Friday Night Unplugged #5: The Christmas Game Guide
- Updated: December 7, 2012
It’s that time of year again: the decorations are going up, the sherry has been poured and Aled Jones warbles in the background. Yes, I am of course talking about Christmas, not that it’s come as a surprise with stores advertising Christmas wares as early as July. Behind all the glitz and glamour Christmas is about the cheer and the family spirit and what better to stoke the hearth of family joy than a few board and card games?
This week’s FNU takes a slight detour from out traditional format to look at a few games that we decided are perfect to sit down on a cold evening with family. Games that are easy to teach, simple to learn and most importantly fun to play. In our opinion these are games that can be played with parents, grandparents and kids (with a little intelligence or maturity of course).
Christmas Cheer Rating: More cheer than a box of crackers.
Get it here: Tsuro from Travelling Man
There’s that awkward moment when everyone is sat down, people want to play a game of some sorts but nobody wants to jump straight into something heavy. Tsuro is the perfect thing to break that lull. Setup takes mere seconds and the rules are incredibly easy to understand. Tsuro is a tile laying game. Deceivingly innocent, Tsuro will have players laying out paths in front of them and them trying to send other players off the board by re-routing their paths. Games only last from 15-20 minutes and are great to get people laughing and set the mood for something a little… more
If you want to know more about this charming game we looked a little deeper at Tsuro a while back in a previous Friday Night Unplugged column.
Christmas Cheer Rating: Like Bucks Fizz and shortbread on a morning.
Get it here: Carcassonne from Games Lore
Carcassonne is a tabletop classic for good reason. Like Tsuro it is a tile laying game but this time players aren’t creating paths. They are forming roads, countryside and cities, claiming them during development and then scoring points upon completion. The player with the most points wins. Most importantly Carcassonne is a game of luck. Players can only draw one tile per turn and must play one tile per turn. This luck factor combined with a simple set of basic rules allows new players and seasoned veterans to play against each other with very little difficulty as there will always be a move to make.
Ticket to Ride sees players in charge of a railway network charged with connecting destinations on the board. They either play cards or draw cards on their turn, but not both. These cards have different coloured trains which can be played to claim different coloured routes. Longer routes win you more points and failure to link destinations loses you points at the end of the game. Ticket to Ride is blissfully simple to explain but difficult to master. Like Carcassonne, new players and seasoned gamers will have no problem enjoying a game together. Kids will enjoy placing the pieces and watch the coloured trains sprawl across the board.
This is a train game. But it’s a train game with a difference. We’ll be looking into this with a bit more depth in our regular FNU in just a few weeks time.
Christmas Cheer Rating: Christmas Dinner and family. It’s that good.
Get it here: Dixit from BoardGameGuru
Dixit is one of our favourite games to play with a group let alone as a family. Players hold 6 cards drawn from a stack of incredibly beautiful, sometimes surreal, art cards. The Storyteller for the round describes their card using a word, sentence, sound, quote anything. The other players then pick a card from their hand that they feel best matches the description. The cards are placed face down in the middle, shuffled and then flipped face up. A secret vote is then made on which card belonged to the storyteller using a set of numbered tokens placed blank side up.
Points are earned through picking the storytellers card, picking other people’s cards and everyone picking the same card. Each round someone will always get points. Whoever has the most points when there are no more cards to draw wins.
Dixit gets people talking, it gets people thinking and most of all when the cards are revealed it gets people laughing.
Cheer Rating: The tension of present opening.
Get it here: Rory’s Story Cubes from Travelling Man
Rory’s Story Cubes are perhaps the simplest of all the games on this list. You roll the dice, and then you tell a story using all the elements provided by your roll. Families can take it in turns to roll the dice and then tell a story using them. With everything from planes to fish, spiders to keys and alternate cube sets Actions and Journey there is enough variety to make even the simplest story entertaining. Kids will love trying to fit the symbols together in a story and adults will (from our experience) come up with stranger and more hilarious examples as they relax into the flow of things.
Simple. Fun. Perfect.
Matt Thrower Recommends: King of Tokyo
Matt is the latest addition to Team Average Gamer (see his first feature here). He is also a tabletop fanatic and one of his favourite family games is King of Tokyo. In his own words:
King of Tokyo is based on the familiar ‘roll dice, keep some, roll again’ mechanic which I’m sure everyone recalls from too many wasted hours of Yahtzee or Poker Dice in their youth. It’s old hat, but it’s also immediately familiar and accessible, and you probably also recall that it’s sound, tense and lots of fun.
Where this game really shines is in the inclusion of the special power cards for the monsters which add a ton of theme and entertainment value at virtually no rules cost, and the killer innovation of splitting damage depending on whether the attacker is in or out of Tokyo itself. It’s a little pricey for a dice game, but good enough that I’d advise selling your kids to buy a copy were it not for the fact that it’ll really shine when you play it with your kids.
You can get King of Tokyo from BoardGameGeek.
And there we have it. Our Christmas tabletop game guide. You’ll laugh, roll dice, tell stories, build kingdoms and all without the family-destroying grinder that is Monopoly. If there are any we’ve missed off that you feel deserve a shoutout do let us know in the comments below. Chances are, we’ll give you a high-five for informing us of something new and awesome.
Next week on FNU we’ll be back to our usual format. We’ve sharpened our axes, prepared our potions and glued our fingers together in the name of gaming to bring you our guide to the anime-themed video-boardgame Super Dungeon Explore.