C*****mas Cracker Games from the Dark Imp

I know you don’t want me to use the C word. Even though I absolutely love and embrace it, even I normally wait till Halloween is over before I start shopping and incrementally bedecking the house! But you can always rely on those Imps at Dark Imp Games to mess with the natural order of things and here they are with a Christmas Cracker so packed full of sustainable, eco friendly, gamey goodness that it’s impossible to avoid talking about CHRISTMAS! There I said it!
Christmas Crackers are an intrinsic part of many people’s traditional celebrations – even if the tradition involves forgetting to put them out and then opening them all on boxing day like we did so many times at my parents’. Over the years I have tried to avoid all the plastic throwaway junk that come with them – the tiny comb, the golf tee, the fortune fish, the moustache. While these small gifts are entertaining for a few minutes, sometimes longer with the little legs in the family, they inevitably end up in landfill. I have bought more expensive crackers but even the higher end of the cracker ‘gift’ range includes a lot of useless tat. The Dark Imp Christmas Cracker offers an impressive solution to this quandry.
The cardboard cracker contains 6 games and while it doesn’t bang or contain hats it does come with 6 puzzles and cheesy jokes that no Christmas Cracker would complete without. The whole package is eco-friendly – no plastic novelties here and no sneaky plastic coating that makes otherwise recyclable materials head straight to landfill. Instead you get sturdy cardboard and wooden pieces and an ethically produced cotton drawstring bag.
All the games play up to 6 people. The games are quick to learn, fun to play and are strategic enough to entertain all abilities making it a brilliant gift for any family. There is a variety of complexity so you can choose the perfect game to match your mood, alcohol level or food coma status! While you could just leave it on the games shelf and play these clever little games all year round, ours is going to live with the Christmas decorations and become part of our traditions on Christmas day.
The aim in Imprudent is to win the most cubes by playing cards with matching features. When you play cards you either draw up and/ or take cubes depending on the number of cards you play. The more cards you play, the more cubes you get and the fewer cards. The tricky part is you don’t just draw up cards, if you can’t go or get low on cards you need to buy them from the draw pile with your cubes. The first to get to 15 cubes triggers the end of the game.
We loved balancing trying to gain cubes with having enough cards in hand. It took us a couple of rounds to get our heads round which strategies to implement and we’ve had fun trying different ones out.
In IMPressive you need to collect the most sets of imps with matching features by selecting cards from the draw pile or the row of cards to the right of it. You can take the furthest card for free or you can pay cubes to take a different card. They become more expensive the closer they are to the draw pile. When you choose a card that has cubes on already you gain those too. But as you start with only 5 cubes it’s important that you choose carefully. You also need to watch out for what others are collecting to make sure you can get what you need to win.
IMPetuous is a game of speed. Turn over cards and race your opponents to shout out which is the most common feature visible. This is brilliant with 6 – loads of chaotic shouting out and the pressure to be the first to shout out the right answer makes this a great laugh for everyone.
To win IMPassive you need to manipulate the value of the imps and select the right score cards. The game takes place over only 4 rounds so each play must be carefully considered – it’s imperative in fact! From your hand of four cards you select 2 scoring cards (these allow you to score the number of cubes next to that colour imp at the end of the game). By playing cards from your hand you can either move the imps (using the colour) or place cubes (next to the screen of the matching number). You can also swap which cards it is you will score for. In this way you can manipulate your imps and your score cards to make sure that at the end of the game you have score cards which match the imps with the most cubes. But you also need to consider that you score additional points for the screen number your imp is next to – so the higher the number, the higher the score.
There is a tremendous amount to consider in this quick, little game. On top of weighing up what you are going to aim for you also need to consider your opponents – will they be trying to get their imp to the high scoring screens or will they stick to the lower scoring ones but try to get more cubes behind them? What strategy lies behind their impenetrable facial expression? Should you focus on achieving your goal or try to mess up your opponents? So many choices…. so little time…. which leads me neatly on to …
IMPatient is a racing game where by voting for your imp you can watch as it hurdles its way to victory. But if two people vote for the same imp, it doesn’t move and if three people vote for it, it goes backwards. Before revealing our voting cards we scrutinised each other’s faces in an effort to deduce what had been played. I wouldn’t fancy playing Derren Brown at this one!
Each player shows how many cubes they are placing behind their screen and then you choose whose cubes you will try to claim. Win cubes by being the only person to lay claim to a set of cubes. You could play it safe or take a risk but whatever you do you are banking on no-one else doing the same. I love this mechanic. It makes me wish I’d invested more time honing my mind reading skills.
We have really enjoyed learning all these new games. So many of them encourage you to have fun trying out various ideas and strategies and the reliance on that unpredictable human element makes them different every time.
Will this replace crackers in our house? While it isn’t exactly the same as 6 crackers with snaps, I’ve become increasingly uncomfortable with wasting money on something each year that impacts the environment so negatively and I’m more than happy to have this as a replacement. I’m amazed by the diversity in these games – with just some cubes, 6 screens, 6 imps and one deck of cards Dark Imp games have created something impeccable. So, whether you are looking for something to replace your crackers or something additional to add to the table – this is a fabulous idea.
Give it a try at one of Cards or Die’s events – it’s always in the bag over the festive period.

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