Watching TV and playing video games with your loved ones is fun, but it’s good to get away from the screen every once in a while. Board games are a great way to spend time with friends and family away from the trappings of technology. And no worries if you’re tired of classics like Monopoly and Scrabble, as there are plenty of excellent alternatives. From crowd-pleasing titles to geekier fare, here are our suggestions for screen-free fun this holiday season.
Gloomhaven: Jaws of the Lion
If you have a loved one who always wanted to try a Dungeons and Dragons-style role-playing game but were intimidated by its complexity, then consider giving them Gloomhaven: Jaws of the Lion. Essentially, it’s a beginner-friendly version of the much larger and more complicated Gloomhaven that debuted in 2017; Jaws of the Lion was specifically designed for the casual player. It’s a cooperative game, too, meaning players should work together to defeat everything from evil cultists to giant vipers.
The game features a step-by-step tutorial so you can get started the moment you open the box, which is perfect for those who hate reading rule books. That, combined with its beautiful design, story book of maps and excellent character backgrounds makes this one of our favorite games of the year. Gloomhaven: Jaws of the Lion is sure to delight any fantasy fan, but it is also perfect for those who are new to board games.
Pandemic Legacy: Season 0
It might seem a little on-the-nose to give someone a board game about a global pandemic in 2020, but Pandemic Legacy: Season 0 is not about eradicating diseases. Instead, it’s more about uncovering a network of Soviet spies during the Cold War in 1962. Players take on the role of medical graduates working for the CIA, tasked with preventing the creation of a deadly bioweapon, saving humanity in the process.
Though it’s designed as a prequel, you do not have to have played the other Pandemic Legacy games to enjoy it (don’t worry, no spoilers here). Much like Pandemic Legacy Seasons 1 and 2, Season 0 is a legacy-style board game, which means you’ll be ripping up cards, slapping on stickers, and permanently altering the state of the board as you play. Each decision you make will have consequences for the next game and so on. If your loved one is sick and tired of “normal” board games, then Pandemic Legacy Season 0 will make for a refreshing change, offering a board game experience that is as cinematic and dramatic as some movies.
Back to the Future: Back in Time
Your loved ones don’t need to be a fan of the Back to the Future films to like this board game, but it sure helps. Set in the first movie, players take on the roles of Marty McFly, Doc Brown, Jennifer Parker and Einstein the dog (yes, the girlfriend and the dog don’t play significant roles in the movie, but board games are allowed to get creative). Their goal: help Marty’s parents fall in love and make sure the DeLorean speeds past the clock tower just as the lightning strikes. That, combined with the eye-catching comic book art and the DeLorean toy car makes this a great gift for anyone in your life who’s a fan of the movie, or simply someone who enjoys a solid family-friendly board game.