22 of the Best Board Games to Play All Winter Long
Your brother is a Connect Four fiend, Uncle Bob loves a good Battleship match and your mom is the undefeated champ when it comes to Pictionary. But regardless of whether you and your fam go head-to-head in the competition of the century or take on a more laissez-fare approach, there’s no denying that family game night is an evening well spent. And, with the holiday season fast approaching, we figured what better time than now to round up some of the best board games out there, so you and yours can get to playin’.
On the list below you’ll find a few games you may recognize and a few you won’t. It’s got everything from strategy-based board games and card games designed for early childhood development,to ones powered by Alexa. Some will bring out your creative side and use those acting chops, while others will demand problem-solving skills and quick wit, but so there’s something for every kind of competitor (and age range). So, without further ado, here are 22 of the best board games that deliver a guaranteed good time—even if things get a little, uh, competitive.
1. Monopoly Ultimate Banking Board Game
Best for the Future Banker
Ready to pass go and collect $200? When it comes to board games, Monopoly may be the most polarizing one around. You either love it or absolutely hate it, and if you fall into the latter, it’s probably because of Monopoly tends to stretch out mercilessly for hours. (Or days.) But think of this version as Monopoly kicked into fast forward. Game play is lightning fast, with some rounds taking as little as 30 minutes, yet all the fun elements of the classic remain.
Ages: 8 to 15
2. Spot It! Junior Animals Card Game
Best Children’s Card Game
Great for all ages, although created with preschoolers in mind, this surprisingly challenging mix-and-match game requires fast reflexes, a keen eye and is loads of fun. There are several different ways to play, letting players switch things up if one version becomes too easy, and it’s a great tool for helping kids develop visual perception, speech and motor skills. Plus, its portable design is ideal for taking it along wherever you go, keeping the little ones occupied on road trips, at airports and train rides alike.
3. HiHo! Cherry-O
Best Counting Game
If you’re looking for a game that teaches math to kids in a way that’s easy to understand and actually—dare we say—fun, this is it. Thanks to easy-to-follow, simple play instructions, it makes for an engaging first board game for kids, teaching them counting, color sorting and problem solving.
4. Wonder Forge Richard Scarry’s Busytown, Eye Found It
Another option that’s fantastic for child development. While this puzzle game takes up some significant square footage (six feet of space to be exact), it’s worth it for how it gets kids moving and encourages interactive play. The game plays like a cross between a classic race to the finish and I Spy, where kids search for items as they move across the board. Parents love it for the stimulating design that keeps kids engaged without taxing their attention span or patience, as well as how it sneaks in learning opportunities, like event sequencing, counting and conversation.
5. Double Ditto Family Party Board Game
Best Guessing Game
Somewhat simiilar to Scattergories. In Double Ditto, players come up with and write down two answers to a topic, like “Things Found in A Glovebox” and “Foods That Are Slimy.” The overall objective to is select answers you think that other players will select, accruing more points for every match. While it can be played with as little as two people, this is one of those games that only becomes more exciting as more players join in. TL;DR? Whip this out at your next dinner party and your guests will be entertained for hours. It’s a win-win.
6. Mouse Trap
Best for Encouraging Teamwork
Looking at this box may give you some major nostalgia, and if so, we’re right there along with you. If you’re like us, you played this true classic ad nauseam as a kid, and although it has probably been years, we guarantee it is just as much of a riot now as it was then. Besides effectively stirring up their creativity and encouraging teamwork, players of all ages will have a blast sitting down at the table for this one. Hey, whatever gets them off their cell phones is a win in our book.
Best for Artists
Telephone meets Pictionary in this hilarious game of sketching and guessing. Players pass a message from person to person using drawings only, miscommunications making it harder, and funnier, to guess the initial subject. And for those who consider themselves to possess less than satisfactory artistic skills, never fear. This game only becomes more enjoyable as the drawings get worse. (Psst: There’s even an adults-only After Dark edition.) And yes, while there’s no official “board” to this game, it features individual dry erase boards that are passed from person to person, so we’re counting it here.
Best for Singers
Your time in the spotlight has arrived. Show off your impressive (or less than impressive) vocal skills by trying to get your team to guess your keyword using only song lyrics. Whether you’re the songbird of your generation or just flat out tone deaf, guaranteed hilarity will ensue, making this a hit for massive family get togethers.
9. Wizards of the Coast Betrayal at House on the Hill
Best Scary Game
Halloween has passed, yes, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have some chills and thrills year-round. Incredibly immersive and with impressive attention to detail, this spooktacular board game comes with 50 blood-curdling scenarios that the players must work through together in the hopes of successfully escaping. Just make sure you have your night light ready to go after it ends…you’re probably going to need it.
10. Ticket to Ride
Best for Travel Lovers
Come one, come all, this railroad-themed extravaganza is great for the whole family. Players build tracks, collect cards, strategize railroad routes and more. A good combo of needing both critical thinking and luck to win, little kids all the way to grown adults will enjoy this one.
Best for Strategic Thinking
A game that’s all strategy and no luck, think of Blokus as a larger version of Tetris. The rules are incredibly simple: You and your opponent take turns placing the tiles in the color of your choice onto the playing board, with the final objective being to laying down all of them, leaving the other player with no space for their own. And while straightforward in nature, this puzzler is great at helping kiddos develop math and strategic thinking skills without even realizing it.
Best Game of Luck
A game that combines a little bit of strategy with a whole lot of luck, Sorry! Keeps you both entertained and on your toes. Players attempt to maneuver their colored markers around the board, getting all four safely past the finish line. But don’t let the simplistic level of gameplay deter you from adding this to your collection, it’s just as entertaining for adults as it is the little ones.
13. Just One
Best for Easy Instructions
This game is not only addictive but also super easy to learn and teach, so you don’t spend the first half hour explaining it. Joseph Comings, founder of the Art of Boardgaming, told the Strategist that the game is suitable for both introverts and extroverts alike and can be “learned in a matter of minutes.” As for the premise: players help their teammates guess a word by suggesting “just one” word as a hint. A right answer equals one point, while a wrong answer takes two points away. The first team to get as many points out of 13 as possible wins.
Best for Thinking on Your Feet
With a name that’s certainly appropriate given the current times, this board game is all about pitting you and your teammates against an outbreak of life-threatening diseases across the world. But how do you win? It all comes down to your ability to communicate and stay cool under pressure while you try to keep a virus under control and develop a cure for each one by collecting five cards of the same color.
15. Heads Up! Board Game
Best for Big Groups
While the app game isn’t brand new, this board game version is ideal for parties, because it gets everyone to step away from their phones and get into the competitive spirit. Instead of holding a word up on your screen, this edition features more than 200 cards, six headbands to hold the cards and a sand-timer to keep everyone in check. Teammates will race against the clock to figure out the names on their headband, using their partner's clues.
16. When in Rome Travel Trivia Game Powered by Alexa
This educational game is a great way to use that new Echo device you just got for the holidays. Utilizing an Alexa Skill, you’ll answer multiple-choice questions from voices around the globe. The questions range from easy to hard, so anyone can play and pick up some useful facts along the way. If you get the questions right, the local will befriend you and you’ll move along to the next city.
17. Beasts of Balance
Best for Building
This game is kind of like reverse Jenga. The point is to stack and balance awkwardly shaped 3-D creatures on a special base without causing them to fall over. Bonus: Each of the game pieces looks like abstract art that would add a little personality to any bookshelf you store them on.
18. Funemployed Card Game
Best for Improv
Ever wonder what it would be like to apply for a job as a supervillain, drunk uncle or hitman? This game makes everyone pitch their skills (made up or not) to try to get the job, which can often lead to everyone bursting out in laughter. It’s a great alternative to Cards Against Humanity and can be played in groups of up to 20.
19. Concept Kids
Best Quiet Game
Have a room full of kiddos on a sugar high? Bust out this entertaining board game. It goes like this: One kid gives clues to get others to correctly guess a secret animal, but they can’t speak or act anything out. They can only use icons on the board to give clues like slow or fast, small or big, eats meat or eats plants, etc. And that’s exactly why parents love it (hello, peace and quiet).
Best for Pop Culture Lovers
Monikers gets its premise from the classic parlor game called Celebrity. Players give clues to teammates to help them correctly guess what’s on the card, which could be anything from Britney Spears to a viral video or concept. It’s beloved by pop-culture junkies of all ages and it can be played by up to 20 people, so no group is too big.
Ages: 4 to 16+
21. Codenames Board Game
Best Trivia Game
A fantastic mix of silliness, trivia and strategy, the name of the game is to invent single-word clues that guide your team toward particular cards laid out in a grid on the table or floor, while avoiding the words that belong to the other team. You can use any type of clue—from rhymes to synonyms—but no hints are allowed to be given beyond that.
22. Pinch ‘n’ Pass
Best for Everyone
There’s always the one person who doesn’t like board games but doesn’t want to feel left out. Here is your solution. It’s super easy to get the hang of and anyone can join, whether or not they’re super active, because there are no turns. Simply select a “Pinch” card to be given a category like “Madonna songs.” Players then shout out something that fits the bill to snag the card for themselves. As others call more songs out, they can steal the card. The last person holding the card when the timer ends gets to keep it and advance. Alternately, drawing a “Pass” card puts you back a space if you’re left holding it at the end of the round. To make it even more competitive, the timer is randomized, so you never know how long you have left on the clock.