10 games every family should have on hand ahead of the holidays

From bestreviews.com
Anthony Marcusa

Cards Against Humanity isn't for families with young children — but it's great if you intend on spending the holidays with friends.

 Board games provide a great diversion around the holiday season at gatherings with friends and family -- no matter the size or age range of the group.

The right board game can elevate any get-together, turning a normal evening into one that's surprising and memorable. During the holiday season, when you're making more time for loved ones, board games are a way to be together, get away from screens, and have fun. 

These are the top board game picks for this winter and beyond that you'll be pulling out to play again and again.


1. For the competitive family: Catan 

Catan is a classic adventure game that hasn't changed too much over time - and for good reason. This building and trading game tasks players with collecting materials and crafting settlements before their opponents do. The key variable that makes every game exciting and unique: trading with other players. When you're playing with family and friends, offers can quickly get entertaining and silly. The base game only works with three or four people, so be sure to grab the extra player expansion if you have more coming to the table.


2. For those who spend holidays with friends: Cards Against Humanity

Chances are you've come across Cards Against Humanity before; it's one of the quintessential adult party games for larger groups. It's especially fun when you play with a new group that hasn't played together, and even more fun (read: awkward) when you play with family. Because, after all, the cards can be a lot to handle (read: inappropriate). To add more excitement and novelty to this pastime, grab the Absurd Box expansion, which attests to featuring the weirdest cards the company has ever penned! This will surely make for an unforgettable night. 


3. For families with young kids: Sleeping Queens

A (relatively) classic card game, the 10-year anniversary edition of Sleeping Queens promises engagement and excitement for kids, plus just enough involvement for adults to stay interested. Jesters, knights, and dragons abound in this colorful fantasy card game that offers a lot of replay value. It also offers some educational guidance for kids, testing their memory and math skills along the way. While traditional playing cards may be a bit dull for younger kids, this more exciting option will keep them invested.


4. For the tech-savvy family: Alchemists

A more modern option, Alchemists requires time and concentration. It's best for teens and adults with longer attention spans and the ability to strategize. Each player is an alchemist trying to best the others, looking to experiment and publish their works to gain fame and fortune as quickly as possible. And because alchemy is a cutthroat business, you're also trying to discredit your rivals along the way. The back-and-forth nature of the game means tables can turn quickly. It's also app-integrated, so you can use your phone or tablet to read and catalog ingredients.


5. For a party of three: Machi Koro

One of the most colorful and creative card games around is also one of the most fun and varied. Machi Koro tasks you with creating your own city by collecting cards and amassing money to pay for your buildings. At every turn and dice roll, players will likely get money from the bank, but they may also take money from other players, pay out to their foes, or even steal assets. This competitive game features well-rendered cards, a relatively speedy play time (around 30 minutes), and a different path to victory each time. Expansion packs are also available featuring some more exciting additions to your city building plans.


6. For traveling couples: Codenames: Duet

Codenames and its expansions and variations have become exceptionally popular; this investigative card game by the brand has players seek out secret agents and avoid the assassin, like an intense adult version of Guess Who. Duet is made for two people, and instead of pitting you against someone else, you play as a team. The cooperative style is also joined with a campaign variety, meaning you can play multiple times with high stakes and new twists! 


7. For playing with the extended family: Space Cadet: Dice Duel Die Fighter

This swift-paced, team-based game requires players to think fast, act faster, and destroy the enemy ship before they get destroyed. This dice game has no turns - you're simply assigned duties on a ship, from engineering to helming, and you get going. Space Cadet: Dice Duel Die Fighter works well for a large group of people and has a high replay value due to the varied results of the dice and the ability to change roles. It's a game sure to get people active, excited, and intense. The more, the merrier -- and likely louder.


8. For the family with a sense of humor: Don't Step In It!

For those families with younger kids, Don't Step In It! serves up humor and a few surprises along the way. Players navigate the mat while blindfolded, hoping to avoid some unwanted, squishy leavings between their toes. Molded putty resembles poop that has littered your walkway as you try to step in as few piles as possible. It'll keep kids giggling for hours.


9. For the family on the move: Rat a Tat Cat

This simple card game has been around for 25 years yet still maintains its popularity, and we think it's ideal for those who might be traveling with small children this holiday season. The objective is to get the lowest score in your hand, and this kids' game also develops important cognitive skills for youngsters. Math, memory, and strategy are all required as you discard high-point rat cards and try to gain lower cat ones. It's a quick game - around 20 minutes - and it's easy to store, set up, and travel with. The eye-catching illustrations should keep young ones interested and engaged.


10. For those with time to kill: Pandemic Legacy

For those looking to invest themselves in a time-consuming and elaborate game, look no further than Pandemic Legacy. This cooperative game is one-and-done ... sort of. You play across 12 sessions (though you may have to repeat some if you fail) as diseases take over the world. Each session may incorporate a new element, giving you new bonuses or making the game harder. And everything that happens in one session will impact what happens down the road. Players add stickers to the board and rule book, rip up cards, and maybe even say goodbye to certain characters. Your choices have never been more important in a board game.


Anthony Marcusa is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money. BestReviews never accepts free products from manufacturers and purchases every product it reviews with its own funds.


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