Once again, it is the season of Gamesmas – that time, with 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. And while I normally acquiesce to their gaming preferences, I am more insistent on mine hitting the table during Gamesmas. Anyway, since I write game related articles, I shall now share this year’s list with you. These are my gaming highlights over the last month.

1) 12 Days (Calliope Games)

Trick taking fun with great Christmas art and lots of interaction. Players move through the 12 days of Christmas bidding on a gift each day worth increasing points. Everyone plays a card simultaneously and lowest card wins. In a twist, at the end of the game the players with the highest cards in hand get bonus points. This causes a bit of strategic tension that is fun but easy enough for non-gamers to grasp.

2) Santa’s Workshop (Rio Grande)

An excellent worker placement game where players become elves trying to make the most toys in the week before Santa’s big night. The art is beautiful and the game is a bit meaner than it looks because space availability becomes tight, especially toward the end of the game. But that just rewards the elf who better plans ahead! It’s a super fun and thematic holiday game. It’ll be hitting my table this week.

3) Space Park (Keymaster Games)

One of the prettiest games you’ll see, Space Park is a quick action selection/set collection game with relatively simple rules, requiring just enough strategy to win. This has always been a hit among different game groups and it was no different this year. A solid game with little down time that pairs well with the holiday beverage of your choice.

4) Shobu (Smirk & Laughter Games)

This is a classy looking two player abstract game that the feels familiar and different at the same time. There is no luck involved, just mind versus mind. Played on four boards at once, you’ll need to stay focused in order to keep from making a costly mistake. A fun brain burner that is simple but strategic.

5) Endeavor: Age of Sail (Burnt Island Games)

Euro goodness that has just enough theme for me to believe in what I am doing. I played this a year ago and finally got another chance. The strategy here is very crunchy and the player who is sharpest likely wins, which is appropriate, I guess. (I lost again so I am a little bitter). Actually, one of the best compliments I can give a game is that I lost badly and still had a blast. Endeavor does that for me. It also helps that I find the components beautiful. This will also likely lead to it catching one of your older relatives’ eyes as they pass by and causing them to ask, “Is that like Monopoly?”

6) Saltlands (Antler Games)

Nothing says “holidays” like trying to survive in a post-apocalyptic world. Just ask my stomach after a does of Aunt Betty’s fruit cake. What ARE those chewy square things made of anyway? In this semi cooperative game, players will fight baddies while searching the board for rumors of an exit point and then trying to get to said exit point before time runs out. It’s really quite thematic and also fun. Worth trying if you can find it.

7) Betrayal At House On The Hill (Wizards Of The Coast)

I always enjoy a chance to play this semi cooperative, dare I say, “modern classic,” when the opportunity arises. Players work together exploring an old house until The Haunt occurs. When that happens, one person becomes a betrayer and then all hell usually breaks loose. Literally. Some scenarios work out better than others, but this time we had to stop a beast from dropping it’s body parts all over the house before we destroyed both of its heads. In a pretty tense contest, we succeeded. Spooky fun for any season.

8) Eko (Sit Down Games)

This is another abstract beauty that I have been dying to play for a while. I finally did, and it was all that I imagined. While the rules are simple (always good for an abstract game) it felt epic in scope, with up to four players vying to destroy each others’ pieces while protecting theirs long enough to amass a measly 12 points. I really feel like this is an underrated design and if you like abstract games you must check it out.

9) Spectaculum (R&R Games)

I have always enjoyed this market manipulation game (buy low/sell high) designed by all time great Reiner Knizia. The theme could have been anything, but a traveling circus theme was the choice and it works here. I think the box art turns some people off, but it contains a solid game inside with easy to learn rules and good, strategic, choices. Also, I have always thought the board looks great after the pieces have all been placed by the end of the game. So bite me, box cover haters!

10) Mr. Jack (Hurrican)

This a great symmetrical chase game between a detective and Jack (The Ripper) and is one of my favorite two player games of all time. It usually takes about 30 minutes and we usually end up playing it 2 or 3 times in a row. It’s a battle of wits with just enough luck to force tough tactical decisions that require you to keep your head on swivel in order to do well.

11) Amul (Stronghold Games)

I was asked to play this card drafting/set collection game a few weeks back. Well, it was fun and I’m glad I got to play. There are three markets players will be trying to buy from while trying to collect sets of stuff that will be worth the most points by game’s end. Players have to contribute one card from their own hand each round to be placed in the market, so sometimes it was tough to decide what to keep or contribute. Amul didn’t over stay its welcome and provided enough tension to keep me engaged. Good job, Amul!

12) Discoveries: The Journals of Lewis & Clark (Ludonaute)

I like dice rolling games that have enough mitigation mechanics so that strategy matters. I also enjoy historic themes. This game has had my eye for a couple of years now, but I finally got it to the table during Gamesmas. It was a good time, as expected. Even though you have to manage what the dice give you, there are enough ways to acquire more dice and use cards to help improve your options. This means you have to employ strategy and that is what I like mixed with my luck. Discoveries is a game that checks off all the boxes for me and I am resolved to get it to the table again before years end. Check it out.

Well, there you have it. Thanks for reading, and here’s hoping your Gamesmas is full of love, hope, and fun! Later, nerds.

RELATED: Read all Rob’s board game reviews and recommendations, here!

Rob Fenimore
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