Well it is definitely that time of year again. That means that we as nerds are running into a truly sad problem. That problem being not everyone in your family is a nerd! Being surrounded by not nerds during the holidays can be difficult. I mean, when was the last time you’ve had people around a table?! This is the perfect group for “Terraforming Mars!” Alas your not nerdy family wants to do other things like watch TV together, or play video games, or talk about life or whatever it is that families do on Christmas. Well board games have been around for a long time and there will always be some games to play. Here me out because I’m not talking about the same old Hasbro stuff. Not that I don’t like methodically bankrupting my families as we all slowly slip into madness. I’m just saying there’s some more contemporary stuff that you can probably get the family into. Here are some of the games I bring to the table that will probably do well with your not nerdy family. First though let’s talk about why.
When picking a good game to bring to your table it all comes down to one major element and that is accessibility. Games with ten page rulebooks and a million pieces are not going to go well. They can be difficult to get into and even intimidating to play and I can guarantee you that a deck of cards will go over better every time. When I bring games to the table at my family gatherings I focus on games that have short succinct rules that still offer some level of strategy. I also focus on games that are not messy. A good rule of thumb is “can your players hold all their pieces in one hand and still be able to discern them well”. This can disclude games like “Splendor” but include games like “Carcassonne”. The last thing that I look for in a game is flavour. A premise of keeping kittens from exploding is way easier to wrap your head around than organizing a squad of Star Wars fighters to fight in a squad based combat scenario. Keep things simple but throw in some nuance. Now that I’ve explained my thought process let’s get into some games you could bring to a family table.
Exploding kittens: This game scores a perfect ten for me. It’s honestly the game that inspired my list and it is the family game that I judge most other games on. For starters it is a ten player game. There is a five person edition, but the ten player edition comes with some extra stuff and I think it plays the “Mexican Hat Dance” when you open it up. The whole game is just silly, funny, and all the illustrations are drawn by Oatmeal. The rules are so easy to get as well. There are different card effects that help you not explode your kitten in some way or another and it’s basically card russian roulette from there. The nuance is definitely there too. You’ll have people trying to stack the deck or steal other peoples hands and things can get complicated. The game plays with a deck of cards and honestly what can be more manageable than that?
Not Cards Against Humanity: Look I’m not saying anything against this game but hear me out. I don’t think my baptist grandma, or my catholic grandma, or my anglican grandma (well maybe my anglican grandma) would want to talk about half the cards in that game. If you like these style games where you are mixing subjects and nouns then try apples to apples. If you want to mix things up you could try superfight where players are making superheroes up with cards and discussing which would win in a fight. I honestly like the formula for casual gatherings. These kinds of games are easy to grasp, have constantly evolving discussions, and really don’t have player caps. You just want to be careful to monitor the content here. Honestly even young children could get a ton of fun out of these games… just not “Cards Against Humanity”
These are a little trickier and that is why they are at the bottom of my list, but social deduction games can be a ton of fun. Look at Among Us right now. It’s blowing up because of the intricacy and intimacy of determining secret roles from other people. I honestly think you could get some mileage out of Secret Hitler where players are trying to purge the german fascists from the government and kill the Secret Hitler (may not be a good game if your family is political but only on the surface). You could also try Bang. A spaghetti western style game where the sheriff is trying to deal out justice against bandits with secret roles. Last but not least, I would suggest Spyfall. Players are trying to suss out a spy by asking various questions about different locations while the spy tries to fit in. This game is probably the easiest to play with a group of people who are new to social deduction games and follow the simple but nuanced rule better than the others while still being easy to handle.
The last thing that you should bring, is a set of dominos, a deck of cards, and a set of poker chips if you have them. With these three items you have just brought a ton of games to your table that a lot of people in your family probably know how to play already and who knows, you may learn a game or two. Be sure to be open minded when you go to the table because people engaging with you is always a good thing no matter what.
My last piece of advice is this. Don’t bring a game that you can’t bear to depart with. This is not your local game store or whatever and odds are someone will bend a card or lose a piece. It’s not a big deal if it’s not some collectors edition that you can’t stand to lose.
Good luck y’all with bringing some contemporary board games to the family table. This time of year can mean a lot of things for a lot of people and I think a pretty universal rule is to share the way you feel with the people you trust or love. Sorry for the late article, but finals are killing me so next week may be a little late too. Be sure to check out my socials on Twitter and Facebook and if you are interested in some funny game content check out my good friends Matt and Cole on Youtube and Twitch. I’m in some of the content and I think Cole will be playing through “Hades” pretty soon. We usually get together on Tuesdays to play something dumb and it’s pretty fun. Well happy holidays y’all and as always,