The holiday season has come, and with that comes socialising and family time. Whether you enjoy this time of the year or not, it can be a conversation minefield, or a choose-your-own-adventure filled with a myriad of possibility.
Being a Geek can give you a few extra tools up your sleeve for dealing with these situations. One of our greatest assets is GAMING, specifically here we’re talking about boardgames. Playing games with your loved ones can be a great way to diffuse tense situations and generate some fun memories that will foster a better holiday season come next year.
Without further ado, here are our 12 Games of Christmas (Holidays) for you to check out and bring on your road trips. Each have been broken down into categories – Christmas themed, games with Christmas/Holiday add-ons, and games the whole family can enjoy.
Christmas Themed Games
1. Santa’s Bag – Griggling Games
In this game you play an Elf in Santa’s workshop, making toys for children. Santa reads his list and tells the Elves (you) what toys to make and who will get them. Elves need to build the toys and find the parts to create them. You can trade with other Elves to get a part, or use Elven Magic to make the right part. The trickier the toy, the more points you earn, and building toys for nicer children earns you extra points. The player with the most points wins.
Santa’s Bag is simple game but really fun to a play, and easily taught to your family members (even if they aren’t regular gamers). It comes with a list of items the game comes with, which is super handy, especially if you’re playing with folks who tend to lose game pieces along the way. Being able to trade items with other players adds a fun element when it comes to bargaining with your relatives over who is going to build specific toys. This is also a great gateway game for your family to try before you introduce them to slightly more complicated board games.
This game is for 2 to 8 players ages 7+ and takes around 15 minutes to play.
2. 12 Days – Calliope Games
This game uses the “12 Days of Christmas” song as a motif. Over twelve rounds, players try to re-gift unpopular cards while keeping cards that are strong enough to win the day, while also keeping a careful eye for bonus scoring at the end of the game. Each round a new holiday card is up for grabs, with the cards ranked from 1 to 12 and being worth 1-12 points. In a round, a player:
- Gifts a present to the player to his left,
- Opens presents and tries to win the day with the best present, and
- Buys a new gift to refill his hand.
After twelve rounds, players score points for each holiday card they’ve collected. In addition, whoever holds the most gift cards for each rank scores as many points as that rank, with all tied players scoring in the event of a tie. Whoever has the most points wins.
12 Days has quite a lot of depth to it in terms of strategy, even though it appears (and still plays) fairly simply. This game works well for those of you with family members who want to strategise and really think about the type of moves they want to play, without it being a super-heavy strategy laden game. You can even show them how to play the game, as 12 Days featured on Tabletop with Qwirkle during it’s second season. Incidentally, Qwirkle is another brilliant game with just the right amount of strategy to it for the holiday season!
This game is for 3 to 5 players ages 8+ and takes around 15 minutes to play.
3. Crappy Birthday – North Star Games
Raise your hand if you – or someone you love – has a Birthday on (or really close to) Christmas? This game will have extra meaning for those fortunate (unfortunate?) people!
Crappy Birthday is a humorous game about pranking your friends with gifts they don’t want. 5 Gift Cards are dealt to each player, and the game unfolds as thus:
1) When it is your turn, it is your birthday! Everybody gives you a crappy “gift” from their hand.
2) You shuffle the cards, turn them over one by one, and pick the gift you dislike the most.
3) The player who gave you that gift gets a point.
4) Draw back up to 5 Gift Cards. Play moves to the left.
The first player to 3 points wins.
This game gets people talking, laughing, and having a good time as quickly as possible. You’ll end up talking about previous crappy gifts you’ve received, or given, or even re-gifted over the years! The game is simple enough to understand, and after a quick read of the rules you’ll be able to get non-gamers playing within a few minutes.
This game is for 4 to 8 players ages 12+ and takes around 20 minutes to play. An alternative to this game would be Gift Trap, which was a Spiel des Jahres‘ special prize winner in 2009. Gift Trap’s game play is slightly more complex, including elements similar to Wits and Wagers.
4. Letters to Santa (aka Love Letter) – AEG
Letters to Santa is the Christmas themed version of Love Letter. If you want all of your Christmas wishes made true by Santa, you’ll need to make sure your letter gets to him. The closer you get the letter to Santa, the more likely you are to win… but watch out for the wily Krampus, out to dash your yuletide dreams!
For gamers familiar with Love Letter you should have no trouble playing this Christmas themed version. It’s easy to play but very clever, anyone could learn to play this game in a short period of time. With two cards to play each turn your choices are always clear, making it a great game to play with people that tend to get analysis paralysis!
This game is for 2 to 4 players aged 10+ and takes around 20 minutes to play.
Holiday Themed Add-ons to Games You Love
5. Cards Against Humanity – Holiday packs
Thanks to Cards Against Humanity, I now have socks with a Menorah on it. And I’m not Jewish.
For a few years now Cards Against Humanity have done special Holiday packs – expansions to the original game influenced by the holiday season. The game is best described as above: it’s a party game for horrible people. Unlike most of the party games you’ve played before, Cards Against Humanity is as despicable and awkward as you and your friends.
The game is simple. Each round, one player asks a question from a black card, and everyone else answers with their funniest white card. Play this at your own peril with your family. Assume you know nothing of the darkest depths of their brains (I am always surprised whenever I play this game with my family… the things that people come out with…) It’s NOT PG13. It’s filthy. It’s despicable. It’s awesome.
The game is for 3+ players (I’ve played with 15 before, but it felt like too many) and definitely for adults.
6. Munchkin – lots of Christmas products – Steve Jackson Games
I love Munchkin and it’s not just because the people at Steve Jackson games are lovely. The game is very simple to play. Go down into the dungeon and kick in a door. Kill everything you meet. Backstab your friends and steal their stuff. Grab the treasure and run. It’s that simple… provided the monsters don’t kill you first! First player to Level 10 wins.
Munchkin in all it’s iterations is such a delight, particularly as it’s a way to introduce people to roleplaying without actually roleplaying. The artwork is gorgeous and hilarious and sure to have your family in stitches while you play. It’s a little more intense than the games we’ve featured here so far, as it requires players to get their heads around the idea of having a “character” with a race or class, and their gear giving them bonuses to attack, defend or level up. It also takes a bit longer to play, so it’s best to teach this one earlier in the day before the food-comas start.
This game is for 3 to 6 players ages 10+, and takes around 1 to 2 hours to play.
7. Broom Service: Christmastime – Frosted Games
This expansion to Broom Service was originally included in the 2016 Boardgame Advent Calendar. In Broom Service, players attempt to deliver potions throughout the magical realm. It is a card-based game that combines luck and skill and balances timely bluffing with clever hand management. The winner is the player with the most victory points after all 7 rounds are complete and end-of-game bonus points have been awarded.
Broom Service is a game that looks very simple but can involve some serious strategic play to outwit your opponents and score the points you need to achieve victory. The bluffing element is terrific fun, while resource management and the choices between acting “cowardly” or “brave” forces you to be wary of the positions of your witches on the board. Your game experience grows as you learn, and it makes for an ideal choice for the holidays if you’re looking to teach people interested in a bit more of a challenge.
This game is for 2 to 5 players ages 10+ and takes around 30 to 75 minutes to play.
8. Zombie Town: The Christmas Evil – AOP
The families that fight zombies together, stay together.
Zombie Town: The Christmas Evil is an expansion to Zombie Town, a game in which everyone dies, the “winner” is just the last person to fall to the horde. A cheerful game for your holiday enjoyment! A round comprises seven actions, and there are 10 rounds to a game. When your health reaches zero you are out of the game and the last player with any health left wins.
For players familiar with Bang! this game is quite fast and fun to play, with players relying a little more on luck to draw the cards they need to survive. It’s a must play for those of you who love to play zombie games, or for those of you with families that love watching The Walking Dead. There is definitely a strategic element to it depending on how you try to survive – do you hole up in a barricaded house to stop the hoard from getting in, or do you scavenge and run between houses? You have three actions to play each turn, so use them wisely! As each round progresses you’re going to find it harder and harder to save anyone but yourself from the zombie’s outside.
This game is for 3 to 6 players aged 13+ and takes about 20 minutes to play.
Family Friendly Games for the Holidays
In this game, your goal is to guess words through the association of icons. A team of two players – neighbours at the table – choose a word or phrase that the other players need to guess. Acting together, this team places pieces judiciously on the available icons on the game board. Words can be fairly easy to guess, but progress in difficulty, which makes it a great game to scale for difficulty within age groups. The player who ends up with the most points wins.
Even in a group of intellectuals you’ll have fun watching them work with intense concentration to guess the right word. The game is great for exercising your brain while having fun, and has great replay value so you’ll get a lot of good sessions out of it. Concept is ideal for players who love to think “outside the box” and get creative. It even feels nice to play, the game has high quality pieces and design elements (so bringing it to the family table will make you look impressive). Get ready to be abstract and bend brains, this is one you’ll definitely want to have packed and ready to go!
This game is for 4 to 12 players aged 10+ and takes about 40 minutes to play.
10. Wits & Wagers – North Star Games
There are a few different versions of this game you can choose to play, so don’t stress about picking the right one.
You don’t have to be a trivia buff to play this game! Wits & Wagers is a game that lets you bet on anyone’s answer. You have the chance to can win by making educated guesses, by playing the odds, or by knowing the interests of your friends.
Wits & Wagers is a great game to teach people that have played (or are used to playing) Trivial Pursuit. Instead of going to pub trivia, you can play a game like this and laugh at the outrageous answers your family members will come up with to the simplest (and trickiest) questions. It’s also refreshing, because if you have played Trivial Pursuit enough, you might just be bored/sick of the questions you’re used to answering. This is a party game that’s bound to keep people engaged and entertained while you’re waiting for for Christmas pudding to warm up.
This game is for 3 to 7 players (but accommodates up to 20 people in teams) aged 10+ and takes about 25 minutes to play.
11. Spyfall – Cryptozoic Entertainment
Spyfall is played over several rounds. At the start of each round all players receive cards showing the same location — a casino, a traveling circus, a pirate ship, or even a space station — except that one player receives a card that says “Spy” instead of the location. Players then start asking each other questions — “Why are you dressed so strangely?” or “When was the last time we got a payday?” or anything else you can come up with — trying to guess who among them is the spy. The spy doesn’t know where they are, so they have to listen carefully. When it’s their time to answer, they need to have a good story figured out.
At any time during a round, one player may accuse another of being a spy. If all other players agree with the accusation, the round ends and the accused player has to reveal his identity. If the spy is uncovered, all other players score points. However, the spy can himself end a round by announcing that he understands what the secret location is; if his guess is correct, only the spy scores points. After a few rounds of guessing, suspicion and bluffing, the game ends and whoever has scored the most points is victorious!
I really enjoy playing this game, it’s great with people you know well (or not very well at all!) and guaranteed to have you laughing at the questions that get asked around the table. A round can be extremely short, depending on how specific your questions are, or it can go for quite a while as people try to suss each other out. The different scenarios are funny, odd, interesting and challenging, so you’re bound to capture the attention of your loved ones with this game.
This game is for 3 to 8 players aged 12+ and takes about 15 minutes to play.
12. Say Anything (Family Edition also available) – North Star Games
This is a light hearted party game about what you and your friends or family think (so proceed with caution!) One player asks a question, which the other players will write answers to on pieces of paper. Each player then chooses their favourite response, whoever gets the most votes wins points, and whoever gets the most points wins.
Bidding in Say Anything works similarly to bidding/selection of cards in the game Dixit. It’s another great party game that will keep the family entertained through the holiday season, or at least talking to each other nicely! And that’s my favourite part of the game, you’re guaranteed to get some good conversation out of it. This style of party game doesn’t make you feel bad if you’re not feeling particularly creative, it’s about the funny connections you make with each other while you play. And you can make it as clean or as “adult” as you like, but remember (just like with Cards Against Humanity) you’ll always remember what Aunty Joyce said that one Christmas you all broke out Say Anything for the first time…
This game is for 3 to 8 players aged 13+ and takes about 30 minutes to play.