The Games I’m Forcing My Captive Family to Play This Holiday Season

It’s that time of year where family visits from out of town, and you’re forced to talk politics with people who you disagree with in nearly every way. There are arguments and insults and declarations of ill intent, all made worse by this year’s volatile presidential campaign.

But with all the negativity comes the opportunity to force your household full of fools to enjoy your favorite hobby. A hobby where everyone is coerced into talking about something other than elections for an hour. You can pass this off as an attempt to avoid fighting about your take on Trump’s cabinet if you need to, but let’s call it what it really is: a chance to sate your unquenchable lust for board games by exploiting a family with nowhere else to go.

Here are the games I’m forcing my captive family to play this holiday season.


This adorable game is about growing bamboo and feeding it to a giant panda. The rules are simple, but more importantly it will get your uncle Derrick to quit tossing out vaguely racist comments like he’s testing the water in the hot tub. We’re never going to see eye-to-eye, Derrick, so stop casually dropping stories about how there’s never any crime in your mostly-white suburbs.

The goal of Takenoko is to complete objective cards in your hand by having the panda eat different color combinations of bamboo, or laying the game tiles in specific combinations. The game is fun to look at as the bamboo towers grow, and is colorful enough that even Derrick ought to be content to focus on something other than “that loud family I saw down the street.”



This is a game about trading beans in an effort to sell the most of one type at maximum profits. It’s tricky, since you cannot rearrange the cards in your hand. You must eventually plant all the beans in your hand, so it behooves players to trade away unwanted cards to other players. Negotiation is a critical part of Bohnanza, a skill Trump exhibited when he negotiated with Carrier, according to Uncle Derrick.

Since you may find yourself eager to be rid of cards in your hand, a popular tactic in Bohnanza is to offer cards your opponent may want, but only if they’ll take your unwanted cards as well. Let’s just hope Uncle Derrick is better at negotiating than he is at justifying his voting record.

Coal Baron

Nothing calls to mind warm holiday thoughts quite like pulling a double shift in the old coal mine. Coal Baron is an ideal family game thanks to it’s simple rules: use your limited number of workers to fill orders for varying types of coal. Players must operate their mines with great efficiency, just like Uncle Derrick efficiently killed that bowl of nog before launching into a tirade about Crooked Hillary.

Coal Baronpuzzle elements mean that you’ll need to plan ahead as you use your scarce action points to move cubes around your mine. The puzzle will also serve double duty by keeping Derrick preoccupied enough that he’ll forget to comment on how your university’s “liberal agenda is stripping away basic rights from the youth.”

The holidays can be a great time filled with joy and merriment, but it can also be more stressful than finals week. Games are a great way to stem that stress and bring joy back to the season. Let’s just hope Uncle Derrick agrees.

Happy holidays!

Ad Free, Comedy, Games, Life