There is something incredibly cozy and nostalgic about pulling out a board game to play with your family or friend group, even when the holidays are over. In northern states, the season of indoor board-game gatherings is in full swing. While there are countless games to play with a good, old-fashioned deck of cards and a plethora of board-game classics, here are a few suggestions to expand your board game repertoire beyond Clue and Monopoly. No matter what your family or friend group’s temperament is, there is truly a game for you.
The teamwork group: Codenames
When my mom pulled this game out on our family vacation last summer, I was a little skeptical of the hype preceding its unboxing. There was no fancy board or playing pieces—just a box full of small cardboard cards. However, I was very quickly won over by this fun game of teamwork and often-hilarious competition. Players divide into two teams and race each other to find all of their team’s “treasure cards” before the other team. Everyone takes turns being the “Cluemaster,” who gives clues to his or her team in the form of code words.
It’s a very clever concept and a game my family (or any family, I imagine) does not grow tired of quickly. Other reasons to love this game include that it does not take hours to play (looking at you, Monopoly), and that family members of all ages can participate in the fun. We played with 11-year-olds through 75-year-olds, and everybody enjoyed it thoroughly.
Although I have not tried it yet, I recently discovered that there is also a Disney Codenames edition available now, which would be perfect for that Disney-loving group, as well as those with even younger children, as it is suggested for ages 8 and up.
The strategizing bunch: Settlers of Catan
Chances are, you’ve at least heard of Settlers of Catan, even if you’ve never played it. This is one of the most ingenious board games, and it has become something of a staple in board-game lovers’ homes. Up to six players can play at one time with an expansion pack, and it is great for all ages 10 and up. The overarching idea of the game is that, in an age of discovery, many ships have landed on an uncharted island at the same time—the island of Catan—and a race must ensue to “settle” the island. (The game was rebranded as simply “Catan” a few years ago.)
This game is wonderful for the family who loves to create elaborate strategies, as there are many different steps and things to consider with each move, and you can throw off the strategies and paths of other players while simultaneously helping your team draw closer to victory. It’s easy to see why this game has become such a cult favorite in the last decade. There are also many different variations, expansions, and spin-offs of Settlers of Catan, for those who get truly addicted.
The competitive group: Ticket to Ride
This board game is for 2–5 players and takes around 30 minutes to an hour to play (depending on the number of players). It requires nearly equal parts luck and skill and brings out my family’s competitive side without causing any actual name-calling, mood-ruining fights. It is great for all ages starting around age 8, and it is pure excitement from start to finish. I’ve noticed that both the “board game experts” and “casual board gamers” in my family absolutely love this game. There are also other versions of the original Ticket to Ride, such as the slightly-more complex Europe version and the much-shorter (as in 15-minute!) New York City version.
My husband and I frequently play this game together—just the two of us—snuggled up together on the couch sans the physical board game with the Ticket to Ride game app on our iPad! This is the perfect option for someone who would like to play the game by herself or with just one or two other people without the hassle of the big board—or for the person who would like to obtain this game for only $7.
The game show-loving bunch: Family Feud
In this game, one person acts as the moderator or host (who wouldn’t want to play Richard Dawson?), and the rest of the group splits into two teams and takes turns answering the survey questions, trying to guess the most popular responses to a variety of different questions (for example, “Name something that people in their twenties are trying to find” with answers ranging from “their phone” to “happiness”). The idea is to guess how you think most Americans responded when surveyed for this game—thus, quick, smart thinking is key. Whether or not everyone is familiar with the classic game show, it is a sure crowd-pleaser.
Like Ticket to Ride, there are many different versions and variations of this game available, from smaller card games to a Star Wars version or Kids vs. Parents version. In the classic board game version of Family Feud, there is not actually a board everyone has to sit around, making it an ideal game for a large group that needs to spread out.
The betting group: Wits and Wagers
Imagine this: a board game that asks everyone questions that (probably) no one knows the answers to. Wits and Wagers has everybody guessing numbers that answer questions you’ve likely never thought about before, such as “How many feet tall was the tallest giraffe ever recorded?” or “How many licks does it really take to get to the center of a Tootsie Pop?” After everyone’s guesses are laid out, each person gets to bet either on their own guess (maximizing their bet) or on somebody else’s guess they feel more confident about.
At least in the games I’ve played with my family and friends, the wide spectrum of guesses and bets is truly hilarious. Often the most confident players don’t end up being right, while the struggling guessers find themselves getting lucky. I love how this game is both exciting without being stressful, and competitive while still being relaxed and fun.
You don’t have to be a board game aficionado in order to enjoy a fun game night with your family or friends the next time a big group gets together. Sometimes conversation alone can only take a night (or whole vacation!) so far, and board games can elevate an evening into a truly enjoyable experience for everyone. I guarantee you that there is nothing boring about any of the board games on this list.