This weekend, millions of Australians will be forced to have really awkward conversations about why they’re not married yet, when they’re going to start having kids, and with that one uncle who wants to tell them everything he learned from Sky News about how ‘woke’ is ruining the world. One good way to divert these conversations is to play a board game, where everyone has to be focused on a task, and any time someone brings up a topic you don’t want to discuss, you can start loudly talking about tactics. Or you can just play with the cousins and make it clear to your uncle that you’re all busy and can’t talk right now.
Here’s my guide to board games the whole family can play, which don’t require too much set-up, and where explaining the rules won’t take too long.
Board games to play this Easter
Chicken VS Hotdog
Image: Big Potato Games
To start off strong, this game technically isn’t a board game, and it’s probably best if you play it outside. The game is pretty simple: you’ll need a chicken team and a hot dog team, and then you take turns drawing cards that will instruct you on how to throw your chosen mascot. The aim is to have the chicken/hotdog land upright after throwing it in the requested manner. It’s basically the water bottle challenge, but with adorable merch and instructions. Examples of throws include throwing it between your legs and having it rotate twice. Just don’t play near any windows.
You Lying Sack
Image: Exploding Kittens
You Lying Sack is a game all about lying. You put your hand in a bag and pick up either a specified number of Bad Things, or one Good Thing, and then offer your closed fist to the other players and see if they want to accept your offering. If they accept your handful of Bad Things, then they have to add them to their pile and get closer to losing, but if they take the Good Thing, then they can remove Bad Things from their pile and get closer to winning. It’s a game that relies entirely on how much stuff you can fit in your hand, and how good you are at lying about it.
It is a terrible game to play if there are any trust issues in your family. But if you have no unresolved issues relating to deception with your assembled relatives, it’s quick and easy to play and is a lot of fun.
Family backstory time! My entire life, my mother has hated board games. Could not stand them. Didn’t want to play with us ever. We would have big extended family games of Risk spread over three days during the Easter holidays, and Mum never played. Then we got her to play Azul with us in 2021 and she became obsessed. She could not get enough. We have now played hundreds of games of Azul and it’s awesome. So, if you have a relative like my mum, this might be a winner for them.
The game is based on the Portuguese practice of Azulejo, a kind of tile work. In the game, you pick up tiles from “factories” in the middle of the table to place on your board. It’s really pretty, it’s satisfying, no two games are the same, and it’s really chill. There are ways to lose points, gain points, use strategy, and mess up other players, so it suits lots of different play styles. It’s one of my favourite board games of all time, and I highly recommend it and all its expansions and spin-offs.
Carcassonne is the other board game my mum will play, and it’s one that my dad has really latched onto. Anytime we visit my parents we end up playing at least 8 hours of Carcassonne. I am not exaggerating.
Carcassonne is a real board game classic. It’s a tile placement game where you build roads and cities and claim them (or steal them). It’s really simple to set up and play, but you can also go really deep into strategy if that’s your jam. It’s the perfect game to play while eating chocolate and drinking tea.
Akropolis is best described as “what if Azul, Carcassonne and Catan had a really weird baby” and I respect that. While I haven’t had a chance to play this game yet, it’s one that I really want to try. You’re building multi-level cities with tile placement, resource management and pretty art. It’s for 2-4 players, so you can sit down with your favourite aunties/cousins and catch up for the 20-30min playtime.
Ticket to Ride
This is another one of my favourite games of all time. In the original version, you build a railroad across the USA and Canada. The game takes about an hour to play, and is best described as “What if Monopoly wasn’t terrible?” You spend most of the start of the game drawing cards, and then the last half of the game hastily trading in cards to build trains and complete tickets while hoping no one else takes the route you need.
The game will take about an hour, it’s the longest of all the games listed here, but it’s worth it if you have the time.
Really Loud Librarians
Image: Exploding Kittens
Really Loud Librarians is silly and imperfect, but great if you have a family of know-it-alls. You form two teams and take it in turns to move your character around the board trying to say as many things on the current topic that start with the letter highlighted on the board by your character. The further you get around the board on your round compared to the other team, the more points you get. It allows for fun and hijinks, but if you get mismatched special topics, it can become a bit frustrating, which is something to be aware of.
Hardback and Paperback are two more of my favourite games of all time, and are a good fit if your family is mostly made up of pedantic adults, or if you have a kids games table and an adults game table. Both are deck-building word games, and while Paperback is the easier one to learn, Hardback is more fun in the long run. I strongly recommend learning Paperback first, because then Hardback is much easier to get, particularly if you have people playing who don’t play a lot of games, because Hardback has more nuance.
In Paperback, you draw five cards, play a word with the provided letters, and then use the points you accrue to “buy” more cards from the centre of the deck to make more valuable words. Hardback is that, plus any card can be wild, and the cards you “buy” come in four genres that then have effects that boost other cards in your deck for more nuanced strategies.
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