Ding dong indeed! So here we are with only a few short days (today being the shortest!) until it’s Christmas. Huzzah! Let’s celebrate by finding the best games to backstab and murder your family and friends without actually doing so and thereby avoiding Christmas prison (which is reserved for murderers and those who riffle shuffle my cards).
Continuing with our 12 Games of Christmas, below are my (Emmet) choices for the best games to play with your family and friends over the holidays. The last few years pur families have created a little tradition of meeting up on Christmas Eve, ordering a takeaway, and playing some games. As my nieces have gotten older we’ve been able to introduce more complex games to our game nights, but even so the games here are very approachable and easy to pick up and play. These games will work with anyone from the age of 7 and up I’d say so they’re perfect for a family night tucked up with hot chocolate and mince pies.
One Night Ultimate Werewolf
One Night Ultimate Werewolf gets a lot of love here so of course its included on this list. It’s a great game for getting everyone laughing and loosened up and works particularly well if people have dipped into the mulled wine. It can also work great with kids but you might want to skip some of the more complex roles, or make sure everyone keeps quiet when the roles are being explained.
I’ve chosen ONUW but this is really a shorthand for any of these types of bluffing and hidden role games. I’d be just as happy to break out Resistance, Coup, Mafia De Cuba, Mascarade, or Secret Hitler (though maybe keep that in the drawer if your racist uncle is joining you).
Codenames is another one of those games that gets mentioned a good bit here on the blog and on the podcast, and with good reason. It’s a nice little brain teaser, word puzzle game that derives a lot of it’s fun and silliness from the people playing and the complete misreading of people’s intentions. So perfect for family! Codenames Pictures adds another dimension to the game and is probably an even easier entry point. You can even mix and match if you’re lucky enough to have copies of both!
In my opinion Codenames plays best with at least 6, so if you find yourself in the situation of having 4 or 5 players (particularly 4) I recommend having a blue spymaster, a red spymaster, and then have all the remaining players just be on the same team. This means that the two spymasters are competing but more importantly it means that the players guessing have the fun of trying to figure out the spymasters clues while inadvertently talking each other out of picking the right answers. Which is exactly where the joy in Codenames is derived!
This is a more “mainstream” board game, meaning that you can probably pick it up in Debenhams, Smyth’s, and plenty of other high street stores rather than needing to venture to a “gamer” store.
The way I sell this game to people is simple: Chinese Whispers meets Pictionary. And it is glorious. Each player has a dry erase notepad and a marker and draws a card from a huge deck. Roll a dice (or just choose!) to determine which one of the six things listed to draw. Do your best to draw them, then everyone passes their notepad to the left. Now everyone needs to guess exactly what it is that the person was trying to draw and writes down their answer, then passes the notepad again. Then the next person draws the previous person’s guess. See how this works? Things get more and more confused as the pads are passed around upwards of 6 and 7 times and by the end you probably won’t even recognise what your original drawing became!
There are rules for scoring but we have never used them. The joy and side-splitting hilarity of this game comes from tracing the path back through the notepad and seeing exactly where things started to go wrong! We have had huge groups of people literally falling around the place struggling to breath because they were laughing so much. I really can’t recommend this enough.
What a lovely game. You heard me: lovely. It might sound like I’m damning Dixit with faint praise but it really is just lovely. It’s like relaxing into a comfortable chair with a cup of tea – it’s just a nice experience. The artwork is gorgeous, the game is simple, there’s a tiny bit of competition but never enough for anyone to get worked up over, and it plays easily with pretty much anyone.
If you are looking for something similar with a bit more of an edge, check out Mysterium as well.
Betrayal at House on the Hill
I got a lot of stick from Paddy for including Betrayal because it’s hardly a Christmas-y theme. I still stand by my choice. Maybe just pretend you’re Santa creeping around an unsettling house and collecting maniacs instead of cookies…
I wrote about Betrayal in the same post as I mentioned Codenames and for the same reasons it’s a great introductory game, it’s a great family game: it’s relatively simple, its unique for anyone who’s board game experience is confined to Monopoly, its cooperative (to a very specific point!), and people will just get a kick out of it.
If you want something more “on theme” for the season, break out Dead of Winter and make everyone miserable. Christmas zombies!
We briefly touched on Jungle Speed in our “Game Night Microcast” podcast episode so if you want to hear our adrenaline and alcohol fuelled feelings about it give that a listen.
Jungle Speed is a combination of Snap (the timeless card game) and Spoons (the drunken kitchen utensil game that might only exist in our group of friends). You place down cards with intricate and ever-so-slightly different designs one on top of another. If a matching one is put down, owners of the matching cards try to snatch a wooden totem from the middle of the table.
It is a stupid amount of fun. Its full of tension and nervous giggling and will almost certainly result in cuts, pinches, and a wooden cylinder accidentally being flung across the room. It costs about a tenner and is absolutely worth it – maybe move any breakables out of the way first.
And there you go, our 12 Games of Christmas. Apologies to everyone for not being able to present this as a podcast but the flu season has done a number on both of us. We’re going to be taking a break to sample some delicious seasonal beers and unwrap some new boards games for Christmas and we’ll be back on 4th of January. To everyone who has joined us here on The Crafty Players over 2016, thank you so much. We hope you have a great Christmas filled with family, friends, and fun and we’ll see you in the new year.
Happy Christmas, from Paddy & Emmet