Board games are a hallowed family tradition designed to bring people together, make us laugh, and occasionally cause Uncle Joe to hurl a fist full of game pieces across the living room after Thanksgiving dinner. But the state of play has changed. Gone are the days of regrettable tantrums aroused by games of greed and simmering megalomania. In vogue are games that favor risqué humor, social-media literacy, and arguably even a bit of historical amnesia. Here are four of the best-selling board games in the land; All of which boast overwhelmingly popular reviews, leavened only here and there by lonely dissidents crying out in the online wilderness: “Parker Brothers, what hath thy wrought?”
Make the best joke you can, and a rotating judge picks the funniest. WHAT DO YOU MEME?
The uber-popular board game What Do You Meme? doesn’t demand players have a keen awareness of meme culture, but it helps. Essentially, whacky photos are printed on one set of cards with often raunchy quotes printed on another set. Each player pairs a quote card with the photo for maximum comic effect to create their own meme. Points are awarded by a rotating panel of judges.
This game’s humor isn’t for everyone—but if you like it, you love it. Cards Against Humanity LLC.
Billing itself as a “party game for horrible people,” Cards Against Humanity features one set of black question cards and one set of white answer cards. Competitors play their sometimes-filthy answer cards against the provocative question cards. That’s about it. Some scenarios are funny but definitely follow “mature” themes, so if you play, you might want to make sure the kiddos are out of hearing distance.
Deception? Yes Please!
If you’re good at lying, a game where you and the other players assume roles for the purpose of backstabbing, might become your favorite. Secret Hitler
It’s an age-old story: liberals versus fascists, this time set in the cozy confines of your basement game room. Secret Hitler features players acting as presidents and chancellors who enact either liberal or fascist government policy to exert their agenda, identify the one player posing as the hidden führer, and win the game. Players are “free to lie about almost anything” and must be willing to assassinate friends and family suspected of being fascists. There’s palace intrigue and political subterfuge. It’s furtive. It’s edgy, and it does require a keen sense of strategy. But in today’s world, it’s also fair to wonder what Secret Hitler requires of us in order to think of Hitler and fascism as mere game play.
One of the most popular German creations ever, there’s always something to plan when playing. Catan Studio
Don’t worry, good old-fashioned world domination is still in vogue at the family card table. Indulge your pioneering spirit with Catan by raising crops, trading resources, erecting settlements, and building roads in order to raise a civilization on the fictional island of Catan. Invented in the mid-1990s in Germany and once called “the board game of our time” by the Washington Post, Catan has been popular in the U.S. for many years and is still going strong with more than 5,000 reviews and a 5-star rating.