Affordably Living Your Best Life

18 Board Games to Play with Family During the Holidays

The holidays are a time of family gathering, and no family gathering is complete without a board game. Hear me out, these are not your grandma’s board games, no game of Life to be found here! Trust me, there’s no better way to break the ice, fill time between dinner and dessert, or get a whole lot closer with friends, family, or friends of family than a night of (mostly) friendly competition. Special thanks to Cody for helping build this list!

Before we jump into it though, happy first day of Blogmas! The next 12 days are going to be full of holiday-themed blog posts covering all kinds of fun stuff. We’re kicking off Blogmas with the essentials, the top 20 board games to play with your family during the holidays. 

This post contains affiliate links to items I use and love. If you make a purchase after clicking one of these links, I make a small commission. Your clicks support this blog and this dog, we both thank you!

Fun for Everyone

These are games that have easy rules, they’re super quick to learn, and they’re safely PG-rated! These are safe for all ages and all ears, no younger cousins complaining they can’t play, and you won’t upset Grandma with any of these jokes!

while table with board game Azul

Azul

Artfully embellish the walls of your palace by drafting the most beautiful tiles with Azul. This game is a puzzle pattern game and one of my favorites on the whole list. One game takes less than an hour and it’s exceedingly simple to teach. Azul is limited to a maximum of 4 players at a time though!
Best Price: Target
Also Available: Amazon Walmart Board’s Edge Games

Ticket to Ride

Ticket to Ride is what happened when Settlers of Catan and Monopoly had a ground travailing board game child. This game is designed around building your own railroad across North America to connect cities and complete tickets. It’s pretty easy to pick up, and pretty fun to play. It runs a little longer, closer to an hour and really gets fun when you learn how poorly your fellow players (or you!) know geography! I for sure can’t be the only one who runs a whole line to the wrong city, right? Looking for a different vibe to your game than American Steam Engine? Game developer Days of Wonder also offers Europe, France, Japan, India, and more!
Best Price: Amazon
Also Available: Target, Walmart

Quacks of Quedlingburg

From my lovely board game assistant, Cody:
Imagine you’re a well-respected medieval doctor. Except you’re actually just a random person who makes random potions with random ingredients. But it’s the perfect time to be a random person who makes random potions with random ingredients because the Quedlinburg festival is here for you to show off your potion making skills to the other quacks (aka your fellow players) and try not to have it explode in your face. Each round, players add new ingredients to their bag for stronger (and safer) potions, pull ingredients at random to advance the potion tracker, and hope you don’t pull your exploding ingredients before you put the secret ingredient in!
Best Price: Amazon
Also Available: Walmart

Codenames

AKA the fastest way to look at your mother in law like she’s just spoken an alien language. In Codenames, you give your partner or team clever one-word clues to help them find their agents in the field. Find all your agents for a win, but good luck figuring out what a clue of “uh green, I think?” means! Codenames does have the quickest runtime, around 15 minutes per round. The game allows for up to 8 players, but if you’re not a big stickler for the rules you can definitely fit a few extra aunties in there!
Best Price: Amazon, Walmart
Also Available: Target

Quick Plays

I always dread the weird time after you clean up the table and before the cookies come out. Let’s be honest, it’s prime family argument time (looking at you Dad, it’s always politics when you clear the table). Instead, bring out one of these games and keep the table busy and keep Aunt Tina’s Q-uestionable opinions at bay!

Sushi Go!

Welcome to one of the cutest games out there. Sushi Go! is a super fast pick and pass card game where players build the highest point team of adorabley illustrated sushi. It’s a little tough to remember what all the point rules are, but after the first couple rounds, it’s so easy to pick up. As are the rules for Quick Plays, Sushi Go! only takes about 15 minutes for a full game. No promises for the time spent prepping the game though, where everyone picks their favorite sushi in the deck (mine is sashimi!).
Best Price: Target
Also Available: Walmart, Amazon

Maki Staki

Is this another sushi-based game? Absolutely yes. This spot is mostly earned by the endless battle of mah-ki stah-ki vs mackey stackey. I prefer the latter, just for the ridiculousness. Back to the game though, players draw to build their decks, aiming for 5 of the same. Sounds easy until someone draws an action card like Fatal Fugu, Wasabi Burn, or Conveyer Belt (groans not included!). It’s super simple rules, rounds can be as fast as you like, and uh, it’s not not easy to turn into a drnking game. Not that I would know, of course!
Best Price: Amazon

7 Wonders Duel

Another from board game assistant Cody:
Looking for a quick one on one game to kill time while you wait for the rest of the family to arrive? 7 Wonders Duel is the game for you. In this game two players take turns building structures to advance their civilization with military, science, and victory point cards. This game will have you squinting at the available cards trying to plan a way not to give your opponent that very juicy ten victory points card while still getting the double brick card you need to finish your last wonder. It’s also one of the fastest civilization building games I’ve played, taking about 30 minutes for a game.
Quick disclaimer for two player games, I’ve found that they sometimes feel a little too personal and might leave you or your friend feeling sour afterwards. Not to say two player games are the best way to ruin a relationship, but if the person you’re looking to play with (or yourself for that matter) is more on the competitive side, you might want to grab a different game to take the heat off.

Best Price: Walmart
Also Available: Target, Bed Bath & Beyond

Hanabi

Hanabi is truly one of my favorite games ever. We’re so used to the typical hidden hand, with Hanabi, everyone can see your cards except you. The point of cooperative card game is to give your fellow players hints as to what they have in their hand to complete the firework show before they run out of cards. It’s harder than you think, with a ton of satisfaction when you give a player the right hint! A full game of Hanabi takes about 25 minutes, so it’s an easy one to fit in anytime.
Best Price: Amazon
Also Available: Walmart, Bed Bath & Beyond

Bucket O Laughs

The holidays can be a joyful time, so bring everyone to tears with these games. They’ll have you in stitches and make plenty inside jokes for Christmasses to come. 

Galaxy Truckers

I’ll be honest, this is one of the most frustrating games I’ve ever played, and also one of the funniest. You play as the pilot of a spaceship, and must prepare for unknown dangers by building the best ship possible. A game is three rounds, and each has a building phase and a flying phase. While you build, you stress about what’s coming for your ship, try to remember all the parts you need to keep your crew alive. Then you fly, and slowly watch your crew get kidnapped by pirates, our cargo fall into space, and your beautiful ship fall apart, because how could you forget the batteries?! You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, and then you do it all again next round.
Best Price: Target
Also Available: Amazon

Monikers

Currently ranking as my favorite party game, Monikers is just something else. A three round game starting with descriptions and ending with some light charades, Monikers is a great game to get a party going and laughing. It’s suitable for 4-16 players, and when I tell you it’s a hoot and a half. One thing to note for Monikers, the game is rated at 17+, there are definitely a few NSFW cards, and trust me when I say you do not want to charade in front of your mother in law. Trust me.
Best Price: Amazon
Also Available: Atomic Empire

Telestrations

Telestrations is definitely one of those games that you’ve seen, but didn’t realize. It went semi-vial on Tiktok (I’m going to put an NSFW/18+/ mature audiences only warning before you click this one!), as a mix of good old-fashioned Telephone and Pictionary. I’ve never seen a game of Telestrations not end up hilarious!
Best Price: Target
Also Available: Amazon, Staples

Long Plays

These guys are some of my favorites, but beware, these are not the ones to crack out at 9 PM! They’re not too hard, they’re safe for everyone, but boy are they long.

brown table with cards and play pieces from board game Viticulture

Wingspan

First things first with Wingspan, it is expensive, but it is beautiful. The team behind this game worked hard on every aspect of Wingspan and it shows. The game consists of 4 rounds of bird collecting, food earning, and egg laying to accomplish a achieve a randomized goal. This game can run over an hour, and is best suited for ages 10 and up, as it can be a little difficult and crunchy to learn the mechanics.
Best Price: Target
Also Available: Walmart

Viticulture

Another major favorite of mine, Viticulture places it’s players in the role of inheriting a small vineyard. It’s your job to grow grapes, hire workers, fill wine, and attract visitors in orders to achieve the highest number of victory points. This worker placement game is slow paced, pretty easy to learn, and a great casual game. You need to watch your strategy and that of your competor vineyards, but the game goes at whatever pace the players choose. Bonus points if you crack open a bottle of blush to enjoy while you play, get the full ambiance going! Viticulture takes well over an hour to play, but it’s easy to walk away and come back to later.
Best Price: Amazon
Also Available: Walmart, Bed Bath & Beyond

Exit: The Game

Exit itself is not one game, but a collection of games where you need to survive the night, exit a situation, or solve a crime. They are incredibly challenging, incredibly mindbending, and incredibly fun. While technically only for four players, this 60+ minute long game will challenge you with puzzles that will make you think in a whole new way. These games are a one-time-only play, requiring you to cut and draw and rip and fold the game pieces to solve puzzles, but there are oodles of options out there with varying difficulty and suggested age levels. Every game has a unique timer with sound effects build into the publisher KOSMOS’ app, which really can turn the pressure on! We’ve played Dead Man on the Orient Express and The Enchanted Forest. See more available Exit: The Game here.

Oceans

The sound of waves and cool breeze of the salty air can be a relaxing place to escape during the stressful holidays. But below those tranquil waves an entire ecosystem rages in the deep. Leviathans lumber along the currents, predators lurk in the shoals, and schools of fish murmurating among the coral. Oceans is set in this environment and it puts the players in the seat of evolution, they design different species to see which can survive the best. I love this game because it makes you feel like the species you create are actually intermingling with all the other species around the table and surprisingly mimics an actual ecosystem. It’s so fun to make a new animal and see it interact with the species and thrive, or not thrive.
Best Price: Amazon
Also Available: Walmart, Wildlife Tree

Tabletop Royalty

This category has some of my favorite board games of all time, these guys are tabletop royalty. You can’t see a single games list without them, and for good reason!

Catan

Catan, oh Catan. What a tumultuous history we’ve had. Catan is one of those games that fall under you havn’t played board games until you’ve played it. First published in 1995, this iconic game has come to define the next level of table top games. Set up is easy, everyone gets a little guide card to help, and it’s pretty dang easy to catch on. The game is limited to 4 players, unless you add an expansion allowing up to 6. What’s my issue with Catan though? I’m not very good at it. So am I a little bitter about Catan? Yes. Will I play it with you? Hard no, thanks. But I highly recommend you do!
Best Price: Kohl’s
Also Available: Amazon, Target

Betrayal at House on the Hill

Is this on Christmas theme? Absolutely not, but this game is worth every penny! In the first round, players explore three levels of a haunted house as a team. Every game rooms are shuffled so you will never play in the same house twice. All players are working together until the second round is triggered, and secretly one of your characters betrays the party. The game is incredibly fun, the only thing to note, you need a good sized table to play!
Best Price: Amazon
Also Available: Target, Walmart

Pandemic

Tired of COVID? Ready to take it out on a fake disease in a board game? Well get your disease-fighting specialist team together, it’s time to play Pandemic! An epic series of epidemic proportions (too soon?), Pandemic is a game with unique roles, a great degree of randomness, and enough of a challenge to make your brain work, but never enough to hit that table-flipping level of frustration. It’s a great game and if you’re hooked on the base game, I highly recommend checking out other games in the line!
Best Price: Amazon
Also Available: Walmart, Target


That’s a wrap on Blogmas day one, and the best board games out there! A great board game is such an underappreciated essential to any party, especially around the holidays. I really hope you and your family find these games just as much fun as we do!

Keep up with what’s going on with Moira The Explorer on Instagram and join the newsletter. Looking to connect with like-minded, budget-friendly folks? Join the new Budget Friendly Living group on Facebook!

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