9 Alternative Christmas board games that won't fit in your stocking

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9 Alternative Christmas board games that won't fit in your stocking

Sitting around the table playing a board game is a Christmas staple in most households. However, playing the same games each year can be a little tedious. If you’re getting bored of Monopoly, Pictionary, Balderdash and Charades, here are some alternative games you can look forward to playing this festive season.

We’ve tried to pick some that are a good entry level for all the family, starting with some classic picks and ending on a few new ones we’re looking forward to. We’ll leave some suggestions at the end for places to go to discover more awesome games too!

1. Takenoko

  • 2-4 players
  • £27
  • Ages 10+

Takenoko the board game

As well as having an adorable theme, Takenoko is a great gateway game for all the family. Its rules are simple enough to pick up quick, even for board game novices and its tiled format means it's very replayable.

The game is set in an emperor’s bamboo garden. While the diligent gardener is doing his best to maintain and grow the emperor’s impressive grounds, the pesky panda is doing his best to eat it all!

Players score points by completing criteria set on score cards; putting down land to expand the garden, growing bamboo and appeasing the panda’s voracious appetite. When a player completes a set amount of cards the game ends and scores are added up.

There’s a multitude of opportunities to rumble other players by eating the bamboo they need to grow, or growing the bamboo they need to eat. The components are fantastic and the game can be enjoyed by adults and children alike.

Takenoko was one of the first ‘gateway’ games that got us into exploring alternative board games and is still a firm favourite.

2. Ticket to Ride

  • 2-5 players
  • £30
  • Ages 8+

Ticket to Ride the board game

Since its release Ticket to Ride has taken the board gaming world by storm, winning numerous awards and expanding to encompass varying expansions and versions. If you haven’t heard of it yet you should probably put down your sherry and check it out.

In Ticket to Ride players are in a race to complete train journeys on the map by placing down their coloured carriages. Each turn a player can draw carriage cards or lay down carriages to claim a route by expending the cards in their hand. When one player is down to two or less carriages, the game ends. Players receive points for the journey cards they complete and deductions for the ones they don’t.

Now, if the train theme doesn’t exactly enthuse you, have no fear, you don’t need to be a train spotter to enjoy this board game. Again the rules are simple, it can be picked up quick and there are endless opportunities to block and steal routes from other players which makes for a very fun time. You can also try and win big by attempting long or multiple routes and gamble the chance of losing points by not completing them before the game ends.

We’ve even played this game with our parents as an alternative to the usual Christmas board games and it went down a steaming success. There’s even a Christmassy Nordic countries edition if you want to be truly festive. Choo-choo!

3. Small World

  • 2-5 players
  • £30
  • Age 10+

Smallworld the board game

If a Christmas battle is more you kind of board game, Small World may float your boat as a whimsical and lighthearted alternative to the classic game Risk.

Another easy to pick up game, Small World is a fight to command and conquer the small fantasy world set on your board. Each player picks a race which has its own unique benefits; the race is paired with a special power - with a huge range of combinations available, making the game different every time.

Players take it in turns to deploy units, conquer lands and take lands from their opponents, scoring victory coins each turn for the areas they control. When you race is defeated, or when you’ve decided it’s a lost cause, you can start a new race on its conquest to rule the teeny tiny epic world! The game ends when the turn marker reaches its final spot.

Small world leaves endless opportunities for being mischievous, forming alliances or being brutal to your family and friends. We particularly love the interchangeable race and special power tiles which means that every game is a different one. If you’re a fan there’s a huge array of expansions too, from different boards, to additional races and powers.

We recommend the more players the merrier for this one, for maximum whimsical chaos!

4. Pandemic

  • 2-4 players
  • £23
  • Ages 10+

Pandemic the board game

If working together for the greater good of humankind is more you style of family Christmas fun, then Pandemic is a hugely popular cooperative game that you might enjoy as an alternative to your usual board games this Christmas.

In Pandemic players work together to stop the global spread of four different virus strains threatening to destroy human kind. They’d certainly ruin Christmas. Each player takes on a certain role, which has certain benefits, and can be used to work together with other players to help put an end to this pandemic.

Players must move around the board to contain disease outbreaks and cure disease hotspots. To add to the chaos, each turn new diseases will start to develop in new locations, or already situated viruses may get worse. Players must balance their time containing outbreaks and finding cures before it’s too late. If they don’t the world as we know it will end and Christmas will most certainly be ruined!

Pandemic is a definite challenge and certainly gets people excited and working together, which is the great thing about cooperative board games. You won’t be sitting behind your hand of cards, waiting for your turn to come around the board. The game itself isn’t too easy either. Whether you beat it or not, the fun is in the trying and if you don’t win you’ll want to try again.

There’s nothing like working together with friends and family at Christmas, especially if it’s to save the world from deadly bacteria.

5. Carcassonne

  • 2-5 players
  • £26
  • Age 10+

Carcassonne the board game

If the cold and snow is getting you down at Christmas why not transport yourself to the south of France with this board game.

Like Takenoko, Carcassonne is another one of our staple games and a great one for playing with the more casual gamer too.

Each player has a set of coloured people (meeples). They take it in turn to lay down a land tile and then a meeple. Points are scored for building roads, castles, farms and abbeys that your meeple are placed on. The game ends when all the tiles have been placed.

It sounds simple and it is. However, there are endless opportunities to nab points from your friends, and the tiled format of the game means that every time the board and the game are different.

If you like the base game there’s a ton of expansions which can both add to the depth of the game or change it completely. We recommend the traders and builders and the inns and cathedrals expansions to bulk up the base game while keeping it to its fun and simple core.

6. Five Tribes

  • 2-4 players
  • £38
  • Age 13+

Five Tribes the Board Game

If Carcassonne doesn’t quite warm your cockles enough this Christmas, why not transport yourself to the desert of the Five Tribes.

Five Tribes is set on a tiled board, depicting a desert landscape. Players take it in turns to pick up meeples from a tile and move them onto other tiles, dropping a meeple on every tile along the way. You must end your move by dropping the last meeple onto a tile with at least one similar coloured piece on it, reuniting it with a member of its tribe. If you clear a tile of meeples you can claim it.

Each coloured meeple represents a different tribe and depending which one is placed on the last tile when you move, you gain a differently ability; from assassins that can take out other meeples, to merchants that let you buy goods, to viziers which let you unlock powerful Djins.

The game ends when no more meeples can be moved. Points are calculated for the number of meeples and Djins you’ve collected, the number of goods bought from the bazaar, the number of oasis and temples built and the number of tiles claimed by each player.

There’s something really fun about the mechanics of this game – picking up meeples, working out the routes you can take and the maximal points you can score by doing so. There’s also many an opportunity to rumble other players with the games turn order, which is dependent on a bidding system.

Immensely replayable due to the tiled board and the many ways you can score points, Five Tribes is still one of our favorite alternate board games to play with friends and family. The rules may take a little longer to explain than some of the others on this list, but once you know them, you know them. There’s also lots of manoeuvre for playing either a highly strategic, chess like game, or a fun, faster-paced alternative to the usual Christmas board game.

7. Ghost Fightin’ Treasure Hunters

  • 2-4 players
  • £30
  • Age 8+

Ghost Fightin’ Treasure Hunters the board game

Ghost Fightin’ Treasure Hunters is another cooperative game and one which looks great for young kids too. We haven’t played this one yet, but it’s certainly on our Christmas list!

Players work together as a group of young kids exploring a haunted house. Within the house are gems, which you’ll have to successfully gather and escape with, before the house becomes overwhelmed with ghosts. Successfully manage dealing with hauntings and leave with all the gems and you win!

We love the look of this game from its colourful, Cluedo style board to the nifty little backpacks on each player’s character which holds the gems. Again, as a cooperative game it’s a great one for getting people to work together and this game specifically seems to be at a nice level for getting the kids involved too. Although, if you’re a big kid like us you can enjoy it too!

8. Forbidden Sky

  • 2-5 players
  • £25-30
  • Age 10+

Forbidden Sky the board game

The third installment in a series that started with Forbidden Island, Forbidden Sky is another cooperative board game that we’re anticipating

Set on a mysterious floating platform in the sky, players must work together to explore the area and fix the wiring to the rocket in order to escape before time’s up and they’re struck by lightning, or they run out of rope and get blown off of the stormy platform!

Each turn players can explore more area by laying down and matching up tiles, use gear they collect to help protect them and their friends or move around the board and lay down components to wire the escape ship.

There’s a ton of cool components and mechanisms in this game; from the wind dial, which shows the direction players are blown across the platform; to the tiles that unfold the map as you play; to the grand finale (if you are successful in making the circuit) where the rocket lights up and plays the launching sounds. There are also several difficulty modes, which means you can play a more laid back family game or an unforgiving expert escape mission.

9. Jurassic Park Danger!

  • 2-5 players
  • £25
  • Age 10+

Jurassic Park Danger the board game

Who wouldn't wan't a board game inspired by this classic movie. There's been a few but this is the latest in the franchise and it's looking pretty good.

The aim of the game is to either escape from Jurassic Park island by turning on the generator and escaping to the Helicopter (if you are a human player) or, eating all the yummy humans (if you play the dinosaurs)!

One character plays the dinosaurs, the rest play classic characters from the original movies. Each character is equipped with their own skills sets and abilities which can be used to help each other distract dinosaurs, hide from danger and escape.

To the chopper!

Try something different this Christmas

So, we hope we’ve presented you with some alternative board games that might spur your imagination this Christmas to try something a little bit different. There’s an awesome array of board games out there for you to explore, don’t get stuck playing the same old ones!

If you're wanting to see more board game reviews we recommend checking out Dice TowerGrey Elephant Gaming or the Tabletop series on Youtube.

While you’re here…

Do you know what also goes well with creating a cosy Christmas atmosphere? Our scented candles! There’s nothing quite like snuggling down to a good game in the evening with friends and family, surrounded by the glow of a nice smelling candle. Check them out here.


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