Better Board Games This Christmas
Nothing brings on The Fear more than seeing the read and white Monopoly box being brought out from under a bed.
Here’s the thing – if you want to change things it’s on you.
Here are our suggestions for games to lure your family away from the horrors of Monopoly and into a world of awesomeness.
We’d love to know what you use to lure them in, tell us below.
Catan (formerly Settlers of Catan)
A classic – one of the better-known lesser-known games and an excellent pathway for non-gamers into games that are more interesting than your Monopolies, Risks and so forth.
The basic premise is fairly straightforward – 2-4 players have settled on the unusually hexagonal island of Catan. The isle is broken into 18 tiles, each providing one of five resources (lumber, grain, sheep, clay and ore.) It’s up to the newly settled populace to form new roads, settlements and other developments using these resources, which are acquired through forward planning, careful development, and rolling the right numbers on the dice
A common barrier for non-gamers to non-traditional games is that there often is a transition from gameplay that is largely based on luck to gameplay that is largely based on skill and strategy. Catan is a gentle introduction to this kind of game in that an awful lot of the game is dependent on how the dice fall, and the mechanics are straightforward and easy to identify. Yes, forward planning is important, but experienced gamers can easily provide guidance for beginners – and when that fails, bartering and bargaining are always an option.
The aesthetics are simple and pleasing, games aren’t too long, and the “I’ll give you wood for sheep” jokes remain funny for longer than expected, and can be played by a wide variety of ages – Catan is an excellent starter for almost any neophyte gamers.
Ticket to Ride
All aboard the pleasingly chunky and colourful trains of Ticket to Ride and prepare to enjoy a game that demonstrates an astonishingly optimistic representation of the US train network!
Ticket to Ride is a game in which 2-5 players have to collect sets of cards of a matching colour in order to lay their trains on a board of a US that is liberally crisscrossed with train lines connecting major cities. Points are scored both through laying down these sets of trains (the more at once the better) and by connecting multiple cities together in one long chain, the exact start and end point being determined by destination tickets awarded at the start of the game.
This game is again very straightforward mechanics-wise – draw cards, play cards, put down trains. Nothing more to it than that. However, risk and reward have to be considered at all times – failing to complete a destination costs you points, and there are only so many connections between cities to go around. There is also conflict, but not usually direct (“I can’t believe you took that route that you didn’t know I needed!”) which is a good introduction to such interactions.
This is one of the few games I have successfully introduced to my parents and despite playing numerous times, we are still on speaking terms. That counts for a great deal, especially for games played over Christmas…
Oh no! One of you is dead and can only communicate through beautifully illustrated visions. However will you tell the assembled psychics and mediums who killed, you, how they did it, and where they did it?
Like Cluedo (Clue for our American chums) in reverse, with no dice and lots of hiding your face so you don’t give anything away, Mysetrium is a belter of a game which takes a lot of cues from Dixit – which would have been on this list of Mysterium hadn’t got all spooky with us.
Communicating only through images from a deck of cards, the deceased must attempt to explain which combination of murdered, location, and weapon, belong s as potential combination for each investigator.
Hilarity ensures at s they talk each other out of the correct answer time and rime again “There’s a lot of blue in this picture and the vase is blue, so it MUST be the vase”
“wait a moment, this is a workshop, it must be the hammer…”
Clever, slow paced, cooperative, Mysterium isn’t one for youngsters or the very drunk and is an absolute delight.
Bring Your Own Book
Do you like Cards Against Humanity but worry about playing a game with sentences such as ‘Pac man uncontrollably guzzling cum’ and ‘Kids with ass cancer’ in it with your grandma?
Want something a bit more creative?
Why not Bring Your Own Book?
It’s anther fill in the blanks or answer a question game, but instead of using pre-written stock responses from a deck of cards, you find a relevant line in a book.
Who knew that a baking recipe book could create such hilarity? Why not try some Hunter S Thompson if you want an edge?
With a variety of ways to play, and a record of all the books ever uses, Bring Your Own Book makes your old Dr Seuss compendium a trove of answers.
If you really want to go dark you can just use the rules with Cards Against Humanity questions.
Bring Your Own Book and get creative.
It’s the rizla game in a box, with headbands Sorry. Headbanz.
Slot a card into your banz(?) and spend the next hour being unable to fathom that Paris is on your forehead through yes/no questions.
“Am I a place?” “yes”
“Can you go in me?” “kind of…”
“Am I bigger than supermarket?” “yes”
“Would you visit me for fun?”
And so on. Various versions exist with more adult cards in the adult box (nudist beach being a particularly tough one in our experience.
Is it worth the money? For ease of having a box full of cards, a timer, tokens, and the eponymous headbanz… if you can find it less than RRP then yes!
Exit brings the escape room experience to a small box. Sure, you are not locked in. You could pretend. It’s probably not worth the effort.
A small box full of cards, items, a short rulebook, decoder discs, Exit is a one-shot game of solving the puzzles as fast as you can.
EXIT demands that you physically destroy items as you go, tearing things up, folding them, doing THE UNTHINKABLE to a game.
And it’s great.
Depending on how your brain works they’ll be easy or hard, with a group you can work together, and there’s a real sense of achievement.
The difficulty level is all over the place so don’t worry about it, walk away and return to it, or for the hardcore, give yourself an hour.
There are 5 in the series now varying in difficulty and complexity, and for £12 for an hour’s entertainment for a small group, that’s pretty great value for money.
Go and play great games that bring people together instead of destroying relationships. A pox on Monopoly!
Want to hear more about Board Games at Christmas?
Our FREE 7 step guide to winning at life does what it says on the label
And our Facebook group is where all the daily geek action is at!