The holidays are the perfect time of year to gather around as a family and play some games. We’ve highlighted some of the best tabletop games for all the family to enjoy.
Update, 12/14/22: Checked content for accuracy, product availability, and dead links.
There are thousands of games to choose from so we’ve focused on the most accessible board and card games out there. We’ve looked at games that family members of all age and ability can get to grips with, so that you don’t have to spend hours explaining rules and regulations. None of these games are too huge either, so you won’t need to devote hours to a session. Instead, you can play these games for a little while before moving onto something else.
Here are some of our favorite games for young and old this Christmas.
Ticket to Ride
221B Baker Street
The aim behind Kingdomino is simple — build the best Kingdom by fitting tiles together well, kind of like dominos. It’s a concept that works brilliantly for two to four players, and only takes about 15 minutes to complete a game.
Strategy comes from planning how you design your kingdom so it’s simple enough that kids from eight and up can figure it out, as well as older relatives who have never played this kind of game before. It’s not complex by any means, but there’s a decent amount of depth here as you figure out how to arrange things, and when to take tiles at the key moment during a game. Simply put, it’s ideal if you have a household of mixed abilities.
Kingdomino embraces everything great about dominos but transforms it into a fun card game.
The environment is a big issue for many, and understandably so. Combine that key issue with tabletop gaming and you get Photosynthesis—a board game with an important message behind it.
The game has you focused on planting and cultivating seeds, as you shape the ever-changing forest, and take your trees through their full life cycle. You earn points as their leaves collect energy from the sun’s rays, reminding us all of the importance of trees within our ecosystem. The locations you sow seeds at is vital to your success so there’s some neat strategy here, as well as some educational elements.
It’s super easy to learn and ideal with four players, although only two are required. It looks gorgeous too.
Blue Orange Games Photosynthesis Board Game - Award Winning Family or Adult Strategy Board Game for 2 to 4 Players. Recommended for Ages 8 & Up.
Cultivate your forest with this educational game.
Odds are that you and others in your family have at least played some video games in the past. Boss Monster takes the spirit of retro video games and turns it into a fun and satisfying dungeon building card game. It only takes about 20 minutes to play and is perfect for two to four players.
Players are the villain in this arrangement, attempting to lure adventurers into their dungeon in a bid to destroy them with some retro gaming inspired monsters. There’s a surprising amount of depth here, while still remaining simple to learn. Numerous expansion packs mean this could be a long-term favorite over the years too.
Boss Monster: The Dungeon Building Card Game
Bring the fun of video games to your table top.
Codenames is an enjoyable social word game for two to eight players, with the optimal amount being four. Two rival spymasters know the secret identities of 25 agents, with their teammates knowing the agents only by their codenames. Teams have to see who can make contact with all their agents first, via series of one-word clues that can point to multiple words on the table.
It involves a little thought so it’s best for teenagers and above, but it’s pretty smart. There can be lively discussion along the way and a lot of thought and banter too. A co-operative variant can reduce the risk of arguments with a single team working to achieve the highest score by playing against the game itself. It’s perfect for after dinner gaming.
Like spy games and competition? Codenames is the game for you!
Ticket to Ride
Ticket to Ride takes a little longer to play than some here, with playtimes averaging between 30 and 60 minutes. It’s worth the investment though. The game is a train adventure in which players collect and play matching train cards to claim railway routes connecting cities throughout North America. Think Phileas Fogg traveling the world in 80 days and you’re not far off here.
The object of the game is to score the highest number of points as you lay claim to railway routes. It’s important to plan ahead if you want to win, but also really quite simple to figure out. That means it’s a good game for ages eight and up, with up to six players able to participate. Younger players can always buddy up too.
Ticket to Ride
Collect cards and claim railways to win this fun railroad-themed board game.
A classic card game, Fluxx sessions can last anywhere from five minutes to half an hour or more. There are numerous different themed versions too but we’ve focused on the original classic. The beauty to this game is that the rules change as you play. Simply draw one card, play it, then watch as the rules change up and goals alternate so you have to keep an eye on things.
It’s as quirky as it sounds but that’s what makes it so much fun. There’s no risk of anyone getting lulled by what’s happening. Instead, the action is exciting enough that you can bring the deck out during a party if you want. It’s that simple yet beguiling to learn and play. It kind of evolves before your very eyes.
Have fun with words!
The rules of Zombie Dice are simple — eat 13 brains and you win. Yup, you play a zombie here. It’s a quick game comprising of 13 custom dice that represent your victims. You have to eat them fast before a shotgun blast and ends your turn.
Unsurprisingly, games last less than 15 minutes and work just as well with 2 players as it does more. As it’s a dice game, it’s as random as you would expect, but it is fun. There’s little depth, but it’s neatly self-contained and easy to grab for a quick session. If you need a simple game to entice kids, this is it. Providing they like the idea of playing a zombie, that is.
Zombies are coming!
221B Baker Street
221B Baker Street takes a little more effort than others here but it’s perfect if you always loved Clue, but wanted there to be more depth to it. The game has you taking the role of Sherlock Holmes as he endeavors to solve a puzzling case.
You have to piece together clues, question other players, and figure out the logical connections between the evidence you’ve gathered. It can take a while to play through (expect about an hour on average) but it’s thrilling stuff. Even better, it works just as well with two players as it does more. There are 200 case files too, so there’s plenty to sink your teeth into.
Deluxe 221B Baker Street
"Elementary, my dear Watson."