Christmas is just around the corner, in case you hadn’t noticed, and soon it will be time to visit family and be merry together. For many of us, games will be part of this annual ritual, and I am sure we all have our selection of games that are tried and tested to be compatible with the varying experience within the various family groups who we will be seeing over the holidays. So here are those games that are my go-to selection and come out whenever the wider family comes together – and not only at Christmas time.

The first is Fluxx by Looney Labs, which is such a great filler game and easy to take with you anywhere. So even when your car is stuffed to the roof with presents, there is always room in the glove compartment for this easy to learn card game. Fluxx comes in a huge variety of versions now. There is the original, classic Fluxx of course, but then there are many themed versions covering anything from science to science-fiction, horror, fantasy, nature and many more, each with their own slight twist on the original rules. It shouldn’t be hard to find a version that suits you and your family equally – and you can always buy two versions if you do find it difficult to find one that works for everyone.

Another great game is, of course, the classic Carcassonne by Hans im Glück, which has probably as many versions, if not more, as Fluxx. Personally, I prefer the original Big Box, ignoring the “wheel of fortune” expansion. The classic, minus farmers, but plus the river and plus maybe the sheep, and I reckon everyone will be happy to lay tiles and put down meeples without having to think too hard. Different people will get different things out of this game – the competitive family member will maximize their points, while blocking other players as much as possible – others will want to create a neat map which has as few gaps as possible, while happily giving points to others, just to be able to create a pleasing result – others will do a bit of both. I was able to compress everything down into a small plastic box, making the game very portable and easy to fit under the driver’s seat if necessary.

If there simply isn’t room at the table, because it is filled with dirty plates, spoons, bowls, glasses and the remains of the Christmas crackers after the big Christmas lunch, then you can always opt for Love Letter formerly by Alderac Entertainment Group, now owner by Z-Man Games. It easily fits in a jacket pocket, and other than the draw pile and heart tokens, you really need no other room on the table. It’s another really easy to teach and quick-to-play game, and the theme should appeal to a fair few family members. If it doesn’t you could easily split the group into a game of Love Letter and one of Fluxx, which should keep everyone happy.

Finally, if you’re staying overnight, or maybe even a few days, then consider setting up and teaching one of the great Red Raven Games options. In particular, I’m thinking about Above and Below, but Near and Far could also work. These games are a bit more demanding and may require a bit more teaching. The play time is also longer, so you may want to start a game in the evening and then finish it the next day. Above and Below is probably more suited for a single game, but Near and Far also allows you to play just one game – you don’t have to play a whole campaign. Ryan Laukat’s illustrations are so beautiful and the gameplay is fun. The storytelling element should also appeal to a wide range of people, so it’s definitely worth bearing in mind.

Of course, there are many, many more games that might fight you and your family, but the above are the ones I come back to time and time again. They are my tried and tested, reliable options, so I can certainly recommend them.

So let me finish by wishing you a very merry Christmas. I hope you have a relaxing and peaceful time – whoever you’re with, or whether you’re by yourself. Games, to me at least, bring joy to people, and they have the ability to bring them together – whether you like solo games, multiplayer solitaire, multiplayer competitive or multiplayer co-operative. There should be a game for each and everyone.

Merry Christmas from Oliver at Tabletop Games Blog

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