The Best Family Board Games for the Holidays

No one wants to play Monopoly, but finding games that are easy and accessible for the entire family can be a challenge. Avid board gamers tend to get a little too optimistic ("Why not try a game of Eldritch Horror?") while Target-exclusives tend to be a mixed bag. But there's value in family-style board games during the holiday season: it gives you something to do besides fighting.

Here are a few of the best games for families -- they're easy to play and easy to find and purchase. Whether you're looking for something for the upcoming Thanksgiving or Christmas holidays, they won't (likely) result in flipping the table.

1. Codenames

Codenames has about twenty thousand editions now, including the popular Marvel and Disney versions. The pictures version of Codenames is just about inscrutable, but the classic Codenames is still quite good. Codenames is a great family game because it can be played with teams of virtually any size. One person plays the Spymaster, giving clues, while others have to guess which names match those clues.

2. Suspend

For children, Suspend is a simple dexterity game -- even though it's actually broken (one of its game modes just doesn't make sense). If you have kids under the age of 6 that need to be kept occupied (or, let's face it, drunk adults), Suspend operates like a less loud, more enticing version of Jenga. Players need to take turns suspending metal rods from a hook, competing to get rid of their rods the fastest.

3. Qwirkle

I have a soft spot for Qwirkle because, as a pattern matching game, it has the potential to be extremely strategic. In Qwirkle you draw random tiles from a bag and then match them by either shape or color, attempting to create a full set. You get points for the number of tiles you're able to match, and you can match tiles both horizontally and vertically. It's an accessible game for everyone, and teaches abstract thinking.

4. Ticket to Ride

I'm always surprised at the number of families I see playing Ticket to Ride. Ticket to Ride is a simple set collection game, in which players are attempting to collect certain colors of train car in order to build a route from city to city. It only really uses three or four mechanics throughout the entire game, which makes it a good entry-level game -- but, it also can take forever to play depending on the people playing it. 

5. Telestrations

This is probably the third or fourth time I've suggested Telestrations, because even if it's a dumb game, it's fun. Telestrations is a game in which players take turns identifying a picture and then drawing a word. The same word may be drawn, identified, drawn, and identified up to eight times, morphing each time as a different player receives it. There's no real scoring method and you can play the game for as long as you want, making it a good game for down time.

6. Pandemic

A cooperative game, Pandemic is good for families that get a little too competitive. In Pandemic, all players need to work together in order to counter a virus that's taking over the world. Each player has their own special ability, so all of them are able to feel useful. However, older children and parents can assist younger children with their turns.

7. Forbidden Island

Another cooperative game, Forbidden Island casts players in the roles of treasure hunters, attempting to find a sequence of treasures and escape an island before time runs out. Forbidden Island is a fast-paced game that becomes deadly very quickly, but there are different difficulty levels for those who are new to games. 

8. Incan Gold

Incan Gold is a small, push-your-luck game that has a few advantages. It's compact and portable, can play a large number of people, and doesn't have a lot to it. At the beginning of every round, you just vote as to whether you want to stay or retreat. If you stay, you get more treasure but run the risk of calamity. If you go, you get the treasure that you already have... but won't be able to collect any more. 

There are dozens of family-friendly games out there that are perfect for the holidays, but the above games are both accessible and easy to find. Games like Spy Club may be entrancing for kids and made with simple set collection mechanics, but they also aren't readily available or are a little too expensive for a one-off family game session. 

And, of course, there's always Catan.