I know, I know – it’s too early to be talking about Christmas but I want to give you a good head start to make sure you’re protected. I want you to be safe. I know you’re not thinking about it yet, but you have to be. We all wish we could just get it over with in a couple of days, but the festivities start earlier and earlier every year. I swear in 2018 that I went into a supermarket on the 26th of December and they had already set up the decorations. It’s unbearable. If I never hear Fairytale of New York one more time, I’ll be a happy man.
Well, a happier man.
Anyway, we all know what it’s like being a board gamer at Christmas. Someone says, perhaps aloft on the vapours of a few stiff drinks, that everyone should play a game. You, the sole voice of taste and discernment, suggest that you break out your copy of Advanced Squad Leader. Everyone else votes for Monopoly out of a panicked sense of self-preservation, and that’s it. The day is ruined. There’s no coming back from it at this point.
This isn’t a list of suggestions for gift ideas. You’ll find those everywhere. This is a list of games that I’d recommend you employ to protect your celebrations. Games that you can suggest before anyone gets any funny ideas. Games that will save your Christmas.
The games on this list have been selected according to the following criteria:
- They need to play well at reasonably high player counts. Monopoly only really works up to six players and is at its best at four. That’s the benchmark I’m going to use here. It has to work well at four and more. We don’t want people being left out.
- The games need to be simple. You need to be able to explain the rules in a couple of minutes. Without rushing. Basically you need to get in and out before the rictus grin of incomprehension fuses onto the faces of your loved ones.
- The games need to be more fun the drunker people get. The more incompetent people get, the better the experience should be. The more incoherent people become, the funnier you should all find it. The games need to be robust enough to survive festivities.
- The games need to facilitate a party atmosphere.
That means that a lot of games that would work aren’t on the list. The Resistance for example is probably simple enough to survive a rules explanation, but it needs people to be sharp and focused. Codenames, at least in my experience, tends to cut away at the discussion at a gathering – it replaces it with tense silence instead. Something like the Exit series is a great way to spend time together, but it doesn’t work well with inebriation. The Mind probably meets all criteria but I’d be hard pressed to call it the ‘best’ anything except perhaps cult-recruitment tool.
I was originally going to call this ‘The Twelve Games of Christmas’ and write it like the song but it turned out that at about the fifth entry I was starting to go a bit peculiar. You’re getting it in one of our now traditional top tens instead. For the first game of Christmas, my true love gave to me – a worn copy of Monopoly. And so on. It would have been awful. You can thank me later.
So, with that – let’s get on with the list!
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