Happy holidays, my fellow nerds. It is that time of year again. You guessed it, Gamesmas! An excellent time to gather as safely as possible with loved ones and celebrate with board games. Isn’t that what everyone does? Well, I do. Over the last several years I have assembled a list for Geek Girl Authority of the games I have played or hope to play during the last couple of months of the year. This year’s list has some staples and also some newcomers. Also, this year I have started creating board game content on my YouTube channel and so I have some links I’ll share at the end of this article so you can see some of these games in action. Please like and subscribe and all that jazz. Anyway, let’s get to it. 

1) Santa’s Workshop (Rio Grande Games) 

This excellent worker placement game has found its place in my annual Christmas festivities. Gaming friends request it around Thanksgiving and I am always up for it. Players control elf meeples and use them to collect resources to make toys, hoping to impress Santa. If you haven’t, you must check this out. 
 

2) 12 Days (Calliope Games)

 This is a quick-playing trick-taking game that moves through the 12 days of Christmas. 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 you better if they are higher numbers. Very easy to play, beautiful Christmas stained glass art, and always a fun time. Another staple of my holiday season.
 

3) 7 Wonders: Architects (Repos Production)

A quicker and somehow even more accessible version of the classic 7 Wonders board game. This time of year is about introducing non-gamers to this amazing hobby. Architects removes the barriers of complex rules and learning/playing downtime while still providing meaningful choices. Players choose from one of three cards and play it in front of them trying to build their specific wonder. Games are fast and you won’t play just one. A must-have for Gamesmas.

 

4) Camel Up (Eggertspiele)

 This has become my go-to gateway game all year round, but it is especially worthy of my Gamesmas list because despite playing up to 8 players, it takes an hour to play and is super easy to teach and understand. Camels racing around the board while stacking on top of each other causes lots of unpredictable mayhem. But having players betting on the outcome takes it to the level of fun and hilarity that everybody will love. Great stuff.
 

5) Jamaica (Asmodee)

This hard-to-find game finally got a new edition this year and it gives me the same type and level of enjoyment as Camel Up, but this time it’s pirates racing around the island of Jamaica. Turns are fast and unpredictable, but chaos is a very piratey quality so it fits perfectly here. Throw in some treasure (some cursed, of course) and high player interaction, and you have a great time for up to 6 players. 

6) Francis Drake (Eagle-Gryphon)

I finally picked this fellow up after several years of looking at it from afar. I’m so glad I did. The game mechanics are so easy compared to the largesse of the components. It looks great on the table and gives players the sense of grand adventure without all the downtime and rules bloat that you might expect. The game round is split into two parts: first, players go shopping for supplies, and second, they explore the map by secretly choosing their locations and simultaneously revealing and resolving. Lots of tension and fun with beautiful components. 

7) Catan: Starfarers – (Catan Studio)

Imagine if Catan had space exploration and choose-your-own-adventure elements combined with the most overdone (nicely, that is) components you’ll find? Get this game and you won’t have to. This is a perfect way to enjoy the classic modern board game pioneer, Settlers of Catan. There is a bunch of luck and possibly you’ll have to negotiate with a weird relative or two, but isn’t that what the holidays are about? I played this a few months ago and cannot wait to explore it again. Worth a serious look this Gamesmas.

8) The King is Dead (Osprey Games)

I had the first edition of this game and enjoyed it very much, but got rid of it because others seemed less in love with it. Well, now it has a new edition with flashier art and a bit of justified buzz in the boardgamegeek.com community. So I picked up the new edition and am ready to make the wish of playing it come true this Gamesmas. Players are playing cards to manipulate cubes on the board in order to control Europe. The mechanics are simple but the tension is high because every play matters. A perfect way to spend a holiday afternoon.
 

9) Walls of York (CMON)

This game has been on the clearance rack of a popular online game store for some time, but the critical reviews are solidly in its corner, so I grabbed a copy for under $20. It is basically a roll and build game with players trying to encircle their lands with (you guessed it) walls, in order to score maximum points. I tried a practice round with a buddy and I can tell it is going to play fast and fun with my casual gaming friends. Perfect for a holiday beverage and Gamesmas. 
 

10) National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation: Twinkling Lights Game (Funko)

This tile laying game based upon one of my all-time favorite Christmas movies was a no brainer to pick up at my FLGS. It is not going to wow you with the gameplay (draw a tile and play it) but it also doesn’t suck. It is a bit reminiscent of Rummy and the cards you are trying to complete have quotes and artwork which inspire some movie quoting fun. Check out the link to our playthrough at the end of this article to see the shenanigans. Why should I listen to you, Rob? I don’t KNOW, Margo!

11) Hansa Teutonica (Pegasus Spiele)

This critically acclaimed low-luck, euro game has become an all-time favorite over several plays this year. The learning curve is relatively low, but the depth of strategy and head-on-a-swivel tactical choices make it a must-have for any hobby gamer. This one may not be as accessible for casual gamers as some of the others on this list, but if you have some company who can focus on a 30-minute rules overview, the reward is well worth it, especially if you’re likely to play it again with them in the future. A gem of a game.
 

12) Clash of Cultures: Monumental Edition (WizKids)

Definitely not for a casual gamer, but this is likely the best tabletop iteration of Sid Meier’s classic video game I have played. Take one of 15 unique civilizations and try to have the most victory points at the end of the game. The tech tree is the same for all players except for four unique advances available only to their own civ. Each civ has three unique leaders that can be recruited as well. There are so many strategic paths to explore, and even though there are many rules, they are thematically intuitive and become easier to remember with continued plays. And this is one that many gamers will want to play again and again. I certainly have and will. 

And there you have it. This list could have been longer, but Gamesmas should only have twelve. Check out the links below to see some related videos for the above list. I hope this list gives you some gaming food for thought, and I hope you have a safe and super fun holiday season! If I don’t see you before then, Happy New Year as well. 
 
Peace, Rob
 
 

GREAT PLAINS Board Game: Meadows Were Made For Fighting

 

Rob Fenimore
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