Nothing screams winter like curling up on your couch on a toasty December night and playing Monopoly.
As the calendar quickly flips to the cold season, the staff of The Spectrum compiled a list of the best board games for your playing pleasure:
A fast-paced, gear-turning game, Scattergories is a competitive and exciting reinvention of the classic “categories.” The game, which requires two to six players, is perfect for the kitchen table, on camping trips or when with friends. Set against a buzzing timer, players have a little over a minute to fill out answers for 12 categories, ranging anywhere from celebrities to world capitals. The catch, however, is that all answers must begin with the same letter, this being determined by a 20-sided letter die, rolled before each round. If nothing else, the game is sure to have you arguing over what exactly qualifies as “something you throw away” and feeling more than triumphant when the other players agree that, yes, one’s “dignity” fits the description.
- Kara Anderson
If you’re looking for the ultimate adventure, Talisman is the game for you. In this multiplayer game, up to six players traverse across three “regions,” in a quest to reach the Crown of Command and win the game. Along the way, you’ll encounter deadly monsters, faeries, gnomes, dragons, spirits, merchants and so much more. Players gain strength or craft from defeating enemies in dice battles. Weapons, armor and magic objects can also be acquired through drawing cards or purchase with gold coins. More than four expansions are available to unlock new characters, cards and regions — players can explore the dungeon, highland, city and woodlands. Despite the initial complexity, Talisman has a relatively small learning curve, making it a great option for those looking to play something new. Be sure to set aside some time, as this expedition can take up to 90 minutes.
- Jack Porcari
Stratego is the board game version of capture the flag. Origins come from France with a game called L’Attaque, which was released in 1910. France is usually waiving the surrender flag, but l’Hexagone ironically created a game about war. Stratego is very similar to the original iteration and is played between two people. You and your opponent have pieces ranked from one (Spy) to 10 (The Marshal) that you can position on opposite sides on the 10-by-10 board. Then you take turns moving your pieces, one space at a time, to find the opponent's flag. Only you can see how you position your pieces until your opponent tries to fight you. Whoever has the highest rank wins and the losing piece is thrown out of the game. The French said it best: “Jeu de bataille avec pièces mobiles sur damier,” or “a battle game with mobile pieces on a gameboard.”
- Dan Eastman
“Sorry!” is a game as simple as its name. Each player is given three or four pieces and attempts to reach their “home” before the others. The player who can get all their pieces to their respective “home” wins. Players move their pieces by drawing cards which direct how many spaces they can move. If your piece lands on the same block as another player’s piece, you let out an emphatic “Sorry!” and send your opponent back to their starting point. It’s literally the name of the game, as there’s nothing better than stopping the progress of your opponent with an unapologetic “Sorry!”
- Anthony DeCicco
The Game of Life
The Game of Life doesn’t have quite as many twists-and-turns as life itself, but it’s still a classic. Originally created in 1860 by the game pioneer Milton Bradley, The Game of Life has since gotten a fresh look — but has still endeared itself to American consumers and inspired numerous board games, video games and even a TV show. Players get to travel along a track in a small automobile, where they have the ability to navigate through marriage, children, school and retirement. And, the game is relatively short: at approximately one hour, it’s a speedy alternative to Monopoly.
- Justin Weiss
Ticket to Ride
While not nearly as old as some of the classic board games on this list, Ticket to Ride plays like one. Players compete to build the most expansive railroad network across North America, Europe and the globe. While the hand you’re dealt is (partially) random, it’s up to you to play that hand well to complete as many routes as possible. Ticket to Ride has all the intensity and cut-throat competition of Monopoly or Settlers of Catan, all while boasting much simpler rules and much less math.
- Grant Ashley
You may have hated Scrabble when you were young because your mom forced you to play it. Something about “bolstering your vocabulary.” The game is simple; players are given seven letters at a time to string together the best possible words while also getting the higher point squares. Childhood trauma aside, Scrabble is the ideal board game and deserves a second chance. It takes about an hour, relies on both luck and strategy and produces a healthy competitive atmosphere. You will get into fights about how “qua” isn’t a word and how someone can’t count a double letter score twice. A challenge to your spelling ability and to your patience, Scrabble is worth a play.
- Julie Frey
Nothing ends friendships faster than Catan. Even the most well-planned strategies can be thwarted by opponents in the opening turns. Very similar to the strategy computer game series “Sid Meier’s Civilization,” Catan enlists players with the task of building the largest connected empire across a map of hexagons, as they compete for control of resources as well as complete control of the map. Of course, no Game of Thrones would be complete without the ability to trade resources with (and in some cases, steal from) your opponents, opening up a realm of possibilities for alliances, schemes and unforeseen consequences. Best of all, Catan is a surprisingly fast game, with most four-person games lasting around or less than an hour. While not for anyone looking to relax, Catan will challenge players at every turn, forcing improvisation and rarely a boring turn.
- Alex Falter
It took me until I was 18 to actually understand and follow all the rules of Monopoly, but once I did it easily became my favorite game. Created in 1935 as a lesson about wealth inequality, it entertains anyone with a knack for strategy or an insane amount of luck. Winning the game relies on taking your time, developing properties (or “color sets”) and being smart with your money, which doesn’t always mean saving it. The game ends when one person goes bankrupt, and whoever has the most money wins. It can be painstakingly long and ruin many friendships, but if you win, it will be totally worth it.
- Jenna Quinn
Left Center Right
There is nothing I love more than sitting around my uncle’s kitchen table on Christmas Eve, gambling with my family. You’ve heard of the classics: poker, blackjack, etc., with high stakes and high rewards. But let me introduce you to Left Center Right. This seemingly harmless game involves each player starting with three tokens (which can be coins, dollars, etc.). Each player rolls three dice labeled “L,” “R,” “C” or with a black dot. The dice direct you where to pass your tokens, with “L” for left, “R” for right, “C” for the center pot and a black dot for holding onto your token. Slowly, the center pot will fill with tokens, until only a few are left in play. The last player to have a token wins the center pot. The simple rules allow for members of all ages to play, which can leave hilarious head-to-head grandparent vs. six-year-old matchups.
- Reilly Mullen