We play board games all year long, but they become especially in-demand during the winter season. For one, the family comes together to celebrate the holidays and tabletop games make for an excellent way to keep everyone entertained. Even after the holidays have passed, though, staying indoors and rolling some dice actually make for a more pleasant alternative to the snow storms and freezing temperatures you’re going to be experiencing outside, so the games stay out and about.
While any of your favorite board games can make for fun winter tabletop play, we do like using the opportunity to partake in winter-themed board games. It only seems appropriate with the chill in the air, the snow on the driveway, and everything else that the winter season brings its way. Something about the cold weather outside makes playing a game set in a winter wonderland (or a godforsaken winter hellhole, whichever the case may be) feel so much more engaging.
Want to play more familiar games? Not a problem, as many popular board games have winter and Christmas editions, either of which would be perfectly suited for winter-themed tabletop play. Of course, we prefer games specifically designed with the winter season in mind, as they usually bring the kind of atmosphere that really sets the icy, chilly mood.
These are the best winter-themed board games to play during the cold season.
12 Days Card Game
This Christmas-themed card game celebrates the holidays with a deck that’s based on the 12 Days of Christmas song. As in, it has one “partridge in a pear tree” card, two “French hen” cards, and so on. Designed for up to five players, each player gets 12 cards to start and wait for their turn to make their move. During a turn, a player gifts one of their cards to the player on the left and places one of their cards face down in the middle. After all players have made a turn, the cards in the middle are turned up and the person with the lowest card that has no duplicates wins the round. Winning a round means getting a Gift card. The game ends after 12 rounds and players tally their total points by adding up all their remaining cards, including the Gift cards they’ve won. Player with the highest score wins.
In this board game for two to six players, participants race to reach the top of Yeti Mountain in the freezing cold of winter. The dice are an important part of the game, as they serve as the primary mechanic to determine a player’s actions. As such, the game comes with 13 different dice: four designed for forward movement, four for recharging your oxygen, and five that provide both. During a turn, a player can choose five dice from the pool and roll them. Some die faces are good (like a tent, which is great for rest), while some are bad (such as a Yeti, which will kill you). If you got three or more good faces, you can then declare whether you want to use the turn to “move” or “rest.” Moving, naturally, gets you further towards the summit, although you’re limited by the amount of oxygen you currently have, while resting replenishes your oxygen, so you can move higher another turn. Instead of simply playing their turn, a player can also choose to “push their luck” by grabbing three more dice from their pool and adding it to their result. If the three dice turns out bad results, though, you lose the turn completely. It’s a simple and easy-to-understand game that’s great when you have board game novices in the group (they can learn it on the fly), although the slower game pace and the limited strategy can be less-than-satisfying for more seasoned board game players.
One of our favorite horror games, this board game puts players of survivors during a zombie apocalypse in the middle of a cold winter hellscape. Each survivor gets different stats, as well as a special ability, making each one good at different things, which means players have to work together if they’re going to stay alive. Players face different crisis situations during each turn, which they’ll have to avert to prevent damage to the group by directing their actions towards solving it. Like many cooperative games, there’s backstabbing in the mix, too, which further complicates the group’s struggle to survive. The group can even vote to banish players from the colony, at which point they continue to play by themselves, apart from the group, so everyone continues to have a chance to win the game. It’s a more complex game than most, but is very rewarding and makes for really engaging play.
This new Legends of Andor installment is a standalone board game that sees an unnaturally cold winter descend upon the land (yes, just like in Game of Thrones), which means it’s some nefarious dark magic making all this winter nightmare happen. In the game, up to four players work cooperatively to search for the source of this dark magic and stop it, encountering a daunting array of monsters along the way. You can’t just run away from the monsters, either, as they can make their way to the castle and end the game if enough of them manage to make it through. You only have a limited length of time to find the Eternal Frost, as each action (one move or one fight) costs each player an hour, with the Frost eventually taking over all the land if you fail to find the source and stop it in time. This game is all about solving the puzzle of how to fight just enough monsters to keep them from overwhelming the castle, while being able to find the source of the dark magic before it’s too late.
Based on the novel by H.P. Lovecraft, this board game is surprisingly more fun than gritty, which is an unexpected delight. Seriously, it’s as close as you can probably get to a Lovecraftian party game and it’s definitely one we didn’t see coming. In the game, players work together to recover relics hidden on a snow-covered mountain as they stave off madness and injury, eventually making their way to the peak, where they can make their escape. While that sounds straightforward enough, the “madness” aspect delivers the laughs, as players are forced to act out whatever type of madness their character is afflicted with, which makes each 30-second turn where players decide their course of action just that much more complicated.
To the unfamiliar, Memoir 44 is a war game that sets two players on opposing sides in a scenario-based conflict that became very popular due to its accessibility, as it’s a game players can learn within a short amount of time, with none of the 50-page rulebooks that some war-based board games like to use in their rulesets. Instead, you simply use command cards to order units and roll dice for combat, making it one of those games you can bust out with total newbies and have plenty of fun. Winter Wars is an expansion of the game that sets winter as the backdrop for the ensuing conflicts, bringing winter-themed terrain hexes, eight new scenarios to play, a new deck of command cards, and a deck of new combat cards set in a winter setting. It’s, basically, the same tactical and uncomplicated war games as the base, but with piles of snow and freezing breezes in the mix.
Set in the frozen, post-apocalyptic wastelands of 2097 (hooray for climate change), this deck-building card game sees the Earth’s population reduced by 90 percent, with the remaining survivors banding into small tribes that fight each other for whatever meager supplies remain. Each player is in charge of one such small tribe and contest other players for a stack of resources available within the game. A round is divided into three phases, namely draw (each player draws five new cards), gather (players can hunt for resources, hire mercenaries, or throw cards they don’t want), and skirmish. In the latter, the player battles with another player for the right to the card on top of the contested resources. The game ends once the stack of resources are exhausted, with the player who has the most surviving tribe members winning.
This board game recreates the original expeditions to the South Pole, with each player representing either Britain, France, Germany, or the Netherlands. In the game, players race each other to be the first to reach the South Pole and return to their ships, etching their name in the history books in the process. Each player is put in charge of an expedition, so they don’t just have explorers, they also have crates, tents, and barrels, all of which will have to move along with them, while the dangerous conditions of the Arctic means players can lose both supplies and expedition members along the way. It’s a ruthless, press-your-luck race game with a well-designed dice system that can feel as hectic and pressure-packed as an actual trip to the South Pole will probably go. Do note, this game seems out of stock everywhere we look, but there seems to be plenty of copies floating around on eBay, so we’re putting an eBay link if you’re interested.
This game mashes up two of the most popular board games out there, namely Dead of Winter, which we included above, and Flick ‘em Up. To the unfamiliar, the latter is a disc-flicking Western game with cowboys, outlaws, and the whole Wild West as a backdrop. This mash-up, basically, replaces the Western setting with Dead of Winter’s zombie apocalypse wasteland, where players band together to fight the hordes of the undead. Do note, this game doesn’t recreate the desperate, psychologically-disturbing gameplay of the popular zombie title. Heck, it doesn’t really recreate that game’s mechanics, either. Instead, it’s a more lighthearted take – one filled with cute-looking zombies alongside the survivor characters from the original game. Designed as a cooperative game for the whole family (yes, it’s a zombie game that won’t scare kids), it allows for up to 10 players, with 10 different scenarios available for players to go through.
Based on the sci-fi novella by John Campbell Jr. of the same name (which was also the source material for John Carpenter’s The Thing), this board game sees players unwittingly wake up a shapeshifting alien entity in the frozen Antarctic tundra. At the start, players work cooperatively to survive the hellish conditions they find themselves in, trading among each other, procuring weapons, and building up their shelters to protect themselves from what lies out there. However, as conditions become harder, mistakes are made and anyone can be infected at any time. As such, you progress the game with no idea of who’s infected and who isn’t, requiring you to take risks and fend off any dangers while waiting for the rescue chopper to finally arrive.
Ticket to Ride has been one of the most popular board game IPs of recent years, spawning numerous spin-offs in its wake. The one we’re adding to this list is this Nordic version of the game, which brings the same gameplay to the snow-covered landscapes of Denmark, Finland, Norway, and Sweden. Gameplay remains the same, as players race to gain as many points as they can by laying train tracks and completing destination tickets. With this version, though, they also add tunnels and ferries to the mix, along with train cards that show the locomotives in festive, snow-covered imagery. Do note, this game is designed for three players max, as there are only three sets of trains, along with a smaller size board, although it retains the full charm and lighthearted gameplay of the series, making it a great family game to play with the kids.