If you’re looking to pick up a board game for this year, think about what type of games you and your relatives and friends like playing. Do you like your board games strategic and ruthless? Choose something like Ticket to Ride or Monopoly the Cheaters Edition, which will bring the hard-heartedness out in us all.
If you like to watch the family make a fool of themselves, something with a physical element always wins, like Handimonium or Strictly Come Dancing. Trivia buff? There’s always a way to show off your useless knowledge with Pointless or Smart Ass.
We’ve found a selection of board games that are entertaining enough to be unfolded all year round, so pull up a chair and enjoy.
£19.99 (price correct at time of publishing), Amazon
Best for: Mass hysteria
Key specs – Age: 13+; Players: 2+; Play time: 30 minutes
The idea is simple, hold a pair of tiny plastic hands in yours and complete physical challenges, from “put on some lipstick” to “fill a cup with water”. Our testers loved the silliness of this one, with family members ranging from teenagers to 76 years old involved.
In “relay” mode, when four or more players must complete their challenge and pass to a team mate, things get really crazy. There’s also the “charades” option or “battle”, which sees two players compete to fulfil their task first.
£32.37 (price correct at time of publishing), Amazon
Best for: Generations of geeks
Key specs – Age: 8+; Players: 2-5; Pay time: 30 minutes – 1 hour
The aim of this nostalgic game is to build train routes across Europe, set in the early 1900s, connecting carriages, building stations and linking cities. Think of it almost like a Monopoly for trains, with the aim being to use your hand of routes and train tickets to complete a route and block it for other players. The longer the route, the more points you’ll stack. You don’t have to be a train spotter for this game, but it’s on the geekier side of board games.
Best for: Team players
Key specs – Age: 8+; Players 2-4; Play time: 45 minutes
If you’ve ever mused, “Just how would I battle a series of virulent diseases set to destroy the world?”, now is your time to find out.
Pandemic gives you the chance to be one of four disease-busting experts who will use skills and strategy to help wipe out variations of the plague. The cool thing here is that players are all working together for the good of mankind and if someone beats the bugs, you all win.
£19.34 (price correct at time of publishing), Amazon
Best for: Stats fans
Key specs – Age: 12+; Players: 2-4; Play time: 60 minutes
Download the free app on your phone and play an at-home version of this hit TV gameshow, where thinking of the most obscure answer is the key to winning. This was a big hit with teens and older members of the family, but younger players struggled to find a low score in some of the general knowledge questions. The app was great for storing stats and scores though, as well as tracking who was Pointless champion.
£19.99, John Lewis
Best for: Loud gatherings
Key specs – Age: 12+; Players:2-8; Play time: 30 minutes
Players take it in turn to read out a list of facts about a person, place or object. If you think you know the answer, just shout! It’s a trivia game for ages 12 and up, but we found that younger players could join in, even if their not-even-close answers lead to general hysteria. For up to 12 players, this one’s great for a large family get-together.
£9.96 (price correct at time of publishing), Amazon
Best for: Show-offs
Key specs – Age: 8+; Players:3-6; Play time: 30 minutes – 1 hour
We’ve been bombarded with Strictly, It Takes Two, the Podcast… now you can fill those moments without glitter with a board game. Three AA batteries are required for the glitter ball, which takes centre stage, to provide the voice of Craig Revel-Horwood and the songs you may need for challenges and the dance off.
Answering trivia questions about the series will move you over the Strictly stage and on to the grand final when you’ll be voted champ – or chump. Great fun if you like to bust some moves.
£29.99 (price correct at time of publishing), Amazon
Best for: Traditionalists
Key specs – Age: 10+; Players: 2-4; Play time: 45 minutes+
Since it’s 70 years since the first version of Scrabble launched, this classy anniversary edition is out to celebrate. In black and gold, this game looks great on the table, with its foil-stamped letter tiles. Some family members did struggle to make out the dark lettering on the double and triple word squares though.
£14.99 (price correct at time of publishing), Amazon
Best for: Travellers and Harry Potter fans
Key specs – Age: 8+; Players: 2-4; Play time: 30 minutes
This dinky word game fits in a little pencil case-type zip bag and is a must for Harry Potter fans. Use 10 letters from the central pile to create words and get rid of your tiles, and if you can manage to form the word “snitch” you’ll win the game outright. Simple to learn and great for young players, adding to your opponents’ words is a sneaky and fun way to win.
Best for: Family fun
Key specs – Age: 8+; Players: 2-4, Play time: 45 minutes
When hotels on Park Lane are just not exciting enough anymore, add a bit of skulduggery to the mix. The Cheater’s Edition positively encourages bad behaviour with cards directing you to pickpocket, dodge rent or steal from the bank. It even has a set of board handcuffs for those who have been caught in the act. Our testers said it took a whole to get to grips with the new rules, but it was great, noisy fun.
This article has been updated. It was originally published in November 2018.