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Nathan’s Christmas 2018 Game Haul

Christmas Haul 2018 - Bunny Kingdom

The repetitive tunes have faded and there is no longer an excuse to drink at any time of day. A few pine needles or strands of tinsel may be lingering under furniture and edges of the carpet, but we all have to accept it;

Christmas is long gone, just a distant memory.

Thankfully, some of the joys continue throughout the year. For me, one of the biggest joys are the card and board games I was fortunate enough to receive as gifts from friends and family members.

I’ve now had enough plays of each game to rank them from best to not-quite-the-best and give a brief idea of what they are about and why I love them. And I do love them all.

1. Bunny Kingdom

Bunny Kingdom is a card drafting, area control game for two to four players that is as cut throat as it is cute.

Over four rounds, players will draft cards which give them territory squares, cities, resources or parchments (secret ways to gain victory points). The winner is the player who has accumulated most victory points by the end of the game.

I love so much about this game. I love the decisions you have to make - which cards will benefit me and make life as difficult as possible for my opponents. I love that there are multiple ways to gain points. I love that you never know who is going to win until the very last minute - you might think you played a good game, but that might not quite be the case. I love the artwork and overall vibrancy of the game.

For me, it even has a fantastic two-player variant. It can be really cut throat, as players will be burning cards that may be useful for the opponent's game plan, but so long as each player keeps their competitiveness at bay then it is great fun.

This game has me declaring, “I love this game!” numerous times during each play. What more could you want?

2. Debatable

Debatable is a party game that has players assume the role of politicians debating topics, some silly like; 'would you find a magical world if you enter the right closet?' and some that can be really quite interesting and important conversations, such as; 'Should size zero models be banned?' But players don’t get to choose which side of the debate they are on. That power is given to the moderator, who will also decide what the debate will be about.

This game has been so carefully and creatively balanced out (to avoid real debates from springing up all over the table and potentially ruining the evening) by having players pick up random strategy cards that they must follow such as, ‘use your psychic powers’ or ‘resort to blackmail’. These lighten the mood and produce hilarious debates, helping players to separate their own views from those of the character they have become.

Players will vote on who they felt won the debate and the winner is the politician who doesn’t look two debates.

So much fun can be had with this, whether playing with three or up to 16 players of all ages and in different situations. I would say that it may take some people more time to warm up than others in this game, but it is one that should be a part of every gamer's collection.

Christmas Haul - Downforce Game Board and Components (Credit: jlele BGG)

3. Downforce

Downforce is a high-speed racing game, that not only has players racing, but first auctioning to own their very own Formula One cars and, at different stages, betting on any of the cars as they tear up the track.

This is a game that, again, is incredibly well-balanced. Players are invested in their own cars, but they also stand to make a lot of money if they bet well - your car may even come dead last, but you are still able to compete or win if your bets bring in the goods.

Each player will also own specific powers that come with the car at auction, which lend a helping hand along the way. I would say that some of these seem better than others and I would like there to have been a lot more than the six that come in the box.

My favourite racing game is currently Jamaica, but I would happily place a bet on this one finishing in pole position for me in this category.

4. Muse

Muse is a party game for two to 12 players that is quick to learn, teach and play. Teams will contend to be the first to obtain five masterpieces using only cryptic clues given to them by their muse.

There are 84 stunningly beautiful masterpiece cards to enjoy here and the gameplay very much matches the artwork. It’s simple, and people who have played Mysterium or Dixit will be quite used to the concept of communication through artworks.

This simplifies the concept, but remains as strong as its counterparts.

Yet again, this is a well-balanced game, offering players the power to make life difficult for their opponents by choosing the masterpiece card and the inspiration card (which details how the muse may communicate with their team, one example being, ‘make a shape with your hands’), but they can only do so much. In the end, it is down to the connection between the muse and their team.

My only gripe with the game is that there is often too much down time for at least one team when the other is selecting the masterpiece and inspiration or trying to guess which masterpiece the muse is leading them to.