Holidays are a funny thing. On the one hand, we get to spend time with the people we allegedly love best. On the other... we have to spend time with the people we allegedly love best.* To help you get through these trying times, I am providing my 2018 holiday gaming guide, which includes recommendations tailored to several possible holiday scenarios. (Also, I may add to this post if anyone suggests something brilliant in the comments.)
Scenario 1: You are with your nuclear family, and you want to play a game.
I am the only hobby board gamer in my family, but I have fond memories of playing Facts in Five and Trivial Pursuit growing up. My parents also enjoy going to Vegas and can hold their own in traditional card games. If your family has a similar experience level, here are my holiday gaming recommendations:
1. Splendor: This is what I would call a "potato chip game." It's easy to get started, and once you start, it can be hard to stop. Splendor is easy to teach, and I bring it out with game club students all the time for exactly that reason. The games are also very quick and absorbing, which means that people first learning the game will often want to play it repeatedly. If there are no more than four people at your Thanksgiving gathering, this one is going to be perfect.
2. Diamonds: Even if your family isn't full of gamers, a lot of them will have played a trick taking game like Hearts or Spades. Diamonds is conceptually similar, but a little more "gamer-y." If you want to try a hobby board game that will be accessible, and there are 2–6 people in your family group, Diamonds might be a good bet.
Scenario 2: You are with your extended family, and you want to play a game.
I don't know about y'all, but while I love my extended family, I don't exactly want to risk having a conversation that touches on politics or the details of my personal life. Games are a perfect social buffer that allow you to spend quality time with everyone, while also managing not to talk about anything unpleasant. (Hopefully.) Here are a couple of games that might encourage some holiday cheer.
Pretty much any number of people can play Codenames, and it's a ridiculously fun game. Lay out some word cards, split up into two teams and have a laugh while each team's "spymaster"—the only one who knows which words are associated with which team—tries to get their teammates to guess correctly. It's creative, it's simple, and it's easy to play several times in a row.
If your family is stressed out by something like Codenames (some people hate coming up with clues), go for something lower-stress like Telestrations. You can get a party pack that accommodates up to 12 people, and the game is like a more structured version of "Telephone," complete with hilariously bad (or amazing?) drawings from your fellow players. There isn't much pressure to win, and laughs will be had all around.
Scenario 3: You are with your family, but want to make them leave you alone.
Sometimes, games bring people together. Other times, they can be used to shield you from all of those people you don't actually want to interact with.
1. Hostage Negotiator
This game is amazing, but it's a solo game. Sorry, nobody else can play! Also, there is no better game title to let your relatives know how you really feel.
2. Mage Knight
If your family isn't into games, playing Mage Knight is a great way to have a game to yourself while discouraging others from trying to play with you. Make sure you spread out all of the rulebooks to emphasize the complexity of the game. Additionally, cackle loudly to yourself about how you're going to destroy yet another monastery. Works like a charm!
And that, gamers, is my 2018 Holiday Gaming Guide. Enjoy!
*Mom, if you're reading this post, please know that it's a joke. I love you and Dad and cannot wait to see you guys at Christmas!