It is a frightening statistic that if you are celebrating Christmas with a group of friends and family, it is likely that someone will suggest playing Trivial Pursuit within 20 minutes. Don’t let this happen to you this year – be prepared with an alternative. Here are 12 board games for the holiday season, some of which I have personally played and others recommended by reliable friends on X. They are all suitable for a minimum of six players and have simple rules, making them ideal for relaxed Christmas gatherings.
If your preferred option is not listed, please feel free to recommend alternatives in the comments section.
“Ransom Notes” is a game designed for 3-6 players by Big Potato.
Ransom Notes is a newer option to the popular game Cards Against Humanity. Players are given a set of magnet words to create responses to prompts from cards, such as “Teach someone CPR over the phone” or “Explain why cocaine is banned”. Due to the limited vocabulary, answers tend to be chaotic and absurd, and the most humorous response wins each round. With the right group, it can be quite entertaining. (Also check out Poetry for Neanderthals, where players must convey ideas using only one-syllable words.)
Codenames (Czech Games Edition, 4-8+ players)
This game of word association was introduced in 2015 and has quickly become a popular choice for many families. Players are divided into teams, acting as competing spy networks, and must try to figure out the whereabouts of their operatives on a board by giving hints that only their team will understand. It’s a quick and amusing game that promotes the use of inside jokes and shared memories, making it perfect for Christmas gatherings.
Wavelength (CMYK, 2-10+ players)
Described as a social guessing game, Wavelength gets you to split into two teams, then take it in turns to pick a card with two ends of a scale described on it. For example, “Sexy emoji / Unsexy emoji” or “Good habit / Bad habit”. The opposing team have to guess where on that scale a given clue word sits. It’s difficult to explain, but really fun for a creative group who all know each other well.
The Resistance (Indie Boards and Cards, 5-10 players)
This game is a fresh take on the classic Werewolf/Mafia party game, which gained popularity through the Traitors TV show. In this game, players take on the roles of rebels fighting against a corrupt empire, while also trying to identify the secret spy from the ruling body. Unlike traditional versions, there are some unique elements and no players are eliminated. Additionally, a full game can be completed in just 30 minutes.
“Chillfox’s Doodle Dash, for 3-7 players.”
This game is like Pictionary, but with a faster pace and more players. One player draws a word while the others guess. The person who guesses the drawing first wins. It can get chaotic, but it’s not as intense as other drawing games, making it less intimidating for non-artists.
A Counterfeit Creative Travels to the Big Apple (Oink, for 5-10 players)
A unique option to Doodle Dash where participants work together to illustrate a word assigned by the game leader. However, one of the artists is unaware of the secret word. The goal is to determine who the imposter is. It can be described as a combination of Pictionary and Traitors. (Another game that also has a similar twist to Traitors is Insider, where players must ask questions to uncover a word while an infiltrator in their team influences the conversation.)
This game, “That’s Not a Hat” by Ravensburger, is intended for 3-8 players.
This game involves a deck of cards with various items displayed on them. Players pass the cards to each other face down, while attempting to recall what they were originally given. As time passes, everyone forgets the contents of the cards, leading to the start of bluffing. It is an easy and fast-paced game that can be quickly understood and played by all. The ideal way to pass time before Christmas dinner.
Anomia is a game designed by Anomia Press for 3-6 players.
Players take it in turns to lay down cards that contain a symbol and a word. If two players have cards with the same symbol, they have to come up with an example of the words displayed on their cards, whether that’s a doughnut flavour or a type of dinosaur. Whoever shouts an example first, wins that round. It’s very noisy and frenzied, which might be just what you want after eating your own body weight in roast potatoes.
This game, Quiddler, can be played by 1 to 8 players.
Quiddler is a game created by the renowned designer Marsha Falco, which combines elements of Scrabble and gin rummy. Each player receives cards with individual letters and point values, and must form words until their hand is empty. This game moves at a quicker pace than Scrabble and focuses on shorter words, making it more approachable. If you enjoy innovative versions of classic card games, you may also be interested in Cockroach Poker.
Concept (Repos Production, 4-12 players)
This is another word guessing game, but with a unique concept. Players choose a word and must describe it to others using a set of icon cards, similar to smartphone emojis. These icons represent various ideas, objects, and colors. The rules are simple, making it perfect for energetic groups. It’s intriguing to see how individuals utilize logic and symbolism in their descriptions.
Only one (Repos Production, 3-7 players)
If you’re in a group of individuals who dislike competition, this could be the perfect choice for you. It’s a collaborative word game in which one player must deduce a word based on clues provided by the other players. The goal is to correctly guess as many words as possible. While it may seem straightforward, it’s actually a fantastic opportunity to collaborate and challenge your ability to explain and provide hints.
Group Think (Large Spud, 4-20 participants)
For a fun game suitable for large groups, consider trying Herd Mentality. In this game, players answer a series of questions such as “What is the best topping for pizza?” or “Which season is your favorite?” The goal is to have the same answer as everyone else. Players who follow the herd receive a token with a cheerful Friesian cow on it, while those who have unique answers receive a pink cow figure and must try to get rid of it in future rounds. It’s a playful game that reveals insights into people’s preferences.
If your Christmas gathering is smaller, here are some great games that can be played by two to four players: Spots, So Clover!, Escape the Dark Castle, Love Letter, Sushi Go!, and Décorum.