As the holidays approach, it’s time to gather the family for some good old fashioned board game nights! I’ll use any excuse to get people around the table to play more board games! Let’s take a look at some board games that are appropriate for a family looking to have a good time at the table.


Co-operative board game with a twist

Mysterium board game

While the topic of this game might seem glum, the game of Mysterium is co-operative and quite unlike other games you’ve played. In this game, one player plays as a ghost and takes one Location card, one Weapon card, and one Suspect card per player and keeps them secret from the others. Then all the Location, Weapon, and Suspect cards are laid face up for all to see.

The ghost is trying to communicate to each player the location, weapon, and suspect that’s unique to each player. But here’s the catch: The only way they can communicate is by sharing cards that have amazing, yet ridiculous, art on each. These cards have nothing to do with anything, but it’s as if you’re sending a dream image to the other players.

Did I mention that you can’t even talk if you’re the ghost? So these wacky images have to do all the communicating for you. It’s hilarious to watch the other players trying to figure out why you gave them this specific card. Is it because it has a knight in it, and there’s a checkerboard pattern on the floor of one of the locations? Or is it because blue is the predominant colour on it and a different location?

It’s a great time for everyone playing, and you’ll want to play it numerous times as players each want to try being the ghost.


For families that like to outsmart each other

Sheriff of Nottingham board gameIf ghosts are not too aligned with your holiday mood, but you’re still feeling mischievous, then check out Sheriff of Nottingham.

This is such a fun and clever game in which players take turns playing the role of the Sheriff. The other players are trying to smuggle goods past the Sheriff, and how they do this is by putting a number of their cards—each containing one good, into an envelope.

Then, one at a time, the player announces how many of which good they are trying to move past the Sheriff. The Sheriff has to either let that person go through, or stop them and tax them.

If you let them through, then maybe the other player is trying to smuggle some contraband through that’s worth a lot of money! If you decide to tax them, then they’d have to pay taxes on anything that they didn’t declare. However, if they were telling the truth, then the Sheriff has to pay that player instead.

Players redraw cards from a face up stack, so other players can see some of the cards that different players have, giving them a bit of information each round. It’s a fun game for the whole family that will have you second guessing even your own kin!


Everyone likes games with marbles

Potion Explosion board gameIf that’s still too mischievous, then check out Potion Explosion. This game has some amazing table presence thanks to the nifty marble sliding contraption that you have to put together when you open the box for the first time.

The game is quite simple, but will soon start making you scratch your head as you try to determine the optimal move.

Have you ever played one of those match-3 games like Bejewelled? This is kind of like that. On your turn, you simply choose 1 marble to remove, which you get to keep.

The marbles then slide together because they were all on a slope, and if the marbles that touched were of the same colour, then you get to take all the marbles of that colour that are touching. When you remove those, if the next marbles to collide are the same colour, you take those too.

Add to this some abilities you get once you complete your potions, and you’re soon puzzling over how to best take advantage of the marbles! It’s fun and addictive and pretty easy to learn.


Thinking can be fun too

Splendor board gameIf your family likes to really think when you play games, then check out Splendor.

This is a very accessible game that is super easy to learn, but will definitely keep you thinking throughout.

On your turn, you simply either take any 3 different coloured gems (which are printed on poker chips and are very satisfying to handle), or you can take 2 of the same coloured gem (as long as there are 4 more left of that colour).

When you have enough gems to buy a card from the face up supply, then you do that instead. Once you have a card, it provides you with 1 gem of a specific colour for the rest of the game.

Your goal is to keep buying the low and mid-priced cards so that you can eventually afford the more expensive cards that all provide a lot of points.

It really is that simple, but if you and your family enjoy a good puzzle, then check out Splendor.


Balance your game night

Junk Art board gameFinally, I have to recommend a game that I know will please every family out there, and that’s Junk Art.

Ok, ok, I’m a little biased because I did co-design this game. That said, the game has earned a ton of favourable reviews, so don’t just take my word for it!

Junk Art is all about stacking oddly shaped blocks on top of each other. The game comes with numerous modes offering different rules.

In some games you are playing cards on your opponents, challenging them to place specific pieces onto their structure; in others you might be contributing to a giant structure in the middle of the table, and you just don’t want to be the one to knock it over.

There are some modes that favour the quick, some that favour the strategic, but all of them favour the steady hand.

Junk Art plays from 2 to 6 players and can be played with youngsters all the way up to the grandparents.


This holidays I know I’m going to be playing a lot of board games. Which games are you planning to play this season? Let me know in the comments below as I’d love to hear which games are family favourites for this time of year.


Jay Cormier
Jay enjoys his double life: working at Best Buy Canada as a Video Production Specialist, and his side career as a board game designer. He has a dozen or so games on store shelves right now and many more signed to come out soon. He also teaches game theory to students taking the video game design program at Vancouver Film School.