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Top 5 Games: For a Family Christmas

Posted by Eisley on 4th December 2009

When Christmas approaches, I start assembling the games I will play with my family when we meet at Christmas.  This year, it’s a varied group of a dozen people including one under 10, two teenagers, seven people in their 40’s and two in their 70’s.  This group like games at parties and even though they don’t usually play board games regularly they are quite open to trying stuff.  I’ve had them playing Carabande and even Ca$h’n’Guns but I’m unlikely to get them playing most simple Eurogames like Ticket To Ride.

This year, I am excited by the amount of fresh, new games I will be taking along.  So, here’re my top 5 games for a family Christmas.

Bunny Bunny Moose Moose  (Read the full review)
Players take turns being the hunter who turns cards over which each show either a moose with antlers up/down, wide/narrow, left and/or right, or a bunny with ears straight/floppy, side/back, left and/or right.  By placing their hands/fingers on their heads, the players are trying to mimmick the antlers or ears shown on the cards so that what they are doing with their hands matches as many of the cards as possible, i.e. a player whose left hand is in the shape of an antler pointing upwards would both satisfy a card showing an antler on the left as well as another showing an antler pointing upwards.  Only 6 cards are ever in play at any one time, so the 7th card replaces the 1st card, and so on.  When a hunter card is revealed, the hunter shouts bang, the players freeze, and points are scored for each card the player has satisfied with their hands’ positions/shapes.  There are also some rules for sticking out your tongue too.

This is a game of looking a bit foolish and having a lot of fun doing it.  The main activity is trying to work out the best mixture of hand positions which is constantly changing as there only 6 cards showing at any time.  I have yet to play this game yet but it sounds fun, and actually sounds quite taxing if you’re seriously trying to score points.

A La Carte (Read the full review)
Score points by shaking the bottles of seasoning into your (real) saucepan to create the right mix for your recipe before it burns and is ruined.  A La Carte is a dexterity game with a pinch of push-your-luck too.  The physical components of the game are very tactile and look superb, especially the 3D hob, complete with temperature dial, that is constructed of card.  The next player harrasses you by banging the wooden spoons on the table too.

Whilst only 4 players can play this at a time, I think teams of two could play too and take turns taking actions.  It’s such a cute game with some funny moments – I think this will go down well.

Letter of Marque (Read the full review)
A light and very fast game of bluffing. Players launch galleons laden with treasure – some galleons are defended (signified by a cannon marker on the unseen underside of the ship pieces) and some are undefended.  On their turn, a player can launch galleons, bring one of their own ships with its treasure back home safely, or they can attack another player’s ship.  Attacking a defended ship will earn your opponent a point, but attacking an undefended ship will get you their treasure.

The bluffing is because you just don;t know which ships are defended so which ones should you attack?  Which of your own treasure cards should you defend?  Is your opponent protecting his largest treasure or is that what they want you to think?  As mentioned in my review, this is a very fast and fun game and I think it will play best with 6 players.

Cockroach Poker (Read the full review)
Another bluffing game but even more simple.  The game consists of a deck of cards which each show one of eight different insects.  On your turn, you pass a card face-down to another player and say what insect it is.  They have three options: They can believe you, or they can say you’re lying – after which the card is revealed.  If they guessed what you said correctly (i.e. the truth was the truth, or your lie was a lie), you must put the card face-up in front of you and take another turn.  If you fooled them, they put the card face-up in front of themselves and it’s now their turn.  The third option is that they can look at the card and then must pass it to another player in the same manner.  The game ends when one player has four cards of any one insect face-up in front of them and they are the loser.

It’s a fast and simple game of bluffing which can be very funny, especially when you have a few face-up cards in front of you and people start trying to give you cards that will make you lose (or maybe they’re just pretending to…).  Lots of fun.

Tarantel Tango
Tarantel Tango consists of players placing animal cards and, depending upon the symbols on the card placed, making the noise of the animal on a previously played card (or occasionally slamming their hand down to claim cards).  It’s very silly and the people I saw playing it in the bar/restaurant at the hotel in Essen were almost hysterical at points.  By the same makers as Cockroach Poker, this looks like a lot of silly entertainment.

Cheese (Read the full review)
This simple ‘throw-the-block-of-cheese’ to score points game is an easy one to play at any time and could make a good drinking game too.

Okay, that’s 6 games not 5 but Top 6 didn’t sound right.  Below are some more games that I’ll be taking that will suit the times when just a few players want a game and there can be slightly more concentration.

Fits (Read the full review)
If Tetris was a board game, it would be Fits.  Slide your Tetris shape pieces down into your board in the attempt to cover up spaces (and sometimes keep some uncovered) to score points.  Easy to explain and a good one for a general audience.

Abandon Ship (Read the full review)
Pick a dice from those rolled to move rats up the sinking ship.  Score points for the 2nd, 3rd and 4th rats to reach the top.  The three rats that you will score points from are kept secret from the other players. Humorous game where you want to advance you rats and hinder the rest.  The board is cool too with the ship slowly descending down the board.

Pony Express (Read the full review)
A bit more bluffing in this wild west race.  Players declare what dice result they have rolled in order to move, although other players may call their bluff.  Landing on some spaces on the board may get a player equipment or money, and landing on other player’s spaces can cause a duel which is resolved by rolling dice across the board at the opponent’s figure (but you go to jail if you hit any other player’s figure as they’re innocent bystanders).  Really great choices to make in this game which was my favourite of Spiel 2009.

 More top 5 games lists to come.

James.

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