Phil's Christmas Suggestions 2014This year I have A Plan – to make your lives and mine easier by having a list of games I like for different categories, to aid whittling down from the enormous number of games available. Click on any that look promising to link through to full details.
Christmas Day family games:
Timeline: 2 – 8 players, a very simple but superior quiz-type game.
Dixit: 3 – 6 players, simple but requires a bit of imagination. Excellent fun and entirely harmless.
Letters to Santa: A Christmas-themed version of the very popular Love Letter ideal as a small gift that can be played immediately. The only drawback is that it is only for 2 – 4 players.
Coup: A predecessor to Love Letter, 2 – 6 players, and up to 10 with the Coup: Reformation expansion. I will happily play either game, though I'm rubbish at both.
Braggart: 2 – 6 players. If you don't have a copy of this yet, it is time you put that right.
Walk the Plank: 3 – 5 players. A game of swift revenge, with a bit of planning that usually goes wrong.
Colt Express: 2 – 6 players. Similar to Walk the Plank, but with a rather fine 3d train to push people off instead of a ship's plank.
Librium: 2 – 4 players, though it can easily be stretched. Current favourite dexterity game.
Also worthy of mention Pass the Pud, (4+ players) a Christmas version of the established favourite Pass the Bomb, The Big Bang Theory: The Party Game (3-7 players), and Concept (4-12 players).
Children and adults:
Penguin Pile-up: 1 – 6 players. My other favourite dexterity game.
Dobble: 2 – 8 players. A sort of Super Snap, it requires a younger, sharper brain than mine...
Dodekka: 2 – 6 players. A very simple numbers game that I am always happy to play, there is a push-your-luck element that gives it an edge.
Three Little Pigs: 2 – 5 players. On the face of it, aimed at children, but a good lightweight adults' game too. I really like it – I have my own copy, perhaps a sign that I haven't really grown up yet.
Rory's Story Cubes: 1+ players. A highly effective way of getting a general story-telling session going.
Christmas Day gamers' games:
These will appeal to existing gamers initially but are likely to win over anyone else not asleep after the Christmas lunch.
Splendor: 2 – 4 players. Simple in essence, can be explained in a couple of minutes, but hard to win.
King of Tokyo: 3 – 6 players. Monster themed dice game. Win by scoring most points or, as often as not, simply being the last survivor. Also easy to explain to new players. The very slightly more complex King of New York is just out as a fine alternative.
Eight-Minute Empire: 2 – 4 players. A satisfying area control/set collecting game that can be whipped out and played at the drop of a hat. Could conceivably be played in eight minutes, twenty minutes is typical. There is also the slightly enhanced version with a fantasy theme Eight-Minute Empire: Legends.
Steam Donkey: 2 – 4 players. My favourite new card game, with a novel system but easy to pick up, and very thematic.
Ascension: 2 – 4 players. About the easiest of the deck-building games, very easy to teach to newcomers. For those familiar with Ascension I also thoroughly recommend the new Star Realms (2 player with one pack, or several interesting 4 player options with two packs).
Buccaneer Bones: 1 – 4 players. Dead easy to pick up, and only about 15 minutes long, but with a bit of strategy to consider.
A Fistful of Penguins: 1 – 6 players. We often play this in pub gardens where card games would get blown away. It has purple penguins, what more do you need?
D&D Starter Set: If you want to get into role-playing, this is the easiest introduction. Only one person needs to know (roughly) what he or she is doing, up to half a dozen others can be gathered round and plunged in.
Dungeon: 1 – 8 players. A reprint of the original D&D boardgame, giving an introduction to the Dungeons and Dragons idea in simple and easy form.
The Legend of Drizzt, Castle Ravenloft, Wrath of Ashardolan: 1 – 5 players. A level or two up, but still not hard to set up, and while quite expensive, you really get your money's worth.
Descent: 2 – 5 players. The 2nd edition plays in around two hours rather than the 4 hours of the original, but there are loads of expansions if you want to take up most of Boxing Day.
Pathfinder:Rise of the Runelord: 1-4 players. A different style of adventure game, it is a card game, rewarding card-playing skills, but with a very role-playing feel.
Other Co-operative games:
These all have the advantage of only one person needing to know the rules, everyone else can pick it up as you go along since you are all on the same side.
Forbidden Island: 2 – 4 players. About as simple as they come, but very re-playable, with lots of tension every time. Especially good for children discovering non-computer games for the first time.
See also Forbidden Desert.
Pandemic: The usual starter game before Forbidden Island came along, slightly more complex but still a popular starting point for new adult gamers, and with the same virtues.
Castle Panic: A sort of shoot 'em up with added card play. The monsters keep coming, panic may well set in...
Worker placement/"euro" games:
There are a LOT of good games of this type, these are my current favourites:
OddVille: 2 - 4 players. A lot of game packed in to a small box. This is a mid-weight, mid-length game with a bit of everything that all goes together very satisfyingly, and at £16.99 is perhaps the best value game in the entire shop.
Village: 2 – 4 players. Fast-paced, and with the twist that you have to make the most of your people before they die of old age. A lot of options giving a lot of variety, and the latest expansion (Village:Port) slots in particularly well.
Concordia: 2 – 5 players. Strategic placement, card management, and a splendidly simple economic system provide satisfaction in every area.
Keyflower: 2 – 6 players. An unusual system makes it look challenging, and it is – yet it makes sense remarkably quickly, and first time players usually pick it up in time to be in with a chance of winning. Very interactive.
Yunnan: 2 – 5 players. Another game with novel mechanisms, combined with some familiar ones well laid out, and nice balancing features. Also tea houses, always good.
Among the Stars: 2 – 4 players. Like a city-building game, but featuring space stations instead. So far I have done well with hippy-style designs featuring lots of nice areas to relax in, but there are more aggressive variants in which you really need those laser cannons too.
They are all well-priced, too – Yunnan is a positive steal at £24.99, I had expected it to be at least a tenner more.
Area control games:
Small World: 2 – 5 players. Firmly established as the favourite area control game, it has loads of variety and is loads of fun.
Antike II: 3– 6 players. The original Antike was the first game with the now well-established Roundel system which gives a much faster-paced game than the older classic area-control games, it also has a substantial but straightforward Civilisation element to it. If you like area-conquering games and don't already have Antike, get this new version.
That should be enough food for though to be going on with!