There will inevitably come a point over Christmas when an elderly relative will bemoan ‘Kids these days!’
“In our day we made our own entertainment; they’re always on their screens.”
So, to fend off the family member who can’t stand seeing them playing Fortnite for two weeks straight or who secretly thinks Minecraft might be the sequel to Mein Kampf, here is a totally subjective and non-definitive list of five great games to play with the younger gamer over Christmas. And they’re great fun for grown-ups too!
Top 5 Games to play with Younger Gamers
1. Rhino Hero
A riff on building a house of cards. Players take turns to add walls and a ceiling to an impossibly rickety tower. Each ceiling has a blueprint showing you how to add your walls. Occasionally the ceilings allow you bonuses or the chance to mess with your opponent. Every now and again the eponymous rhinoceros super-meeple climbs the tower. Everything conspires towards a satisfying collapse and a whole heap of giggles.
Everything in Rhino Hero is done with visuals, there are no words. All the artwork is cartoony and attractive - I particularly like looking at the vignettes of animal characters on the ‘wall’ cards. It takes about 30 seconds to learn and five minutes to play, then you’ll want to set it all up for another go!
2. Fake Artist Goes to New York
Fake Artist Goes to New York is a social deduction and drawing game. Can your group work out which of you has no idea what they’re doing? The picture is passed from hand to hand. Each artist adds a detail. One of you has no idea what they’re drawing and is trying their damnedest to bluff. And that’s pretty much it. On the one hand a quick, silly party game; on the other a searing satire of the modern art world. Great fun.
3. Codenames: Pictures
If you’ve bumped into Codenames before, then Codenames: Pictures will be super easy to learn. Split your family into two teams. You take turns being the spymaster who gives clues to their team to help them guess cards shown on a grid. The cards represent hidden secret agents on both teams as well as innocent bystanders (collateral damage!) and an assassin (instant death!).
The great joy of Codenames is giving a clue which correctly applies to multiple cards. You need creativity, lateral thinking and wit. The difference with Codenames: Pictures is (wait for it…) the cards have pictures rather than words. The pictures are a treat themselves. A monstrous hand clutching a D20; a frying pan melting a Dali-esque pocket watch; an ice cream cone with a magic eight ball instead of a scoop of ice cream. See what I mean.
Codenames: Pictures works best with a big mixed group which means its ideal for Christmas family gatherings. It is very straightforward to learn. It's one of those games that is easier to play than to write about. And, with no reading or over-complexity, it’ll work for all the family. Tension, triumphs and teamwork.
4. Ice Cool
Everything about this game is so appealing. The theme: cheeky penguins at an icy penguin school want to eat all the fish at break time before the dinner lady penguin catches them. The components: boxes-within-boxes-within-boxes that fit together to make the ice school play arena as well as penguin weebles. The gameplay: skilled flicking making the penguins shoot forward; bend like Beckham; or leap the walls entirely.
Ice Cool will probably be like no other game your family has ever played. It rewards repeated plays as your flicking finger becomes more dexterous and you can dazzle Granddad with a pro-skilled curving dive. The light-hearted theme is cute and attractive and a six-player game will take about 30 minutes. Perfect.
Tsuro (meaning to lure, attract or tempt) is beautiful. Its Asian mystical theme carries through all the components from the swooping, twining dragon of the box, through the parchment rulebook to the carved ‘stones’ that mark your playing pieces. It oozes, ancient wisdom. You can imagine wizened monks with drooping moustaches playing it beneath a cherry blossom tree. Yet it was invented in 1979: same year as the Walkman (ask your mum).
This game welcomes a big group as up to eight players take turns to lay tiles with intricate intertwined path designs and to move their ‘stones’ along to the end of the path. The aim is to build a route that keeps your stone in play. All the paths on the tiles line up with each other, meaning your opponent can add a new part to your path and force you into a difficult position or even force you off the board.
Lightweight gameplay, a big group size and breathtaking visuals make this a popular and timeless game.