The holiday season is upon us, and that means that we need to get ready for hours of family time! To ensure that your "quality time" with relatives is quality without the quotation marks, I highly recommend that you play some board games. They keep everyone occupied with doing something together, but conveniently distract from possible conversations about religion and politics. Everybody wins.
Of course, your family may not be full of gamers who are ready to throw down the moment somebody says Twilight Imperium (that one can take 6 hours with experienced players...). One of the keys to having a good time is choosing the right games. So how do you become a gaming sommelier to your grandmother who only wants to play the classics from her childhood? Check out my holiday gaming guide!
For Families That Like Trivial Pursuit:
I remember playing men vs. women Trivial Pursuit with my family and having a great time. My little brother enjoyed it less—the women usually won. However, I had no idea what most of the answers were. (I had never watched Howdy Doody or paid attention to sportsball. How the hell was I supposed to answer these questions??)
Fortunately, modern game designers have found a solution to your problem! You can now play trivia games without having to be a walking encyclopedia!
My first recommendation in this category is America. In this trivia game, you get credit for being close to the correct answer. You can also score by betting on other family members who probably know the answers—as well as for betting against people who you think are completely wrong. This is a trivia game that allows everyone to be involved even if they don't know all (or any of) the answers. It's the most accessible trivia game I know, and it does a great job of not making players feel bad about themselves when they should be having fun.
I would also recommend Timeline, which is actually a whole series of games now. Go ahead and pick your flavor! You can try Timeline: Music and Cinema, Timeline: American History, or even Timeline: Science and Discoveries. In all versions, you try to play cards from your hand in the correct sequence in relation to other events, e.g. Which came first, Watergate or Woodstock? Even if you're wrong, you'll end up learning a lot, and you can actually make guesses instead of being flat-out wrong.
For Families That Like To Give Each Other A Hard Time:
Do you ever feel like family gatherings turn into one big laugh at your many shortcomings? There is a way to channel that negative energy, and that way is... Stipulations. The tagline is "Let your negativity shine!" The concept of the game is that each round, one player chooses something good—a superpower, a lifetime supply of something, a fulfilled dream—and the rest of the players come up with a stipulation that would completely ruin it. If you've ever told your family that you started a YouTube channel about board games, then you know that they already know how to play this game. Plus, you get a chance to hold your own by ruining their dreams, too! Another good thing about Stipulations is that since you are coming up with your own responses, the game can be as G-rated or R-rated as you like.
For Monopoly-Loving Families
For families that have nearly murdered each other over Monopoly for generations, there are several less deadly alternatives.
The first I would recommend is Ticket to Ride. It's got some of the same feeling of growth and development because you play as a railroad tycoon. However, there is no die rolling—only selection of different-colored train cards—and you have a lot more choice about how you want to play. Do you want to take risks and try to build ambitious train routes? Do you want to play more conservatively but also spend time blocking other people? The choice is yours! This game is easy to learn for players of all ages, and there are now plenty of "flavors" to choose from if you'd like to try train maps from different parts of the world.
And for relatives who just feel more comfortable seeing the word "monopoly," I recommend Monopoly Gamer. It's faster, more entertaining, and highly appealing to kids because you play as familiar Nintendo characters. If Monopoly is too long for you, you should try this version. It's pretty fun and doesn't wear out its welcome before the game even hits the halfway point.
For Families That Prefer Pictionary
If your family is more artistically inclined, I highly recommend Telestrations. Imagine a game of "telephone," but instead of interpreting what someone says, you are trying to understand what they were trying to draw. Mistakes will be made. This game is hilarious and can be played by family members of all ages. There is also a party pack that can accommodate up to 12 people, so it's fantastic for very large gatherings.
If your family is a bit more devious, you can also try Fake Artist. In this game, you are all working together to create an image—but one of you is a "fake artist" who doesn't actually know what they are supposed to be drawing. All players know the category (e.g. animal), but the fake artist won't know what exactly you are supposed to be drawing (e.g. a cat). Everyone at the table takes turns adding to the drawing. The goal of the fake artist is to figure out what the drawing is supposed to be before he or she gets caught. Everyone else is supposed to add to the drawing in ways that don't give too much away—all while trying to identify the fake artist and convince everyone that it isn't them!
Happy Holiday Gaming!
I hope this little guide has given you some inspiration as you plan to spend time with the people who love you the most, but who possibly drive you the craziest. If there are any other categories of game you'd like recommendations for, leave a note in the comments!