The best family board games for the holidays

Annual family gatherings, especially around the holidays, are a chance to visit with people you haven’t seen all year. But not everyone is a master of small talk. How best to avoid dreaded questions about career and relationships? Busting out a new board game that no one has seen before is an excellent way to pass the time.

But choosing the right game to play with relatives can be tough. Complex horror games like Gloomhaven will run aunt Linda right out of the room, and no one wants to pore over an 18XX game right after a big meal. That’s why we’ve compiled a short list of six games that are easy to learn, easy to teach, and bound to pass the time — all while keeping spirits high and chit chat to a minimum. Best of all, these picks are great for ages 10 and up, so even your bored little cousins can get in on the fun! Find them at your friendly local game store, online, or at a Target or Walmart near you.

Keep your sanity this holiday season with these family-friendly board game picks from Polygon.

Trails

Photo: Keymaster Games

Is your family more outdoorsy? They’re sure to love exploring National Parks and iconic sites across the United States in Trails! Enjoy beautiful scenery as you hike your way up the trail gathering resources, observing wildlife, taking pictures, and earning badges. As the day goes by, tiles flip to reveal more objectives and keep gameplay fresh.

This game is easy for even the most inexperienced players to pick up. Best of all, the easy-to-learn rules and simple set collection make it a stress-free pick for family play! We recommend this game if your family loves the outdoors or is new to board games.

Trails

  • $20

Prices taken at time of publishing.

• 2-4 players, ages 10+

• Playtime: 20-40 minutes 

• Game Type: Set Collection

• Category: Contracts, resources

• Similar Games: Spirit Island, Viticulture

  • $20 at Target
  • 60 Second City

    Image: Amazon

    If you just have a few people in the mood to play, try 60 Second City. This speedy co-op is fast, fun, and addicting. Work together to build city infrastructure over five rounds that last just one minute each.

    You’ll have to think fast as you draw and place tiles to complete the goals for each building. Choose your second player wisely, you’ll need to communicate to make your city a success! This game is great for the strategists in your family.

    60 Second City

    • $18

    Prices taken at time of publishing.

    • 1-2 players, ages 10+

    • Playtime: 20-30 minutes 

    • Game Type: Tile-laying

    • Category: Strategy, co-op

    • Similar Games: Food Chain Magnate, Terraforming Mars

  • $18 at Target
  • The Crew: Mission Deep Sea

    Image: Amazon

    In the mood for more of an adventure? Try The Crew: Mission Deep Sea. As a crew searching the seas you have limited communication. Work together to see if you can reach the lost continent of Mu or if your mission will end in disaster.

    This co-op game has randomly generated missions that keep each game you play fresh and interesting. It scales well for up to five players, so no matter who joins your crew you’ll still enjoy playing. We recommend this game for whichever of your family members got stuck at the kids table. Since they’re always strategizing ways to get to the adult table next holiday, they might just help you stay alive.

    The Crew: Mission Deep Sea

    • $15

    Prices taken at time of publishing.

    • 2-5 players, ages 10+

    • Playtime: 20 minutes

    • Game Type: Card

    • Category: Co-op, trick-taking

    • Similar Games: Tichu, Decrypto

  • $15 at Amazon
  • Rainbow Pirates

    Image: Sweet Bros. Games

    There’s nothing like a little rivalry to make a family gathering more fun! Take out that pent-up aggression with Rainbow Pirates. This card-drafting game lets you play how you like: Go full aggro on your family and friends, or be played peacefully depending on how the day is going.

    Play cards strategically to tempt other players, steal their cards, and gain the most treasure. We recommend this game to add some lively spirit to any gathering! The pirate theme and take-that mechanic make gameplay fun for all ages. Plus, the short playtime helps keep even your youngest cousin engaged.

    Rainbow Pirates

    • $20
    • $25
    • 21% off

    Prices taken at time of publishing.

    • 2-5 players, ages 7+

    • Playtime: 15-60 minutes

    • Game Type: Card

    • Category: Take that, card drafting

    • Similar Games: Five Tribes, Dune: Imperium

  • $20 at Amazon
  • Calico

    Image: AEG

    Looking for a crowd-pleaser? Try Calico! Everyone from your grandma’s quilting buddy to your cat-obsessed younger cousin is sure to love this simple tile-laying game. Place your tiles to create a quilt pattern, then attract cats for even more points. The player with the best quilt pattern and most cats wins.

    This game is simple, cute, and is easy for players of all ages to pick up. For a relaxing change of pace after a big holiday dinner, we highly recommend this cute pattern-builder.

    Calico

    • $39

    Prices taken at time of publishing.

    • 1-4 players, age 10+

    • Playtime: 30-45 minutes

    • Game type: Set collection, pattern matching, competitive

    • Category: Abstract strategy, puzzle

    • Similar games: Azul, Castles of Burgundy

  • $39 at Amazon
  • Cubitos

    Image: AEG

    Got a group that loves to compete? Introduce them to Cubitos. This game lets you push your luck to outrace your fellow players. Build your dice to move faster and make the best moves every turn. Be careful, the risks you take to win might just take you out of first place!

    With multiple ways to play, crazy characters, and a great dice-building mechanic, Cubitos is sure to be a hit at your table. We recommend you wrangle up your most competitive cousins or friends for a few fun rounds before dinner.

    Cubitos

    • $55
    • $60
    • 9% off

    Prices taken at time of publishing.

    • 2-4 players, ages 10+

    • Playtime: 30-60 minutes

    • Game Type: Dice/Deckbuilding

    • Category: Push your luck, racing

    • Similar Games: Space Base

  • $55 at Amazon
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