Best board games to play at Thanksgiving
No Thanksgiving turkeys here.
It's Thanksgiving! Which means eating too much delicious food, drinking copious amounts, and getting together with loved ones. And what better way to spend time with those that matter to you than to play a fantastic Thanksgiving board game or two? Or three, or four...or even more!
What games should you play? A good board game at Thanksgiving should be fun for everyone, regardless of age or tabletop experience. This means that accessibility and brevity takes precedent (which is also the case for these beginner games as well), as it's rare that large groups will want to spend several hours on an epic strategy game.
Best board games to play at Thanksgiving
1. Rhino Hero: A fantastic board game for kids and adults wherein players must balance cards on top of one another in order to create a tower.
2. Ticket to Ride: New York: A quick board game entry in a classic series of train board games, wherein players race to connect as many destinations in the city as possible.
3. Detective Club: A party board game that sees players competing to guess who they think the hidden conspirator is by playing illustrative cards.
4. Hanabi: This co-op board game is a fast moving and fun experience wherein players need to work together to play firework cards in order.
5. Sushi Roll: Draft dice in this family board game about collecting matching pieces of sushi.
6. Decrypto: A mind-bending board game about guessing secret codes by matching words to numbers.
7. Snake Oil: A party board game that sees players attempting to persuade each other to purchase their ridiculous products.
8. Forbidden Desert: This beginner board game strands its players in a barren desert with only one path to freedom - team work.
9. Azul: Create beautiful mosaics in this family board game about brutal tile-drafting and careful pattern building.
10. Acquire: Chuck away Monopoly and pick up this trading board game about playing the stock market.
The games on this list contain a fine mixture of all the above traits, making them the best Thanksgiving board games money can buy. Every single one of these games are mostly certainly fit to grace the top of the Thanksgiving table.
The best board games for Thanksgiving should be approachable by everyone, both in theme and in difficulty, whilst still providing enough of a challenge or gimmick to be engaging (there are A LOT of terrible games marketed at unfortunate people). Good Thanksgiving board games should ideally be quick board games, easy to play and, most importantly, a ton of fun.
1. Rhino Hero
Balance cards to create the tallest tower possible in this dexterity board game.
Marvel may have the superhero film market cornered, but Rhino Hero rules the tabletop. Who is Rhino Hero? Why, he’s the crime-fighting, skyscraper-climbing vigilante created by German publisher Haba. And he needs your help!
Rhino Hero is a dexterity board game - games wherein players must collectively build a tower using a deck of cards, with the winner being the first person to exhaust their hand or the last to avoid knocking the tower over. Despite being as fundamentally simple as Jenga, the game has a number of competitive elements that elevate it beyond being just a children’s session of arts-and-crafts. Which is not to say that this isn’t a fantastic board game for kids, because it is! Adults are also guaranteed to have a good time with Rhino Hero, so don’t feel guilty about wacking out a copy when the kids aren’t around.
Each round is lightning-fast and set-up takes a matter of seconds, making Rhino Hero the ideal game to whip-out and pack-up between courses of Thanksgiving dinner.
Play time: 5-15 minutes
Best for: Getting everyone from young children and to grandparents involved
Buy Rhino Hero on Amazon.com and Amazon.UK.
2. Ticket to Ride: New York
Take a trip around iconic New York destinations in this fast-moving board game
Ticket to Ride remains one of the best board games of all time for two very simple reasons; one, it’s an excellent beginner board game and, two, it has trains in it.
Whilst its New York version does not have trains in it, it is more compact and faster to play than the original. Making it worth missing out on anything rail-related, even those super fancy toy train-sets that pop up in Hallmark holiday films. Set in 1960s New York, this train board game takes the basic rule set of Ticket to Ride (take turns to either draw or play cards to claim different transport routes and destinations) and concentrates it into a smaller map, turning a 30 to 60-minute game into a 10 to 15 minute one.
This makes Ticket to Ride: New York an ideal choice for a pre-Thanksgiving dinner diversion, as it takes no time to learn and doesn’t overstay its welcome.
Play time: 10-15 minutes
Best for: Imagining you’re in New York for Thanksgiving, without all the actual travelling
Buy Ticket to Ride: New York on Amazon.com and Amazon.uk
3. Detective Club
Use beautifully illustrated cards to communicate ideas and figure out the conspirator
Do you like Dixit? Are your family and friends hard to motivate? Is deceiving people your favourite Thanksgiving pastime? Then Detective Club might just be the metaphorical creamed corn of the party board game crop (sorry, that was awful).
As with Dixit, the abstract storytelling game from the minds at publisher Libellud, in Detective Club you’ll be playing and interpreting the intentions behind beautifully illustrated cards. But unlike in Dixit, players have secret roles pitting them against the others; will you be helping the team to expose a hidden conspirator? Or trying to cover your own tracks?
Adding a traitor mechanic to a classically non-combative game may not work for everyone. However, it definitely provides clearer objectives than Dixit, and watching other players trying to persuade the group that their terribly inappropriate/off-topic cards fit the chosen theme is endlessly entertaining.
Play time: 45 minutes
Best for: Appreciating fine art and having fun whilst doing it.
Buy Detective Club on Zatu
Thanksgiving means fireworks, which makes Hanabi an excellent co-op board game to bring to a festive party.
The goal of Hanabi is to place each set of cards in rows ordered from 1 to 5. It sounds easy enough, but things are complicated by the fact that everyone has to hold their cards facing away from themselves. This ultimately means that all players will have to rely on someone else for clues as to what is in their hands and, subsequently, what they should play.
Hanabi is a co-op board game that combines the juicy mechanics of set collection and card drafting, with a little dollop of careful communication on the side, to create the tabletop equivalent of a perfect Thanksgiving dinner.
Play time: 25 minutes
Best for: Having fireworks without scaring the cat
Buy Hanabi on Amazon.com and Amazon.uk
5. Sushi Roll
Find and collect matching pieces of sushi by rolling and drafting dice
Sushi is rarely on the menu during the holidays. However, playing Sushi Roll doesn’t just satisfy an appetite for deliciously salty fish, it also happens to be a ridiculously fun family board game that everyone can enjoy.
Despite being a very basic spin on the classic Sushi Go! formula where you collect different types of sushi to earn points, Sushi Roll is a surprisingly different experience from the original card-drafting game. The push-your-luck elements found in Sushi Go! become more prominent with the introduction of dice instead of cards, and scores have the potential to change at a moment’s notice.
It’s also just more fun to play sushi games with conveyor belts in them. Makes it feel more authentic, you know?
Play time: 20 minutes
Best for: Coming up with ideas for delicious sushi orders
Buy Sushi Roll on Amazon.com and Amazon.uk
Communicate codes using word clues in this head-scratching board game
We’re not including Codenames on this list. We don’t think it’s a bad game (we think it's one of the very best board games, in fact), we just wanted to pick something a little different. Also, we believe that you, our readers, are clever bunnies and can handle the mind-bending trials presented by Decrypto. Whether your friends and family are brainy enough is entirely up to your own discretion.
In the family board game Decrypto, players split into two teams, each with their own set of secret codewords. These codewords are assigned to a series of numbers: 1, 2, 3, 4. A single member of each team must help the others guess a random sequence of numbers, by using clues that point to the corresponding codewords (i.e. the clue is Honey, and Bee = 1). Additional layers are added to this already enormous Thanksgiving cake of a game by having the competing teams try to guess each other’s number sequences.
Decrypto certainly isn’t one to play after downing a couple of glasses of eggnog and munching on a few slices of pumpkin pie, but it’s a great party board game for people who like to sit and puzzle.
Play time: 15-45 minutes
Best for: Pretending to be top secret spies
Buy Decrypto on Amazon.com and Amazon.uk
7. Snake Oil
Peddle your ludicrous wares in this silly party board game about persuasion
For a game that requires a little less thought, and a lot more conversation, consider giving Snake Oil a try. It’s a game that stirs the creative juices! That tickles the funny bone! And, somewhat ironically, doesn’t overpromise on what it can deliver.
Snake Oil is your bog-standard persuasion party board game, putting its players in the role of a salesperson of dubious origin who wishes to make a quick buck on some unsuspecting customers. Each player must take it in turns to create a product using two cards (e.g. Thanksgiving and stick), before convincing the customer - one of the other players - that their product is most suited to their needs. For example, the Thanksgiving stick is the ideal tool for a chef to beat the flames off their clothes whenever an errant dribble of burning hot turkey juice sloshes out of the roasting pan.
Snake Oil may not be entirely original, but it cuts out the unnecessary faff that a lot of other persuasion party board games can fall prey to.
Play time: 20-30 minutes
Best for: Silver tongued rogues to practice their craft
Buy Snake Oil on Amazon.com and Amazon.uk
8. Forbidden Desert
Work together to escape a dangerous desert in this adventurous board game
If the harsh autumnal winds are getting you down, and you fancy a bit of sun and sand, then perhaps a game of Forbidden Desert might cure your Thanksgiving blues? Except of course, in this particular instance, the vacation goes a little awry and everyone finds themselves wandering the dunes in search of water and rescue.
Forbidden Desert is a brilliant little adventure game from Matt Leacock, the creator of one of the best board games out there: Pandemic. In this co-op board game, players assume different roles in a team of explorers looking to find their flying machine and escape the unforgiving glare of the sun. The game does some really clever things with the board space, having tiles hide special items and move randomly each turn.
Playing Forbidden Desert is a great way to spend a November afternoon curled up at home with a mug of hot eggnog and a pile of iced biscuits.
Play time: 45 minutes
Best for: Having an epic desert adventure without actually being in danger
Buy Forbidden Desert on Amazon.com and Amazon
Place beautiful tiles to make colourful patterns in this modern board game classic
Speaking of tiles and doing clever things with them, let’s talk about Azul. Perhaps one of the most beautiful games this side of 2010, Azul is about building patterns and collecting sets.
In the game, players are tasked with building a ceramic mosaic by selecting tiles from a shared pile and placing them on their board. At the end of each round, these tiles are then scored depending on the patterns they form and the sets they complete.
Azul makes for an excellent family board game because whilst there’s plenty of room for strategising, there aren’t a huge number of elements to keep track of, making it both incredibly engaging and remarkably accessible to play.
Play time: 30-45 minutes
Best for: Introducing board game newbies to the hobby
Buy Azul on Amazon.com and Amazon.uk
Play the stock market in this more modern Monopoly equivalent
We finish this list with a Monopoly alternative that shares its themes, but not its soul-crushingly monotonous gameplay.
Acquire sees players investing in various businesses, collecting stocks and eventually selling them to accumulate more wealth. What makes Acquire better than Monopoly is that it allows for far more expansion of its core mechanics. Rather than just placing individual tiles to acquire different businesses, players can merge connecting tiles to grow those businesses into even larger enterprises, before potentially selling them off and starting again. This ensures that Acquire stays entertaining throughout its entire playtime, and doesn’t grind to a halt halfway through because all the businesses have been bought (*cough* Monopoly *cough*).
So if your social circle are particularly into fulfilling fantasies of obtaining immense wealth, then playing the family board game Acquire is a fitting way to satisfy these desires.
Play time: 90 minutes
Best for: Avoiding playing Monopoly by any means possible
Buy Acquire on Amazon.com and Amazon
Tis the season for bonding over a board game or two, so for even more recommendations of what to play with family and friends over the holidays - especially once everyone’s had a couple of drinks and is getting into the holiday spirit - keep the party going with our best party board games.