Yes, I KNOW it's still November, but I want you to get your Christmas shopping done early this year. I'm tired of hearing you complaining about leaving it to the last minute. “Oh, I have everything to do! Oh, I haven't even bought my mother those ten jars of goose fat she loves to eat!” I am here to get you started early, with some board game Christmas suggestions. I will only be suggesting stuff that you can actually buy. No out-of-print heartbreakers. And I'll also only be suggesting stuff that you can PLAY WITH YOUR EXTENDED FAMILY. Read on to see what I mean.
YOUR CHRISTMAS SHOPPING – FAMILY EDITION
Yeah, I mean, there's no point in me recommending Phil Eklund's High Frontier, as great as it is, because it'll just make your wee mammy's head pop off her shoulders. And nobody wants to hear their wee mammy talking about how many thrusts she needs. I want to recommend a few games that you could give as gifts, or play with family visitors when they turn up UNWANTED at Christmas. Safe bets. Crowd-pleasers. Stuff idiots could play. YES, YOUR FAMILY ARE IDIOTS IS WHAT I AM SAYING.
So let's go.
AUGUSTUS/RISE OF AUGUSTUS
Now, I know this game as “Augustus”, because I'm a cool dude. But I think it's called “Rise of Augustus” now, because we live in the age of BLANK of SOMETHING or RISE of the BLANK of SOMETHING or THE SOMETHING of SOMETHING: BLANK of SOMETHING. Let me say this to you, though. This game is bingo. That's all it really is. It's bingo with a few extra decisions. And I know what you're thinking. You're thinking “FUCK BINGO”. But I put it to you that there are few games as accessible as bingo. I don't know of anyone who can't play a game of bingo. So with Augustus everyone has some cards (bingo cards) and then tokens are drawn from a bag, and you mark off those symbols on your cards. You have a limited amount of roman soldiers to place on the symbols, though. You can gain more as rewards for shouting BINGO! Or AVE CAESAR! Or HOLLLLLLAAAAA BABY! Oh, it's some basic stuff. But it's a lot of fun. It plays quick. It takes about three seconds to learn, and there IS actually some thought involved. You can choose how to structure your luck. Yeah. Check it out. AUGUSTUS: THE BLANK OF THE RISE OF BLANK.
I'm tired of recommending Love Letter. It's a slim deck of cards. You start with a card in hand. You draw a card and discard a card. That's all you do. Every card has a power, and you're pretty much trying to leave yourself with the highest value card at the end of the round. But the round can end early too. You can eliminate opponents and stuff. There's a theme to the game too. You're all trying to send love letters to a beautiful princess. Or a prince, if you get the Japanese edition of the game. Here are the rules of the game:
DRAW A CARD
DISCARD A CARD
If your family members can handle that, they can play and enjoy Love Letter. If they can't handle that, I don't know what to say to you. Just buy this. It's less than a tenner.
Oh, Dixit. It never fails. It's a beautiful thing. Get Dixit onto the table and your aunties and uncles will be saying “Oh, that's a nice drawing isn't it? That's lovely!” They'll smile, and you'll see their yellowed teeth, and you'll think about how we're all crawling towards oblivion.
In Dixit you have a whole bunch of big cards with a different beautiful illustration on each. Your job is to choose one of your cards and say something about it. You can give it a title, say something descriptive, sing a song about it, WHATEVER. And then the other players play one of their cards that they feel fits the emotional emotions that you just evoked. Then you shuffle all those chosen cards together and lay them all out. And everyone votes for which one was the original. BUT HERE'S WHAT IS COOL.
WHAT IS COOL: The person who played the original card only scores points if only SOME of the other players pick out their card. Know what I mean? If everyone gets it (it was too obvious) or no-one gets it (your description was almost Lynchian in its fucking obtuse weirdness) then you score NUTHIN. Hey, if only one other player guesses your card then you get your reward and you have made a nice emotional connection with someone. Your brainwaves have melded with theirs and sex is inevitable. EVEN IF YOU ARE PLAYING WITH YOUR FAMILY.
This game is all about imagination and creativity and will let you learn some stuff you never knew about your dad. That's nice, right?
Let's do one more. Because I'm a heavy hardcore geek. I'm more interested in NEXT WEEK's column, where I'll be suggesting the best board game Christmas gifts for TOTAL HARDCORE SHUT-IN WEIRDO LOSER LEVEL GOD-TIER GEEKAZOIDS. But we'll do one more can't-miss easy-to-find and inexpensive family game sugg-
JAMES PUREFOY WRITES:
“Hi, James Purefoy here. I just want to talk about Robert Florence for a moment or two. I have ZERO interest in board games, because my evenings are spent fiddling with the kind of components you're more likely to find in a lady's underwear. Do you follow my meaning? I'm calling you a virgin. But I just wanted to discuss something that even I have noticed. My friend Robert is recommending some family games, and yet he hasn't mentioned anything like Settlers of Catan or Ticket to Ride. He is being what I would call “annoying”. You can't go wrong with a game of Settlers of Catan, or even the Star Trek edition of the game, which I've heard is a lot of fun. I haven't played it myself because I'm a Hollywood actor. Robert's a good lad, but he's what I would call a “hipster”.
I just want to say that it's your family that matters on Christmas Day. After you've had your dinner, and before you settle down to watch Solomon Kane on Bluray, any kind of board game on the table will hit the spot. I bet you could even make Trivial Pursuit fun. Well, let's not go that far. Just make sure to play a game. Play an old classic, even. Play Monopoly. It's actually good, you idiots. Play Thunder Road. Or play Loopin' Louie. But just play something. Except Carcassonne. It's SHIT.
Now, if you'll excuse me – I have an actual grown-up proper career to enjoy.”
The proper Christmas stuff. Do you have a hardcore geek in your life? Or are you just buying gifts for yourself? Let's burrow down into some of the most incomprehensible and brilliant epic board games of our time!