As winter draws closer, we’ll all be spending a lot more time inside – it’s too cold to go out! Many of us have had a challenging year with lockdowns and pandemic restrictions, but board games are an excellent way to bring the whole family together. To help you, we’ve rounded up a list of the best board games to buy in time for the festive season.
Board games also make excellent stocking fillers or gifts to put under the Christmas tree from Santa. Having a well-stocked games cupboard is also a great way to keep your grandkids entertained during their Christmas holidays.
Whether you’re on the hunt for classic party games like Monopoly, Cluedo or Scrabble or you want to discover something new, we’ve got you covered. Have a look at our list of the nine best games to play at Christmas time.
Have we missed something? Let us know your favourite board game in the comments below.
Classic board games
Players: 3–4 (or 5–6 with extension)
Time to play: 1–2 hours
Settlers of Catan (known affectionately as Catan) is a brilliant strategy game for players aged 10+. You will need an extra player for this one and enough time for a practice round to make sure new players understand the rules. It’s pretty challenging to grasp the scope of the strategy involved in Settlers of Catan without playing. But, first published in 1995, this game is still very popular today.
Players fit hexagonal tiles together to set up the game, forming the board. Each tile has a picture of a resource, which is used as currency. Resource tiles have numbers that correspond to dice rolls. Players build roads and settlements around the board and can claim resources if they have built on a tile whose number is rolled. Currency is used to buy roads, settlements, development cards, and more. Each of these earns the player a certain amount of points. The aim of the game is to score ten victory points.
Players: 2–6 (teams allowed)
Time to play: about 80 minutes
Trivial Pursuit is a classic family board game for a reason. Combining a fun general knowledge quiz with a typical board-game format, players work individually or in teams to move around the board. At each turn, you land on a coloured tile and get a question that matches that colour’s category. The question categories are geography, history, entertainment, arts and literature, science and nature, and sport. Answer a question correctly to get a wedge for your game piece. Once you’ve correctly answered one question in each category, it’s a race to the centre square to see who wins.
If you’re playing with young children, they might not know the answers to many (or any!) of the questions. The good news is that there are easy solutions to this! Consider buying a version of the game that they’ll enjoy more, like this Harry Potter version, or buy an expansion pack of questions better suited to children.
Time to play: 30 minutes or less
Carcassonne takes its name from a medieval French town. Players lay down picture tile cards featuring part of a French landscape and use the cards to create and extend a series of roads, rivers and settlements. Each player can use tokens to claim one of these features. Certain cards must be placed next to each other, making the game more challenging.
Eventually, cards will be positioned in a way that makes a feature complete (e.g. a road has an end or settlement is enclosed by walls on all sides). The player who claimed that feature will score points based on how big the feature is when complete. This game is a lot of fun and can be played by anyone aged 7+.
Players: 4 or more (2 teams of 2 as a minimum)
Time to play: 60 minutes
Articulate! is a favourite among word-lovers and fast talkers. The concept of the game is simple enough. Players have to describe a word from a particular category to the rest of their team without using the word itself (or any rhyming words). Teams have 30 seconds to guess as many words as possible. The number of correct answers dictates how many spaces a team can move their piece forward on the board. The first team to reach the final square wins.
Articulate! is an excellent choice for a Christmas game night because it can be played in a large group. Again, kids might find it a bit frustrating if they don’t know the answers, but children’s versions are available.
Time to play: 20 minutes or more (usually much more!)
Hasbro Gaming’s Monopoly can be divisive, but there’s no denying it’s a classic. It can last for hours, so it’s best to play it when you’ve got a whole day free. The aim of the game is to drive your fellow players into bankruptcy while you remain fiscally solvent. As we all know, it’s much more fun than it sounds!
Players take turn to roll the dice and move around the board. Squares contain properties to purchase, and you can charge other players rent for landing on your properties. The more properties you own, the more money other players will end up paying you. Other squares like Income Tax, Community Chest, and Go to Jail give the game an extra dimension.
There are several versions of Monopoly. You can buy a game based on where you live (it’s not just London!), or a game based on your grandkids’ favourite TV shows or video games: there’s an Animal Crossing version, a Fortnite version, a Star Wars version and a Horrible Histories version, as well as a special Christmas edition. There’s also a card game version, Monopoly Deal, which offers all the fun but at a much faster pace.
Time to play: 1–2 hours
This game has become an international hit over the last few years. The premise is so simple that you can learn the rules in ten minutes and enjoy playing for up to two hours! The original game features maps of the USA and Canada, but regional editions are now available.
The aim of the game is to complete train routes by connecting cities. This then completes Destination Tickets and wins you points. As the game’s author says, “the rules are simple enough to write on a train ticket – each turn you either draw more cards, claim a route, or get additional Destination Tickets”.
The game’s creators have also released a special free expansion pack during the COVID-19 pandemic. In this version, you take on the role of a family member and complete daily tasks. You will need the base game to enjoy the free expansion pack.
Time to play: 30 minutes or less
Difficulty: Medium (but depends on the opponent)
Bananagrams isn’t technically a board game, but this list wouldn’t be complete without it! This is a fantastic game for one to eight players, consisting of 144 tiles. Each tile shows a single letter, just like in Scrabble, but players don’t score points in Bananagrams. The aim of the game is for each player to create a grid of words that interlink, like a crossword.
To start, players lay all the tiles faced down in the middle of the table and take a certain number without looking at them. Someone then shouts “split,” and players frantically turn their pile over. Each player uses their tiles to create their own word grid.
The pressure starts to build when a player uses all their tiles. This person shouts “peel,” and everyone must take another tile from the middle pile to add to their grid. Players need to rearrange their grids to use up new letters as quickly as possible. Otherwise, they’ll find themselves falling behind! When there are fewer letters in the middle pile than players in the game, the first person to use all their letters is the winner.
Time to play: 30 mins
Linkee has been around for a few years, but it’s still a family favourite at Christmas. The game was originally seen on Dragon’s Den in 2013, where Duncan Bannatyne offered the creators £50,000 for 40% of their business. The trio declined, but the publicity helped them grow their game into a major success.
Although technically not a board game, Linkee is a trivia-based game that will liven up any room. Players are given a series of answers and need to work out the link between them. For example, if the answers were Paris, Berlin, Madrid and Vienna, the link would be capital cities. But, player beware, the link can be much more complex than this! Each link you guess correctly earns you a letter of the word Linkee. Earn all the letters, and you win the game!
Time to play: 15 minutes
Dobble’s popularity has sky-rocketed in recent years. It’s not technically a board game, but it’s a fun game that’s very quick to play. The basic premise is simple. Every card shows several symbols in different sizes and colours. Each pair of cards in the deck has one (and only one) symbol in common with each other. The object of the game is to be the first to spot the symbol that appears on two cards.
Once you’ve got the idea of what the symbols are called, there are several variations of the same game that you can play. Some require players to get rid of their cards first, and in others, you’ll want to collect as many cards as you can. Gameplay is fast paced and fun.
There are also other editions of Dobble, like a Paw Patrol version that’s perfect for youngsters and a Harry Potter edition. It’s an excellent stocking filler or Christmas gift for a secret Santa party!
Family fun at Christmas
Christmas time is all about good times with loved ones and family. The games we’ve mentioned here are fantastic, but this is by no means an extensive list. Other popular board games include Herd Mentality from Big Potato and Taskmaster (the game based on the TV show), plus classics like Pictionary and Jenga. Whatever you play, it’s sure to be fun for all the family.
We spoke to Becky from The Lifestyle Blogger UK, who told Age Times: "When it comes to buying board games, think about who will be playing them.
"For example, if there will be a group of 10 of you, there isn't much point in buying a two-player game.
"Then think about the type of game you might want to play. Something to challenge your mind, or something that's a bit more fun to play as a family, or for all age groups.
"Our favourites include - Monopoly, The Game Of Life and Rummikub for multiple players, or Draughts as a two-player game."
If you’re looking for more activity ideas, why not check out our hobbies section? We regularly publish new articles and would love to hear from you. Just leave a comment below or like us on social media!