SALT LAKE CITY — Family reunions don’t just have to be filled with time you spend talking, eating or avoiding the family water fight by the pool.
They’re also great opportunities to play board games, and whether you’re looking for something to sit down and play with a few cousins after dinner or you want something to really entertain the nieces and nephews, we've found you some new games beyond Monopoly, Risk and Candy Land.
Here are the criteria we looked at when choosing games for a reunion:
1. Games that pack easily. Sure, everyone might love to play a few games of Scythe, but one bulging box and two boxes for expansions is just too much to bear.
2. Games that are easy to learn. You don’t want to spend an hour trying to get the family to listen, because everybody really is there to talk.
3. Games that are still fun even if you have to play and explain them 10 times as people rotate in and out. Make sure it’s something you enjoy, because if you don’t, you’ll just end up bored.
4. Games that you and your family can talk over. People are going to talk, so you may as well embrace it.
2-5 players; 30-45 min. playing time
One of the true classics of gaming, Carcassonne just hit adulthood with its 18th year of French countryside tile placement. It plays in under an hour, so it’s quick enough to keep everyone focused, but it’s also long enough to really dig your teeth into.
You’ll need a reasonably sized table to play this on since you’re creating the map yourself. For that, it’s not a perfect fit for every situation — there are few worse games to try to take into the woods.
Tip: Leave the box at home and just bring a cloth bag with all the tiles inside. It packs more easily and you won’t have to worry about bending anything — plus, it’s easy to pass the tiles around.
Sheriff of Nottingham
3-5 players; 60 min. playing time
If you’ve ever wanted to play a game where you’re a simple farmer who may or may not be trying to sneak crossbows, gems and spices past an exacting 15th-century English sheriff, Sheriff of Nottingham is the game for you.
It’s also the game for you if you enjoy a little, um, “light" lying to your family. It’s a game of deception, planning and calculated risk — but everyone gets a turn being the one lied to.
Tiny Epic Galaxies
1-5 players; 30–60 min. playing time
If you’re really into strategy games but you don’t have the space for something weightier, Tiny Epic Galaxies is a great option. It’s in the style of much larger, more expansive board games, but it’s packed into the size of a paperback book, which you always have room for.
2-4 players; 45-60 min. playing time
If you’re looking for a highly strategic, cooperative game that plays in about an hour, is easy to teach and will catch the attention of everyone around, Pandemic is the game for you. In Pandemic, you and your teammates try to save the world from the spread of several deadly diseases.
Easily one of the most influential board games created, Pandemic was part of an early wave of cooperative board games. Despite being only a decade old, it helped inspire hundreds of successful board and card games.
This one has to come with a couple caveats, though.
First, your family might end up fighting over what to do, or you might have one player who dominates conversation. That’s not a recipe for family fun.
Second, there are a number of little pieces that are critical for the game. If you lose one of the 8-millimeter disease cubes, the game will be much harder to play. Be careful in transport.
Tip: Pack all the small-ish pieces in a (clean!) tackle box so they don’t squirm away.
Hanabi or Beyond Baker Street
2-5 players; 25-30 min. playing time
If you’re itching for a cooperative game but you just can’t make commit to a large space, either Hanabi or Beyond Baker Street — they’re very similar — can be a great option.
Both involve not knowing what cards you have in your hand but knowing what others have in theirs, so it takes some skilled teamwork and communication for you to succeed.
Games that get everyone involved
2-4 players; 20 min. playing time
Love Letter has you trying to figure out your opponents' cards as you try to deliver a love letter to the princess.
Love Letter is a game with a low learning curve and a quick playing time, perfect for a family reunion. With a tiny profile — some versions come in a small drawstring pouch, large enough for a handful of cards — it’s a great game to stash in a backpack pocket.
2-6 players; 15 min. playing time
Coup might as well be a stand-in for any social deception game — Avalon, The Resistance, Werewolf in its many varieties — but Coup is a good option because it’s quick, easy to teach and it doesn’t get too confrontational.
In Coup, you face up to five other players, all of whom start with two roles, like the Duke or the Captain — but you don’t know what roles the other players have and they’re probably lying about what they have in front of them.
Spyfall or Spyfall 2
3-8 players or 3-12 players; 10 min. playing time
One of the most traditional party games on this list, Spyfall drops one or two secret spies into a location full of people in their natural environment. Those spies then have to figure out where they’ve landed before they’re found out for the imposter they are.
Players are given one card each. You’ll take turns asking each other a question, but if you give too much away in your question or your answer, the spy will be able to figure out the location — but if you fall too far on the other side, others will assume you’re the spy, even if you’re not.
2-8 players; 30 min. playing time
In this quick-to-learn game about camel races, you bet on the outcomes of said races in an effort to earn more money than your opposition. This is a nice one in that it plays up to eight players, so everyone can join in the fun.
3-6 players; 5 min. playing time
Easily the quickest game on this list, Spaceteam is a frenetically paced cooperative card game where everyone’s trying to repair a classic-style rocket ship before time runs out. But sometimes you won't know the names of the pieces you need; instead, you'll have a drawing of what must be some confusing 28th-century technology.
Sushi Go! or Sushi Go Party!
2-5 players or 2-8 players; 20-30 min. playing time
Pick a sushi roll, pass the rest on: That’s how you play Sushi Go!, but the strategy goes deeper than that. Get more points for sets of sushi — or for a variety.
2-7 players; 45 min. playing time
Unless you’re a professional legume entrepreneur, Bohnanza is the most fun you’ll have trading beans. Grow as many beans in a variety as you can, but as you trade them in, they become more scarce.