The holidays need board games to distract us from awkward, uncomfortable conversations. These past few years haven’t exactly brought cohesion to family systems, after all.
Besides, board games go great with snacks, which matches the non-stop eating element of holiday gatherings. Listen, you’ve eaten everything else in the house, just go ahead and eat the game afterwards.
So how about some holiday board game suggestions?
7 Board Games to Play Over the Holidays
Dominion is a game I recommend to everyone. It has a non-threatening theme, is super easy to teach, and has a really satisfying gameplay that fits grandmas and grandchildren alike.
Dominion is a “deck builder,” a category of game where players begin with a starting hand of cards, then use their actions to slowly upgrade their hands in order to purchase victory points.
Let’s be honest, there will be a good chance that at least one of your family members will be drunk for most of the holidays and Viticulture is a board game about making wine.
Jokes aside, it’s a great game. I’ve written about it extensively here.
Tournament of Camelot
I’ve been snarky, but I shouldn’t assume your family has deep generational communication issues or substance abuse problems, even though, well, you’re family just might. ¯_(ツ)_/¯
Maybe your family can handle a little light conflict. If so, Tournament of Camelot is a great trick-taking game set in the world of King Arthur. Taking on the role of a hero from the legendary story, you battle with weapon cards like arrows, swords, sorcery, and even alchemy.
It’s a fun theme and a well done game. And the beauty of a trick-taking card game is that the basic mechanic is understood by folks who may have only played a game like Hearts or Pinocle, making it easy to teach.
Ticket to Ride
Ticket to Ride is a game about creating railroad routes. Nearly everyone has a grandpa, uncle, or young nephew who is into trains, so it’s a theme that works well in families.
Ticket to Ride is also easily one of the most popular modern board games, meaning you can pick it up in Target or wherever. That can be helpful for folks who may attach a stigma to “that nerdy stuff from comic shops.” But then they are hooked.
Century Spice Road
Century Spice Road is my absolute favorite game on this list. Like the other games listed above, it has a light, non-threatening theme. You pretend you are spice traders from centuries ago.
Century Spice Road has a deck building element like Dominon but it also adds the element of little colored cubes that represent the spices. You use your turns to slowly build up a better collection of spices that you can then use to buy victory point cards.
Century Spice Road is easy to teach (the rules are on one page, front and back) and it plays fast. Before you know it, it will be your turn again, which is great for keeping the whole family engaged.
Codenames is on this list because it works in almost any context.
It is designed for 4-8 players and can work with players as young as 6 years old. The basic premise of the game is that the two teams are looking at a 5 x 5 grid of words. One player on each team is the Spymaster, giving clues that their teammates can then use to guess words.
Onitama is another personal favorite, but the reason I chose it for this list is because it is a two player strategy game that can be taught in 30 seconds. It is perfect for that favorite uncle or family member that you want to create a shared experience with.
Think of Onitama as streamlined Chess, being that each side of the two player game has a “king” piece flanked by 4 “pawns.” Whereas Chess movement is determined via the restrictions of the individual pieces, in Onitama moving is determined by a set of rotating cards.
As the cards change, players are required to think several steps ahead, just like Chess. But Onitama plays in just 10-15 minutes. It’s quick and light, yet has a ton of depth. It’s a brilliant little game actually.