Best Board Games for the Holidays and Family Nights

Parents are always looking for ways to have everyone put their electronic devices away, and hang out as a family, more. Thus, family game night has made a comeback in the last decade or so. My childhood always involved Monopoly and checkers tournaments during the holidays, but our families have now discovered more classic and modern games that everyone can enjoy. Over the last decade, despite the impact of the pandemic, board games have become more popular, more creative, and more entertaining. Here are some of our favorites:

    1. Rummikub – Typically a 2-4 player game, there is also a 6-player edition available on Amazon. The general rule is fairly simple: match the colors of sequential numbers, or different colors of the same number. Draw a new tile if you have no combo to put out on the table, and the first one to finish all the tiles in their hand wins. But as players adjust the tiles on the table, the game is constantly changing and keeping everyone shifting their strategy at every turn. I was first introduced (and obsessed) with this game at graduate school 15 years ago. This summer, I was surprised to learn my 65-year-old parents were enjoying this game just as much as I did!  It is truly a board game for all ages!

      Family playing Rummikub
      From age 5 to age 65, Rummikub is a game everyone can enjoy.
    2. Qwirkle – Very similar to Rummikub, but this time, you are matching colors and shapes. It is the perfect game: easy to learn yet challenging for both children and adults. We have played this game at many holiday gatherings with our extended families as well! 
    3. Don’t Break the Ice – This game for preschoolers and kids ages 3+ is filled with suspense as players take turns tapping out the blocks of ice. But be careful, if Phillip the penguin falls when you break the ice, you lose the game! The penguin is cute, kids love “knocking” down the ice, and there are always sure to be giggles when the ice breaks and the penguin falls. 
    4. Onitama – This is like a simplified chess game where the moves you can make each turn are on cards that rotate between 2 players. Both my 5-year-old and 8-year-old enjoy playing this game.

      Onitama – a simplified chess-style game
    5. My First Castle Panic – A cooperative game where young players work together to defend the castle from the monsters. Each turn, all monsters move one space forward and a new monster is released from the dungeon. The players each draw a card and try to catch monsters with special abilities assigned to the drawn card. If the monster reaches the castle, it will damage the castle piece by piece. This is a fun, quick game that brings the whole family together on the same team.
    6. My Little Pony Tails of Equestria Story Telling Game – In this RPG game, you get to create your own special pony hero. Armed with the magic power and skills you created, you will venture to the world of Equestria with your pony peers. Definitely a game to exercise the creativity of little ones!  
    7. Tokaido – One of my family’s favorite board games! Travel the famed Tokaido road in Japan, visit hot springs, try new food, and paint landscapes. This game is advertised for 8+ year-olds, but my 5-year-old enjoyed playing it and has even won a couple of times. Kids particularly look forward to seeing if there’s a monkey in the hot spring card, and try to collect all the money they can get!
    8. Takenoko – At our house, we call this “The Panda Game,” and it’s definitely one that is advertised for older kids, teens, and adults. In this game, you lay down landscape tiles, grow bamboo, and move the panda to eat bamboo to accomplish the missions assigned to you.
      Takenoko – Build land, feed panda and complete projects


    9. Strike – the Dice Game – This game is simple: roll dice into the arena, striking other dice to change their faces, and collect any matching sets. Dice that bounce out of the arena or show an “X” are removed from the game. The player with the last remaining dice wins the game! This game is faster than Yahtzee and doesn’t need a scorecard – perfect for on the go! What’s more, a full game usually lasts less than 5 minutes.
    10. Tickets to Ride – Some say that Ticket to Ride has become the de facto upgrade from Monopoly for many families. In this game, you build tracks to connect iconic North American cities across the map. It’s easy to learn and a great game for the whole family to enjoy. However, the twist comes when players start to block components and build increasingly complex routes, which can make it take a little bit longer to finish a game.

These board games are just a few of our family favorites right now. There are many wonderful, fun games out there that we have yet to try, including some of the ones recommended to us by a group pf family friends who also love playing board games. 

  1. Go Go Gelato – Pass the scoops between the cones to match your customer’s orders! This fun game trains our fine motor skills, focus, attention, and visual perception. 
  2. Outfoxed – This “Clue-like” board game needs players to work together to find the pie-thief before it exits the forest. A fun cooperative board game that is perfect for younger kids.
  3. King of Tokyo – Play as mutant monsters, rampaging robots, or even abominable aliens. Roll the dice and use them to attack other monsters, heal your monster, or score points. 

There are many board game stores in the San Antonio area with selections ranging from “good” to “absolutely fantastic!” Most of them offer a place for players to meet up and enjoy a few hours of fun time playing board games together. While some have recently followed the trend of serving alcohol to gamers, there are still a few that are aimed at family board gaming: 

  1. The Printed Meeple on Nacogdoches Road is family-friendly and serves fountain drinks. It offers a library of games and a gaming area in exchange for a monthly membership fee. It also provides 3D printing services for those board game geeks looking to make their own customized meeple. 
  2. Knight Watch Games on Blanco Road is welcoming to young gamers and provides a free gaming library and space (check for events, which can limit free tables), as well as access to The Scullery, with its non-alcoholic drinks and gaming-themed snacks such as the Wizard’s Fireball.

One last thing I would add is to not underestimate what your kids can learn to play. We have held back on some board games because we didn’t think the girls had the patience to enjoy them – but they have actually surprised us over and over! When in doubt, you can always team up with a younger child as a way to get everyone to the game table. So this holiday season, after the meals are served, movies are watched, and halls are decked, bring out one of those board games, and have a wonderful holiday night filled with fun, laughter, and excitement.


Judy Tsai
A first generation immigrant who came to the U.S. for the first time when she was 21 and settled in Texas since then. Judy loves to celebrate both her Taiwanese heritage and all the San Antonio fun happenings. She is mom to an animal lover & expert - August (2015) and Autumn (2018) aka #Meimei (little sister in Chinese). When she is not "mom-ing", Judy works in marketing, makes websites, and runs her own AirBNB. In her free time, she enjoys making crafts, cooking yummy food, volunteering at school and traveling to places whenever she can.