As the holiday season gets into full swing, many will find themselves wondering which are the best board games for Christmas. With all the family at home together, high on the holiday spirit, and probably recovering from the mammoth lunch, it’s a great time to unwind with an all-time favorite – or a new favorite, if you’ve given or received the gift of board games. Here’s our line-up of the best holiday games to bust out.
Some of these are so good they enjoy spots in our guide to the all-time best board games. But for this guide, we’ve specifically picked games that are fairly straightforward, don’t take too long to play, and are guaranteed to put a smile on every face. Any would make a superb gift – or a post-argument peace offering to the whole family.
The best board games for Christmas 2023 are:
- Azul – best for puzzle fans
- Herd Mentality – best for mind reading
- Ticket to Ride – best for simple strategy
- Sushi Go Party! – best for cuteness
- Throw Throw Burrito – best for working off lunch
- Pandemic – best for teamwork
- Blockbuster – best for movie buffs
- 221B Baker Street – best for mystery solving
- Bananagrams – best for kids
- Exploding Kittens – best for quick, easy play
Whether you’re looking for the best family board games to play with a couple of young’uns, fancy demonstrating your tactical prowess in a strategy board game, or are in need of some two-player board games to crack out with that special someone, there’s heaps of options.
The best Christmas board game for puzzle fans is Azul.
Azul is a game that’s all about placing tiles. There’s no epic adventure or wacky hijinks, but it’s a relaxing board game experience that anybody can enjoy, which offers an unexpected level of depth to its gameplay. It’s one of those games that’s just as easy to enjoy with kids as it is to enjoy with elderly relatives.
You can play it with up to three other players and each game lasts between 30 and 45 minutes. It’s a game that can easily be slotted between other schedule Christmas activities – however, once you get the hang of expanding your tiles out in the most advantageous way, you’ll probably want to play again and again.
Read our full Azul review for more details about its devious depths.
The best Christmas board game for mind reading is Herd Mentality.
The perfect party game. Herd Mentality is light-hearted, a barrel of laughs, and so easy to play that you could teach your grandmother its rules while simultaneously hopping on one leg and shouting ‘Good golly, I hope this bovine-themed fun never ends!’.
The game’s genius comes from its simplicity. Everyone is asked a silly opinionated question from a thick stack of cards – things like, what’s your favourite finger? Or, which of Jesus’s miracles do you wish you could perform? – before scribbling down their answer.
The catch, however, is that you won’t be answering honestly, but trying to land yourself with the majority opinion. Guess what everyone else thinks, and align yourself with the herd.
It makes for some hilarious moments of mental gymnastics as you second guess not only what the other players think, but what they think you think. It’s silly, speedy, and plays just as well for small groups of four to five players, as it does for 20-player parties. It also comes with a squidgy pink cow with which to shame losing players – adorable.
Ticket to Ride
The best Christmas board game for simple strategy is Ticket to Ride.
A true modern classic board game, competitive railway-building rumpus Ticket to Ride also makes for a perfect Christmas treat. Easygoing, interactive, and gorgeous to look at, it has you construct railway tracks across America, as you plunk down little plastic train carriages to earn points and race your opponents to build the most valuable routes on the board.
Although a competitive board game, it’s also very gentle. You won’t be doing much else besides picking up cards, assembling them into colours, and nabbing the train routes you’ve been tasked to build.
You can play it as slowly as you like, or furiously fast if you want a little edge to your Christmas tidings.
Sushi Go! Party!
The best Christmas board game for pure cuteness is Sushi Go Party.
Dine out at a gourmet sushi restaurant this Christmas with Sushi Go Party! A card game that’s as quick to play as it is delicious, you’ll be drawing prized sushi cards from your hand, looking to complete sets and nab the most valuable pieces before they’re snapped up by others.
The kicker, though, is that you can’t be sure what’s coming around the conveyor belt. After choosing a card, every player passes their hand to the person next to them, as the cards go round and round the table.
You’ll get to see everything on offer, but will need to make tense decisions as to what tasty treat you nab for yourself, and which you risk letting go to an opponent.
It’s not a complex game but gives enough room for strategising that you won’t be falling asleep. Plus, there are moments of true Christmas spirit – by which we mean opportunities to scupper your opponent’s plans by stealing the vital card they need to complete a set, as you laugh off into the distance, holding a plate of sashimi.
Throw Throw Burrito
The best Christmas board game to work off your lunch is Throw Throw Burrito.
A game as silly as it sounds, Throw Throw Burrito combines dodgeball with a card game. It’s often been said that representation of Mexican food within the tabletop hobby has been dire. This game single-handedly puts lightly grilled tortillas on the map, and makes them the cutest they’ve ever been.
It’s also remarkably simple. You’ll take turns drawing from a deck, trying to collect a set of three matching cards. Find matches before anyone else, and you’ll be the winner. Things change somewhat, however, when the ‘burrito cards’ are drawn, letting you throw the squishy burrito toys at your opponent to steal points. And we don’t even want to talk about the deadly ‘burrito duel’ cards.
The best Christmas board game for teamwork is Pandemic.
With a name like Pandemic, you might not think this is a particularly appropriate board game for Christmas, especially in light of the last couple of years, but it’s actually one of the most beloved tabletop games around. A brilliant, co-operative family game, this is a great way to spend 45 minutes to an hour.
You’ll take the role of a crack team of scientists, engineers, and other boffins fighting to prevent the spread of four deadly diseases. Hop across the globe to suppress the spread of the viruses, and work together to use your limited resources to save as many people as possible.
While each player has a special ability they’ll rely on to win, this is really a game about teamwork, as you fight for humanity’s survival.
The best Christmas board game for movie buffs is Blockbuster.
The Christmas board game that was made for cinephiles. Blockbuster is a quiz game, but one that’s so silly, ludicrous, and theatrical that it stands heads and shoulders above similar tabletop titles.
It starts simple. Split into two teams, players take turns shouting out examples of films that belong to specific categories, such as movies set in space, or films with zombies. But things turn up a notch in the following round, in which teams must describe, quote, and act out famous films for their teammates against the clock. It’s hilariously messy.
As well as being fantastic for groups (four to ten people can play Blockbuster), it’s also a massive nostalgia-fest. Movies from all genres across several decades get a look in, and even its box is shaped like a VHS case. You don’t need to be a movie expert to play this game, either, but it will be a delight for the cinephile in your family.
221B Baker Street
The best Christmas board game for mystery solving is 221B Baker Street.
Scurry and scour the secretive streets of Victorian London in 221B Baker Street, an investigative board game that’s similar to Clue (or Cluedo, for our British friends) but heaps more fun. You’ll be competing to solve a mystery, racing around the board to assemble all the relevant clues before your fellow players. Sweep up the evidence, make your allegation, and claim victory.
This game is a great pick for families who want something familiar. You’ll move your investigator around the board by rolling dice, visiting different locations to narrow down which suspect is the perpetrator you’re chasing.
There’s also opportunities to block your opponents from entering a location, throwing a spanner in the cogs of their inquisitive machine. This is by far the simplest game on this list, and a great pick if you’re playing with relatives who don’t want to stray too far from traditional board games.
The best Christmas board game for kids is Bananagrams.
Do you like Scrabble? Well, stop playing Scrabble and start playing Bananagrams instead, the much-improved anagram game that’s as fruity as its name suggests.
Every player receives a handful of letter tiles before racing against one another to create their own crosswords. Once you’ve used every letter in your supply, grab another from the centre of the table. Complete your crossword first to be crowned the winner.
It’s simple, short, and incredibly sweet. Bananagrams takes the wordplay of scrabble and transforms it into a fast-paced competitive match that can be over in as short a time as five minutes. There’s no tedious rules to learn, and all the game’s pieces fit snugly in a small banana-shaped bag, making it the perfect Christmas treat.
The best Christmas board game for quick, easy play is Exploding Kittens.
Okay, so, technically Exploding Kittens is a card game and not a board game, but it’s still a game that’s great to play over Christmas, and which would make a great gift. It’s one of those silly, tongue-in-cheek games that’s sure to prompt a lot of laughs and which you’re sure to play a game due to the short length of each game.
The aim of the game is to avoid the titular Exploding Kittens, because drawing their card mean you’re out of the game (because you’ll be dead). Every other card you draw helps to reduce the risk of getting blown up, with some of them allowing you to defuse kittens or skip your turn to draw. It only takes a few minutes to learn, and is sure to be a popular choice for many family gatherings.
Christmas board games deals
The holiday season always brings some mega discount on top-notch tabletop titles. Here are a few particularly appealing discounts to help make your Christmas shopping a little less expensive this year:
May your holiday season be filled with a hearty supply of priceless board game memories.