It’s late afternoon on Christmas day. Your family has just polished off a wonderful lunch, had a bit to drink and are on the verge of going into a food coma. You’ve all been together for a few more hours than you’re used to these days and nobody is quite sure what to do. Next thing you know, a battered copy of some old board game gets pulled out of the linen closet. Then the greatest of terrible holiday traditions begins: family arguments.
Family arguments can be explosive. One minute you’re playing Monopoly and the next thing you know, you don’t talk to your sister for years. However we can’t let tradition slide. The solution to this problem is simple; instead of arguing over games, play games designed around arguing. When the argument is the game, you can contain the fallout while still taking part in the holiday tradition.
Social deduction games are a popular type of board game where players are typically given hidden roles and must struggle together towards their own goals. Full of lies and deception, they are the perfect self-contained family argument to have before everyone has an afternoon nap.
Players: 5 to 10
Play Time: 30 minutes
In the not too distant dystopian future, a resistance force has gathered to topple the empire. Imperial spies have infiltrated the resistance and nobody knows who they can trust. The resistance must work together to assemble teams and go on missions while the spies try to weasel their way onto the mission in an attempt to sabotage them. One of the most popular social deduction games currently available, The Resistance is a game where players must use the limited information available to them to win everyone’s trust or convince them that someone is a dastardly spy.
For families that aren’t fans of dystopian futures, The Resistance: Avalon is a separate game that takes the core gameplay of The Resistance and transplants it into King Arthur’s court, replacing the resistance members and spies with loyal knights and minions of Mordred. The Resistance: Avalon includes a handful of role cards that will mix up the quickly developing metagame. These role cards are also available in the Hidden Agenda expansion for The Resistance if you prefer the original theme.
The Resistance becomes more interesting the more you know about the people you’re playing with. If you’re playing with your family, you’ve got a lifetime of tells and trust to work with.
Players: 3 to 8.
Play Time: Variable. Typically 8 to 10 minutes per round
How did we get here? Spyfall is a recently released party game where a lone spy is desperately trying to avoid detection long enough to work out where they are. At the start of every round, all players except the spy are dealt the same location card. They interrogate each other, trying to suss out who knows where they are and who doesn’t have the foggiest idea. If you think you know who the spy is, start throwing accusations because you win by finding the spy. Don’t be too specific in your answers though because the spy wins by working out where you are.
Spyfall is a hilarious game of improvisation. You may draw everyone’s attention as you flounder, desperate to come up with an answer that doesn’t give away that you’re on a space station or confidently avoid suspicious while everyone else is trying to work out why the hell there would be a spy in a supermarket.
Sheriff of Nottingham
Players: 3 to 5
Play Time: 60 minutes
It’s market day in Nottingham and the sheriff is on the lookout for contraband. Players must declare their goods to the sheriff, hoping their bag will be inspected when they’re being honest and praying that they’ll sneak past while they’re lying. Is the disturbing amount of honesty simply a ruse to sneak a cart load of contraband in the final round? The game truly comes alive when everyone tries to convince the sheriff to look at everyone else’s goods. Bribes? Why yes, the sheriff can be bribed into looking at someone’s goods or to look the other way. Using money to make your point is almost as traditional as the family argument itself.
Sheriff of Nottingham avoids the direct accusations of the other games. If your family is likely to take accusations personally, it’s a good choice to stop your little tiff from turning into a full blown row.