It is that time. Time once again for Gamesmas. It’s that self-indulgent time of year between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve when I try to play the board games I want to play before the year ends.
This year’s list has a couple of lifers, but there are mostly new arrivals. Also, in case you haven’t noticed, I make board game content on my YouTube channel so I have some links where appropriate so you can see some of these games in action. Please like and subscribe and all that Vince Guaraldi Christmas jazz. Let’s get to it.
1) Santa’s Workshop (Rio Grande Games)
Gamesmas does not start until this excellent worker placement game hits the table. Truth be told, the mechanics and theme are so good, we start playing this one earlier and earlier each year. Gamesmas in July? Why not? Players control elf meeples during the week before Christmas and use them to collect resources to make toys, hoping to impress Santa.
2) 12 Days (Calliope Games)
A great trick-taking game with twelve rounds representing the 12 days of Christmas with each round’s reward ascending 1-12 to coincide with the days. Each player is trying to play the lowest card to take the trick, but at the end of the game any cards remaining in hand will serve will score better for higher numbers. It’s quick, easy, and has nice Christmas art. A perfect family game and a Gamesmas all-timer.
3) Caesar’s Empire (Holy Grail Games)
Abstract goodness clothed in Roman robes. Players will be connecting roads from Rome to other cities, collecting resources and scoring points, not only for themselves but possibly for their opponents at the same time. I haven’t played this one yet but I hear it moves quickly and calls for some tough choices. Count me in. Find out more about Caesar’s Empire, here.
4) Fresco: Mega Box (Queen Games)
This one has been on my radar and I took the plunge at my FLGS and grabbed it. Players are painting the cathedral ceiling, getting up early (or late) to head to the market to get paints and supplies to help complete their task. This one sounds like an all-time classic that needs to be perused by me. The Mega Box adds 17 expansions in the game. And the Chief Helmsman of Gamesmas says, “oh my.” Find out more about Fresco: Mega Box, here.
5) National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (Funko Games)
I know very little about this game set in the Christmas Vacation universe except the following. It’s a Target exclusive, it’s a press-your-luck dice game, and it has a Marty Moose eggnog cup for rolling the dice. If that didn’t already have me, the Christmas sweater artwork certainly closes the deal. Once it arrives at my home, we’ll have the hap, hap, happiest Christmas since Bing Crosby tap-danced with Danny effing Kaye. Find out more about National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation game, here.
6) Elf: Journey From The North Pole (Funko Games)
Funko keeps rolling out these board games based on popular holiday movie franchises and they keep getting me to bite. It’s like they’re in my Gamesmas head. In this one, players will guide Buddy around the board trying to visit the locations on their objective cards before he makes it to New York to find James Caan. It looks pretty simple, rules-wise, and also cute and fun. No better time to try it than during Gamesmas. Find out more about the Elf: Journey From The North Pole game, here.
7) Raccoon Tycoon (Forbidden Games)
The cartoonish animal art on this game is the only thing that has kept me from trying this one out, despite the many reviews touting its excellence. But Gamesmas is a time of thinking outside the box, so I have ordered this box to arrive very soon. It’s supposedly a lighter-than-most economic game with the buy low, sell high mantra. But it is also supposed to have very tight and streamlined mechanics, and is allegedly, quite good. The designer, Glenn Drover has provided a few excellent games that I enjoy, so that also bodes well for the Raccoon. Find out more about Raccoon Tycoon, here.
8) Glenn Drover’s Empires: Galactic Rebellion (Eagle-Gryphon Games)
Speaking of Glenn Drover, here he is again, this time with a space odyssey based on one of my favorite games, and a previous Drover design, Empires: Age of Discovery, one of my all-time favorite games. I have seen this game numerous times on the publisher’s website, but I didn’t realize it was an adaptation of Empires. Once I made that discovery I had to get it, and it will be played this Gamesmas. I have seen mixed reviews for this one, but the Black Friday price was way too good to pass up, so it’s about to make a landing at my space dock, err, porch. Find out more about Glenn Drover’s Empires: Galactic Rebellion, here.
9) Baseball/Football Highlights: The Dice Game (Eagle-Gryphon)
Heading my way along with Galactic Rebellion is this dice game based on the very successful “Highlights” games from Mike Fitzgerald. I have played Baseball Highlights and enjoyed it and its futuristic take on baseball. But it was a little more than I wanted to chew with the team drafting elements, so I’m hoping the dice versions of both of these games will be a perfect fit for my collection. Eagle-Gryphon’s dice version of Fleet is one of my favorites, so I’m hoping to hit a home run and a touchdown on these offerings this Gamesmas. Find out more about Baseball/Football Highlights: The Dice Game, here.
10) Obsession (Kayenta Games)
Quickly creeping up my list of all-time great games, and certainly in the last year, Obsession has almost become one for me. This is a Downton Abbey Esque engine builder and hand management game where you are trying to return a once prestigious Victorian family to greatness, one event and renovation at a time. As head of the house, you’ll manage a team of servants and help invite as many hoity-toity guests as you can so the family’s name will regain its glory. A super well-designed game that I want to introduce to as many friends as I can this Gamesmas. Find out more about Obsession, here.
11) Lacrimosa (Devir Games)
As a musician, this game about Mozart had to be added to my collection. Players are former associates of the great composer who are helping Mozart’s widow, Constanze, write her memoir about Wolfie by sharing their memories with her. Oh, and they are helping pay composers to finish his Requiem posthumously. Deck building meets euro style resource collection in this uniquely themed composition. I hope it hits all the right notes! Find out more about Lacrimosa, here.
And that’s this year’s Gamesmas list. It is my hope that this season will bring you plenty of fun with your family and friends, whether playing some of these games or whatever other mischief you wish. Here’s to a healthy and happy Gamesmas, and an excellent 2023. Keep nerding on!
Find that awesome Vince Guaraldi Gamesmas Jazz, here: