Your friends at Fictive Kin

The best gifts on Amazon.

  • Find the perfect holiday gift for anyone you love.
  • Available on Amazon for last-minute shopping.
  • And a third thing?
Your guide to

Family Game Night

Take advantage of the whole family being around for the holidays and pick up a board game to play together. We’ve put together a list of some of our newer favorites that you might not have played (yet).

Escape: The Curse of the Temple

  • Players: 1–5
  • Time: 10 minutes. Every time.
  • Ages: Everybody!
  • Energy: Wild
  • Difficulty: Medium

Two super fun things you should know about Escape:

1. There are no turns. Everyone just rolls their own dice like mad the whole time.
2. Each game is exactly 10 minutes long. Not a second longer.

It’s cooperative so everyone is on the same team, Team: Get the Hell out of this Temple. If you all escape, Indiana Jones-style, from the tomb before the ten minute limit, you win. If even one of you is left behind, you lose. As a result you learn a lot about teamwork, life, and cursed temples. This will be a high-energy, high-volume game as you all frantically try to work together to get out of the temple.

In the background you will hear a soothing,10 minute-long soundtrack of jungle sounds and escape bongos. Listen to an example here. How fun is that?

$38.38 on Amazon


  • Players: 2–5
  • Time: 45 minutes
  • Ages: 10+
  • Energy: Chill
  • Difficulty: Easy

Ivanhoe is a low-key, easy-to-learn game. It’s also one of the only games on the list that still works well with just two players.

It gets off to a fairly slow start but the end of the game is surprisingly dramatic. You never really know who’s going to win. If someone gets an early lead, don’t get discouraged. Last second, come-from-behind victories are extremely common and will make you want to play another game as soon as you’ve finished one.

The cards are pretty cheesy looking so you’ll have to get over that bit, but it’s well worth it. Feel free to make fun of their appearance. That seems to make it more like an inside joke. The game is knight-themed but that doesn’t really have anything to do with the game play other than the way the cards work.

Pro Tip: The game says a max of 5 players, but we’ve played 6 and still had it work super well. The game just tends to go a bit longer.

$24.00 on Amazon

Cards Against Humanity

  • Players:4–20+
  • Time: 30 minutes or pretty much as long as you want
  • Ages: Adults only (or very disturbed children)
  • Energy: Chill but with hilarious, uproarious moments.
  • Difficulty: Very Easy

If you haven’t heard of Cards Against Humanity yet, you’re lying because we just told you about it. It’s essentially a very disturbing game of madlibs and most of the fun comes from delightful combinations of very inappropriate phrases put together in surprising ways. If you’ve played Apples to Apples then you’ve played Cards Against Humanity. They basically took that game mechanic, made it super crude (and consequently more fun), and then made a killing.

Millions of copies of the game have been sold already so we suggest you also check out the Expansion Packs (First Expansion, Second Expansion ) so you can bring some fresh life to their old game. Get ready for some wicked good times (not a Boston reference).

$25.00 on Amazon


  • Players: 2–5
  • Time: 30 minutes
  • Ages: Everybody!
  • Energy: Silly
  • Difficulty: Medium

Bang seems like a game created by someone who loves the game Mafia (also known as Werewolf) but wanted something physical to make it more fun. They were probably also a big fan of spaghetti westerns because silly references such as “Willy the Kid” and “Bart Cassidy” abound.

Players are divided into three “teams.” There’s the sheriff and his deputies, the outlaws, and the renegade. Everyone’s identity is secret except the sheriff which means you never know who is really on your team. You have to guess by their actions / demeaner / whether they’re trying to kill you.

Every team has its own goals. The outlaws are working to kill the sheriff and deputies without be uncovered and the renegade is generally sowing discontent in an attempt to be the last man standing. It is a total blast and involves tons of lively conversation.

It’s pretty high on the energy spectrum and some of the giggles come from the fact that you regularly need to declare who you are going to “Bang!” on your turn. Easy to overlook a couple times but the low-brow humor of it all wins out in the end.

We’ve chosen the version that comes in a huge plastic bullet because that is a fantastic idea, but there are regular box versions as well.

$39.52 on Amazon

Settlers of Catan (and 5–6 player extension)

  • Players: 3–6
  • Time: 1-2 Hours
  • Ages: 12+
  • Energy: Mellow with an exciting finish
  • Difficulty: Medium

It might be helpful to think of Settlers as Monopoly for a new generation. In fact, The Washington Post says almost exactly that. Of course, that’s not a fair comparison. Monopoly takes forever to play, and winning is based primarily on luck. If you want a game that’s actually fun, buy Settlers. Everyone I know loves this game, and once you get a group of people who know how to play, each game lasts about an hour. (Set aside a few hours for a game that involves teaching someone, but it’s worth it.) Of course, it’s really fun when you play all night.

In case you need more convincing, there’s a documentary about this game’s impact on American gaming, it won the prestigious Game of the Year award when it launched, and it has sold more than 25 million copies (as of a few years ago).

$55.80 on Amazon

Puerto Rico

  • Players: 3–5
  • Time: 90-150 min
  • Ages: 12+
  • Energy: Chill and Pensive
  • Difficulty: Medium / Hard

Puerto Rico is the perfect gift for someone who really likes Settlers of Catan but needs something new to spice things up. Just like Settlers, resource management plays a huge part. In Puerto Rico, though, instead of Wool and Ore, you import Coffee, Corn, and other cash crops.

It’s a super interesting strategy game because there are many different ways to win so players can pursue all sorts of strategies in pursuit of victory and might not overlap at all.

To really do right by Puerto Rico, you should be drinking mojitos while you play. They won’t add anything to game play, but they will be wonderful for atmosphere.

$28.33 on Amazon

Risk 2010 AD

  • Players: 2–5
  • Time: 240 min
  • Ages: 10+
  • Energy: Rage and Betrayal and Conquest
  • Difficulty: Medium

Everyone knows that nothing brings a family closer together like a game of Risk, perhaps the most contentious and controversial board game on the planet. More tears have been shed during Risk than during any other board game.

With that positive note, if you happen to have a friend or family member who is a big fan of the classic Risk, you’ll make them very, very happy with Risk 2010. It’s the same gameplay but with some very cool enhancements. There are now territories in the water and, wait for it, on the moon. There are also five “commanders” (including the “Diplomat” with a gun behind his back). The commanders give the game a lot more character and open up way more strategy options.

We’ve found that if you say “TO THE MOOOOON!” when you go to the moon, that adds a lot of flavor to the game. We’re big Risk fans and this was a huge revelation for us.

Honestly, it’s worth it just for seeing the way they’ve drawn the lines of the new world and which new territories exist in the future.

Exiled States of America?!
Enclave of the Bear?!
Khan Industrial State?!

So spice.

$31.94 on Amazon


  • Players: 2–4
  • Time: 60 minutes
  • Ages: 10+
  • Energy: Cooperative but grim
  • Difficulty: Hard

In Pandemic, you play a cooperative team of specialists trying to save to world from an outbreak of four deadly diseases. Each player has special abilities selected randomly that you’ll need to use strategically to your advantage as a team. It’s very refreshing to play a game with everyone on the same team.

However get ready for a challenge. This game is HARD. Not that the mechanics are hard, but winning is hard. There’s very little margin for error and the game has so many ways for you to lose. Expect to play several times before winning but when you do win, it feels so very good. There are also a few difficulty levels. Best of luck with anything beyond beginner.

$28.79 on Amazon

Mage Knight

  • Players: 1–4
  • Time: Over 2 hours
  • Ages: 13+
  • Energy: Epic
  • Difficulty: We don't know yet

This is actually one that we’ve got on our own Christmas list. We’re not sure exactly how it works but we’ve heard amazing things and look at that cover. So nerd. So spice.

$62.51 on Amazon

Ticket to Ride

  • Players: 2–5
  • Time: 30-60 minutes
  • Ages: 8+
  • Energy: Sneaky
  • Difficulty: Medium

In Ticket to Ride, you play a group of eccentric millionaires racing across the United States by train. You try to best your opponents by collecting ticket cards to string together railroad trips connecting particular cities across the country. The cities you’re trying to connect are a secret and you have to connect sections of rail between them before being blocked out by your rivals. The mechanics of this game are easy enough for younger players to enjoy but allow for plenty of strategy for the more advanced.

This game has a particularly strong competitive slant in the end-game. Once open rail lines start to dwindle, you’ll find things decided suddenly by nasty surprises sprung on each other.

$36.49 on Amazon


  • Players: 2–4
  • Time: 30 minutes
  • Ages: 8+
  • Energy: Combative
  • Difficulty: Medium / Hard

This is a difficult game to write up well, but trust me, it’s good. Its “wow this is fun” to “sounds boring having never played” ratio is off the charts.

Dominion is a turn based card game where you play a ruling monarch competing with others to collect money, power, and land as quickly as possible. The game starts by randomly selecting 10 action card types out of a set of 25 so you’ll rarely play the same twice. This forces everyone to adopt drastically new strategies from game to game as well. There are so many ways to win. You take turns playing action cards, collecting money, and building up your deck by buying land and other resources from a limited pool shared by all players.

The games are nice and short and really shine when playing a few back-to-back so you appreciate the strategy variation that built in.

$30.98 on Amazon

More Guides Like This One

Your guide to

Kids Are All Right

A list of exploratory kits, games, and toys that will have the kids solving puzzles and building their way to understanding how things work.

See All
Your guide to

A Matter of Taste

Your guide to a modern kitchen. Whether it’s cooking, brewing, organizing, or cleaning, this guide has you covered.

See All