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Games of Christmas
Posted On 26 November 2019
I guess it has become tradition now for boardgame blogs to suggest a number of games that people should play with their friends and family over the festive period. As I love tradition, I will do what everyone else is doing and give you a selection of games some of which may suit your taste and may also be a good match for whoever you choose to play with when you enjoy some time off over Christmas.
I know, maybe it’s a bit too early for you to think about Christmas, but it’s really only a few weeks away, and if you are planning on buying any of the games I suggest in my list below, then you will need time to find them and have them delivered.
My list of games tries to cover a wide range of complexities, player counts and game length, in an attempt to have at least one option for everyone. I have selected these games from the ones I have played myself, so I have first-hand experience with them, and there are some among them that I will definitely be playing over the holidays. I have also added similar games to each option, giving you an even bigger choice.
Each game has its own pros and cons, which heavily depend on the context of who you’re playing with and what mood everyone is in. There are heavier and lighter games, quick and long games, and otherwise a good mix of different playing styles.
However, whatever game you choose to play, be it from the list below or not, I do hope you have fun and enjoy some quality time with the people who matter in your life, or if you happen to be away from home, I hope you enjoy some solo gaming. After all, that’s what playing games is all about, and especially so at this time of the year, which is otherwise dark and gloomy. Let games bring some light into your life and a smile to everyone’s faces.
Also, all of the games below could be great Christmas presents for someone. You will obviously have to decide if a game is right for the person you’re thinking of giving it to, but there is a wide range of choices in a wide price range.
If you’ve read my review, you know how much I love The Mind. Here is a very simple, co-operative game – or so it seems. All you have to do is work together and play all the cards everyone has in their hand, and which come from a deck of cards numbered 1 to 100, in ascending, numerical order. Simple enough and it sounds very boring. The problem is, there is no turn order and nobody is allowed to talk.
So everyone has to decide when it is their turn to play their next card. However, nobody is sure if their card is the next highest card, or if someone else has a lower card, which would have to be played first. Everyone just looks at each other and waits until someone just gives in and plays their card.
The moments when everyone plays in the correct order a number of cards, all of which are very close together, are just amazing and create a lot of laughter and relief, after what feels like hours of tense waiting for someone to take their turn.
Here is a classic trick-taking game that has been updated for the era of modern tabletop games. The game is all about one lead player and one hidden partner. Nobody knows who that partner is, except for the partner themselves. That means the lead player basically plays the game by themselves, at least to start with, while the other four players try to gauge who is the opponent in their midst.
Even the lead player can’t be sure who their partner is, so they don’t want to give points away until they’re certain. The hidden partner doesn’t want to reveal themselves too soon though, giving them the challenge to help the lead player surreptitiously without letting the other players guess what they’re doing.
There is a wonderful element of social deduction, with bluffing and feinting and a lot of table talk. I can highly recommend it. It provided a lot of fun and laughter when I played it.
First of all, the theme and illustrations of this game are what draw you in. Here is a game with a deck of over 100 cards, each depicting a different bird. The game is a little heavier, but it does lead you along. So when you play it for the first time, you will get to a point where you have to take a specific action to continue, so you can learn it as you play. Then, when you play it again, you know what you’re doing and start to form a strategy.
The other thing that is so satisfying about Wingspan are the components, such as the lovely dice tower in the shape of a birdhouse, and the chunky, wooden dice. Not only that, it’s also very satisfying that your actions get stronger and stronger from round to round. You do feel like you’re building an engine and you really see it revving up.
There is very limited player interaction in this game, making it much more of a multiplayer solitaire, which is very suitable for the festive season.
Co-operative games aren’t for everyone, especially if you have an alpha player in the group, but otherwise I can highly recommend Sub Terra II, where you and up to five other players draw and place tiles to create a tunnel system inside a sleeping volcano. You have only so many turns before you have to have found and unlocked a magical artefact and escaped alive. Not all of your group will necessarily make it out, but as long as one of you escapes with the prize, you all win.
There is a lot of randomness in the game, which makes it immediately suitable for a wide range of skills and experiences. There aren’t too many choices to make on your turn, so it’s a game that is easy to teach and learn. After a round or two everyone should know pretty much what they’re doing and feel like they can contribute to the mission.
The game gives you a real sense of suspense, because you never know what dangers lurk ahead and when the volcano will erupt. If everyone works well together, you have a good chance of making it out alive – and then you can play it all over again.
Carcassonne has been around for a very long time – both on the market as well as in my game collection. It is a favourite of mine to take to family gatherings. It’s a game that is suitable for a wide range of age groups. I play it with my parents, and my brother-in-law happily plays it with his young children. You can easily adapt it to suit pretty much anyone’s playing style.
There is no need to play this game competitively, even though I know a lot of people do, and if you approach it in a relaxed fashion, you will have a lot of fun drawing and placing tiles to make a lovely map of roads, towns and farmland. There are a lot of expansions for this game, if you do want more variety, but even the base game alone is going to give you many hours of fun.
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