The Festive season can be a pretty stressful time of the year. Navigating the throngs of people to get your last-minute shopping done. Trying to work out what everyone might want. Travelling long distances to see people you don't really want to spend time with. The last thing you want on Christmas Day is an argument over a board game with the family, but invariably that's exactly what will happen.
Here's our hand-picked Christmas “Nice List”. A selection of board games that are easy to learn and play, relaxing, entertaining, and not overly competitive. Hopefully, these should help you avoid any arguments, or at least give you an excuse to get away from the EastEnders special and yet another round of Charades.
The lovely themes and art of Takenoko are sure to melt the heart of any Scrooge. And if that doesn't work, the cute miniature panda should do the trick.
Takenoko of an objective-driven, tile laying, family game. Placing and irrigating garden tiles of the correct colour will get you completing plot objectives. Complete gardener objective by moving the gardener on to the correct tiles so they can grow bamboo. Finally, you can achieve panda objectives by moving the panda onto a tile with bamboo for them to eat.
So far so straight forward. But with every player trying to achieve their own objectives things can get pretty tight. Your plan to complete a plot objective will be messed up by an opponent putting a yellow tile where you needed a green one. Or an opponent has the panda eat bamboo of a space where you are trying to grow it. There's a fair amount to consider in quite a light game. Everyone I've introduced this to had enjoyed it. You wont be disappointed.
Herbaceous is a small box, push your luck, set collection game for two to four people. The object of the game is to collect sets of herbs in pots. Each turn the active player reveals two new herb cards. They much choose to put the first card in a communal garden or their own private garden before revealing the second card and placing it in the garden they did not already use.
Each player also has the opportunity to pot a set of herbs to score points, whether it be a set of all the same, pairs, or a variety of herbs. Players can take cards from their own garden but also from the communal garden. The game essentially, therefore, boils down to a game of chicken. Can you hold your nerve and wait for one more turn to be able to grab more cards and score more points? But there's always the risk that a competitor will cave early and take the cards you need.
Herbaceous does have a mild take that element, but as games are quick and the damage from someone taking the cards you want minimal, I still see this as a friendly game. The artwork is stunning and creates an aura of relaxation in the playing group. This game is perfect for the gardener in your life.
Galaxy Trucker has won its spot on the Christmas nice list due to it being a totally silly game. And when you start to lose you have no one to blame but yourself.... and space pirates!
Galaxy Trucker. Is a real-time, tile laying, spaceship building game. First of all, players have a limited time to attempt to build a functional spaceship with fuel cells, thrusters, shields, weapons, storage and living quarters. Once built it is time for the ships to take flight. Will they be able to survive in space? Will they be able to even take off without the engines falling off? There's only one way to find out.
Each round of the game the space ship you have to build gets bigger and the challenges you will face more daunting. Event cards are revealed that will test your ship to, and past its limits.
Can your shields protect you from a meteor shower or your gun turrets fend of space pirates? Do you have enough thrusters to beat your opponents to your destination? Or enough storage to hold the goods you find along the way?
You will need to gamble on whether you push on to your destination or stop off to gain points on the way. The game gets more and more hilarious as it progresses. Your flimsy ships will start falling apart as they take direct hits on the single connection holding a large chunk of your ship on. You can easily find yourself defenceless, or with all your engines coming off or the goods you spent ages collecting drifting off into space.
Galaxy trucker is pure silliness, it's one of those games where winning is a bonus rather than the goal. It is a great choice for a family game
There are some games that I need to win, and with that comes the stress factor that I can understand people don't like in games. With Camel Up, I'm just along for the ride. The game is so enjoyable and fun that I don't care how well I do, I just want to be at the table.
Camel Up is a dice rolling, betting game for up to eight players, making it a great choice for the holiday period.
Players bet on camels racing around a circuit. Place your bet early to score big, or place you bet late when hopefully you can better call who will win or lose. Players can bet on the positions of each leg of the race as well as the overall results. Camels can land on top of each other and be carried towards the finish by another camel. Camel up is essentially a roll and move game but camels can easily move far further than the number on their dice roll by hopping on the backs of others.
Camel Up is a fantastic choice for family game time and playing with non-gamers. It's silly and simple and will go down well at Christmas.
Dixit is a relaxing game of looking at lovely artwork and saying stuff. Each round one player is the storyteller. They look at their six illustrated cards and pick one to give a clue for. The clue can be a word or phrase, a sound, whatever you want really. They say the clue and place the card face down.
Then each other player looks are their own cards and choose one that best resembles the clue given.
All the cards are then flipped over and each player needs to guess which one they think was the original image.
So far so not a game. Well, the game comes in with the scoring. You see, the storyteller will get three points if someone guesses their card correctly but no points if everyone guesses it correctly or none does. Their best outcome is for just one person to get it right. At the same time, the guessers want the other players to think their card was the original one. They get a point for every player that picks their own card in error.
As a result, Dixit is a game of being just cryptic enough. It's a game that suits a family situation. People will soon get the hang of it and even if they don't get into the nuances of playing well, they just need to pick a card and say a thing. Dixit is also available in a 12 player version for when the extended family turn up.