It’s Boxing Day, and that means that I have eaten so much in the last two days that I can now barely function. Now, because all my blood is diverted to my stomach to digest the forty-thousand pigs in blankets I have eaten in the last 24 hours, there is very little blood for my brain. This has vastly deteriorated my ability to think up a game to play. But never you fear, dear reader, for Hannah and her merry band of bloggers have got us covered! Here's our guide to Boxing Day games.
I don’t want something heavy on Boxing Day. After the frivolities of the day before, I want to eat bubble and squeak and cheese and crackers and not really a lot else. There are only the naff sweets left in the tin (Bounty, I am of course looking at you) and I’ve left myself with only a Chomp or a Fudge in my selection box! So, with this sorry state of chocolate affairs, I want a game that will pick me up and put a smile on my face. For me, there is only one option: Azul.
Azul is one of the most beautiful games I own. On the table, it just looks great. It doesn’t have fancy artwork like the likes of Abyss or Tokaido; it just has top-notch components that look and feel beautiful. In Azul, you draft tiles from a number (dependent on player count) of factory tiles, one colour at a time. Any you don’t choose from that factory are pushed into the centre. You can choose to draft from here too.
The aim is to draft the right tiles in the correct quantities to fill up your individual player board and gain the most points. There is a bit of player interaction, but hate-drafting to try and mess up your opponent’s plan will likely mean you can’t gain many points either. Therefore, it really doesn't happen much in our games. It is more of a cathartic pattern-building affair. And I love it. There is a reason it is in my top 10 games.
For me, the Summer Pavilion variant is head and shoulders above the others in the series. The game is slicker, and the flow of the game is sublime. I’ve talked about my mum’s love for this game. In fact, she unwrapped it last Christmas!
From my experience, you’ll have greater success if you tailor the games you play to the circumstances and the group playing. I’ve made my peace that my family don’t want to play brain-crunching Euro-style games on Boxing Day. That’d be my perfect Christmas, but they’re all too full of turkey. The wood burner is giving off a cosy climate. Bing Crosby’s crooning in the background. Uh oh; Dad’s eyes are starting to grow heavy. Don’t you dare fall asleep on the couch! Quick, bring out the Boxing Day games!
Assuming the adults are ‘casual gamers’ – and not a passionate enthusiast like yourself – you'll need something simple. Something you can teach in a flash. Non-gamers don’t have the patience for learning rules! My go-to games would be fun titles that include a high player count.
BANG! is a hidden role game set in a Wild West shoot-out for up to 8 players.
You’re each dealt a secret role: either the Sheriff, a Deputy, an Outlaw, or a Renegade. (You also get an asymmetrical ability.) The Sheriff and the Deputies are allies. The Outlaws want to eliminate the Sheriff. The Renegade is a lone wolf and wants to be the last man standing (so they need to ‘kill’ the Sheriff last). You need to figure out who’s on your team while eliminating your opponents!
Will you shoot your neighbour? Will you pass someone – an ally? – a beer to heal them? Or is it all an elaborate bluff, luring them into thinking you’re on the same team? You’ll howl with anguish as betrayals come out of nowhere. You’ll grin as the fate of the gods fall in your lap or spit in your eye. BANG! wraps up in a fun 20-minute climax, which fits nicely in the “Let’s play that again!” category.
Boxing Day is an opportunity to get to grips with new acquisitions that have appeared the day before. There is usually enough time to get a heavier game off the shelf or try one with a campaign. The challenge with Boxing Day games is to find a game that everyone will enjoy and which won't outstay its welcome.
The problem with larger player counts is often the downtime between turns. However, to avoid Christmas arguments, a cooperative game allows players to collaborate rather than argue.
The Crew plays well with four or five. Winner of this year’s prestigious Spiele des Jahres award, it is a card game like no other. It takes its basic structure from Bridge, with players aiming to win certain numbers of tricks. The strategy involved does mean it is a game for teenagers or adults. The clever part of this game is that there is a shared goal. This gives a campaign story and could be continued later in the festive season. You won’t mind if your eldest son wins every trick, and you win none if that is what is required.
But how to do this with no communication!
This might even be a blessing by the time Boxing Day has arrived. Players may indicate just one piece of information by use of a token, once each round. The timing of this “reveal” is important as is noting who chooses not to say anything. With each round that passes, the challenges become more difficult and this builds a sense of tension.
The beauty of The Crew on Boxing Day is that players can be so immersed that 90 minutes have flown by. Being a relatively silent cooperative game there is also no scope for “quarterbacking”. This makes it an ideal Boxing Day game in a house that might be dominated by many Type-A personalities. The Crew could bring Peace on Earth (well at least in one home).
Looking for the perfect family-friendly Boxing Day game? Switch off the TV, put your phone down, stop searching endlessly for sale items you don’t actually want and come and play! And what better than this family-friendly release from Big Potato Games: Top of the Pops?
Top of the Pops does require a small amount of pop trivia knowledge, but mainly it needs a far larger dose of “let’s have some fun!” So, some energy is required. Perhaps start with the two or three players in your household who seem less keen on a nap and then others can join in as it goes! This is the beauty of party games like Top of the Pops. Player count and rules are not an issue. Just split into two equal teams and start having some fun! Others can join in at any point. The more the merrier.
You are trying to collect cards from each category, ranging from decades-based questions to one-hit wonders and all-time chart-toppers. You can give three clues per round, one for each of the three cards you are trying to win. One has to be a single word, “Titanic” perhaps? Any guesses? One is lyrics, which you can sing or just speak if you’d rather, or maybe your team would prefer! The final option is using a kazoo! And here is where the real fun starts! No one can resist a kazoo. Everyone wants a go, no one can resist laughing at others when they try!
We regularly end a game of Top of the Pops with hours of Kazoo fun, “and can you guess this one…?” “No, it’s terrible, just like the previous hours’ worth!”
There is so much entertainment to be had with this box. But if you are not a pop kind of person, maybe films are more your bag? If so, try Blockbuster. Same mechanics, same premise, different theme, but no Kazoo. These designers think of everything, right? Happy gaming all. Pass me a mince pie!
Christmas is a time for love, family and cheer. But in reality, we all know that it is a time for eating, drinking, and generally over-indulging. This means that Boxing Day is dedicated to recovering. As much as you want to play games, you definitely don’t want anything taxing. If you're feeling bloated and possibly a little delicate, now is not the time to start a drawn-out game of Risk.
When I want to play a game, but am feeling fragile, my first choice is always Takenoko. The game is based around a Japanese Imperial Garden. The gardener desperately tries to grow Bamboo while a hungry panda plods around the board eating what he will. You'll have objective cards and you'll use your two actions per turn to try and achieve them before the Emperor arrives. The whole thing is adorable.
You create the board yourself with each turn; grow bamboo with the gardener and consume it with the panda. If you want to get the expansion, Takenoko Chibis, you can add a Miss Panda. Get bonuses by creating Panda babies. The whole thing is so cute that you don’t mind losing. Takenoko is a placid but thoroughly immersive game.
Luckily for those true fans of Christmas, one of the greatest festive films of all time has been turned into a board game. Die Hard: The Nakatomi Heist Board Game lets you live out your Christmas fantasies. You can be John McClane or the Terrorists depending on your predilections. Working through the stages of the film, the Terrorists work as a team while McClane works alone. It is a very niche game, probably only for fans of the film.
But just like the other two suggestions, it is silly and very thematic. I thought it would be an amusing game that we would play once, but we keep coming back to it. A heist might not be traditionally festive, but it wouldn’t be Christmas without a machine gun. Ho ho ho...
There you have it - our favourite Boxing Day games. We hope that all our readers have the best Christmas possible. Wishing you a safe and happy end to the year!
Editors note: This blog was originally published on December 21st, 2020. Updated on November 10th, 2021 to improve the information available.