Great Games for the Holidays
The thing I look forward to the most this time of year is spending some quality time with my family, whom I don’t see enough of. It’s always an occasion when my family gets together, and there’s no shortage of small-talk, catching up, and food aplenty. But after all of that is done, nobody feels like going home yet. The kids tend to split off and play with whatever cool toy they brought with them. My dad can get a small crowd around him that’ll listen to him play music. On top of that, I bring a few new games to the table to show off and teach to whomever wants to play.
If this sounds like your family, or if you need something to bring to the office holiday party that isn’t last year’s fruitcake, here are some suggestions of the best games you can play with friends and family this holiday season.
Sushi Draft takes Sushi Go’s concept of drafting various types of sushi for points and simplifies the scoring system, making it much more accessible for someone who is unfamiliar with the drafting mechanic. Instead of different types of sushi scoring differently, points are awarded based on who drafted the most of each type of sushi. Bonus points go to whomever drafts the most unique types of sushi, as well. The points are awarded by tokens with randomized value, so even if you fought hard to win that blue token this round, it may be only worth one or two points. All the sushi cards are shuffled back into the deck and re-dealt every round, so you can count cards more effectively in this game than in Sushi Go. Whoever has the most points at the end of three rounds wins.
Sushi Draft is a nice palette-cleanser game and quick enough where your table might ask for another game after learning the rules in the first game. It’s small enough to fit in your coat pocket or purse, yet big enough to seat five players.
The concept of Timeline is similar to a trivia game. Each player has five cards in hand that they are trying to get rid of. Whoever runs out of cards first is the winner.
At the start of the game, one card is rolled off the deck to start the timeline. Going around the table, each player places a card from their hand in the timeline. The card is then turned over, revealing the year that event took place. If the card is in the correct place in the timeline, it stays there and play passes. If it’s wrong, however, the card is put in its proper place in the timeline and the player who played it must draw a new card from the deck. As you can imagine, the longer the game goes on, the more accurate you have to be.
The great thing about Timeline is that it comes in so many different flavors, including (but not limited to) music and cinema, inventions, American history, and diversity. You can pick the game that’ll play best at your table. Also, all the versions of Timeline are compatible with each other, so you can combine them to make a Mega-Timeline. It’s a quick, fun game that is infinitely expandable and can handle any number of players you can throw at it.
Machi Koro might be my new favorite board game. It combines elements from Catan and Monopoly to create a game that hits an almost perfect blend of deck-building, strategy, and randomness while eliminating the trading mechanic that can cause games like Monopoly to go on forever if no-one wants to trade.
In Machi Koro, you are the mayor of a new town that starts with only a forest and a quarry. From these meager beginnings, you must build your town up to purchase four victory cards that represent modern civilization (a radio tower, a TV station, a transit station, and an amusement park). Once someone has bought all four cards, the game ends.
Like Catan, you generate resources via a die roll. In this case, the only resource is gold, which you use to buy cards that expand your town. Each card you buy generates gold differently; some generate gold for you and only you, some cards generate gold for the entire table, and some allow you to steal gold from another player. Each card you can buy has a limited quantity available, so you have to strategize. Do you go heavy for one type of card, and hope to hit big? Or, do you try to spread it out so each die roll gets you something? The random roll is the important factor in this game. You can build a beautifully synergized town that combos for days, but unless the dice are kind to you, you won’t get far.
Everyone loves a race, so a racing theme can be a fun way to get the family involved in a big board game that is fast-paced and a lot of fun to play.
Formula D has the players take the wheels of F1 cars as they race around the Grand Prix at Monaco. The gameplay is a traditional “roll-a-die-and-move” game, but the die you roll depends on the gear you are in. Lower gears roll dice with fewer faces, and top gear boasts a big honkin’ d30 to roll. Players can shift up or down one gear at the start of their turn and race to cross the finish line first.
But if you’re planning on just putting your foot down and making tracks, remember that this is professional racing. There are other cars on the track that will get in your way. If you end your movement next to another car, you have to roll a “Danger Die” to see if you accidentally bump into the other car and take damage. On top of that, the track has several turns and bends that will force you to decelerate and downshift. Depending on how difficult the turn is, you have to brake a certain amount of times or suffer damage to your car for overshooting the turn.
The thing I like most about Formula D is that it’s adaptable to the table of players. Races last as many circuits as the table wants. (One lap of the track can take about 30-45 minutes, depending on the number of players.) The game can also support an advanced mode where each character has a special ability, a nitrous-oxide tank, and the car’s hit-points are distributed among the engine, chassis, tires, brakes, etc., just in case one of your relatives happens to be a mechanic for Michael Schumacher’s pit crew. Despite its big board and lots of little parts, Formula D is a super-simple game for people who want to release their inner Stig.
DEAD OF WINTER
If you’ve played Betrayal at House on the Hill and want something a little more complex, then Dead of Winter is right up your alley. This game made waves earlier this year with its unique way of weaving storytelling with gameplay mechanics. There are a lot more pieces and things to manage here than in Betrayal, but if you want a game that you can sink your teeth into (pun intended, deal with it) and that oozes theme, you can do no better.
Dead of Winter is a “meta-cooperative” game that pits the players against the undead hordes during a harsh winter. At the start of the game, the players determine the colony’s goal, what they have to accomplish before the game ends in order to win. However, each player also has a secret objective that could run tandem or counter to the colony’s goal, and you don’t win unless you complete your secret objective. You spend the game moving around the colony, gathering supplies, fortifying defenses, taking out the trash, and trying to stay alive between the bone-chilling cold inside, the mindless zombies outside, and the potentially insane people that want to see you exiled all around you. This is a game of cooperation, deduction, tough choices, and personality management. Zombies may be becoming passé, but Dead of Winter brings the quality drama you’d expect out of The Walking Dead and puts it on your table.
Just be sure that the other people enjoying the holidays don’t take your vote to kill your younger sibling out of context.
Those are my picks for the best games you can play with your family and friends during this holiday season. You can find these games, along with great gift ideas for the gamer in your life, here at Twenty Sided Store. Hope you and yours have a very happy holiday!