Best board games for Thanksgiving

Love the spinning wheel!

The Game of Life

The turkey has been devoured, the wine has been enjoyed, your company is relaxing with full bellies, and a soft murmur of chatter has descended upon the crowd. While taking a post-feast nap is a completely viable option, if you want to keep everyone engaged and laughing – now is the perfect time to get out your board games.

When I host, I always enjoy giggling over a good game with our friends and family. Collecting vintage games is definitely one of my passions (and the more obscure the title – the better) and a couple weeks ago I saw an article I had to click on: What toys were selected for this year’s Toy Hall of Fame. I had no idea a Toy Hall of Fame even existed and I feel much happier now that I know it’s out there, championing the importance of play. The inductees for this year: Rubik’s Cube, little green army men, and bubbles. Best trio of things ever, am I right?

I decided to explore a little bit more into the inductees of years’ past and found another trio that, I think, represent the best board games for Thanksgiving. I’m curious to hear what you think. What are your favorite games for turkey day? Do you agree with our selection?

The original board game box

Art Linkletter endorses it all the way, so you know it’s good

The Game of Life

This is such a fun game and although I researched its origins in an earlier post about vintage games, I didn’t realize that its predecessor was a one-off. Milton Bradley (yep, the Milton Bradley) developed “The Checkered Game of Life” in 1860 and then moved on to create other iconic titles.

“Life” as we know it wasn’t invented until 1960, when the company hired Rueben Klamer to make a game in celebration of their 100th anniversary. It was the first game to have a three dimensional board (who remembers how cool it felt to give the spinner a whirl or “drive” your car over the little hills?) and it now appears in over twenty languages around the globe.


Bet you didn’t think there would be any connection between Scrabble, a game from the Great Depression era, and Rubik’s Cube – the 1980s classic. In actuality, both were invented by architects. Since this is my background as well, starting to wonder if board games should be my next career move. But I digress, the cool thing about Scrabble is that it remains pretty much exactly the same as it did when Alfred M. Butts first developed it in the 1930s.

Scrabble game, in progress

Image by The Barrow Boy

The basic setup: one hundred tiles, all printed with different letters, meant to be arranged like a crossword. Alfred first called his vision “Lexiko” and later “Criss Cross Words,” but neither were really capturing people’s attention. In the late 1940s, he licensed the rights to a Mr. James Brunot who renamed it Scrabble and the legend was born. My all time favorite Scrabble scene in a movie (not that there is an over-abundance of scenes to choose from): Foul Play – who doesn’t love those two little old ladies?


This game holds the illustrious title of being the most popular title in board game history. But funny enough, it was originally designed to be a teaching tool (of an entirely different nature). The earliest version, called The Landlord’s Game, tried to highlight all the social tragedies that come along with unequally distributed wealth. But when people took up the game, they quickly turned into greedy landlords, aiming to financially destroy their opponents.

German Monopoly board

Image by Horst Frank at German language Wikipedia

Charles Darrow saw the potential in its misguided popularity and made the first commercially distributed version in the mid-1930s, selling it in Pennsylvania department stores. Parker Brothers bought the rights by 1935 and Monopoly soared to the top spot in board game sales during the Great Depression. It’s now available in forty countries and twenty five languages.

For our readers: what games do you love playing during the holidays? Are you surprised by the origins of Monopoly?

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