Maybe you're waiting for the turkey to finish cooking. Maybe the meal's over and you're all together in the living room staring silently at a wall. Whatever the case, if you're looking to spend quality time with your friends and family this Thanksgiving and you want to beat them in a friendly competition, here are seven games we'd recommend — no consoles required.
And if you have any recommendations, let us know!
Settlers of Catan
It’s a game that pops up on nearly every list that includes board games, and for good reason. Settlers of Catan lets up to four people (six with expansions) build up a settlement in a tiny, isolated region, amassing points based mostly on how large your tiny empire grows. Resources can be acquired or traded between players, so if you're the kind of family that grew up yelling at each other over "trade favoritism" in Monopoly, expect to do the same with sheep and bricks — all the while your little cousin decides to spend the whole game just focused on making the longest-possible road (and absolutely nothing else).
Settlers of Catan is available pretty much anywhere board games are sold (including Amazon). Don't be fooled by the Family Edition — get the original. If you need more than four players, pick up the 5 and 6 Player Expansion. Confused? Here's a chart explaining all the various versions.
Ticket to Ride
Maybe you want that European-style board game experience without the need to trade or even play nicely? Ticket to Ride tasks you with connecting cities / countries through railway transit. Each contract (which is for your eyes only) names two cities; connect them to get points, or miss by even one inch of track and lose points. The challenge comes when everyone else has their own contracts, and timesharing tracks is not an option — if your dad builds the Las Vegas-to-Salt Lake City connection you so desperately needed, you’re gonna have to instead try Las Vegas to Los Angeles to San Francisco to Salt Lake City. Dick move, dad.
Ticket to Ride is available pretty much anywhere board games are sold (including Amazon). If the thought of building railroads across America bore you, other editions exist using a map of Europe and Nordic Countries.
Here's an excuse for everyone to be on their phones and talk to each other. Spaceteam is a multiplayer-only iOS / Android game where each family member is presented with a nonsensical control panel and a list of commands that can apply to anyone on the team. For example, maybe you're being told to set the artificial grill to six, but you don't have an artificial grill dial — someone does, so find out who. Mom, it's definitely you. It's right there, mom, on your screen. HURRY AND CHANGE IT TO SIX MOM OH GOD WE ARE GOING TO DIE. Best of all, it works across platforms, meaning iPhones, iPads, and Android devices can play together in perfect, argument-free harmony over Wi-Fi. Except for John, because he just had to get a Windows Phone. Sorry, John.
"Isn't that the game that Ellen plays?" Yep! Put a phone / tablet up to your head and watch in wonder as everyone in the room starts yelling at you in unison. The trick is to parse all the screaming and guess the word on the phone — all without succumbing to that lingering feeling this has all happened to you before, years ago, and there was crying involved.
Did you ever bring an Xbox 360 home for the holidays to show your family Kinect? Remember how much fun it was when they tried Dance Central? Now that same contorted experience can be brought to the living room in just a smartphone. Developed in collaboration with the Dutch National Ballet, Bounden will make you and a partner, each holding one end of the phone, twist and tilt and do something that vaguely resemble dancing. Trust us, it's fun!
Its tagline — "Dumb Mexican wrestling for two!" — says it all. The game is stylish and ludicrously simple: you and a loved one play opposing wrestlers, locked at the wrist, who must flip the other person on their head by way of out-jumping them. There's just one button ("jump") for each opponent, all played on one screen — or you can play by yourself if you're looking to avoid your family.
If you're in the kitchen with three people or at a bar with half a dozen, Tiny Games has something everyone can play. The app itself is more of a suggestion engine: depending on the location and the number of players, the app will provide step-by-step instructions on a real-world game to play. The free version includes all the games to play at Home (specifically Lounge, Kitchen, Bedroom) — if you want ideas for things to do while walking or being stuck in traffic, that's gonna cost extra.
Tiny Games is available on iTunes.