Holiday Games 2019

Country House

I’m on holiday this week. I’ve gone away with a large group of both family and friends and we’re staying in a big house in a picturesque estate out in the country. It’s gorgeous!

Mobile reception is virtually non-existent and the provided wifi is patchy at best. How are we going to occupy our time? Sports feature prominently, particularly volleyball for some reason. The only time I ever play volleyball is when I come away with this particular group.

Of course, I also bring a selection of boardgames to play! Most of my fellow holidaymakers have little experience of modern boardgames, but there are a few who have played the likes of 7 Wonders, Magic Maze and Catan.

Luggage space is an issue so smaller games are definitely an advantage. I love introducing the right kind of person to heavier Euros though. It can be tricky working out which games to bring on holiday! Let me tell you which ones I went with this time…

Party Games

If there’s one type of game you need plenty of on a holiday, it’s party games. They usually have small footprints, play plenty of people and come in small boxes – perfect!

Just One

Just One

Winner of this year’s Spiel des Jahres award, Just One is the ideal party game. You’re trying to get one person to guess a secret word by writing down one word clues. However, if two people write the same clue, those words are removed. It’s so simple and quick, but trying to think of a less obvious clue (to avoid clashing with someone) is remarkably engaging. This always goes down well.


Pictionary without the drawing. You use a board of images and place cubes on appropriate images to communicate. The more you play it, the more satisfying it becomes as you realise you can convey some pretty complex ideas with the right combination of images. I love this one!



20 Questions meets One Night Ultimate Werewolf. You’re trying to guess the secret word by asking Yes/No questions, but two of you already know the answer: the seer (who is trying to help everyone get it right) and the werewolf (who is trying to throw people off the scent). If either are too obvious and get called out, they lose, so both of them have to be careful!


A classic at this stage, but in the right group it works really well. Two teams take it in turns to link words on the table with a single-word clue. It’s tricky, but so rewarding when you manage to link lots of words. You need people who like word games and don’t suffer from AP though!

Short Strategy Games

When you’re in the mood for something thoughtful, but know that your fellow gamers won’t manage anything more than 30-40 minutes, you want a short strategy game. Try these…


I’ve talked about this one plenty – it’s my all-time favourite game! This is the one where you’re trying to play cards into the centre, but you can’t see your own hand. You give clues to the other players, and hope that they understand what you really mean! It’s subtle, deep and requires lots of concentration.

The Mind

The Mind

Another one requiring concentration, but in a different way! The Mind has you playing cards into the middle again, but there are no turns. You just play when you think it’s right. It’s all about group synchronisation, but you can’t talk! A very clever game that you have to play to appreciate.

Ganz Schon Clever / Doppelt So Clever

I can never decide between these two so I brought them both! They are like full-on Euros condensed into a short roll-and-write. There is no theme and you’re just trying to roll combinations of numbers, but there are lots of interconnected mechanisms and much more strategy than you realise at first.

Karuba: The Card Game

Karuba: The Card Game

The card-game version of Karuba is shorter and simpler, but retains all the interesting decisions of the original. You have to build routes from explorers to temples using a deck of cards. Everyone builds their own routes and everyone has exactly the same deck of cards. This skill is in how you use them! It also plays up to 6 in less than half an hour, which is virtually unheard of for a strategy game.


For those precious few friends and family who like to be intellectually challenged and have a long enough attention span, there’s nothing like a good Euro. These are my choices this year…

Rise of Tribes

Rise of Tribes

This is a family-weight area-control game, with a little bit of civ-building. You control a tribe of prehistoric people aiming to expand, harvest resources and conquer your neighbours! It’s light, but has a very interesting action selection mechanism.


This is a traditional trading-in-the-mediterranean Euro about gethering resources and converting them into points, but there are two aspects that make it stand out. Firstly, you gradually build up the city as you play, which makes it look great by the end. Secondly, it’s just so quick. It gives you a full-on Euro feel in less than an hour.

Architects of the West Kingdom

Architects of the West Kingdom

Architects is a lovely worker-placement game with a twist. You have a lot of workers in this one and if you keep placing workers in the same spot, the rewards get increasingly better. You can capture other people’s workers and send them to prison, which is fun, but the best bit is the virtue track. If you’re good, you get victory points, but if you’re bad, you get access to resources much more cheaply on the black market! Which way will you go?


You might be pushing it with this one, but I always like to have at least one heavy Euro. Every now and then you find people who love a challenge and I love introducing people to heavier games when I can. Gugong has a great card-based action selection system and lots of interacting mechanisms. If you like heavy Euros, they don’t get much better than this.

So those are my holiday games! Which games do you like to bring on holiday?

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Jonathan Hicks

Jonathan is the director of Maven Games. He blogs and records podcast episodes several times a week. Whenever he isn't doing anything else, he designs games.

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