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Top 5 Betwixtmas Games

Top 5 Betwixtmas Games feature

Picture this, it's any day from 27th to 30th December. You don’t know what day it is. You’ve eaten your body weight in cheese and Christmas snacks. Jeans are just not sitting the way they used to on Christmas Eve, and you keep taking nanna naps in the afternoon in front of the TV. On these days, you want games that don’t max out your brainpower and are easy to get to the table. I want to have a relaxing and nice time with the people that I love over the festive break. I have gathered my merry band of bloggers to give you our favourite picks for the limbo period between Christmas and New Year.

Everdell - Hannah Blacknell

Christmas is a time for treating yourself. I never normally have a full dessert with every meal, yet at Christmas it is mandatory. I never deny myself anything I want over Christmas and to that end, I think my games should also be a treat to play. A beautiful game that sets my world alight. I want to be bedazzled and to feel like I am having a treat. For me, there is no game more beautiful than Everdell. The components are high quality and make me feel special, and the artwork is simply divine.

Everdell is a worker placement game where you are collecting resources to pay for cards to place into your tableau. You want to create a perfect field of 15 cards that gets you maximum points at end game scoring. Some cards give you new worker placement spots, some let you replace cards in your tableau, some produce resources. The cards work in synergies together, where if you have already built a monastery for example, you can play a monk card for free. This way you can start to ramp up your engine from nothing to something really quite special.

As the game progresses you can move from one season to the next and gain yourself more workers which really open the game up. So in the first season, you may not feel like you manage to achieve much, but as the game progresses each season becomes more impressive. If you want a game that is a treat for the eyes as well as has a satisfying game arc and build then why not crack open Everdell this festive period?

Sagrada - Craig Smith

During Betwixtmas, my brain becomes totally disengaged. I don’t have work to think about. I have horrid food hangovers from one too many pigs in blankets. I’ve probably watched every mushy festive rom-com known to man. I need a game to get the grey matter back in working order.

One game that got a lot of table time during this period last year was Sagrada. Sagrada is a drafting game where you are collecting sets of dice to make a wonderful stained-glass window. You choose a grid that gives you certain colour or number criteria that needs to be met. The rest is up to you. The only rule is that you can’t have matching colours or numbers next to each other. There are three public objectives that you’re trying to achieve. There’s also one private objective. This is always related to the number of pips visible on a certain colour of dice.

Towards the end of the game, it becomes harder to fill your grid, so you have a number of tokens to spend that allow you to bend the rules slightly in your favour. Be warned though, as the longer you leave it, the more expensive it will be to use the help on offer! Your final score is made up of completed objectives and leftover help tokens, as well as points deducted for gaps in your window.

Sagrada is a good way to get your brain working again, as well as being a visually stunning game. 3-4 player games do tend to have longer downtime as turns are done in an ABBA sequence. It’s not a problem though, as going slow and taking your time is very much the theme of Betwixtmas!

Wingspan - FavouriteFoe

Crimbo Limbo or Betwixtmas is such a strange time. Is it Monday? Is it Thursday? It doesn’t really matter – they are all “chocolates-for-breakfast-in-your-jim-jams-24/7-watching-terrible-film” type days. The Christmas magic and fun are over, and the countdown to New Year’s Eve has begun (which I much prefer spending snuggled under blankets eating a curry than partying if I am honest!).

At this time, I want a game that lifts me out of the funk. Nothing heavy or demanding. But just something that inspires thoughts of fresher times. After all, dirty, slushy roads, piles of recycled wrapping paper, and too much Christmas pud aren’t altogether inspiring. I also want something I can play on my own. An escape after the mayhem and madness. And this year, Wingspan is going to be my birdie based sanctuary.

Set collecting, hand management, and tableau building, Wingspan is like a cool breeze on a warm day. Whether your strategy is to rack up power birds that payout each turn, hit hard on eggies, or focus on laying down cards that meet your own scoring objectives, each turn in the four decreasing rounds, is a thinky, tight, trade-off. The Stonemaier Automa is an easy-to-run-but-tricky-to-master opponent. And when I am playing alone, that’s exactly what I want. I don’t want to think for the AI; I want to follow prescribed moves for it and focus on my own game. Not only that but, after the garish colours and lights of the festive period, being able to stare at the gorgeous artwork as I consider what to do each turn is like a bonus gift you find under the tree when packing the decorations away. Plus, as it works brilliantly at every player count, you can always invite others to the table if you’re still feeling generous. In fact, if you do, they might even buy you the Oceania or European expansion for Christmas next year!

Scrawl - Callum Price

Just after Christmas time, for our family, follows a very specific routine. Napping, binge-watching Christmas films, and repeating the words “just one more dessert!”. It’s tradition. But what do we do whilst we aren’t in a food-induced comatose state? Board games. Now before I go getting hyped, know that my family are not innate gamers. They do not enjoy gaming as Zatu folk do… But they do love Scrawl by Big Potato Games. A game that hits the sweet spot for my non-gamer family: simultaneous play!
 
Scrawl is always a hit with non-gamers. It enables them to be childish and creative without the risk of looking foolish. The concept is simple: get a prompt, draw it, and pass your drawing. Receive a drawing, guess the prompt, pass it. Repeat until you receive your card back and look through its wild journey! Beware - you’ll get prompts akin to what you certainly wouldn’t normally hear at Christmas time - including photocopying one’s body parts, punching marine creatures, or other inane concepts. It’s all for fun, but be cautious of those coyer when playing!
 
Where the comedy and success of this game overlap are in both the terrible drawings and how the game progressively gets wilder and wilder! I drew a chap punching a jellyfish, someone interpreted that as fighting the storm. It went the whole table and turned into Usain Bolt shaking maracas. How? Through the madness that is my folks’ ability to interpret imagery. They were never art buffs, but their art had us howling with laughter! And that was just the end result for me! Every player receives a final product that goes on a mad journey of people going full Van Gogh on it, and it works so excellently at getting people smiling.

Dune - Rob Wright

Ah, I love this time of year – that week which is neither one celebration nor the other but is no time for work. It’s time for the games that need time – The TIs, the Gloomhavens…
 
And Dune. I have had Dune since March 2020 and thanks to one situation or another, I have not been able to bring it to the table. This is a serious game that needs six people, a big space, and a crash load of time to play.
 
Dune was first released in 1979 and then re-released in 2019. It pitches up to 6 players against each other in an all-out war for the ultimate prize – Arrakis, land of sand and the precious spice.
 
The game takes place over 10 rounds, with each round comprised of movement, gathering spice, bidding for treachery cards and combat. It’s a pretty treacherous place, and this game is all about betrayal. Each faction will hold one or a number of betrayal cards, representing other players’ champions.
 
Also, each different faction has different ways to win and different abilities. The Harkonnens are masters of treachery and have three Betrayal cards; the Atriedes can ‘see’ the cards people are bidding for and are the only faction allowed to write things down. This is why it's best to play with a full house!
 
So, with any luck, THIS Betwixtmas I will finally have the chance to gather with my best gaming pals and stab them repeatedly in their collective backs.
 
Have you tried these games before? What is your go-to game? However you're spending the holidays, everyone here at the Zatu blog wishes you a wonderful Christmas!