Games that got us through the school holidays - Azul game in play feature

7 Games That Got us Through the Holidays 2022  

About the Authors

We are parents who love board gaming. We have three children and have been enjoying board games as a family ever since we had our first child. We share our real unbiased experiences and opinions on board games so you can decide if they are right for your family. We also write guides and articles to help you get the most out of your family game time. 

As school holidays approach each December, parents start to wonder how they will keep their kids occupied and entertained for close to 2 months! When you have a wide age range to cater for like us finding things that everyone can enjoy for that length of time can be really challenging. So, we thought we would share some of the games that really helped us through the holidays, so you can keep them in mind for when you need them. Read on to find out which games made all the difference.


What you will find in our 7 Games That Got Us through the Holidays Article


How do you pick games for your family?

Each year we tend to get a new batch of games to give us some more options and keep things fresh for the kids. This year was no different and luckily, we found some real gems that kept us occupied and having fun throughout the holiday period. So much so that there are even a few we haven’t been able to fully explore yet. If you’re wondering how you can maximise your chances of picking winners, here’s our advice:

  • Match your games to your audience. Consider age, number of players you will usually have and themes your family is interested in. Not all games work well at different player counts so this is key
  • Make sure the rule set isn’t too complex. Rewarding games with good depth don’t have to be super complicated rule set wise. When picking for your family you don’t want your youngest kids to feel left out. Look for games that have depth in gameplay not rules that feel like your reading a novel
  • Make sure you have a range of time frames to choose from. There are times when we have an hour or so to play games and other times when we only have 20 minutes before bedtime. We are lucky to have games that we love that will fit into most time frames. Our advice is to have a range of options that cater for different time frames
  • Try before you buy. Games can be expensive, and parents don’t want to waste hard earned money. Wherever possible try games out at board game cafes or board game libraries to see if they will resonate for your family.

For a more in-depth article on how to select the right game for your family. Check out our new to board gaming guide.

How do you make game time work for the whole family during the holidays?

When you have a family with younger kids and teens it can be challenging to make sure everyone is included, has fun and that disagreements are kept to a minimum. Here are some tips we have picked up to help game time work for the whole family during the holidays:

  • Make sure basic ground rules are clear for everyone and consistently applied. For us kindness is key, if any of our children are mean spirited or unkind towards someone when playing games, they get one warning only. If it continues, they are banned from playing games for the day
  • When introducing new games let everyone know that mistakes with rules can happen. When learning new games, we do make mistakes with the rules on occasion. This used to really frustrate more competitive players. Our kids are now told up front that the first few games are for exploring and learning how to play. If rule mistakes occur, we make a point of accepting it and moving on
  • Introduce more complex games one on one for younger kids. It’s amazing how quickly young kids can learn a new game, even if it may seem quite complex. However, if their confidence is knocked early sometimes, they can get put off a game. We have found that if you play a new game with younger kids one on one it can build their confidence and becomes easier for them to grasp. With larger player counts and older siblings involved there is a risk a game can run away from them before they have had a chance to figure it out
  • Make sure you have a good stock of compact games for travel. We love bringing a few family games with us when we are on holiday but we don’t have a lot of spare luggage space with a family of 5. Games like Coup, Bang! The Dice Game and One Night Ultimate Werewolf are fantastic travel choices for games. They can accommodate larger families, have plenty of interaction and are so small you can bring them with you easily
  • Encourage your kids to bring out games with their siblings when bored. Over the holidays our kids frequently rounded up their siblings for a game without us when we were busy. It felt like a bit of a life hack being able to keep them entertained without being hands on all the time! In our view the key is having the right kind of games that will appeal to each of them and keeping things fresh with a new stock of interesting games for the holidays.

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The games our whole family enjoyed

This year most of the games we bought were great for the whole family, although there were a couple that we bought specifically for our youngest to enjoy and our teen. We were lucky that by in large most of the games we introduced were a big success. So much so that our kids worked hard most nights to get jobs out the way so that they could squeeze in some game time before bed. So here are the games that we all really enjoyed, starting with the most popular games first.

1.One Night Ultimate Werewolf – Superb team based social deduction

Playtime: 10 Min

Players: 3-10

Complexity: Low

Age: 8+

Games that got us through the school holidays - One Night Ultimate Werewolf box

Our most popular game of the holidays by far was One Night Ultimate Werewolf. We found if any of our kids had a few spare minutes they would round up their siblings and play a few games of this even if parents were too busy to play. There were some days where we would play 10 or more games in a row and very few days where we didn’t play a game.

One Night Ultimate Werewolf is a social deduction game where all players receive a hidden role. Your objective depends on whether you receive a villager or Werewolf role:

  • The villagers all win if at least one Werewolf dies, even if a villager is also killed. They also win if no one is a Werewolf, and no one dies
  • The Werewolves win if at least one player is a Werewolf, and no Werewolves are killed
  • The Tanner role creates a special win condition. The Tanner actually wants to die and if they are successful in getting killed, they win and everyone else loses!

One Night Ultimate Werewolf is a real surprise package for us. One thing that has really appealed to all of us is the high amount of interaction in the game. It generates some great discussion and keeps all of us on our toes. Crafting an iron clad story as the Werewolf and successfully throwing another player under the bus, is so satisfying. There is nothing quite like revealing your Werewolf card and seeing shocked faces around the table. Equally enjoyable is laying a trap to uncover inconsistencies in the Werewolf’s argument. The look on their faces when they realise, they have been found out is priceless.

Pros

  • A lot of fun packed into a short 10-minute game
  • No player elimination
  • Lots of replay value through different roles
  • High player interaction making it a good party game
  • Easy to learn making it great for new players or kids
  • Each group you play this with will add something new to the experience.

Cons

  • Younger players may struggle at first with what information to give away and when
  • There is a risk of dominant personalities controlling the discussion.

Check out our full One Night Ultimate Werewolf review.

2.Splendor – Wonderfully simple and our favourite chill out game

Playtime: 30 Min

Players: 2-4

Complexity: Low

Age: 10+ but we think 7+

Games that got us through the school holidays - Splendor box

We bought Splendor for our youngest daughter, who loved the thought of a board game based on collecting gems. Boy were our expectations exceeded! Splendor is a hit with our whole family, we just love it. While it hasn’t been played quite as much as One Night Ultimate Werewolf over the holidays, we have probably spent almost as much time playing this one.

In Splendor you are a rich merchant during the Renaissance, you must use your resources wisely to expand your production of gems. To win Splendor you must be the first merchant to gain 15 points. Points can be gained by acquiring development cards or securing visits from nobles who are suitably impressed by your exploits.

Splendor is one of those games where I end up getting so involved in what I am doing that I almost forget the aim is to gain points. It’s just so addictive. I often zone out and get so focused on building my beautiful collection of development cards that when a winner is announced I am a little surprised.

Splendor is so easy to learn, there are really only a small number of things you can do, but the gameplay is so interesting. This makes it a great game for a family like ours with a wide range of age groups to cater for. We all really enjoy playing Splendor. This also makes it a great game to pull out when you have non-gamers visiting, it is a great introduction to modern board games. It really is a family gem!

Pros

  • Gems look beautiful and will appeal to younger players
  • Simple but very addictive gameplay
  • Great family game suitable for wide age range, our whole family loves this game
  • Feels relaxing and enjoyable to play
  • Great gateway game for beginners but enough strategy for experience gamers.

Cons

  • Hard core gamers may find Splendor a little too simple.

Check out our full Splendor review.

3.Coup – Cut-throat social deduction and bluffing wrapped in a small package

Playtime: 15 Min

Players: 2-6

Complexity: Low

Age: 14+ but we think 7+

Games that got us through the school holidays - Coup box

We got Coup halfway through the holidays and it was an instant hit in our household, it’s another game that our kids will quite happily play without us parents if we happen to be busy. Coup is a game of social deduction and bluffing where you must use all your powers of influence, manipulation, and deception to destroy your political opponents and gain absolute power for yourself.

Each player will begin with two hidden role cards representing their influence. To win you must be the last player left with any influence once all other players have been eliminated. There are five different roles in the game, each has three copies so multiple players can claim to have the same role.

Each role has unique actions and in some cases counter actions that make them valuable in their own way. You can claim to have any character however, every action can be challenged and if another player challenges a bluff successfully you lose one influence. If a player is challenged while telling the truth, the challenger loses one influence. This makes it important to carefully consider any bluff or challenge.

I have often thought the magic in Social Deduction games is the stories they create that are often retold. ‘Remember the time when…you had no idea I was on to you!’ Those moments you realise that someone has fallen for your trap or that you have caught them in a lie, and they know it. There are few things more satisfying. That’s why these sorts of games are such a hit in our household, it’s the stories and the interaction that create the fun. In this regard Coup is an absolute triumph. There are multiple levels of thinking involved and many things to consider before committing to your choices.

Coup really is an exceptional game. It is amazing what the designers have achieved with the few components in the box. Coup regularly creates tense and interesting games that keep us coming back to this game repeatedly. It’s a real family favourite for us.

Pros

  • Good tension each turn created through the ability to challenge any action
  • The roles are all interesting and unique. Each is valuable
  • A lot of replay value from such a small amount of components
  • Quick 15-minute play time means you can get multiple plays in one sitting
  • The bluffing and social deduction elements in Coup work very well and create a lot of player interaction.

Cons

  • Coup is not as interesting at 2 players, we think 4 or 5 players is best
  • If you don’t like bluffing or social deduction games, this Coup won’t appeal to you.

Check out our full Coup review.

4.Azul – Simplicity, beauty, and depth

Play Time: 30-45 Min

Players: 2-4

Complexity: Low

Age: 8+

Games that got us through the school holidays - Azul box

Occasionally we come across a game that’s a bit of a surprise package, one that some of us are sceptical about at first but then we all grow to appreciate over time. Azul is one of those games, beautiful, simple, and challenging all in the same package.

In Azul is a tile drafting game where you are charged with decorating a palace wall with beautiful tiles. The more tiles you connect the more points are on offer. The winner is the person with the most points after the end game is triggered. The game ends once a player has managed to complete a full horizontal line in their wall space (5 tiles).

Azul wasn’t an immediate hit with our family. We got it about the same time as we got Splendor and it’s fair to say we all gravitated towards Splendor immediately. Unfortunately, this meant that initially at least we didn’t give Azul much attention. Our first few play throughs felt a little frustrating. We rarely mustered enough points to be proud of and were a little lost as to how to improve.

You see Azul is a little deceptive. It’s such a simple game at its core and the beautiful components make it seem approachable and easy. It is certainly easy to learn but like other notable abstract games, for example Chess, the strategy is anything but simple. The more you play Azul the more you appreciate the depth of thinking required for such a simple game and the way the game evolves over each round.

Overall Azul offers exceptional game play and strategic depth wrapped in a simple rule set that will make it accessible for a wide age range.

Pros

  • Rules set is extremely simple and easy to learn
  • The depth in gameplay and strategy becomes more apparent the more you play
  • As the game progresses tile spaces become more scarce adding some tension to your choices in later rounds
  • Having two options on the boards for tile placement provides some nice variation in play
  • The components are beautifully produced.

Cons

  • The strategy can be hard to get your head around at first and may be frustrating for some
  • Like other abstract games the theme isn’t really noticeable.

Check out our full Azul review.

5.Bang! The Dice Game – Quick fire fun with dice

Play Time: 15 Min

Players: 3-8

Complexity: Low

Age: 8+ but we think 7+

Games that got us through the school holidays - Bang the dice game box

Bang! The Dice Game promises a quick fire, cut-throat taste of the wild west you can bring to your table. The wild west was a dangerous place and being the Sheriff in town is a high-risk gig. Bang! The Dice Game boils the experience of a western shoot out down to a quick playing game of dice for 3-8 people you can enjoy at your table. This game wasn’t quite as popular as the earlier games on our list as it is more dependent on the right player number (5+ is best), but it’s still a lot of fun.

In Bang! The Dice Game you will be dealt a character card face up which will be transparent to everyone and provides you certain benefits. You will also be given a role card which determines your team. These are secret and kept face down unless you receive the sheriff card. The roles include Outlaws, Renegades, Deputies, and the Sheriff. Winning the game is dependent on your role. The game ends if:

  • The Sheriff is killed: If the Renegades are the only ones left alive, they win, otherwise the Outlaws win
  • All the Outlaws and Renegades are killed: The Sheriff and all Deputies win.

The rules here are very simple to pick up and you can be playing quickly as set up is a breeze. Although the rules are simple there is still some good depth in the gameplay. Social deduction, team-based play, Indian attacks, and Yahtzee style dice rolling come together to give you some good choices during the game. This makes it a great game for a broad audience. Younger players and new gamers will appreciate the simple ruleset, but there is enough here to keep adults and experienced gamers entertained as a filler game.

Overall, the game play is a lot of fun and we keep coming back to this game regularly. It’s great that the rules are simple enough for our 7-year-old to fully get involved in the game.

Bang! The Dice Game is a simple and quick playing game that will give you a nice taste of old west action. It’s likely to have broad appeal to both young and older audiences. A solid filler game that comes out regularly at our house.

Pros

  • Lots of fun in a short timeframe
  • Well suited to a wide range of gamers, kids and adults will all have fun with this one
  • Player elimination not as much of an issue due to short game length
  • Great player interaction generates some good laughs
  • Plenty of different characters to keep things interesting.

Cons

  • Not enjoyable at 3 players
  • Bad luck in dice rolls can knock you out of the game early
  • Social deduction isn’t as prominent in this game, hard to keep your role hidden for the entire game.

Check out our full Bang! The Dice Game review.

Aside from the games above that we all enjoyed as a family. There were a couple of games that were more suited to specific age groups. Castle Panic was great for our youngest but not really involved enough for our 10-year-old or teen. Dune: Imperium was a game that my teen and I both loved. Read on to find out more.

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For Kids

Castle Panic – Great introduction to cooperative games for kids

Playtime: 60 Min

Players: 1-6

Complexity: Low

Age: 10+ our daughter played at 7

Games that got us through the school holidays - Castle Panic box

Castle Panic is a cooperative tower defence game where you must defend your castle from rampaging orcs, trolls, goblins, and a range of boss monsters. My 7-year-old really enjoys this game, so much so that she demanded it be included in our best kids games list!

In Castle Panic each player receives a hand of cards that they must use to defeat the monsters charging at the castle walls. Cards can only be used to attack a monster if they have the corresponding colour and range. There are three different circles surrounding the castle, each requires a different type of card to attack a monster in those circles. Swordsman can attack in close to the walls, Knight cards can defend the middle ring and Archer cards can shoot at monsters in the outer ring. There are a range of other special cards ranging from barbarians that can kill monsters anywhere, to tar that can temporarily stop a monster from moving forward or cards that will rebuild your castle walls and many more.

Each turn more monster tiles will be drawn to approach the castle from the outer forest and existing monsters will move one ring closer. The monster tiles sometimes contain boss monsters with special abilities or have effects that will cause issues for the defenders. You never quite know what to expect!

If the monsters reach the walls, they will first destroy the outer wall and then begin to destroy the towers within. Once the monsters destroy all 6 castle towers the defenders lose. To win your team must defeat all the monsters in the game before the castle is destroyed!

Castle Panic is a great introduction to cooperative games for kids. The choices here are very straight forward and mean that young kids can play confidently without much help once they have a game or two under their belt.

The random nature of the game means no two games are alike. The game has some tense patches at times, for example when you pull a boss monster or a tile that requires you to pick up another 4 monster tiles, but it’s not overwhelming.

The age rating is 10+ but we think this game is better suited to an audience younger than 10. Not only are the rules very simple to pick up but the strategy and choices are very simple too. This makes the game more manageable for younger kids but may be too simple for kids 10 and up in our experience. Our 7 your old loves this game but our 10-year-old on the other hand finds it a little simple for her tastes.

This may seem a long game at up to 60 minutes, but we have found the length of time really depends on the number of players. When we play as a family it can take almost an hour, but for 2 or 3 players its usually much shorter and we can be done in around 30-40 minutes.

Pros

  • Simple rules that are easy to pick up
  • Great quality components
  • Encourages cooperation by being able to swap cards
  • Creates some tense moments but overall, not overwhelming for younger kids
  • Some cool boss monsters to keep things interesting.

Cons

  • Games can be inconsistent in difficulty due to a high degree of luck
  • Older kids will start to find this less challenging from around 9 or 10 and up.

Check out our full Castle Panic review.

For Teens

Dune: Imperium – Exceptional package of deck building and worker placement perfect for teens and Dune fans    

Playtime: 60 – 120 Min

Players: 1-4

Complexity: Medium

Age: 13+

Games that got us through the school holidays - Dune Imperium box small

I am a huge fan of the Dune books and Dune: imperium was on the top of my Christmas list last Christmas. My son has also recently started getting into the books and we both saw the latest movie together. So, it’s fair to say we had high expectations for this game, and we were not disappointed. Dune Imperium is currently one of our favourite games.

In Dune Imperium you are tasked with leading one of the great houses to glory and victory over your rivals. The objective is to gather the most points before the end game is triggered, this is either through one of the players reaching 10 points or the conflict deck running out. Points can be gathered in so many interesting ways, through combat, gaining specific cards or earning alliances.

The main elements of Dune: Imperium centre around deck building and worker placement which are weaved together seamlessly. At first the game can appear overwhelming with so many attractive options on the board, cards to be played, combat to be managed and numerous tracks to progress towards securing alliances. However, the elements are so masterfully designed that it only takes a few turns to get your head around it.

The choices in this game all appear to be significant and interesting. Points are so scarce, and games are so close that every decision seems meaningful. Do you commit to the battle this round and deplete your forces or concentrate your efforts on earning valuable points through the alliance tracks? Should you try to gain spice early or is water more important to fuel your strategy? Is it worth securing an intrigue card, a gamble but maybe it will change your fortunes this turn?

Overall, a great game for teens who like some meatier decisions and strategy in their games.

Pros

  • ck building and smooth combat elements come together expertly
  • Lots of meaningful choices and strategies on offer
  • Gameplay is streamlined and quick to learn
  • Games are usually tense and close
  • Great at all player counts due to a well implemented AI opponent for 1 and 2 player games
  • Replay value is excellent due to multiple characters, large variety of cards on offer and depth of strategic choices.

Cons

  • Those wanting a little more bling and minis in their games will need to purchase a separate upgrade pack. I personally prefer the understated but functional components the game comes with.

More Resources

If you are just starting out exploring modern board games, we have some additional resources that might help:

  • Our best family games list is a great starting point for ideas on games that might work for your family
  • If you happen to have kids who struggle a bit with losing don’t worry, we have some advice that can help in this article
  • We also have a resources page with beginner’s guides, articles, explainers, and useful external links.

Hopefully you have enough here to get you started and keep your kids occupied next school holidays. If you have any questions or feedback, we would love to hear from you through our contact page. If you have any comments please leave them in the comments section below.

About the Authors

We are parents who love board gaming. We have three children and have been enjoying board games as a family ever since we had our first child. We share our real unbiased experiences and opinions on board games so you can decide if they are right for your family. We also write guides and articles to help you get the most out of your family game time. 

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