9 best board games for all the family
Is Monopoly still the best game for Christmas? We've picked the best board games around
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Christmas is the time to dust off your favourite board games and challenge friends and relations to a good old-fashioned game of Monopoly or Cluedo.
Forget video games like Call of Duty and Grand Theft Auto, board games are having a resurgence, fuelled by board game cafés like Draughts in London’s Hackney and Waterloo and Thirsty Meeples in Oxford.
Here is our selection of board games new and old for the whole family to play during the festive season.
They require varying amounts of skill but there’s something here for everyone.
We’re secretly hoping to see the return of a vintage 1970s board game called Exploration, where players had to mount successful missions to far-flung places and return to base in one piece. How does the current crop of games match up?
Scrabble 70th Anniversary Edition: £25.99, Amazon
Age: 10+ Players: 2-4
Scrabble was invented in 1938 by American architect Alfred Butts, who decided the value of each tile by measuring how frequently each letter appeared on the front page of The New York Times.
To celebrate the game’s 70th anniversary this year there’s a stylish new edition, complete with a chic black and gold board and black tiles embossed with gold letters. The appeal of Scrabble never fades, although most of us would be hard-pressed to match the skill of new world champion Nigel Richards, who clinched victory by scoring 68 points with the word “groutier” – meaning more cross, sulky or surly.
Mango Wood Chess and Draughts: £69.95, Nkuku
Age: 8+ Players: 2
Academics reckon that chess boosts intelligence and creativity so Christmas is the ideal time to polish your skills.
Handmade from sustainable mango wood, this elegant chess and draughts set is beautiful to look at as well as fun to play on.
Devon-based Nkuku (the name comes from a hut in Zambia) sells handmade home and lifestyle products from around the world, combining great design with traditional skills and natural materials. The set would make a stylish gift – and will stand the test of time too.
The London Board Game: £29.99, London Transport Museum Shop
Age: 7+ Players: 2-6
This is a fun way for players of all ages to get their heads round the complexities of the London Underground system – from tennis-mad Wimbledon to leafy Highgate.
The aim is to visit six of London’s sightseeing hotspots, such as the V&A museum at South Kensington and the statue of Eros at Piccadilly Circus, and be the first to get back to the mainline station you started from.
The board is a facsimile of the London Underground map so even if you’re a harassed commuter you’ll enjoy the race and learn more about London as you play.
Monopoly Cheaters Edition: £21.99, Argos
Age: 8+ Players: 2-6
Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without a skirmish on the Monopoly board.
The new Cheaters Edition brings a fresh twist to the property trading game, which was originally designed to warn players about the dangers of capitalism.
This fast-paced edition encourages cheating and subterfuge so it’s perhaps advisable not to play when tempers are frayed.
It includes 15 cheat cards – one allows players to steal money from the bank, another exhorts them to avoid paying rent. If you can manage to trick your opponents without being rumbled you’ll get ahead of the game. There’s also a nifty pair of handcuffs for trips to jail.
Trivial Pursuit Master Edition: £32.99, Amazon
Age: 16+ Players: 2+
We can’t think of anyone who doesn’t enjoy Trivial Pursuit. Devised nearly 40 years ago by two Canadian journalists who decided to invent their own game while they were playing Scrabble, it became an instant classic.
The game comes in a variety of editions, some for the whole family, others for 16-year-olds and up.
This one has a pie-shaped timer to speed the game up and features 3,000 questions in six categories – geography, entertainment, history, art and literature, science and nature and sports and leisure.
If you can answer questions like “What 1992 film starring Whoopi Goldberg was made into a hit stage musical”, this is the game for you. The answer is Sister Act by the way.
Pictionary: £24.99, Amazon
Age: 8+, Players: 2 teams
You don’t have to be any good at drawing to play Pictionary. In fact it’s more entertaining if you aren’t.
The latest edition of the game has been updated to make it fun for all ages, with two levels of clues – one for adults and the other for children – and a new popular culture category.
Grown-ups get words like Formula One and Bee in Your Bonnet while children have to sketch words like Spaghetti and Fireworks.
Players have one minute to draw the word on the card, using wipe clean markers and boards rather than the messy scraps of paper of old.
Mango Wood Noughts and Crosses: £34.95, Nkuku
Age: 5+, Players: 2
No one’s quite sure who invented noughts and crosses but it’s thought that the Ancient Egyptians played it as far back as 1300 BC.
Thousands of years later we’re still playing it, whether it’s on a scrap of paper or a bespoke set.
Nkuku’s traditional noughts and crosses set is hand-carved in sustainable mango wood by artisans in Rajasthan. It’s fun to play and a work of art too.
Pie Face Cannon!: £26.99, Argos
Age: 5+ Players: 2+
Ready, steady, splat. This probably isn’t the best game to play when you’re wearing your Christmas best but it’s wholesome and fun – and suitable for five-year-olds and up (under adult supervision, that is).
One player puts their chin on the chin rest behind a cardboard facemask, then another aims the cannon and launches the whipped cream. Yes, we did say whipped cream (which isn’t provided by the way).
The aim is for the person behind the mask to avoid getting splattered in cream.
Speech Breaker: £21.99, Argos
Age: 14+ Players: 4-10
Would-be journalists will enjoy this challenge game where players get the chance to try their hands as news reporters.
The reporter has to draw a card and describe the scene in 30 seconds without uttering any of the words shown on the card while their team tries to guess the story.
With challenges like “Winston Churchill is doing a jigsaw puzzle on a jet ski”, it’s more difficult than you might think. Just to add to the fun, reporters get to use an electronic microphone and headset. Three AA batteries needed.
The Verdict: Best board games
For sheer style and longevity, the ultra-good-looking Scrabble 70th Anniversary Edition is our winner this year. It’s a game you’ll never tire of and the celebratory 70th anniversary black and gold branding is stunning.
As a runner-up, we couldn’t resist Nkuku’s Mango Wood Chess and Draughts. As well as being fun to play on, it will add style to your coffee table.