Whichever holidays you celebrate this winter, there’s plenty of tabletop games to enjoy with your family. These are over a dozen that are easy to teach / learn.
Roll for it
2-4 players, ages 8+, 30 minutes
If anyone in the group has played Yahtzee — or rolled dice, for that matter — they’ll learn how to play in seconds. Roll your dice and try to match the patterns on the cards. While the official age is 8 and up, Board Game Geek’s community suggests kids as young as 5 can play without too much help.
2-5 players, ages 8+, 45 minutes
It’s not a classic, but it really should be. Make your meeples balance and do circus-act performances to score points. Some card drafting and press-your-luck mixes nicely with the dexterity element. Expansions adds complexity, though Board Game Geek seems to think 6 year olds can enjoy this game.
2-4 players, ages 10+, 30 minutes
It’s a modern classic for a reason — collect gems, get cards, score nobles. The theming isn’t the strongest, but it doesn’t need to be. It’s a great introduction to engine builders and a simple one to learn / teach.
Ticket to Ride
2-5 players, ages 8+, 30 minutes to play
Beyond being 2004’s Spiel des Jahres (Germany’s game of the year), it’s another one of those modern classics. Gather cards, lay out trains, and fulfill your routes. Plenty of expansions if you’d rather play in Europe, Asia, or the original US map. The game has an excellent app.
2-5 players, ages 8+, 15 minutes
A great introduction to the world of card-drafting with a yummy theme. I really love it when a theme and mechanic work perfectly together. It’s easy to pick up and small enough to take with you anywhere you go.
Have more than 5 players? Sushi Go Party goes up to eight players.
2-4 players, ages 10+, 10-15 minutes
Few games have had more different themes than this one, but I’ll stick with the original (at least until an official Star Trek Love Letter comes out!). Easy to learn social deduction micro-game that fits in your pocket. Officially it’s for ages 10 and up, but Board Game Geek suggests ages 8 and up will be fine. Try and deliver a love letter to the Princess by playing role cards.
Up to 8 players can play Love Letter Premium since it adds some more roles to the game:
Chronicles of Crime
1-4 players, ages 14+, 60 minutes
This one’s going to be more of a ‘settling-in-game-for-the-adults’ game. Named one of Dice Tower’s ‘top 10 games of 2018’, this cooperative game of virtual reality combines an app and a Victorian theme and some great execution. Catch a murderer, talk to witnesses or interact with evidence via the QR codes, and download more scenarios from the app.
2-4 players, 10+, 45 minutes
Has this game really been out for 10 years? Yes, yes it has. The co-op game has plenty of versions out, but the classic version still has plenty to love. Move around the world to eradicate diseases and work together to find the best ways. It’s a tough time that can feel merciless at times, so don’t hesitate starting on the easiest level to build some confidence.
2-6 players, ages 8+, 30 minutes
Play cards, make art from junk (wooden / plastic pieces). There are ten game modes so there’s plenty of variety. Heck, there’s a good chance a budding game designer in your house can use the components and make up an interesting game with them. Board Game Geek’s community says it’s good for 6 and up.
3-7 players, age 8+, 20 minutes
Man, this one’s clever. Think Codenames (help your team discover mystery words) meets Scattergories (giving the same answer cancels them out). Help your teammate guess the hidden word by writing a clue. Ensure your clues aren’t too obscure (they won’t help) or too on-point (they might get cancelled and thus can’t be shown ) Was named one of Dice Tower’s ‘top 10 games of 2018’.
2-8 players, ages 8+, 20 minutes
Another one of those short, simple games, Camel Up won the 2014 Spiel des Jahres and has a lot going for it. The pyramid dice shaker is cool, and the bright colors can easily hide some deeper strategy away until you’ve played it a few times. Bet on camels winning as they race around the aforementioned cardboard pyramid.
1-8 players, ages 8+, 15 minutes
Real-time cooperation? Yes, please! The 2017 Spiel des Jahres Nominee has everyone working together in silence, meaning it’s one of those ‘cut-the-tension-with-a-knife’ sort of games. Everyone has one action they can take with any player, so it’s simple enough for the 8-year-olds to enjoy. Even younger players can try Magic Maze Kids (2-4 players, ages 5+, 15 minutes), a rethemed version that’s newer.
Sheriff of Nottingham
3-5 players, ages 13+, 60 minutes
As a trader, you want to bluff your goods past a sheriff trying to catch smuggled contraband. As a sheriff, you want to try and catch the bluffers… or maybe you’ll accept their bribe to look the other way. (Note Board Game Geek’s community says kids 8 and up can play this — the game is simple enough for them to enjoy, but some might find the strategy of bluffing a little challenging.)
This is one of those games that really rewards the players who get into the roles of the game. Without it, it can feel rather dry, so give your character a bit of flavor to make the game hilarious.
2-6 players, ages 13+, 15 minutes
Another bluffing game? You got it! Shorter and smaller than Sheriff of Nottingham, it’s all about bluffing, strategizing, and outmanuevering the other players. Best with teens or other adults, but you might play this with 10-year-olds and discover just how good a bluffer they are!
5-10 players, ages 13+, 45 minutes
Party gamers unite! Best with 8 or 10 players, you’ll need to have a keen nose for BS to figure out who’s part of the Liberal team (the good guys) and who’s a Fascist (the bad guys). Passing laws is your way to win either way, though the hidden role of Hitler can help cinch for either side. As social deduction games go, I’m a fan, and it’s easy to play multiple rounds in a row (though I’m biased towards my own game, Who Shot the Sheriff
2-8 players — or even more, ages 14+, 15 minutes
Every once in a great while, you come across a game that seems to play well (and get more hilarious) the more players you can get around a table. Officially it says 2-8 players on the box, but 4 players should really be a minimum. Totally fine to have uneven teams in case there’s an odd player, and it’s easy to get on-lookers involved at any time during a game. Board Game Geek’s community says it’s good for ages 10 and up, though I’d caution it might get frustrating to not find any good code words.
Wait, you haven’t played it? Two teams, one person on each team is the spymaster who aims to give their teammates one-word clues about the spies in the 5×5 grid of words. Better still, the Pictures, Disney, and other games in the series are all interchangeable — same game, different cards, very similar rules.
Deception in Hong Kong
4-12 players, ages 14+, 20 minutes
Another ‘finding a murderer’ game, this one is best explained as ‘deduction meets deception’. Everyone plays an investigator, but some have special roles that changes their incentives to help or deceive. It gets to be a lot to take in past 8 players (and you’ll definitely want to be playing on a big table for 6 or more), but it rewards players who are into the game and paying attention (in other words, it’s not as much fun if you’re just playing along).
Over to you
What games are you taking home for the holidays?