Posted on Leave a comment

Christmas Games

Every Christmas there is a time that the Family Board Game is contemplated. Do we buy one as a present? Do we dust off the old ones in storage and sit around with the family and play yet another round of Monopoly? There was that time that Aunt Ethel had “Hotel Row” and with one roll of the dice and a “misplaced elbow” by cousin Dave the entire game board was on the floor and it ended badly. No one wants to repeat that again. How about Trivial Pursuit?  Would be great if our Uncle Ed hadn’t memorized all the cards and it does not work for the younger kids who get bored and decide it’s more fun to tease each other and convince the dog to chase the cat around the house, causing disruption and getting in trouble anyway.

Every family has some recollection of playing these games together and sometimes it really does not go well. There is lots to be said about the classics like Boggle, Monopoly, Scrabble, Jenga but when it comes to Christmas there are some games that should be considered instead of the classics and you may find yourself actually enjoying the table top board game world again.

There are some very popular and fun games that are quick to play, under 15 minutes and easy to learn and are not just a roll and move or trivia.

Dobble: a simple pattern recognition game where players race to identify two matching symbols on cards and collect the most cards. Not quite as easy as it sounds as they have made the symbols different sizes, or facing different directions. Each card will have at least one symbol in common with the other one. First to identify it claims the card and the player with the most cards at the end is the winner. Giggles will ensue and is suitable for all ages. For such a simple game it has seen these honours and awards :

  • 2013 Ludoteca Ideale Children’s Games Winner
  • 2012 Japan Boardgame Prize U-more Award Nominee
  • 2012 Hra roku Nominee
  • 2011 Gouden Ludo Nominee
  • 2010 Lys Enfant Finalist

Exploding Kittens: a card game for people who are into kittens and explosions and laser beams and sometimes goats. In this highly-strategic, kitty-powered version of Russian roulette, players draw cards until someone draws an exploding kitten, at which point they explode, they are Dead, and they are out of the game — unless that player has a defuse card, which can defuse the kitten using things like laser pointers, belly rubs, and catnip sandwiches. All of the other cards in the deck are used to move, mitigate, or avoid the exploding kittens. Another game where giggles will ensue and it plays quickly and is a lot of fun.

Awards & Honors

  • 2015 Golden Geek Best Party Board Game Nominee

Love Letter: A game of risk, deduction, and luck for 2–4 players. Your goal is to get your love letter into Princess Annette’s hands while deflecting the letters from competing suitors. From a deck with only sixteen cards, each player starts with only one card in hand; one card is removed from play. On a turn, you draw one card, and play one card, trying to expose others and knock them from the game. Powerful cards lead to early gains, but make you a target. Rely on weaker cards for too long, however, and your letter may be tossed in the fire! For such a simple game it is loads of fun and has a very long list of accolades. There are other versions as well including Letters to Santa if you really want to get into the season.

Awards & Honors

  • 2014 Spiel des Jahres Recommended
  • 2014 Origins Awards Best Traditional Card Game Winner
  • 2014 Origins Awards Best Traditional Card Game Nominee
  • 2014 Lys Grand Public Finalist
  • 2014 Guldbrikken Best Family Game Winner
  • 2014 Guldbrikken Best Family Game Nominee
  • 2014 Fairplay À la carte Winner
  • 2013 Origins Awards Best Family, Party or Children’s Game Nominee
  • 2013 Hra roku Nominee
  • 2013 Gouden Ludo Nominee
  • 2013 Golden Geek Most Innovative Board Game Winner
  • 2013 Golden Geek Most Innovative Board Game Nominee
  • 2013 Golden Geek Best Party Board Game Winner
  • 2013 Golden Geek Best Party Board Game Nominee
  • 2013 Golden Geek Best Family Board Game Winner
  • 2013 Golden Geek Best Family Board Game Nominee
  • 2013 Golden Geek Best Card Game Winner
  • 2013 Golden Geek Best Card Game Nominee
  • 2013 Fairplay À la carte Winner
  • 2013 Diana Jones Award for Excellence in Gaming Nominee
  • 2012 Meeples’ Choice Nominee
  • 2012 Japan Boardgame Prize Voters’ Selection Winner

This next set of games take a little more time to play but are unique and still play in under an hour:

Forbidden Island: a visually stunning cooperative board game. Instead of winning by competing with other players like most games, everyone must work together to win the game. Players take turns moving their pawns around the ‘island’, which is built by arranging the many beautifully screen-printed tiles before play begins. As the game progresses, more and more island tiles sink, becoming unavailable, and the pace increases. Players use strategies to keep the island from sinking, while trying to collect treasures and items. As the water level rises, it gets more difficult- sacrifices must be made. All players must get off the island in order to win.

This one also has a long list of awards including from MENSA

Awards & Honors

  • 2011/2012 Boardgames Australia Awards Best International Game Nominee
  • 2011 Vuoden Peli Family Game of the Year Winner
  • 2011 Vuoden Peli Family Game of the Year Nominee
  • 2011 Spiel des Jahres Nominee
  • 2011 Nederlandse Spellenprijs Nominee
  • 2011 Juego del Año Winner
  • 2011 Juego del Año Finalist
  • 2011 JoTa Best Light Board Game Nominee
  • 2011 Deutscher Lernspielpreis “9 years and up” Nominee
  • 2010 UK Games Expo Best Family/Children’s Game Winner
  • 2010 Mensa Select Winner
  • 2010 Golden Geek Best Family Board Game Nominee
  • 2010 Golden Geek Best Children’s Board Game Winner
  • 2010 Golden Geek Best Children’s Board Game Nominee
  • 2010 Golden Geek Best Board Game Artwork/Presentation Nominee

Munchkin: Another oldie but who can resist a game where the plot is go down in the dungeon. Kill everything you meet. Backstab your friends and steal their stuff. Grab the treasure and run. Munchkin is humorous and fun as long as you don’t take it all too seriously and the art work doesn’t let you do that anyway. Written by Steve Jackson and originally released in 2001 the series has been so successful that it has many expansions and different editions, including a holiday edition. Certainly worth adding to the family collection.

Muchkin boasts: 2001 Origins Awards Best Traditional Card Game Winner

If you do have a family of Dungeon Loving heroes you can not go wrong with Mantic Games release of the Epic Dungeon Saga: Dwarf King’s Quest: Embark on a fantasy adventure for up to five players with highly detailed game-pieces and learn-as-you-play rules, this set contains everything you need to transform your tabletop into a deep and immersive world of heroes and monsters. Play a single game in just 30 minutes, or combine the carefully composed adventures for countless hours of classic quest gameplay. When the fate of the world hangs in the balance, which part will you play in the epic Dungeon Saga?


If your family is not quite into exploring dungeons and fighting monsters then certainly consider Takenoko/ This game is completely unique to any other I have ever played and appeals to both seasoned “gamers” and “non-gamers” alike. It is set a long time ago at the Japanese Imperial court, the Chinese Emperor offered a giant panda bear as a symbol of peace to the Japanese Emperor. Since then, the Japanese Emperor has entrusted his court members (the players) with the difficult task of caring of the animal by tending to his bamboo garden., the players will cultivate land plots, irrigate them, and grow one of the three species of bamboo (Green, Yellow, and Pink) with the help of the Imperial gardener to maintain this bamboo garden. They will have to bear with the immoderate hunger of this sacred animal for the juicy and tender bamboo. The player who manages his land plots best, growing the most bamboo while feeding the delicate appetite of the panda, will win the game.  Another great game with a long list of awards:

  • 2013 Ludoteca Ideale Official Selection Winner
  • 2013 Games Magazine Best New Family Game Winner
  • 2012 Tric Trac Nominee
  • 2012 Spiel der Spiele Hit für Familien Recommended
  • 2012 Nederlandse Spellenprijs Nominee
  • 2012 Lys Grand Public Winner
  • 2012 Le Lys Grand Public Finalist
  • 2012 JoTa Best Family Board Game Nominee
  • 2012 Hra roku Nominee
  • 2012 Golden Geek Best Family Board Game Nominee
  • 2012 Golden Geek Best Children’s Board Game Nominee
  • 2012 Golden Geek Best Board Game Artwork/Presentation Winner
  • 2012 Golden Geek Best Board Game Artwork/Presentation Nominee
  • 2012 As d’Or – Jeu de l’Année Winner
  • 2012 As d’Or – Jeu de l’Année Nominee
  • 2011/2012 Boardgames Australia Awards Best International Game Nominee

Another great co operative play game (age 8+ lots of reading) that takes around an hour and has increased in popularity is Pandemic: Each player will have a role in trying to control and stop several virulent diseases which have broken out simultaneously all over the world! The players are disease-fighting specialists whose mission is to treat disease hotspots while researching cures for each of four plagues before they get out of hand.The game board depicts several major population centers on Earth. On each turn, a player can use up to four actions to travel between cities, treat infected populaces, discover a cure, or build a research station. A deck of cards provides the players with these abilities, but sprinkled throughout this deck are Epidemic! cards that accelerate and intensify the diseases’ activity. A second, separate deck of cards controls the “normal” spread of the infections. You must work together on this and carefully discuss strategy with your team to be successful and win.  This game has won multiple awards:

  • 2015 Hungarian Board Game Award Nominee
  • 2011 Ludoteca Ideale Official Selection Winner
  • 2010 Australian Games Association Game of the Year
  • 2009 Vuoden Peli Adult Game of the Year Nominee
  • 2009 Spiel des Jahres Nominee
  • 2009 Spiel der Spiele Hit für Experten Recommended
  • 2009 Nederlandse Spellenprijs Nominee
  • 2009 Lys Passioné Finalist
  • 2009 JoTa Best Family Board Game Nominee
  • 2009 Japan Boardgame Prize Voters’ Selection Nominee
  • 2009 Hra roku Nominee
  • 2009 Gouden Ludo Winner
  • 2009 Gouden Ludo Nominee
  • 2009 Golden Geek Most Innovative Board Game Nominee
  • 2009 Golden Geek Best Gamers’ Board Game Nominee
  • 2009 Golden Geek Best Family Board Game Winner
  • 2009 Golden Geek Best Family Board Game Nominee
  • 2009 Golden Geek Best 2-Player Board Game Nominee
  • 2009 Games Magazine Best New Family Game Winner
  • 2009 Deutscher Spiele Preis Best Family/Adult Game 3rd Place
  • 2009 Boardgames Australia Awards Best International Game Winner
  • 2009 Boardgames Australia Awards Best International Game Nominee
  • 2009 As d’Or – Jeu de l’Année Nominee
  • 2008 Tric Trac Nominee
  • 2008 Tric Trac d’Argent
  • 2008 Meeples’ Choice Award
  • 2008 JoTa Best Cooperative Board Game Winner
  • 2008 JoTa Best Cooperative Board Game Nominee
  • 2008 International Gamers Awards – General Strategy; Multi-player Nominee
  • 2008 Golden Geek Best Party Board Game Nominee
  • 2008 Golden Geek Best Gamer’s Board Game Nominee
  • 2008 Golden Geek Best Family Board Game Nominee
  • 2008 Golden Geek Best Board Game Artwork/Presentation Nominee
  • 2008 Golden Geek Best 2-Player Board Game Nominee


If you have older kids or no kids and want to use the holidays to get some more involved and really fun table top games going these titles should certainly be on your list of considerations.  Zombicide Black Plague:takes the zombie apocalypse into a fantastical medieval setting! The arcane powers of the Necromancers have unleashed a zombie invasion in the age of swords and sorcery, and it’s up to your group of straggling survivors to not only stay alive during these dark times, but to take back the realm and punish those responsible for the apocalypse! You play characters who work together to defeat the zombies and the necromancers. Equip your survivor with equipment like chainmail armour or shields to defend against the undead, pick up spell books to perform fantastic enchantments, or light up a pool of dragon bile to create an all-consuming inferno of dragon fire! This game can be played solo or co-operatively. There are many different missions so you never have the same game twice. Excellent addition for the Zombie lover on your Christmas list.

Awards & Honors

  • 2015 Golden Geek Best Solo Board Game Nominee

Terraforming Mars: Set in the 2400s, mankind begins to terraform the planet Mars. Giant corporations, sponsored by the World Government on Earth, initiate huge projects to raise the temperature, the oxygen level, and the ocean coverage until the environment is habitable. You play one of those corporations and work together in the terraforming process, but compete for getting victory points that are awarded not only for your contribution to the terraforming, but also for advancing human infrastructure throughout the solar system, and doing other commendable things. There is so much to do in this game that it takes place over generations. When the three global parameters (temperature, oxygen, ocean) have all reached their goal, the terraforming is complete, and the game ends after that generation. This game also boasts an impressive number of awards:

  • 2018 Guldbrikken Best Expert Game Winner
  • 2018 As d’Or – Jeu de l’Année Expert Winner
  • 2018 As d’Or – Jeu de l’Année Expert Nominee
  • 2017 Kennerspiel des Jahres Nominee
  • 2017 Jogo do Ano Nominee
  • 2017 International Gamers Award – General Strategy: Multi-player Nominee
  • 2017 Gouden Ludo Best Expert Game Nominee
  • 2017 Goblin Magnifico Nominee
  • 2017 Diana Jones Award for Excellence in Gaming Nominee
  • 2017 Deutscher Spiele Preis Best Family/Adult Game Winner
  • 2017 Best Science Fiction or Fantasy Board Game Nominee
  • 2016 Swiss Gamers Award Nominee
  • 2016 Golden Geek Board Game of the Year Nominee
  • 2016 Golden Geek Best Strategy Board Game Nominee
  • 2016 Golden Geek Best Solo Board Game Nominee
  • 2016 Cardboard Republic Architect Laurel Winner
  • 2016 Cardboard Republic Architect Laurel Nominee


Star Wars Rebellion: is a board game of epic conflict between the Galactic Empire and Rebel Alliance for two to four players!Experience the Galactic Civil War like never before. You control the entire Galactic Empire or the fledgling Rebel Alliance. You must command starships, account for troop movements, and rally systems to your cause. Given the differences between the Empire and Rebel Alliance, each side has different win conditions, and you’ll need to adjust your play style depending on who you represent.Rebellion is intensely personal, cinematic, and heroic. As much as your success depends upon the strength of your starships, vehicles, and troops, it depends upon the individual efforts of such notable characters as Leia Organa, Mon Mothma, Grand Moff Tarkin, and Emperor Palpatine. As civil war spreads throughout the galaxy, these leaders are invaluable to your efforts, and the secret missions they attempt will evoke many of the most inspiring moments from the classic trilogy. You might send Luke Skywalker to receive Jedi training on Dagobah or have Darth Vader spring a trap that freezes Han Solo in carbonite! This game will not disappoint any Star Wars Fan. It also has a long list of awards:


  • 2017 Goblin Magnifico Nominee
  • 2016 UK Games Expo Best Boardgame with Miniatures Winner
  • 2016 Tric Trac Nominee
  • 2016 International Gamers Award – General Strategy: Two-players Nominee
  • 2016 Golden Geek Board Game of the Year Nominee
  • 2016 Golden Geek Best Thematic Board Game Nominee
  • 2016 Golden Geek Best Strategy Board Game Nominee
  • 2016 Golden Geek Best Board Game Artwork & Presentation Nominee
  • 2016 Golden Geek Best 2-Player Board Game Winner
  • 2016 Golden Geek Best 2-Player Board Game Nominee
  • 2016 Cardboard Republic Immersionist Laurel Nominee
  • 2016 Best Science Fiction or Fantasy Board Game Nominee


There are so many great boardgames out there now and the industry has moved far beyond the roll and move mechanics of classic games. There are many I didn’t even mention that would certainly go over well with families at Christmas. If you have time have a look at Welcome to the Dungeon, Once Upon a Time, Camel Up, Killer Bunnies, Civilization: A New Dawn, Star Trek Ascendancy, and Star Wars: Imperial Assault.

Have a great Christmas, enjoy gaming with your family and friends this Holiday season. 

Leave a Reply