reinforce belonging as well as accomplishment. Team board games are also especially good at bringing people together across age barriers.
Win or lose you generally have fine in spite of yourself. If your team loses and you, the depression victim, tries to blame yourself, the fun of the game usually trumps the desire to win and you find that your teammates won't let you blame yourself. Now if you are friends with a serious competition junkie and poor sportsman, this won't be the case. We can talk about self-esteem and destructive relationships another time, however. I'm talking about normal human beings here.
If you're still at a loss for how to spend your holiday budget, I think a good board game like Apples to Apples should appear beneath your tree, or wherever your gifts are stored until opening time.