With Great Board Games, No One’s Bored at Christmas

Get a 'Clue' — 'It was Colonel Mustard in the library with a candlestick!'

This Christmas, include at least one board game on your list for the whole family to play together.

Nothing is better than sitting around the fire with hot chocolate, some dice — and some notepaper to keep score. Board games offer active connectivity to families — something that our personalized worlds full of smartphones and electronics cannot replicate.


In this classic detective game, players move from room to room in a mansion to solve the mystery of: who done it, with what, and where? (Who doesn’t love yelling out, “It was Colonel Mustard in the library with a candlestick!”) In 1944 in England, Anthony E. Pratt, a solicitor’s clerk, filed for a patent of his invention of a murder-mystery game called “Murder!” The game was originally meant to be a diversion to be played during long air raid drills in underground bunkers, according to

Shortly thereafter, Pratt and his wife presented the game to a Waddingtons’ store executive, who purchased the game and provided its trademark name of “Cluedo” (a play on “clue” and “ludo,” Latin for “I play”). Though the patent was granted in 1947, the game was not officially launched until 1949, at which time the game was simultaneously licensed to Parker Brothers in the U.S.

Parker Brothers renamed it “Clue.” (ages 8 and up)


The closest many of us will ever get to manning a destroyer or submarine, Battleship was originally a World War I-era pencil-and-paper game known by several different names — but Milton Bradley made it into a board game in 1967. The pencil and paper grids were changed to plastic grids with holes that could hold plastic pegs used to record an opponent’s guesses. Each player deploys his ships secretly on a square grid. Then each player shoots at the other’s grid by calling a location. The fun part? Calling out “Hit!” or “Miss!”

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The game of deduction is played by guessing where the enemy ships are — and aiming to sink them. The “Salvo variant” listed in the rules allows each player to call out from one to five shots at a time depending on how many ships the player has left (players each start off with five ships, so they start off with five shots. As ships are sunk, the players gets fewer shots). This version of the game is closer to the original pencil-and-paper public domain game, according to (ages 7 and up)


Perhaps the most well-known board game in the world, Monopoly originated in the U.S. in 1903, as a way to demonstrate that an economy that rewards wealth creation is better than one in which monopolists work under few constraints, according to the book “Monopoly’s Inventor: The Progressive Who Didn’t Pass ‘Go,'” by Mary Pilon. It was also meant to promote the economic and taxation theories of economist and journalist Henry George.

The current version was first published by Parker Brothers in 1935. With an original subtitle of “The Fast-Dealing Property Trading Game,” Monopoly is named after the economic concept of the same name — the domination of a market by one entity. All we know is that it feels really good when you have multiple hotels on a single square — and when a competitor is “sent directly to jail.” It’s also fun to be the banker — and players find they have one game piece (top hat, dog, old-timey car) that they are especially attached to. (ages 8 and up)


This classic board game for up to four players (and later versions for up to six players) is won by being the first player to have all four playing pieces reach the player’s “home base” on the board. The game’s name comes from the action of capturing an opponent’s piece by landing on its space, which is known as “aggravating.”

Related: These American Toys Are Classics for a Reason

Aggravation is one of the many variations of the game Parcheesi. It was first produced in 1960 by CO-5 Company, and is now made by Hasbro. Aggravation is so popular that an online company makes custom wooden game boards. As Aggravation Game Boards says on its website, “We are pleased to offer our customers the best Aggravation game board on the internet. We have been building wooden Aggravation board games since 1971 and have gained much experience in producing a quality product.” (ages 6 and up)

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