Gift-giving holidays are nice. Friends and family get together, wake up bright and early in the morning for once, and exchange gifts with one another. Only...now what? Everyone can go off to their own separate rooms to open all their shiny new gizmos, but if you want to bring your family together after all the packages are open, try throwing a tabletop game everyone can play in the mix. Like these.
This classic tile game has 2-5 players build their own little kingdoms in the sunny hillsides of France. The goal of the game is to own as many fields, castles, or roads as you can before the game is done. There are a number of expansions you can buy to add new rules and twists to the game, or just grab the Carcassonne Big Box to get several of them, plus the base game all at once.
Remember that game from a few years ago, Plague Inc., that let you create a disease that you then tried to infect everyone in the world with? Think of Pandemic as the cure (which, incidentally, came first). In this cooperative game, you and the other players are working together to cure a disease before it can spread across the globe. Expansions like On The Brink add new roles, like a bioterrorist who’s actively working against the main players, but even the base game is good for a quick hour of fun.
Gloomhaven isn’t an inexpensive game. It’s also worth what it costs. As BoardGameGeek’s number one game of all time, you can think of it a bit like a compact Dungeons & Dragons game in a box. It comes with preset cards, scenarios, and story lines that you can play without putting a ton of work on a DM’s shoulders. This is the kind of game that your family can keep coming back to play long after the holiday is over, so if you want something everyone can share to bring them together, Gloomhaven is it.
In Ticket to Ride, players find themselves in the early days of the locomotive transformation of the United States in the 19th century. Each player works to claim as many railroad pathways as they can. But be careful. The greedier you get, the more you can risk a competitive advantage.
If you want to have fun and don’t take yourself too seriously, try Quelf. In this game, players have to draw cards from a hand full of piles—some with trivia questions, some with physical challenges, some creative writing or drawing prompts—that players must complete to continue. It’s also weird. You can read our full review of this game to get an idea of what kind of zany antics you’ll be getting up to.
Settlers of Catan is such a popular game you might already have it in your library, but if you don’t, now’s as good a chance as any to hop on the train. Or, wagon. In this game, up to four players (or six with the player extension bundle), compete to tame the hexagonal wilderness of Catan with roads, settlements, and eventually cities by stockpiling resources that you can earn on each of your turns.
For a quick game that’s different every time you play it, it’s hard to beat Betrayal at House on the Hill. However, if you like your family and want to play more after Christmas is done, Betrayal: Legacy is where it’s at. This game features an episodic story that’s told over a series of around 14 hour-long gameplay sessions. If you space them out over a few months, and maybe double up a few sessions (some of them can be quite short), then you can have a spooky conclusion to the story just in time for next year’s Halloween.
Remember that old game Rampage where you play as a monster destroying a city, that they turned into a movie with The Rock? King of Tokyo is like if that was a board game. Each player picks a monster that they’ll use to stomp through a city. The player who can do the most damage, while suffering minimal damage, will win and rule the ashes.
Dropmix is a game unlike most of the others on this list. It uses an app on your phone, paired its electronic game board, to create remixes of a collection of popular songs. The game comes with a set of cards, each with an NFC chip that corresponds to the song on the card. Depending on which slot you put it in, you can activate just the vocals, drumbeat, piano, or guitar elements of the track. Expansion packs let you add new songs to your collection, so you can remix songs across a wide variety of genres.
If you really want to get to know you friends or family, try catching them in a lie. Resistance lets you do just that, without any messy drama. In this game, players work together to complete a secret mission. Only some players are saboteurs, working against the team. Everyone’s job is to figure out who before the end of the game. Avalon, Resistance’s sister game, offers a variation on the same game but with a fantasy twist.
Wait, Blockbuster? Yep, it’s a board game now! Billed as “a movie game for anyone who has ever seen a movie,” the Blockbuster board game comes in a box that looks a lot like the VHS boxes that Blockbuster used to rent movies in*. The game itself challenges players to quote, act out scenes from, or name their favorite movies. It even comes with a buzzer for Family Feud-style head to head challenges. Mostly, however, it’s a neat throwback to that period in the 90s where Blockbuster was a thing.
*Blockbuster used to be a store that would let consumers temporarily take home copies of a movie on VHS tapes** in exchange for money, not unlike a library***.
** VHS tapes were cartridges that contained magnetic tape that could be used to store information like movies before we invented discs and the internet.
*** A library was—okay that’s enough, just get to the inset.