So Frankly...

So Frankly...

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Gaming with Santa: Christmas Games

Everyone loves to give Santa a break on Christmas Eve, leaving cookies, milk, and perhaps a few carrots for the reindeer.  What if Santa needed a REAL break, taking a little bit of time to relax and play a game.  Let's say he stops buy Christmas night after delivering presents and a much needed nap.  What would you play with him?  Somehow, I think, wargames are out.  Games with a lot of negotiation, like Settlers of Catan, are probably out too...

"Santa, you can't just give the sheep away, you have to trade for it."

"Yes, I know you're the Santa Claus.  Still, in this game, it's the law."

"Yes, Santa, I know that even the Law of Gravity doesn't apply to you.  Hey, have you ever played Pandemic?"

"No, I don't suppose you ever get sick, either..."  [Sigh]

Finding good Christmas themed games to play is a little more difficult than giving games at Christmas.  Don't worry, I will find a few for you.

Promotional image by USAopoly
There are games that have a Christmas theme that don't work.  Many of them have movie or TV tie-ins, which is always a cautionary flag.  There are multiple games for Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, A Christmas Story, and Nightmare Before Christmas.   In fact, there is a version of Monopoly for each of these movies, and at least Monopoly is a decent game as I have mentioned before, particularly if you play with the only good house rule: the game is over when the first player is eliminated.

There are better games, though, if you are willing to think a little outside the box, so to speak.  These may not have a Christmas theme per se, but certainly would be Chrismas-y enough to pass muster for most people.

Starting with the least thematic, I would suggest that a quick game to be played on the holiday would be Hey! That's my Fish.  This game has the additional benefit of being easily playable by little ones, and that's important since people on Christmas Day, and Santa himself, are so focused on the children.  Players are penguins trying to grab as many fish as the can as the iceberg they are on slowly sinks, piece by piece, into the water.  I won't go into details, (I have a full review available,) but suffice it to say this is a great game.  It's a little more cutthroat when its just adults, which may not be quite as giving on Christmas, but its so fun!  Penguins implies the South Pole, but since I think that's Santa's summer home, it's okay.  For Christmas, it does offer:

  • Snow! (well, ice)
An older version of the game in play.  Newer versions have better figurines.  Image by Chris Norwood

Promotional Image
Next, I would offer up Snow Tails, which is a dog sled racing game.  This is a game for up to five players, and is recommended by the publisher for ages 10 and up.  This game gets great reviews, and is sitting on my gaming table waiting for the Big Day.  Compared to Hey! That's My Fish, this game will be a little less, well, dog eat dog, since there really isn't as much direct interaction.  It takes a little longer at 45 minutes.  For Christmas, it offers:
  • Snow
  • Snow sleds
  • Evergreen trees
  • Puppies! (well, they might be full-grown)
Promotional Image

Ticket to Ride: Nordic Countries is another in the Ticket to Ride franchise.  This game is noted for being just a little more confrontational, since there are a few key train routes to control, but I suspect that's going to depend on your style of play.  At our house, no flavor of Ticket to Ride is ever terribly confrontational.  Of course, since this part of the franchise, you know it's going to be good!  This also plays in 45 minutes, but Days of Wonder suggests players as young as 8 years old, so it's another great option for the kids.  But is it Christmas?  We have:

Finally, I do have one more game that definitely is Christmas: 12 Days, now being published by Gamesmith, LLC.  This is a game funded through Kickstarter, and it should be in the mail to me today.  I have read the rules online, and I am sure that it will be a good game.  Take that to the bank - I slept at a Holiday Inn Express last night.  This is a light and quick game, recommended for kids 8 and up, and playing in about 15 minutes.  This will fill the time that is too short for the above games.  I don't know when this will become more generally available, but probably not until after Christmas, so it may have to wait until next year.

It's Your Move!


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