Once again, it is the season of Gamesmas (2020-be-damned edition). It’s 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 played as possible 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. And while I often acquiesce to their gaming preferences throughout the year, Gamesmas is me-time. Here is this year’s list:
1) 12 Days (Calliope Games)
This game makes my Gamesmas list again, with its trick-taking fun, 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 the lowest card wins. This has become a tradition in our household each year. Great stuff.
2) Santa’s Workshop (Rio Grande Games)
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 that will stay on this list for years to come. Already played it twice this season.
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. It never disappoints. A solid game with little downtime that pairs well with the holiday beverage of your choice. This is becoming an all-season staple.
4) War Of The Ring (Ares Games)
One of the most thematic board games in Middle Earth, this two-player game has the good guys trying to destroy the Ring, while Sauron tries to crush the Free Peoples’ will with his unlimited armies. Great game if you have a whole day to stay inside. Oh, wait… Thanks, 2020! WOTR is a dice-chucking war game at its heart, but each side has a stack of multi-use cards that adds twists and turns, and a whole lotta tension. By the game’s end, you will have told your own story with Tolkien’s characters. A great game and a wonderful experience.
5) Chronicles of Crime: 1400 (Lucky Duck Games)
Solve crimes in 15th century Paris in the latest in the Chronicles of Crime series. This game’s use of QR codes and a mobile app take interrogation to the next level. This immersive experience is the closest thing to playing inside a TV crime show. Great for a family game night and highly recommended.
6) Christmas Vacation: Twinkling Lights
This little tile-laying game is quick and easy to learn and is a no brainer for the holidays. If your family enjoys the movie it would be great to play while you watch, making for a great season’s evening. The quotes on the cards are the gift that keeps on giving, all year long!
7) Barony (Matagot Games)
This (mostly) abstract game has a magnificent design that scales well up to four players and looks beautiful on the table. There is zero luck except for the initial board layout, which is perfect for an abstract game because while it allows for variation, it still comes down to brain vs. brain. The two-player version has made it to my table twice recently and it just reminds me that I need to play it more. Highly recommended.
8) The Pirate’s Flag (CardLords)
Basically, capture the flag, but with pirates. You roll, you move your ship, and attack each other using dice rolls and cards. Up to six players are guaranteed to get a little salty with this “take that” affair. But it’s engaging, relatively easy to learn, and fun, which are perfect conditions for holiday family fun. The artistic design pops as well.
9) Fleet: The Dice Game (Eagle-Gryphon Games)
This iteration of the Fleet franchise is my favorite to date and a great Gamesmas option. As my wife refers to it, “Fishing Yahtzee” is a roll and write where you use dice to launch boats, catch fish, and build the town in the most efficient manner. Turns are quick and you can play just about anywhere and at a distance if need be. This game is a gem and every serious gamer should take a look. It’s the best roll and write I’ve played.
10) Deckscape: Heist In Venice (DV Giochi Games)
This is an escape room in a single deck of cards. No joke. And it doesn’t suck. In fact, this may be my favorite system for tabletop escape rooms, possibly better than the Exit and Unlock systems. The puzzles were fair and not too difficult, and the character selection allowed each person to shine at a particular time during the adventure. It took us just over an hour to finish and a good time was had by all. A great way to spend an evening by the fire.
11) Struggle Of Empires: Deluxe (Eagle-Gryphon Games)
I recently acquired this sexified version of a well-regarded game designed by Martin Wallace. It is epic in scope and has up to seven nations trying to win 3 European wars in the 18th century. Economy plays a significant role as well as alliances, which are distributed through an auction before each of the wars. This sounds like one of the neatest mechanics I’ve ever heard of, and I am hoping I can play this game soon. That is my biggest Gamesmas wish!
12) Twilight Imperium: Prophesy of Kings (Fantasy Flight Games)
One of my greatest accomplishments this year was getting to play this bucket list game. It lived up to all the hype in my brain, which was difficult to do. Now there is a brand new expansion that adds more races, heroes, and other good stuff. It is unboxed, sleeved, sorted and ready for action as soon as it can safely be accomplished. Twilight Imperium is the very best of what tabletop gaming has to offer, and everyone should play it at least once. Amazing.
Well, there you have it. Thanks for reading, and here’s hoping your Gamesmas is full of love, hope, health, and fun! Happy Holidays, nerds.