Christmas Gift Ideas

Christmas is all about getting together and spending time with people. An excuse to get off your phones and interact with each other. My childhood Christmas memories always include games -whether that was a new game I’d got for Christmas that I made everyone get on the floor and play with me, or the old games that came out every time the grown ups had some time off work. If you’re looking for some game suggestions to get the gang playing together this Christmas – look no further; no matter what age the person or what they are interested in there’s a board game (or card game) to suit everyone.

For the little legs – Specific

Specific plays 2-10 people, ages 6+, takes up to 20 minutes. Price £10 but at time of writing it was on offer for £7.39 from Zatu Games.

Specific comes with a deck of cards which show an animal image on one side and three symbols demonstrating what the animal eats, where it lives and how many legs it has. There are three dice: one tells you where the animal lives, one shows how many legs it has and one shows what it eats. Children are always extremely pleased with themselves for knowing the word ‘omnivorous’ so they can feel good about it before they even start playing. Roll the dice and be the first to grab the right animal. Flip it over, check the symbols and see if you have got it right.

The really lovely thing about this one is how flexible it is. If you want to be super competitive there is a question mark card which you can grab allowing you to steal cards from others if the same symbols come up again. Whereas with really little ones you can take turns rolling and choosing a card and even reduce the number of dice you play with. I’ve played it with children much younger than 6 and up to age 10ish.

A silly party game for everyone to play on Christmas Day – Draw my Face.

Draw my Face card game box with drawings we did while playing.
Draw my Face game prompts under the following headings: Artistic Style, Who Am I?, Hidden Talents.

Draw My Face suitable for ages 8+, 3 or more players. Length of game varies depending on number of players. Price: £14.99

Draw My Face is yet another brilliant small box game from Gamely Games. It’s easy to pop in your bag to take to parties or relatives’ houses over Christmas and is sure to bring lots of fun and laughter. No artistic skill is required for this one – in fact not having so much skill may put you at an advantage in some of the challenges. When you have to use only two fingers or draw someone entirely made up of stars you won’t be so disappointed when it looks ridiculous!

The aim of the game is to draw each other following the prompts that you choose and then at the end you lay out all of your portraits (and hum the Tony Hart Gallery theme if you of a certain age) then vote for your favourites. You get three votes each and the best (or funniest) wins.

We had loads of fun playing it and I can’t wait to introduce more people to it.

For the competitive ones – Corks

A group of people holding playing  cards and about to grab corks from the middle of the table.

3-14 players, ages 6 and up and takes around 15 minutes. £21.99

If you enjoy crazily competitive games with fast reactions – maybe Dobble or Pit or Spoons then you’ll love Corks. The game comes with 15 wooden corks. There is no turn taking – everyone plays at once. You pass cards around collecting the ones you need to get a set of 4 matching cork cards and then you grab a cork from the middle of the table. As soon as someone grabs a cork, everyone tries to grab one and if you are the last to react, you don’t get a cork and you’re out! If I’m first to get a set of 4 I always enjoy stealthily taking a cork and waiting to see how long people carry on passing cards round before they notice. It’s a quick, easy one that you’ll want to play over and over again. Some people use it as a drinking game which shows that you can even manage to play if you’ve had a small sherry or a snowball or two! It’s available direct from Ginger Fox Games.

For the peacekeepers – Kites

Kites by Floodgate Games is for 2-6 players, ages 10+ and takes around 10minutes to play. Price: £17.00

In Kites you are working collaboratively to keep all your Kites flying high in the blue skies, finishing the turn with a beautiful display. Sounds so restful. It isn’t. Each coloured kite has its own sand timer. Sand must be running through the timer at all times to keep your kite airborne. Take turns to flip the timers by playing the matching cards. Finish the deck to win. I feel like you can tell it’s not a quiet game by now but it still sounds pretty straightforward. It should be. All you need to do is play the card that matches the timer that is about to run out and given that everyone will be shouting that colour at you, there’s no reason on earth you’d flip a different timer. Losing is addictive in this game and you’ll want to keep playing until you win. At which point you can add in challenge cards that see your tails tangled, noisy aeroplanes overhead and thunderstorms. It’s great to work together to beat this game especially when it’s so hard to beat. Perfect for people who want a peaceful* family holiday!

*peaceful here meaning no arguments not actual quiet!

For the clever ones – I spy games beginning with Q: Quarto, Quixo, Qawale .

Hachette games do a lovely range of wooden two player games for people who love a strategic and tactical game. They all play excellently with 2 players. Quoridor and Quixo can be played with 4 too. They come in large size for £35 and smaller for £22 and they are all beautiful, wooden pieces that create a lovely tactile experience. These are the kind of games you can leave out on a table and people will just want to play. Perfect for a tournament over the holidays! Quixo, Quarto and Qawale are all based on the premise of Connect 4 but all work differently. In Quoridor the first person to get across the board wins. So, they are all really simple to learn and yet give you plenty to think about. They are the kind of games where I lose or win arbitrarily on the first couple of plays and then start to form a strategy! When I lose after that, at least I know how I lost!

For the traditional boardgame lovers – 221B Baker Street.

2-6 players, 90 minutes, age 10+, Gibsons Games, Available at John Lewis for £16.79

This Sherlock Holmes themed game is reminiscent of Cluedo, so if you have folk who fancy something more traditional this is sure to appeal. You roll the dice and move to different places around Baker Street to collect clues. There are even shortcuts between some of the locations. But unlike Cluedo, this game comes with a book full of clues and when you enter a place you look up the clue specific to the case you are investigating. Some clues are a little like crossword clues or puzzles – some difficult, some easy. Some clues have more than one part and some locations don’t contain a clue. Depending on the case you will be searching for different answers too – it’s not just who did it, what with and where! Once you’ve cracked the case, it’s a race to 221B to dramatically announce your findings!

My daughter was captivated by Agatha Christie and Sherlock Holmes and was desperate to play this one when she was still a bit young for it so we used to play it co-operatively so that she could play. We would split up and go to different destinations then trade clues and finally solve the mystery together. So, there are options for teaming up if you want to play with younger family members or just to allow more people to play.

This picture shows the 1975 edition which I was lucky enough to find in a charity shop!

For the ones who just want a good card game – Sea Salt and Paper.

2-4 players, 30-45 minutes, Age 8+, £16.99 from Zatu Games.

This was an instant favourite in our house. Player over a number of rounds (although we sometimes just play a round and see who wins that), once a player reaches 7 points they can declare the end of the round and if they have the most points they establish a lead. But, if you are feeling very lucky, instead you declare ‘last chance’. Everybody else then gets an extra turn and if you still win, you get all your points while everyone else’s points are limited BUT if you miscalculate you end up with limited points while everyone else scores all their points.

To get points, you collect cards – some you collect in your hand while others you can choose to play in front of everyone giving you extra actions like stealing from others, drawing an extra card, having an extra turn or routing through the discard pile for that card you’ve now changed your mind about.

Pay attention to the cards people take from the two discard piles or when they draw secretly from the deck, pay close attention to what they discard to give you an idea of the score they are on. It’s all about what score you think everyone else is on and when it is safe to declare – round over or last chance.

The origami artwork is absolutely gorgeous. Sometimes only a card game will do and for those times I can’t recommend this one enough. I loved it so much in fact that I bought the expansion which I very rarely do these days.

For someone who already has ALL the board games – Fire Tower.

2-4 players, age 12+, 20 minutes. By Runaway Parade Games Available from Zatu Games.

I first played Fire Tower at UK Games Expo last June and ever since then have been waiting to get my hands on a copy. It’s particularly good to play games at Expos because as in this case you get taught to play by the game designers.

People often ask if Fire Tower is co-operative. And no, nope. It very much is not. You are each on a Fire Tower in the corner of the board. A fire has broken out in the middle of the forest. You need to drive the fire towards other people’s fire towers, making sure yours survives the fire. In terms of theme it is not what I was expecting at all! You do this my manipulating the wind direction, building fire breaks and using water cards to extinguish some of the fire. If you are out, keep your eye on the deck because there is a card that allows you to mess everyone up when it is drawn! Still, it’s a fairly quick game so you can play a few rounds if people want retribution… because nothing says Christmas more than a grudge match where you burn a whole forest down in order to beat your family!

And don’t forget that after Christmas you can still make time for games in your life! I often find that trying to play in the house is difficult – there are too many distractions! Join me for board games events – our next one is 27th December at Horsforth Brewery. You can find all the details of upcoming events here. And you can subscribe to my newsletter to make sure you get your monthly update with all that month’s events on.

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