Any time there is a gathering of my friends and family a board game is likely to appear. Over the last few years this has been even more of a tradition around Thanksgiving. It is usually at that time, sensing year’s end approaching, that I get a little selfish and want to make sure I get in as many of “my” games in as I can before the new year. “My” games are the ones that I am particularly fond of that may not get as much love from my normal gaming group – either they’ve moved on to something more shiny and new, or have forgotten how much fun “my” games are. (Schmucks!) And while I normally acquiesce to their gaming preferences, I am more insistent on mine hitting the table during the 12 Games of Gamesmas (more like all the days between Thanksgiving and Christmas, so more like 28 days? I don’t like math). Anyway, since I write game related articles, I shall now share the first half of this year’s list with you.

Therefore, on the first day of Gamesmas…..

1) Watson & Holmes (Fantasy Flight Games): This game captures the sleuth-iness of FFG’s Sherlock Holmes, Consulting Detective but adds competition for up to seven players. We played through three of the ten mysteries on Thanksgiving Day with our friends and family and everyone had a blast. There is very little downtime and quite a bit of excitement as players race around looking for clues to solve the mystery. There was a great sense of accomplishment (and disappointment for the “almost” players) when someone got the correct solution. Read my full review, here. 

2) Kingdoms (Fantasy Flight Games): Kingdoms is an older game that is easy to learn and designed by one of the all time greats, Reiner Knizia. Over three quick rounds, players take one action on their turn, either playing a tile or a castle on the board. Castles score depending on their size and the tile values of the row or column on which they sit. But while simple to play, there are many good decisions that will make your brain feel the burn. A game only takes around 45 minutes but leaves you satisfied with a pile of gold and the reminder that I CAN still do math. The friends I introduced this game to were pleasantly surprised by how much fun they had. 

3) Nations: The Dice Game w/ Unrest (Stronghold Games): One of my all time favorite games, Nations: The Dice Game, allows players to create their own civilizations by rolling dice and using them to purchase leaders, soldiers, engineers, and wonders in order to earn the most victory points. Few games give you this much sense of accomplishment at a game time of only 15 minutes per player. The new Unrest expansion adds a couple of new mechanics (with new green dice) and asymmetrical starting resources. While it adds more strategy to the base game, it brilliantly doesn’t slow the game down. 

4) Barony (Matagot Games): This newly discovered gem has been hitting the table often. There is zero luck in Barony and the game board and wooden pieces look great on the table. Rules are simple but require you to think ahead or get caught in bad situations that lead to defeat. Barony always feels “classy” when I play it. It’s like a really a pretty Chess with half the rules, that also plays up to four players (or five with the Sorcery expansion). I’ve yet to find someone who dislikes this game. Read my full review, here. 

5) Monarch (Mary Flanagan LLC): This indie game finds its way to my table more than it probably should. Players are sisters, each trying to show the kingdom that she is worthy to assume the throne when the Queen mother has died. They do this by assembling the most prestigious court (in the form of cards). Some cards work well with others to score points and some cancel each other out. Monarch is a light game, but it has a surprising amount of humor built into the cards that adds personality to it and takes it beyond the sum of its parts. 

6) Among The Stars and New Dawn (Artipia/Stronghold): Two of the best designed games I have ever played, I was delighted to play them both recently. Among The Stars is a card drafting game where players are building their own space stations for victory points. New Dawn is a 4x game (Explore, Expand, Exploit, Exterminate) in the same thematic universe that feels epic, but finishes in less than 2.5 hours. Both games are must plays for any gamer who likes either of these genres. Read my full review here. 

There’s the first half of my 12 Games of Gamesmas. Thanks for reading. Oh, and can you guess the name of the game on the cover? I played that one, too, but it is not on the list.

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Rob Fenimore
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