It's the holidays. You like games. Your relatives? Probably not so much. Liking games, that is. You might play a variety of different game genres, but you're not likely to get a lot of 40K in with Aunt Betsy. Instead, here are some fun and light board and card games you might want to whip out to pass the time while you avoid discussing politics, Aunt Betsy's naked backscatter scan, or whatever new way they've found to torture you this year. I want to focus on five that should fit the bill, but also have a small bill at the checkout counter. As much as I would like to suggest you pick up a $50 game like Ticket to Ride, the risk is too high if they balk at playing. Here are five muggle friendly games around $20:
Players work together to stop the island from sinking. They've each got a role to play in this fun, stripped down version of the more gamier Pandemic. You might also get some of the kids to play, if the relatives balk, as the age for this games is 10 and up (around 8, if your relatives have smart kids). Forbidden Island will be THE family game of the year this holiday season and it's for good reason. Lots of gaming goodness for around $15. If your family is more gamer oriented, consider jumping right to Pandemic or Ghost Stories. This is a cooperative game, so if they're clearly not going to do that, skip Forbidden Island. Go directly to Saboteur.
This is a bluffing game where you play mice trying to buy the good cat in the sack, while getting your opponents to buy the bad cats, the dog or whatever you can manipulate them into taking. You do this through a simple bidding system in which you know the values of some of the cards, but not all. It's a cute, clever little game that's a staple at our board game nights. It's for 8 and up and costs around $15. It compares well to For Sale, although your relatives might find a game about real estate as repulsive as Gloom.
Do I dare suggest D&D for a family gathering? Yeah, pull it out. This is a stretch, and you're likely to only get interested teens to give it a try, but you might just start a family tradition. This new $20 D&D starter set is their best one yet. It's not perfect. It's not going to play itself or allow you to learn the instructions in five minutes like some of my other suggestions. However, if you've played D&D 4E, or really want to learn this new system, you should be able to get a lot of value out of this box set and easily introduce new players to the game. Making characters is part of the fun, but you might want to have some pre-generated if you think your audiences attention span may be limited. Consider leaving the game behind if you find a lot of enthusiasm. Everything you need to play is in the box, just make sure you read up ahead of time. Paizo is talking about having a Pathfinder starter set for next years holiday season, so consider waiting if that's your flavor.
Other games that come to mind: Mille Bornes (because my family played it as kids, you probably have a game like this), Citadels, Carcassonne and the ever popular, but $42, Settlers of Catan.
Let us know what you plan to play this holiday season with your relatives.