We are here to help you through the dilemma of what are the best board games for Thanksgiving. In the United States, we have Thanksgiving. It is a holiday to celebrate the harvest and blessings of the year that started back in 1621 when America was formed (399 years ago). Today it is a few different things. It is a holiday that sees us get Wednesday, Thursday and Friday off. Thursday has a big meal that typically includes turkey, stuffing, potatoes and cranberries and there is football. Friday is dedicated to shopping and has forged its own holiday in “Black Friday.” This is an important time for family or maybe you are away from home and do your very own “friendsgiving” with the people closest to you in your everyday life.
One thing is uniform, it should include board games, and there is a board game for every situation and group you could think of. Board Games and Thanksgiving have gone hand and hand for decades, the perfect mechanism to bring people together. These are the best board games for Thanksgiving depending on your group. Whether you are looking for a board game for your family, need a board game for your specific group of friends or just need something to lock yourself in a room for ten hours with the fire going on a snowy day, we have you covered.
We should note that this article does put people into stereotypical buckets. No two people are alike and maybe your 75+ grandma wants a 6-hour Gloomhaven session and she is going to crush it. The purpose of this is to make rational suggestions that may resonate with you. We try to make justifications based on past scenarios. These are not the only correct way or way things are, just something for thought. Enjoy!
TYPE #1: Multi-Generational family, no small kids, tension-filled, bigger group
Everyone has different tastes, everyone is kind of hiding their own problems and just trying to make it through the one to two day Thanksgiving holiday. Tension is high and the group is just one wrong comment away from an all-out holiday family war. Kids are pretty grown, so the alcohol and r-rated judgments are flowing. You are just trying to find the best board games for Thanksgiving.
Cards Against Humanity – Honestly, this is not a game that we typically push very often. That being said, we can say with 100% certainty that one of the greatest joys in life is playing Cards Against Humanity during a Thanksgiving holiday with multiple different generations of your family at least once. Having your grandma interesting talk about feminine hygiene products, for example, maybe tough but oh the laughs and the memories. You will certainly all get closer and it will be a cornerstone holiday memory. Like Apples to Apples, you match a card with a phrase in your hand to best suit the chosen card for the turn but it is very raunchy and at some times very wrong.
SEE ALSO: Buy Cards Against Humanity
Sushi Go Party! – How can there be tension when everyone is staring at adorable food and fighting over who can construct the best dinner. In Sushi Go Party! (the follow up to Sushi Go! which accommodated less) you draft cards to get combos of things like the right number of tempura. Drafting means that you start with a stack of cards, choose one, pass the remainders to your neighbor, get remainders from your other neighbor and then do it all over again. There are combos to the point where it is strategic enough to keep the more gamers engaged but simple enough so anyone to play or pick up. You get points and move a marker around a track, at the end high score wins. The cards change every time so it is an easy one to play over and over.
SEE ALSO: Sushi Go Party Page | Buy Sushi Go Party
King of Tokyo – This is a great game for that tension-filled holiday because it is sneaky aggressive. King of Tokyo is a king of the hill game meaning you are trying to take over and get points, but when you do it is you versus everyone. If you try and take over Tokyo, everyone is going to attack you. So it is weighing getting points versus the beating you will take. There are other ways to win so it is about taking the right path. This is a dice rolling game and you play with an interesting cartoonish monster like out of a Godzilla movie. It is sneaky aggressive because it many games you have to choose to be the bad guy and some people do not want to be that person. Here you have to. Take that grandma.
SEE ALSO: Buy King of Tokyo
TYPE #2: All about the Kids
There are young kids everywhere and you want to use board games to wrangle everyone in. You want to educate and make lasting memories, but you do not want to be bored or have your mind melted by princesses.
Apples to Apples – A PG version of Cards Against Humanity (A2A was actually first), Apples to Apples throws out a word/phrase and has everyone hand over a card in their hand that best matches that card. The active player chooses who wins (without knowing who submitted what) so it is all objective and fun. People will have some interesting rationales about why they picked something. This is fun educational communication for the whole family. It relies on existing dynamics of relationships which always results in the fun.
SEE ALSO: Buy Apples to Apples
Watch Ya Mouth – We had to throw a dexterity game on here for the kids. Anything with movement and action is going to excite them. Watch Ya Mouth has you partnering up and trying to convey words to their teammate while they have a ridiculous mouth guard thing in making it very hard to make things out. By round two everyone is rolling on the floor laughing so hard. This one is fun for everyone and there is no excessive clean up like the other game I almost put on here that is a Russian roulette pie in the face scenario.
SEE ALSO: Buy Watch Ya Mouth
Ticket to Ride – If you really want to sneak a euro-strategy game in there that can accommodate various size groups, kids always love Ticket To Ride. There are different maps which are geographical areas like the United States, these are made up of a mix of different colored possible train routes. You are given secret cities and you must collect the right cards to build the right routes connecting them together to get points to win the game. It is incredibly easy to learn and simple to play, but impossible to master with a steep opportunity to get very strategic and competitive. The train theme helps too, what kid doesn’t love trains.
SEE ALSO: Buy Ticket To Ride
TYPE #3: That 2-person game for you and the one other family member you like
You either don’t fit in somewhere or you just don’t want to. It would be great to just hang out with your cousin Dave and avoid probing questions from your parents. You are looking for something exciting and fun that is just for you two and allows you to step away from the group.
7 Wonders Duel – A game built specifically for two, and well built at that, is 7 Wonders Duel. It is based on the drafting strategy classic 7 Wonders, but that requires several so this was scaled down to be for one-on-one. And thank you for that because it is hard to find this type of game for two people. Everyone has a wondrous city of mythology and you need to collect the right resources to build it up. If you are looking for a great strategy board game for two people, this is a fantastic choice. Talk about your best board games for Thanksgiving, this is a slam dunk.
SEE ALSO: Buy 7 Wonders Duel
Forbidden Island – Board Games don’t have to be about taking down the real-life players you are playing with, it could be cooperative. In Forbidden Island, you only work together with your fellow players and it is against time. The island is sinking and your crew needs to discover four treasures before that happens. Its pretty lightweight and easy because there is a lot of luck as opposed to hardcore strategy. No one is getting mad at anyone over the selection of best games for Thanksgiving game Forbidden Island.
SEE ALSO: Buy Forbidden Island
Mancala – The classic color gem passing strategy game has not gone out of style. Mancala supposedly dates back to the year 700. In a one-on-one game you each take one side of a long tray with slots and a big dish on the end. You need to strategically choose a pile of gem tokens to move to distribute them in the right way ensuring tokens end up in your scoring dish instead of the opponents. Like Chess, Go or Mahjong, it is incredibly simple and comes down to a tremendous mono e mono battle of wits. Why this instead of those classics? This is quick, compact and easiest to pick up.
SEE ALSO: Buy Mancala
TYPE #4: Down to earth smaller family gatherings, like 3 – 5 people. Very normal and light-hearted.
Everyone loves each other and is pretty in sync with life and values. Your family is gung ho! You do not want to go full-on strategy attack, but you want something with a little meat on the bone to be challenging and not throw away. Can’t be too long either, the folks will be troopers and stay up late but after an hour, you are on the clock. These are generally people pleasers. You are just trying to find the best board games for Thanksgiving.
Splendor – This strategy gem (pun intended as you will learn as you read, then you’ll laugh) is a very simple engine-building board game set against the backdrop of the Renaissance. You are a gem merchant who needs to trade up for mining equipment and other stuff to help you get bigger and better gem bonuses which in turn gets you even better stuff. Turns are simple, you either take gems or you spend them, one action. There are three rows of cards that increasingly get better, using your gems, you can buy a card. For all future turns, it will give you a gem bonus as if you collected and could spend it. As you can imagine, it all builds and builds. These cards also have victory points and the person to win is the person who gets to 15 points first. It is very simple, but impossible to predict the best way to get to that 15 points the fastest until you are in it. Games are fast-paced and fun for all ages, a great choice to slip into Thanksgiving.
SEE ALSO: Splendor Page | Buy Splendor
Carcassonne – This euro-strategy classic may be the easiest game to learn in the history of all board games. You draw a tile, place it in a spot on the board that makes sense and choose whether or not to place one of your workers on that tile. That is it, that is an entire turn. It turns into so much more than that. You have a thousand options and paths to victory. That simple gameplay but complex strategy makes for an incredibly fun game you can play over and over again. This is a great generic family game because it ticks all the boxes. It is fun, easy to learn, not too long, very modular and strategic enough to make people care. It should be noted that there are many other standalone versions of this game that has slight changes. Check out the “cities” version.
SEE ALSO: Carcassonne Page | Buy Carcassonne
Sequence – Very straight forward abstract strategy if those two terms are able to coexist. There is no crazy theme, you are not scaring anyone off with dragons or space. This also meshes many more of the older mechanisms than the new so a modern board game list may stick their nose down at this as an inferior game, but it is a solid title that is going to please. Using traditional playing cards, a warm and comforting staple, you can put down chips on a grid board that corresponds, trying to form “sequences” of several chips in a row (like connect four). It has the nostalgia and warm comforting hug of a classic with all the strategy you want to put in it to keep everyone on the edge of their seats. A solid choice always, why not the list of best board games for Thanksgiving.
SEE ALSO: Buy Sequence
TYPE #5: Gigantic family get together
Your giant family comes together once a year and this is it. People you know great and love/hate, as well as, people you hardly see. You are just trying to find the best board games for Thanksgiving that are going to PLEASE EVERYONE. Easy, light, PC, no pressure and fun for all. You may feel defeated there are no options for 16, but you should not, because you would be wrong.
Codenames: Pictures – What’s great about Codenames is that it is always two teams and you just split the teams in half. You can be effective with a team of three (6 people) and you can be effective with a team of eight (16 people). It is very modular and great for a big group. You are both teams of spies and you are tasked with getting your color operatives out of the field before your opponent does. The way this is done is one person from each team gets to see a decoder card of what’s hidden under a grid with different pictures. Using one-word clues they need to get their teammate to select the correct card in the grid. The rub is that you need to try and get more than one card per turn while also making sure your opponents’ cards aren’t mistakenly selected. It is probably the most popular and beloved party game right now. A final note is that there are several versions of this same game, but we always recommend “pictures” to start because it is better for multiple ages and if there are any hurdles in language barriers.
SEE ALSO: Codenames Page | Buy Codenames: Pictures
Welcome To – A roll-n-write modern gem, you can play a game of Welcome To… with 1 – 100 players (according to the box). You interact with players a little, but it is all about you building your own town. Everyone works off the same base cards so as long as you have a disposable scoresheet and a writing utensil for someone, they can participate. In Welcome To, you have a sheet with three rows of houses and a bunch of scoring stuff at the bottom. Every turn, 3 pairings of an action and a house number are going to be flipped. At the same time, everyone chooses one of those pairings and applies it to their town. The actions could be building a pool or park, or creating a “neighborhood” by putting up a fence. The number you get lets you establish a house and the hook there is that each of the three rows has to go in order. It gets more challenging as you go along and of coarse every various thing gives you points to add up at the end. Highest total wins. Very light and breezy and quick for anyone you could think of.
SEE ALSO: Welcome To Page | Buy Welcome To
One Night Ultimate Werewolf – This is kind of cheating because it is only 10 people max, but it takes on the spirit of having a large group and it can be adapted. The game very much captures the spirit of an old murder mystery game. You are either a villager or a werewolf and you take on the role of one of twelve unique characters. Each turn you must survive the thrilling “night” phase where your village has just one morning to decide who is a werewolf. Games are super fast and will run a quick ten minutes. That is why this is so perfect, you can switch up roles and play over and over again. When thinking about best board games for Thanksgiving, this is one that can keep a whole bunch of people engaged.
SEE ALSO: Buy One Night Ultimate Werewolf
TYPE #6: Sophisticated adults looking for a party game
Its friendsgiving and you need an activity. No one really plays board games but you all like chatting and laughing together. You want a party game that is going to encourage you to do that, but also not “feel” too much like a board game. This is light, no one should feel like they are getting sucked into anything or stupid because the rules are so complex. You are just trying to find the best board games for Thanksgiving.
Secret Hitler – This one may feel dry or pretentious because of it both about Hitler and about politics in the theme, but that is not the case. Cloaked in the conversation starter theme is a game about secrets and throwing your neighbor under the bus. You are either secretly a liberal or a communist pushing your agenda and even though things that happen in the game may be red flags, you have to deflect blame and convince the other players you are not who you say you are. Secret Hitler has NOTHING to do with politics and will probably not elicit any political conversation, so don’t worry about that. It is more about being the savoy individual that can trick everyone.
SEE ALSO: Buy Secret Hitler
Sheriff of Nottingham – This may seem like a kids game given that it has a cartoon sheriff and it has apples that remind you of the kids game Heidy ho or cherry ho or whatever the name is. It couldn’t be further from it. Sheriff of Nottingham is another one of those social deduction games, so it is all about when to call BS on the other players. Are they doing what they said or are they pulling one over on you? Are you smart enough to catch them? Players need to bring in their sacks of good into town to get paid, they may say they have three apples but maybe it’s two apples and one piece of contraband. Just like the two other games surround this, the game is a thematic game that is really just about making you have a conversation with the other players. And not a conversation about spies, robin hood or Hitler, but about life and values and boundaries.
SEE ALSO: Buy Sheriff of Nottingham
Codenames: Pictures – We tried not to repeat any games on this list but Codenames is the party chameleon and hard not to put in almost every category on the list. It had to at least make a second appearance though and this is the perfect place. I have personally witnessed a grown 42-year-old man laughing giddyishly bookended just by the words “I love this game” repeated over and over in kind of an uncontrollable body reaction. People like this one. You split into two teams and each round one member from each team gets to see a decoder card of a grid. They need to convey one-word clues to their teammates to get them to guess multiple pictures from the big grid, getting their spies out before their opponent does. It adapts to how you talk to one another so the clues are always custom and lead to some interesting fun.
SEE ALSO: Codenames Page | Buy Codenames: Pictures
TYPE #7: Group of friends snowed in a cabin for three days
You are in the best possible scenario for a board gamer. With 3 – 6 of your closest friends you rent a cabin and the moment you check-in, a snowstorm hits. The roads are closed and you can’t leave. All you have is the hot apple cider and bourbon you were smart enough to grab, a willing fireplace, hours of time and board games. Get ready to jump into an 8 hour Thanksgiving board game session with not another care in the world.
Terraforming Mars – There are many games out there that are going to tell you that they are going to take 2 – 3 hours and fine, but not many of them suck you into an immersive world of control like Terraforming Mars. All players represent corporations that are all working together to make Mars inhabitable while going off and making as much off the planet as possible. Hoping to get the most victory points and ultimately clinching overall victory. The perfect for Thanksgiving board game is an engine-builder meaning you start with a small amount and you continue to buy and upgrade your world to make it bigger and better, which will produce better stuff, that you can, in turn, get even bigger and much better. You have lots of options and you make lots of strategic decisions that have both short and long term ramifications. An absolute joy, if you have 3 hours to give this game your full attention, do it.
SEE ALSO: Terraforming Mars Page | Buy Terraforming Mars
Betrayal at House on the Hill – Another type of game that fits into this category nicely is thematic adventures. And there are not many board games as rich in story as Betrayal at House on the Hill in that area. You and your fellow players claim one of the unique characters to head into a haunted house. The game comes with tons of different scenarios so you have no idea what is lurking inside. As you move through the house, you discover new rooms and the perils that lay within. Halfway through a scenario, something happens and it turns out that one of you is a traitor. The remainder of the game puts the traitor against the other players in a final showdown that will leave only one side a winner. These adventures are the complete opposite of games like Terraforming Mars. Instead of having 100% of decisions making as you do in a game like that, the story here dictates much of what happens to you and much of the time you are just along for the ride. There is nothing wrong with that though, just a trade-off you should be aware of and think about when taking into account your personal taste.
Gloomhaven – You can’t have a big block of time and not think about a dungeon crawler. And why not one of the best, Gloomhaven. These games are deep and it takes some time to full-on deep into it, but when you do it is so much fun. In this game for those perfect snowed in Thanksgiving board game sessions, you are a character with stats and traits and with other players you are about to head deep into a dungeon taking on different creatures, building up your stats, grabbing treasure and glory along with it. People can do 24 hours sessions of this type of game, you are snowed in, why not take advantage. It is a journey that continues on and on so you will have plenty to crawl through in this best board games for Thanksgiving selection.
SEE ALSO: Buy Gloomhaven
TYPE #8: Your Opportunity to get a willing participant into a strategy game who is not usually into it.
You want to spread board game love and awareness through the world. Your friends and family would never usually be down to play board games, but you have some time and they are up for it. Finally, your chance!! Relax when thinking about the best board games for Thanksgiving. You don’t get greedy and shove your favorite down their throat, you want a strategy that is going to sneak in there and make them a fan. A gateway that is going to get them interested in strategy board games. Games that aren’t Trivial Pursuit or Cards Against Humanity.
Settlers of Catan – Ask any board gamer what game got them into the hobby and there is a good chance they are going to tell you Settlers of Catan. A euro-strategy that hit the world is 1995 is credited with the beginning of the modern board game age. There are many that contributed but it really showed that a board game didn’t have to be traveling around a track based on luck like Monopoly or a straight party game like Pictionary. A modular board of 5 different types of resources and numbers is different every game. Your goal is to strategically build settlements using resources in places that are going to get you other resources you need to build additional settlements and cities needed to clinch victory. This is the perfect gateway game to get someone into board games. It seems very nerdy at first, you are fighting over wood, ore, and sheep (well maybe not sheep), but once you play you are hooked. It takes one game to get it down and after the 45 minutes it takes to play one, you are pumped to play the next one.
SEE ALSO: Settlers of Catan Page | Buy Settlers of Catan
Small World – It is set in a fantasy world with fantasy races so that may turn people off at first, but it really is about combat strategy and area control with a big twist of a wrench thrown in the gears. In Small World, you have a map with limited spaces and you choose a race and ability combo to come in and take as many spaces as possible. The more you have, the more victory credits you are going to get. The hook is that whenever you think it is strategically pertinent, you can “go into decline” and abandon your race for a different one. You can no longer use the old race but you still get points for the territories they control. It revolves around a very basic premise so the game is easy to pick up. The replayability is also through the roof so you are going to want to play over and over.
SEE ALSO: Small World Page | Buy Small World
Stone Age – This is a not too complicated worker placement strategy game from 2008 is a perfect choice for best board games for Thanksgiving. Speaking of worker placement, you might argue Carcassonne could go in this space, but Stone Age made it instead because you have a chance to go a bit harder, so you should take it. Not that they are the same game, just saying. In Stone Age, there is a communal map with spots for different resources like food or wood, or village spots where you can get tools or a few other things. You fight over spots and when you have a worker somewhere, that is going to allow you to roll dice to get some of whatever that area provides. You then takes those resources and build up your engine. It is daunting at first but a very accessible strategy game. Playing it reminds me of the feeling you get the first time you play Settlers of Catan.
SEE ALSO: Buy Stone Age
TYPE #9: The Gambler looking for some action
You really need to pump some excitement into board game time. No one really has much in common and most board games are going to fall flat because of it. One thing that crosses all barriers though is the joy of winning, put a little something on the line and everyone is on the edge of their seat. You need that press your luck game that everyone is going to appreciate. You are just trying to find the best board games for Thanksgiving.
Machi Kori Legacy – As you build up your little cartoonish town, you need to make some tough decisions about what kind of risks you are going to take. In Machi Kori Legacy, you roll dice and acquire money if you have a building that matches that number. Maybe there is a brewery card that gave you two gold when a 2 was rolled for example. There are cards that give you gold from the bank on just your turn, from the bank all turns, from other players on your turn and from other players on other turns. Then there is the mix of numbers and since its dice the probability matters. A 7 is far more likely to hit than an 11. You are buying buildings to hedge your bets and wager on what you think is going to come up. It is very much like Settlers of Catan in that way. There are also combos and bonus items that complicate things. It is easy to learn and can appeal to anyone.
SEE ALSO: Buy Machi Kori
Quacks of Quailberg – Have you ever wanted to combine the game show “Press Your Luck” and potion making? Whether you asked for it or not, Quacks is going to give it to you. This fantastic german strategy game finds each player with their own pot, trying to make a bunch of amazing potions using crazy ingredients like mandrake root. You have a sack of ingredients that you are going to fill with tokens that do different things, some good stuff and some bad like blowing up your pot. You then get gold and other effects that let you put more chips in your bag. The key to the game is that you don’t know what you are going to grab out of the sack so it gets to the point of how much do you want to push your luck, making your potion better and better, before you blow it up and ruin it. You have to make lots of strategic choices in which tiles you choose to put in your bag and the way they all work together is very ingenious. Quacks of Quailberg is a very well put together game that anyone could enjoy. It could be in any category on this list of best board games for Thanksgiving.
SEE ALSO: Buy Quacks of Quailberg
Wits and Wagers – There is always that person who wants to play trivial pursuit, but come on, it is 2020, there are better ways to do trivia. One good way, that brings in the excitement of making wagers is the board game Wits and Wagers, a sure to be Thanksgiving treat. A trivia question is asked but on top of that betting takes place. You can make bets about the answer but you can also make bets about who can get it right. It makes trivia much more accessible and turns it into less about knowing trivia and more about knowing each other. The max for this game is seven players, so it makes for a great cross-generational family experience.