For me, there are a few traditional games that I used to play a lot as a kid. All of them involve dice in some way. Ludo sticks out to me as one of the games I played a lot as a kid. I know many played Monopoly, although in our house this was a banned game as we simply couldn’t not cheat. We did however play a lot of Cluedo which you’ve guessed it also has a die in it. So I have assembled a merry band of bloggers to give out the top of the pops when it comes to Christmas dice games.
Let's talk Christmas dice games.Monopoly is the quintessential family mass-market game. It is also one I don’t like playing. There are aspects to it that I understand. At Christmas, we are all shoved into a lounge that is slightly too hot. The fire will be roaring so Grandad doesn’t catch a chill. Tensions are often running high. So, being able to thrash anything out by playing a cut-throat game of monopoly stops any actual arguments from happening. However, as I said this isn't a game for me. I will tell you what scratches the itch to smash your family into oblivion but in a really great game. We love playing King of Tokyo Dark Edition.
King of Tokyo is a dice chucking game of fighting to the death, and it is absolutely awesome. It has its roots in the traditional Yahtzee game in the way that you are allowed to select any number of dice to reroll up to three times to get the best score. Thing is, in this game, there is a theme!
You each take on the role of one monster. You can be Cyber Bunny of Alienoid or a whole host of other comic-style characters. Remember, you are trying to beat up your opponents and knock their health down to zero by rolling smash icons. You can “power up” by gaining lightning bolt resources. Then you can then spend them on power cards that can beef up your monster significantly. You can roll hearts to heal yourself or combinations of numbers to gain stars or victory points. The win condition is either be the last monster left alive or get yourself 20 stars.
The Dark edition has the better artwork in my opinion, but both the games are very similar. They have cute graphic novel-style artwork and very high-quality components that really elevate the experience. If you want a game that looks good and is fun for kids of all ages that plays in 30-45 mins then you cannot go wrong with King of Tokyo.
If you’re anything like me, when you’ve had your Christmas lunch and you’re sat about looking out the window or at a game you’ve unwrapped, the last thing you’re thinking about is exercise. You’re probably thinking about the cheeseboard. Hmm… cheese… board… game… exercise. That rather tenuous link brings us rather neatly to my pick of a dice game to play this Christmas.
Cubitos is a press your luck, dice drafting game, where the goal is to scurry your racer around the track. The gameplay is straightforward – you take your little running figure (a cubic elephant, monkey, sheep or lion) and place it on the starting line. You draw as many dice as you’re allowed, indicated by a purple hand on your player board and roll them in the roll zone, placing the “hits” (shown by coins, feet and creature faces) in your Active Zone. You can then choose to roll any misses again, but if you roll all misses, you go bust and your Active dice are wasted, and you flip your phase token over. Once all players are either bust or pass, everyone moves onto the Run Phase.
The cheese on the box is one of the many characters you can choose to buy dice from which each have their own special powers, provided you get a hit on them. It’s a gouda game (sorry) which is a lot of chaotic fun. The tension as the last few dice are thrown on the last lap can be built as highly as a real race, only without all the sweating and being outside that comes with it.
Reds, greens, whites, yellows……the colours at Christmas are so bright and vibrant. And that means, for impact alone, you need a game that’s going to be able to compete. You need something that catches they eye as you look across all the lights and tinsel decking the halls and every other available square inch of space.
For me, there is one dice game guaranteed to make the list; Sagrada. And, given that it is about making beautiful stained glass windows inspired by the famous unfinished church, the ‘Basílica i Temple Expiatori de la Sagrada Família’, it also has an actual link to Christmas!
In the base game, there are 10 rounds. And each round, 1-4 players take turns to draw dice from a shared pool in order to try and place them on their window boards. Some squares shown on the patterns chosen must include certain colours, others specific numbers. Either way, you cannot place the same number or colour next to each other. As well as trying to fill your window according to its own restrictions, you are also trying to achieve your own personal colour objective plus randomly chosen public scoring objectives. These are based on combinations of colours and numbers, and can sometimes clash directly with what is on your own board!
There are some tools to assist you. But they come at a price. And the more often a tool is used, the more expensive it becomes. With limited resources and competing objectives, Sagrada becomes a strategic, dice rolling and placing puzzle that hits the spot every time. Increasing difficulty levels, a super crunchy solo mode, and a number of expansions (Life, Passion, and 5-6 player) also means that there will always be a reason to bring Sagrada to the table, and not just at Christmas!
Many say abstract strategy games are brilliant to play but boring to look at. I don’t know about you, but I could never describe Sagrada as anything but a feast for the eye and the mind!
In the same way Carol Vorderman luuuuuvs meat, I luuuuuv Christmas dice games. The only problem is dice hate me. HATE. So whereas I love to play dice games, I do tend to end up taking a pounding.
That’s why my choice of dice game for Christmas has to be Space Base, a brightly coloured star-ship themed engine builder that only has two dice but loads of play.
It plays up to 5 out of the box and sees players taking the roles of space base commanders. Their bases have 12 numbered slots containing ships that can bring them gold (to spend), resources (to save) or victory… points (to win). These slots are activated by rolling the dice and either using them separately (from 1 to 6) or adding them together (7 to 12). The gold can then be spent on new ships with new abilities.
But that is not the end of the story. When a new ship moves into one of the slots, the old ship flips under your board. It is now activated when another player rolls that number. Do you see how that might appeal to someone that is not so good at rolling the dice?
Besides that, Space Base is a really great game. It's fast-moving, good-looking and almost bereft of downtime because everyone has a stake in everyone’s roll. It’s also very easy to learn and has plenty of scope for different play styles and ways to win.
There’s also a couple of expansions out for it already and a sweet new one due in the new year. Which I might be a bit excited about. Oh yeah.
Istanbul the Dice Game is a fantastic Christmas dice game which is great for all the family. At its heart is a Yahtzee style set-collection mechanism as you try to roll a range of combinations of ‘goods’ to earn rubies from the common market board. Depending on player count, first to 5 or 6 rubies wins. But what makes it far more engaging are the extra wrinkles wrapped around the simple core.
You roll the dice once and then have two actions in which to spend them. If you want a reroll you have to spend a crystal, which can be acquired by spending goods. Each of the tracks with rubies placed on it has a growing cost. If you roll sets of red goods then the first two rubies cost 4 but the next costs 5 and then further along the track, 6.
Goods can also be spent on mosque upgrade tiles. They can give you extras like an extra dice or action, or some money every turn. There are also bazaar cards too, that you can pick up when rolling the card face of the dice, with a bonus for all, but a better bonus for you.
All of this makes for easy to access rules, but a range of ways to race for victory. While this range means there are quite a few ways to spend your dice rolls, the player aids are a real help and it’s not long before they are rarely needed. And all this fun for a very modest sum. Istanbul is light, pacey and accessible. It’s playable across a wide age and experience e range and I really recommend it.
On the theme of olden goldies that we often play at Christmas, I bring to you the dice game that for me is the most timeless in this list. Yahtzee. There isn’t much to the game in terms of components, you get five dice and a scorepad. Each player’s score is tallied on the same pad in columns with a single scribe usually although you can each have a pencil and paper if that is easier.
The aim is to use your dice to create pairs, sets of three numbers the same, runs or the coveted 5 of a kind for a YAHTZEE. The simplicity of the design makes it not only a timeless classic but also incredibly accessible to everyone. It can be played with a little help from anyone from children to great-grandma.
There is a lot of luck involved in this game. This adds to the random fun and means most people are on a relatively even playing field regardless of how many games of Yahtzee you have under your belt. This makes it perfect for a wider group. There is some skill in managing the risk of the reroll and how to fill in your scoresheet in the most efficient way so as not to end up with too much to do at the end, so there is something even for the more strategic gamer to think about.
If you are looking for something that you can bring out every year with whoever turns up at the house and get them taught and playing within a minute or two, then why not test drive this classic?
Editor's note: This blog was originally posted on December 23rd, 2021. Updated on December 21st, 2021 to improve the information available.