The Fifth To Twelfth (Board)Games Of Christmas

By Robert Florence on December 24th, 2012 at 2:00 pm.

On the REST OF THE DAYS OF CHRISTMAS, MY–

Okay, okay. There’s still the rest of today, so enough time for you to get out and pick up some more board games as great gifts. I’m going to roll the rest of my boardgames of Christmas into this post, to make it easier for all of you and easier for me. Is that cool? To hell with the 12 days. I’ve given you four updates, and this fifth will be a nice round-up of the rest, and then you can go buy them all and I’ll take a lie down. Before I do that, though, let me just speak on something important. Let’s get emotional. Don’t I always end up getting emotional?

BOARD GAMES OF CHRISTMAS

Man, listen. Listen, listen, listen. Listen.

Nothing stays the same. I’m sure you already know this. But just in case there are some people out there who don’t realise it, and I mean really realise it, let me say again that nothing nothing nothing stays the same.

I remember, a few years back, coming home from a visit to my parents’ house. I was walking away from the old house, where I grew up, and I took a look back. My parents were both at the door, waving me off. I waved back at them. And I remember thinking this to myself – “If I could hold everything here, right here, press pause, make it stay just so forever, then I would.” I had everything I wanted at that point. A home, a girl I loved, a child, a career, a family, and my parents right there at the door of the old house, there whenever I needed them.

Nothing stays the same.

Time just keeps on tumbling away from us, moving on a downward slope, accelerating into the dark. Rare are the moments when we would say “Stop. Pause. Right here. This here. This forever.” We need to create those moments so that we can say that silly, impossible thing.

Board games matter. They let us gather people around a table, friends and loved ones, so that we can all play together. You need to set time aside to play a board game. You sit with the people you love and you get lost together for a little while. You roll dice, make decisions, beat each other up, laugh and shout. You pass cards and tokens to each other. You touch, make eye contact, high-five and mock-strangle. Time, that enemy, has to wait it all out. Time has been set aside, robbed of its power. You are playing with the people you love. Whatever game you play, you have already won.

This here. This forever. For a little while at least.

Nothing stays the same.

FINAL ROUND-UP

I told you about Coup, Spartacus, The Resistance and X-Wing in previous updates. Here, quickly, are a few more games I suggest you pick up for the people you love this Christmas. You will notice that all my suggestions are what you could call “light” games. No-one wants a complex rulebook on Christmas Day. Well, I do, but I’m funny that way.

LIBERTALIA

This brilliant, brilliant pirates game was one of my pal James Purefoy’s favourite games this year. You can read about us playing it at this link – http://www.rockpapershotgun.com/2012/09/02/cardboard-children-libertalia/

It’s such a cool game. Take control of a band of pirates and plunder a ship over seven days and nights. It’s so easy to play, full of interesting decisions, and has enough chaos in the mix to make everyone hoot. Essentially it’s a game about role selection and timing. Every player has the same resources. The winner will be the person who makes best use of them. It’s a breeze to play, although maybe a tad more complex than the other games I’ve mentioned, and one of the very best games to be released this year. A potential Game of the Year when I make my selection in January.

BUZZ IT!

I recommend Buzz It all the time. It’s a party game comprising of a bunch of cards and an electronic timer. You take a card, ask a question, and start the timer. Each player has to answer before the timer buzzes. Questions are things like WHAT WOULD YOU HATE TO WAKE UP IN BED BESIDE or SOME KIND OF QUESTION THAT LETS YOU SAY INSULTING THINGS ABOUT YOUR SEXUAL PARTNER. It’s fast, really funny, and it’s the type of game anyone can play. In fact, it’s a very different game with different groups. Play with kids and you’re playing a giggly quickfire quiz game. Play with drunk adults and it’s a foul-mouthed gagfest that would make polite company blush. It’s such a great gift, this one. Practically no rules to learn, and massively replayable. Pick it up.

LOVE LETTER

Love Letter is a new release. It’s a tiny little card game stored in a velvet pouch. The theme of the game is that the players are trying to win the affections of a royal princess by sneaking love letters to her. The cards all feature members of the royal palace. At the end of a round, the player with the card featuring the member of the palace who has the closest relationship with the princess gets their letter delivered.

No game process could be more simple than this – each turn, the player takes a card from the deck. This will leave them with two cards in hand. Then the player will discard one of these cards and keep the other. That’s it. However, whenever you discard a card, the card’s power activates. One card might protect you from other cards for a turn. Another might let you look at another player’s hand. The Guard card lets you try to “arrest” a card from another player’s hand, by declaring who the Guard is searching for.

Eventually the deck empties and the player with the highest ranked card in hand wins. It’s a clever game of quick, meaningful decisions. Do you try to keep a certain card, or use its power to try to find another card that is of a higher rank? Seeing all the card powers work together is a thrill, so I won’t go into it too much in case I spoil that fun. What I will say is that a simple mechanic of DRAW ONE, DISCARD ONE makes for an exciting little game that creates lots of good table stories.

And hey – I love the theme. It makes a good, positive change.

MAGICAL ATHLETE

This game might be a little harder to find, but it’s well worth hunting down. It’s a really simple racing game, where each player has a team of weirdos with magical powers. The athletes are auctioned off at the start of the game, and then players choose which athletes they will enter into each race. My goodness, this game is superb.

It’s a roll and move racing game, sure. That means EVERYBODY ON THE PLANET can learn how to play it in ten seconds. But the way all the powers work together? Insanity. Hilarity. There are witches and ninjas, there are athletes that turn other athletes to stone, and athletes that can switch places with athletes further up the field. Every athlete has a unique power, so every race has a new dynamic. It’s a laugh riot, and incredibly exciting. And you know what? If you wanted to you could bet real money on this bad boy. I love it. Please try to find it. Buy it for yourself for Christmas. You deserve it.

ANYTHING. KERPLUNK. MONOPOLY. SCRABBLE. ANYTHING

Yes, my last selection is ANYTHING. Anything at all. Just please do try to play a board game or two this Christmas. Board gaming is booming right now, and I think it has a lot to do with the fact that as social networks put physical distance between us, something within us desires the closeness of that tactile, physical experience. Get involved. Get on board. I’ll even allow you to play crappy old Cluedo if you must. Just please try to set some time aside to play.

Nothing stays the same. Remember that. Grab it while it’s all still here.

Merry Christmas!

, .

64 Comments »

Sponsored links by Taboola
  1. JonClaw says:

    Ticket to Ride, Agricola, Settlers…

    • yogibbear says:

      Dixit, Powergrid.

      • Ninja Foodstuff says:

        I highly recommend Dixit as a good board game when there’s a bunch of people who don’t necessarily have anything in common (i.e. Christmas). You each play a card that matches the description someone else came up with based on one of their cards and vote on which was the original. Great stuff.

    • S Jay says:

      Puerto Rico!

    • Premium User Badge

      Carra says:

      Played some Agricola & Power Grid today so I’m set :)

      I especially like Agricola, it’s not clear who’s the winner until the count is done.

  2. hermpesaurusrex says:

    Cluedo? Crappy? Old? Yeah, ok. It is old but damn is it fun to dress up with a fancy cigar and pretend to be Colonel Mustard…

  3. Premium User Badge

    Sarigs says:

    Hope ya feeling better now Rob! Libertalia is definitely my pick for game of the year by a wide margin!

    ..and for the love of god that last choice should be “Anything other then Monopoly”. Hateful game :-P

    • Stephen Roberts says:

      You know you’re great friends with someone when you can relentlessly crush their soul in Monopoly and then continue being great friends once the board is put away.

      • Premium User Badge

        Sarigs says:

        Ha I just find it spirit destroying to play more then two runs round the board ;-)

        • plugmonkey says:

          Monopoly is a game where it takes an hour to determine who the winner will be, and then a further three hours for them to actually win.

          Horrible, horrible game.

          • Premium User Badge

            Sarigs says:

            This guy knows!

          • Lanfranc says:

            Instead of keeping playing until everyone else has gone bankrupt, you can just set a time limit. The player with the higest net worth when the clock runs out wins.

            As for it being spirit-destroying and soul-crushing, that is actually sort of the point. It was originally (in its earliest incarnation, “The Landlord’s Game”) designed not as entertainment, but to demonstrate why (according to Georgist economic theory) land ownership and rent payments are really negative concepts.

          • Premium User Badge

            Lord Custard Smingleigh says:

            Add house rules to make players more fragile and keep the conflict tight. Here are the house rules that I use to keep things cut-throat – the general idea is to get money out of circulation as quickly as possible, and allow multiple players to gang up effectively against a clear winner

            When an unowned property is landed on, it is immediately auctioned with the face price as starting price. If there are no takers, the price can go down as well as up. Someone will get it, even if it goes for £0. However, the person who landed on it has the option of bidding the current highest price, and they win ties. Everyone else must either bid more, add to another player’s bid, or hold their peace.

            Rules about owning sets to build houses are suspended, but houses do not increase rent until you own a set.

            During your turn, you may initiate a “hostile takeover” of any property on the board without developments. You must pay the face value of the property to the bank. At that point, you and any players who wish to participate in the takeover may collectively bid against the current owner, who must outbid the taking-over players. If the current owner outbids, he adds a house to the property and pays his winning bid to the Bank. If the taking-over players outbid, the Bank receives the winning bid and the property is returned to the Bank.

            These house rules are working if the game becomes more about auctions, alliances, and favours than about traveling around the board collecting rent.

            Oh, and no bloody money on Free Parking.

          • Synesthesia says:

            if you use the actual auction house rules, it gets a lot more ductile. Try it out!

          • frightlever says:

            @LCS basically you’re playing a different game using the Monopoly board and pieces. A couple of decades ago, possibly three, I got a book out of the library that was all about alternative rules for Monopoly. Blew my mind. I had never considered playing a board game without following all the rules. Didn’t catch on. I told people we can change the rules, we can have house rules to make this game more fun. Turns out most people prefer rules that aren’t made by the most vociferous voice. Neutral rules, if you will. May have been my fault. But if it works for you then great.

          • Supahewok says:

            Quite a few people dump on Monopoly, but they usually don’t play with the real Auction House rules. Not only that, but whenever I’m losing (or hell, whenever I’m winning) I start cutting deals and working politics around the table. “Oh here, you just landed on another players hotel? Here, I’ll give you a loan, the next time I land on one of your big spaces I’ll pay half.” Or “We need to work together to take down Player X, let’s agree to only pay part of each other’s rent when we land on each other’s spaces.” Stuff like that. Makes the game a helluva a lot more interesting to me, and I usually end up winning cuz I’m the only one around with the audacity to think of dealing with other players like this in Monopoly.

          • jalf says:

            Well, sure, you can house-rule your way out of even the most broken game design, but why start with a broken game in the first place? Why not play a game that works well out of the box, and hey, if you feel like it, go ahead and houserule on top of that.

            Monopoly just isn’t a very good game. And there are so many other board games out there which *are* very good games.

    • wodin says:

      Last time I played Monopoly it was Xmas 1991..Me and two other mates where about 18..we where at one of my mates whose parents had gone away so left us three too it..we made a roast but didn’t realise we had to peel the spuds and got a big piece of gammon from two lesbians in a pub…

      Anyway after our Xmas dinner…ahem..we smoked copious amounts of weed then dropped a Blue Unicorn (LSD) and starting playing Monopoly..the shortest game of Monopoly I’ve ever had..and the craziest of Xmas nights..Oh the good old days.

  4. Ernesto25 says:

    I once saw the battlestar galatica board game but itts a shame that i dotn really know enough people who would be intresting in playing it.

    • hajimeowari says:

      It’s well worth the time learning how to play if you can find the people, imo.

  5. 2helix4u says:

    /dickpost
    The timing on these articles has been Santerrifically unhelpful. They pretty much began to arrive at the point that nothing ordered online would get here by Christmas.
    /dickpost
    Good article though, I’m just bothered I can’t make much use for it now

  6. The-Fletch says:

    ANYTHINGFACE!

  7. Robbah says:

    Will be playing HeroQuest these days!

  8. caddyB says:

    Get well soon Rab!

  9. bill says:

    I went with Forbidden Island for my family – seems to be a cheap but nice, simplified version of Pandemic, with a nice cooperative theme.

    Who knows if they’ll like it.

  10. DeFrank says:

    Fucking bravo on the opening few paragraphs Rob. Eloquently articulated considering it’s on a blog about games. I would say that I’m surprised, except I’m not. Brilliant as always.

  11. SoyBob says:

    I spent Friday night eating Indian takeaway and playing Cards Against Humanity with friends. Nothing quite captures that Christmas spirit like jokes about anal bleeding, the homeless and micro-penises.

    • Ninja Foodstuff says:

      I’d never heard of cards against humanity before, what a wonderful thing!

    • The JG Man says:

      The last play was with four close friends and we played it for 3 hours. It was fantastic fun and we had many a guffaw! I strongly, strongly recommend this for people who like things a little dark. I think it’s already become something of a favourite amongst us.

  12. Froh says:

    And you forgot indie games :

    – Battlecon : War of indines, a great versus card game (which also have his next standalone on kickstarter right now : http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/level99games/battlecon-devastation-of-indines-a-dueling-card-ga ).
    – Flash Duel : light, casual, fast and cool and video game related
    – Flash Point : A great cooperative game
    – Shadowrift : A strange game which mix cooperative and deckbuilding game

    And some others games, Ghost Stories, 7 wonders, etc :p

  13. DonJefe says:

    Lovely introduction, mr. Florence. I hope life improves for you and merry Christmas. You have inspired me to get a few friends together for a board game night.

  14. Jenks says:

    I got Defenders of the Realm as an early Christmas present. Played it once so far, lost horribly, but had a great time. I prefer Pandemic’s pacing but I think DotR’s less abstract villains and miniatures are going to outweigh that and make it my new favorite co-op board game.

  15. Lanfranc says:

    Actually, the 12 days of Christmas only begin on Dec 25th, so Mr Florence is way ahead of schedule here.

    Thanks for the many recommendations. I really should try to get to play some more boardgames than I do.

  16. Synesthesia says:

    Amen, Rab. I am loving everything about the hobby, specially the connecting with people in weird, hilarious, bright ways. Just yesterday we were playing Bang! Utterly drunk, and suddenly there was a final showdown, my girl, the Rinegatto, vs. The Sheriff, some dude a friend had brought.
    Then i played this:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cWo__6Xn6Qs

    Absolutely EVERYTHING synchronized with what was going on to the table, down to the death of the sheriff, by shameful, shameful dynamite. We actually had a round of applause. Beautiful.

    Also, gloating time. I got this week 4 top games, i’d been waiting forever: King of Tokyo, as pero your recommendation (good god, its great!)
    City of Horror (HNNNG)
    Netrunner (little girl justin bieber-squeel at richard garfield)
    and space alert.

    i am a happy man.

    • Shadowcat says:

      Nice haul!

      King of Tokyo is a hoot, provided that players don’t mind being eliminated.

      Space Alert is one of my more recent acquisitions, and I think it’s excellent, but I did find it slightly intimidating to start with — the real-time element requires you all to understand the majority of the rules before you can start a game, so the learn-as-you-play approach doesn’t apply here in the usual way. That said, the game does a decent job of introducing extra complexity in stages, so it doesn’t throw everything at you at once, but it was still a different learning curve than I’m accustomed to (which was also hindered slightly by the otherwise-excellent tutorial/manual instructing us to play the first audio track several pages before it was actually useful to do so!)

      I’ve yet to play COH or NR (but am keen on both).

  17. mllange says:

    I rarely comment, but this piece is certainly worthy of a ‘well done!’ Two of my five children are now grown and at the university and we have many fond memories of days and nights spend around the table with whatever board game was available. We now have a closet full of games and it is a rare visit from either of them when we don’t pull out a favorite for yet another round. I have equally fond memories of nights playing board games with my grandfather before he passed away, and hope my grandchildren have the same kind of experiences with me.

    Get well soon, Rob. Nice article!

  18. Premium User Badge

    AmateurScience says:

    Thanks Rab

    Thab

  19. Corrupt_Tiki says:

    I like Scrabble and monopoly and risk .. =/

    Although that pirate one sounds intriguing, and the princess one sounds lovely.
    Bookmarking this page for reference, I do need to stock up on a few good board games :)
    I don’t play board games much, as I lack friends; so these round ups are good for people like me who only get to play once in a while, when I manage to trick some sheeple into staying over.

    Merry Christmas everyone!
    And Bring on the new year!

  20. IRiver says:

    And what about the Civilization boardgame? Is it any good?

  21. Jorum says:

    Brilliant piece, I’m going to repost that paragraph on my facebook to try and explain to all family and friends who still don’t realise the secret of boardgames.

    Libertalia – probably best game I’ve played this year.
    Really slick and simple mechanics, but gameplay and depth.
    One of my favourite parts is although everyone starts out with same cards, you carry a few over each round. So at the end you’re thinking “damn, did John already use his monkey or does he still have it?” and then Karl plays a brute and you’re like “what! you still have a bruiser? you bastard Karl”

  22. McDan says:

    That last game sounds brilliant, will definetely be looking that up. Ah boardgames, this just reminds me that I was right in bringing king of Tokyo and city of horror to my grandparents for Christmas. As well as knowing I’ll be getting cosmic encounter under the tree, hopefully. So lots of festive family boardgame moments this year. Mainly trying to kill each other but still, that’s what Christmas is about.

  23. theleif says:

    Heathens and abominable eurogamers.
    Here are the list of games you should have bought, sorted by the amount of available players:
    2 Players: Netrunner or Mage Knight (actually pretty fun in co-op).
    3 players: Mage Knight again, but with PvP rules or Merchants & Marauders.
    4 Players: Merchants & Marauders remains, add Rune Wars and Galaxy Truckers for a nice mix of mayhem.
    5 Players: Warrior Knights, Chaos in the Old World (+ expansion) or Eclipse.
    6 Players: Twilight Imperium, Game of Thrones or again Eclipse.
    7 Players: Twilight Imperium, Cosmic Encounters
    8 Players: Twilight Imperium, Cosmic Encounters
    9 Players: BANG!

    Merry Happy!

    • Jorum says:

      All excellent suggestions, but I’m gonna add a little warning to people :
      Twilight Imperium is one of the greatest games ever, but it is long. Very long.
      An average game may be about 6 hours. 8 hours would not be exceptional.

      My backup recommendatino for 6-7-8 players is Roborally.
      Really really fun game and easy for everyone to understand.
      “each turn you put down these cards to tell robot where to walk, and the first robot to reach that flag wins”

      Sounds easy and you think “huh this seems too easy”.
      And then the game starts and everything goes wrong for everybody and robots are going backwards the wrong way up escalators and falling down holes everywhere.

    • JayTee says:

      BSG works at 5 players but 6 really is the sweet spot for it, same with A Game of Thrones. I’d also add in Wiz-War at 4 Players for extra mayhem as that game is utterly, utterly crazy at times.

      2 Players: SPACE HULK

      Not that you’ll be able to buy it outside of a small fortune on EBay :(

    • theleif says:

      You are both wise men. I was about to add Space hulk at first, but the chance of getting it for anything less than a small fortune is as you said, close to nil.

    • j3w3l says:

      haha really.. I had space hulk as a kid and loved the absolute hell out of it. I think it must be around in a garage somewhere still, time for a treasure hunt

  24. x3m157 says:

    Last day of Christmas? You realize that December 25 is only the first day of Christmas, right?

  25. pertusaria says:

    Hase und Igel, apparently translated into English as Hare and Tortoise (Igel means hedgehog but presumably Hare and Tortoise was an easier sell) – very much a family game. Once you figure out the mechanics, a lot depends on your luck near the beginning of the game, so it’s best played by a group where there can be several play sessions close together, to save someone leaving with a very bad taste in his/her mouth from a loss that couldn’t have been avoided. Still a lot more skill based than something like Snakes and Ladders.

    Saboteur – a card game about dwarfs mining for gold, i.e. trying to reach the gold card before anyone else. Great for any group of at least four, because with higher numbers you start getting a percentage chance of someone being dealt a “you are a bastard” card (the saboteur) at the beginning, and the game becomes a lot more fun and less predictable.

    Thanks for the great columns, Rab, and take care!

    • Shadowcat says:

      I really like Saboteur. I found it very average the first couple of times I played it, because it was explained as a primarily co-operative game of the Saboteur(s) vs everyone else, and so everyone freely shared information about where they knew the gold to be, and no one worried about who got to the gold first. When we realised that in actual fact every dwarf should be aiming to be the first one to the gold and consequently should actively be obstructing anyone who might get in the way of that goal, the game became about three times as much fun.

  26. Shadram says:

    Spent all Christmas evening drinking and playing Dixit with 7 friends (with Odyssey pieces and cards from all 4 sets). It was magical, one of the best evenings we’ve ever had together, and it’s all thanks to Rab and his recommendation of the game on Downtime Town. We’re already making plans for more game nights in the future. Best Christmas present ever.

  27. freegames says:

    My preferred game this year was Libertalia, probably because I love pirate stories and adrenaline, and I’ve spend many hours this year playing this game!

  28. RuySan says:

    Scrabble was my game of christmas. It’s probably the best of the mainstream supermarket kind of games.

    • Shadowcat says:

      I hate Scrabble so much (because I’m awful at it). I’m good at Boggle (which I consequently enjoy), but my brain apparently can’t cope when the letters need manual arrangement. It’s very annoying.

  29. Aardvarkk says:

    Ended up playing some Apples to Apples with the family this weekend. We seem to end up always laughing and having way too much fun.