Are You Sure You’ve Got The Room To Spare Inside?
Tis the season to be jolly (fa-la-la-la-lah, la-la-la-la), suggesting Monopoly would be folly (fa-la-la-la-lah, la-la-la-la)… but that does not necessarily mean that the festive season should be games free when it comes to the extended family. The only problem is, most games top out at the four or five player mark. So here are ten games that you can get the whole family to gather round that don’t involve boots, dogs or irons. Okay, the dogs can stay – BUT NO TOP HATS!
Here’s a chance to make your family an offer they can’t refuse – waving foam rubber guns at each other! This game comfortably accommodates eight people and, once you’ve got your head around the idea of load, aim, back down, fire and loot, it’s very straightforward to play. Bluffing and grudges play a big part in this game, and you can even play the old Dirty Harry line of ‘did I fire five shots or six (well, three)’. Mexican stand offs, gangster clichés and the guns! What’s not to like?
Maybe you have a more refined family, the sort who watch the Queen’s speech with critical eyes and don’t like what she’s done with those drapes. If so, why not indulge in a little courtly intrigue with this hidden identity game where it is almost impossible to keep track of who you are, let alone who anyone else is. It plays with up to a whopping thirteen players with a varied roster of characters, and with only three actions to choose from (swap, look or play your supposed ability) it should be easy enough to grasp even if uncle Harry has been putting away the port since shortly after nine. Plenty of confusion, backstabbing and surprise victories – if you have an Australian friend, get them involved, as I can assure you that ‘I am the Judge’ said with an Australian accent is the coolest post-apocalyptic thing ever.
I could have gone with one from the ‘One Night…’ franchise, but I always find myself going ‘is that all we get?’ when I play it. Miller’s Hollow is the (just) first of these, plays with… loads and comes in a dinky box. It’s another hidden identity game where the idea is you are either a villager, a werewolf or one of a number of other characters with special abilities – the werewolves get to eat a villager every night, the villagers (and werewolves) get to hang a suspect every morning – as it takes place over a number of nights, you can really get into the drama of the thing. Don’t ask me to play though; I always get taken out in the first round, one way or another. *sigh*
I know, more hidden identities, but here it isn’t as vital to the whole game. What is vital is a shoot-out with your nearest and dearest – bun fight at the OK dining rooms. This plays up to seven and, though there are no foam rubber guns (boo) you do get to do the whole ‘man with no name’ thing. The sheriff has to shoot the outlaws; the outlaws have to shoot the sheriff; the renegade shoots everyone. Each player has a hidden identity (apart from the sheriff) and a known identity, which gives them various abilities. You play cards to improve your weapons range and shoot, dodge or annoy your opponent and the game is won when the sheriff is dead, the outlaws are dead or everyone is dead – good, clean family fun, gringos.
A bit of a filler, but when you’re into your eighth snowball of the day, you need something that you can explain without requiring too much braaaaaains! Plus zombies – everyone loves zombies right?
That which may eternal lie, after having eaten way too many mince pies may not like the idea of saving the world from an ancient evil, but hey, it certainly makes an alternative to the Queen’s speech. Players take on the roles of investigators, each with their own abilities, and roll the dice to try and complete the tasks; complete the tasks and gain the Elder Signs; gain the Elder Signs and stop the Old Ones (it’s okay – they’ll probably be snoring their way through the Queen’s speech). Serves one to eight, so even if you don’t get any takers, you can still play.
Hey, who fancies playing a games that’s a cross between Sim City, Tetris and Sylvanian Families? Tiny Towns gives you the chance to build… a tiny town on a four by four grid by placing the right resources in the right places – everyone gets a chance to choose a resource and they even get their own unique monument to build which can seriously modify their score. Tot up the points to find the winner and then point out the cute little woodland animals on the cards that no-one noticed before. It says that it can play one to six, but I hear rumours of there being potential for hundreds of players if you use the town hall resource system (two cards with resources on for everyone, then one to choose yourself) and multiple copies. Definitely a possibility for the extended extended family.
An oldie but a goodie (first released in 2000, would you believe), this two to eight player game is a combination of hidden identities, varied abilities and city building with a hint of Dominion thrown in on the style side; starting with the king, everyone chooses a character with at least one being left over at the end; play then proceeds, not clockwise or anti clockwise, but by character. Play your ability, gather your resources and build your city – first to seven buildings ends the game, with the victory going to the highest scorer. Simple, intriguing and the deluxe version comes with a whole host of optional characters and buildings. Plus a nice little crown for the king. It’s good to be the king.
Nearly ten years old now, this card drafter and empire builder is like civilisations but with friends – three at least going up to seven, funnily enough. In a round, each player chooses a card to play, either to gain them resources, science, military, public buildings, parts of their Wonder or ready money to allow them to flex (in a civilised manner, of course) at their opponents. Then they pass their hand either clockwise or anti-clockwise (depending on the round) and start again. The player with the highest aggregate score at the end wins. There have been a whole host of expansions for this, but the message remains the same: veni, vedi, take that card before he does. Plays pretty quickly too.
Now you might want some peace and quiet – Christmas does tend to get a bit rowdy – so why not play a game where you have to keep schtum? In Magic Maze, you don’t play a character, you play a move or moves – left, right, up, down, unlock and escalators – in order to help a group of generic fantasy characters ransack a mall for weapons before helping them to escape, all within a tight time limit.
The only problem is that you don’t want to alert the security guards so… no talky during play. If you can escape in the allotted time, all good. Otherwise, it’s back to fantasy chokey for you. The game starts off simple, but over the course of different scenarios introduce new dynamics, challenges and abilities. To be honest, it’s worth playing just to watch Uncle Bob smacking the giant pawn down in front of someone repeatedly to get them to move only to find that he needed to move. A blast to play (as Mr Dragon Tomb would say) and also works as a solo too.
So we done? You want another? Okay…
See what I did there? Effortless. Just One is a co-operative word game where stating the bleedin’ obvious will not help you. Players take it in turns to choose an unseen word from a card at random. The other players then have to write just one word that describes that other word/thing. The chooser then has to guess the word from the clues given. There is a catch,though: if any players repeat a word, that word is eliminated from play and cannot be used, so if the word is ‘Mario’ and everyone puts ‘plumber’… no clues for you. Every time you fail to get a clue, you lose a life; three lives gone, game ends; get as many clues as possible. A fun, simple, charade like game for all the family and a so much better option than Monopoly.
Regardless of what you play, play something, have fun and season’s greetings!