The Games We Play: Christmas Wrap Up

Did everyone give new games for Christmas? Did everyone get new games for Christmas? Games were popular in our household, so I thought a rundown might be appropriate.

Kids Division:

Connect Four - My kids got it from someone. It's a classic at that age for a reason. Simple, but the game holds up, and they're loving it.

Race To The Treasure - DG shared this one during the last Games post, and I'd like to echo his recommendation. My kids have enjoyed this game immensely. The mechanic is simple - draw a tile, place it on the board, build a path that collects the required keys and get to the end before you draw too many troll tiles. I was worried the game would be too easy - and it borders on that - but we've just made it more difficult by requiring 4 keys instead of 3. Aquinas has played the game a number of times on his own too, and has made variations as he sees fit. I can't recommend this one highly enough.

Outfoxed - RPZ recommend this one. When I looked (a week-and-a-half out or more)I couldn't find it anywhere that would get it delivered before Christmas, so we didn't get it, and haven't played it. But I read up on it, and it seems strong enough that I'm excited to chase it down in the future.

Grown Ups Division

King Of Tokyo - Highest recommendation for this game, particularly for more casual gamers. Simple mechanics (roll dice, pick the ones you want to keep), multiple ways to win (smash other players, gain points), multiple ways to accomplish those tasks (roll dice, buy cards, hold the city), and cards you can buy during the game that effectively make each game significantly different. Aquinas is 7 and loves the game. He's not the greatest at it all the time, but once or twice he has come up with fantastic strategies that I didn't see, and won the game with them. So it's easy enough, but complex enough to be enjoyable many times over. Also, by Richard Garfield, the same guy what made Magic: The Gathering.

Hanabi - A simple cooperative card game that is incredibly difficult to win. There are 5 colors and 5 numbers. The goal is to create a pile of each color, in numbered order (Blue 1 - 5, Red 1 - 5, etc.). You play with your cards facing away from you, so all the others can see them but you can't. You then move around the circle either playing cards from you hand (if it's the next card on the stack, you can play it, if it's wrong, you discard it) or giving hints to other players. There are only a few of each card number though, and you can run out of hints to give, so you need to be very careful about your path forward. I played this with some darn intelligent folks and we never won (though we found out we were handcuffing ourselves a little bit, which might have changed 1 out of like 4 results... Maybe.). A great challenge.

500 - Look, it's a classic, and we played a bunch of it.

Adult Division

Cards Against Humanity - I'm well aware that I'm late to the party on this one, but I've played it now, and yes, it was fun and funny and awful. There were a number of things that I needed to avoid googling. So I felt good about that?

Codenames: After Dark - A slightly racier, more scatological take on the original, which is a great party game. Basically, the clue givers give a single word clue and how many cards on a common board that the clue applies to. They can't say anything more or otherwise hint in any way. The trick is that some of those words on the common board belong to the other team, and one is an assassin, so you need to be careful in your clues, and good luck in your guesses. The After Dark variant sets it up so that the clue givers are often in the position of saying things like "boob" or "poop." It's not really particularly adult, but it tries to be. Still a very fun game, and I recommend any version of it.

So what did you get? What did you give? What did you play? What are you excited to try?

51 thoughts on “The Games We Play: Christmas Wrap Up”

  1. Linds got me Pandemic, and my brother got me Codenames. We're excited to give it a whirl here sometime soon. Does Pandemic at least work okay with two people?

    Played some Cards Against Humanity over New Years at my brother-in-law's. It has its issues, but it was the correct game for the occasion. I had some pretty lame cards, so that didn't help my experience out at all, but everyone enjoyed themselves.

    1. Off the top of my head, I feel like Pandemic is better with 3 or more. But I might be wrong about that.

      I played a 2-player version of Codenames, and that was workable too, but the group version was more fun.

        1. The game and the usefulness of the roles change with the number of people. I play a lot with my sister, and it's certainly playable with 2 people. The medic and operations expert are pretty awesome, but the dispatcher looses a lot of his value.


    I'm still playing through DOOM. It's still great and best taken in small doses. With the upgrades that some of the weapons get, you start to really feel like a badass. Plus, I've really started to "get" what the game wants from me - basically, unlearning over a decade of "hide behind cover and sneak pot shots in". It's very satisfying to run full tilt into a room full of monsters and shoot them all.

    Linds got me Super Mario Maker for the 3DS. It's fun. Right now, I'm just enjoying playing some of the challenges to see what others have done. Some of them are gimmicky, twitch gaming monstrosities, but a lot of them have a ton of creative thought put behind them. I imagine I'll get around to making some of my own at some point, but right now, it's fun just to play other people's creations.

    1. I finished The Force Unleashed the night of black Friday. So I'm my whiskey fueled state, I made a bunch of additional game purchases. Fortunately, there was a real nice black Friday sale for Xbox 360 games, so I bought four games for about $15; Sleeping Dogs, Mirror's Edge, Metro 2033, and Metro Last Light.

      Both sleeping dogs and mirror's edge are really awesome. I was bummed to hear the studio what made sleeping dogs folded because I want another one. The fighting was a ton of fun and added to GTA type open world was right in my wheelhouse. Also bummed that the mirror's edge sequel was crap because I'd like to get back into that world too.

      I just finished Metro 2033 this past weekend and enjoyed it. I really like the dystopia they set up so I'm eager to jump back into it in last light this weekend.

  3. My videogame play time continues to be dominated by Splatoon. It sounds like there will be an enhanced version or a sequel to it at launch on the Nintendo Switch, and it's easily my most anticipated upcoming game. Speaking of the Switch, Thursday night is the big reveal. I took Friday off to go reserve one. I've got it bad.

      1. Everything about the Switch, at least in concept, fits what I want from a game system these days. Really curious to know the price and pack-ins, but I'm ready to put some money down to reserve it. Hopefully the launch isn't a clusterf.. like the NES Classic (which can now be hacked to add more games!).

        I'm really down my racing game niche these days, got a seat to use with a wheel so I can't get much dorkier than that. But man it is so much fun when it all comes together on a racing sim with that setup.

        1. They've said they will have 2 million units ready for launch WW, and can increase production after that. I'm cautiously optimistic that I'll be able to get one at launch, I've had pretty good luck with getting Nintendo stuff. Except the NES Classic, but there were no preorders there which made it basically impossible.

          Oh and I'm in total agreement that this is exactly what I want out of a game console. It's pretty much a dream come true for me. I just really, really want those Splatoon details, lol.

          1. For some reason, we never bought Splatoon. It is one of the few big Nintendo titles we missed, even though my son always enjoys playing it at the demo stations.

            1. It's probably in my top 10 all time, and I generally despise competitive arena shooters. It's a special, special game.

  4. We bought Trivial Pursuit Family Edition.

    Good: Changed shape of pie pieces so they don't get stuck.
    Good: Get pie piece on any spot and don't get to keep the roll on a right answer. Game moves much faster.
    Good: Seperate questions for kids and adults.
    Bad: Questions are so ridiculously easy. Both kids and adults.

    They nailed the game play for families but the questions just ruin it. So easy that t becomes a game of luck to just see who can get back to the middle fastest.

      1. A lot of multiple choice where the kids had yelled out the correct answer before even getting the choices. And just too easy overall.

        We aren't trivia junkies and I bet we were close to 90%.

        1. Yeah, that's too high for general population. I've also played Trivial Pursuit editions that were too hard. Like Silver Screen or a Minnesota specific one (from the early 80s); I would get about 15% on those. I'd say 50% is a good one to shoot for. You have occasional nice runs but still challenging.

          1. I wonder if there are Trivial Pursuit specific editions like for:
            Worker's Party of North Korea
            Boko Haram
            Medellín Cartel
            the 'Ndrangheta
            the Amalgamated Meat Cutters and Butcher Workmen of North America

          2. I am very intrigued by a Minnesota-specific edition from the early Eighties. A great time capsule at this point if nothing else.

    1. My dad and his siblings once played the "Baby Boomer" edition (he, the second-oldest, was born in 1949, his youngest sister was born in in 1970*).
      They were all pretty much stumped on 90% of the questions.

      *They rushed the news of her birth to his camp in the field in Vietnam, with congratulations. Not realizing he wasn't only the brother, not the father.
      I think Grandpa's short message of "Baby Girl born [date]. [Weight and Length]. Both mother and child doing well." (or similiar) had something to do with that. Perhaps intentionally.

      Possible solution to Algonad's problem: get standard-edition expansion pack and add it for adults. Use easy adult questions for the kids.

    2. What I like about the dice in Trivial Pursuit is that you have to be prepared to answer a question from any category. I don't like that it's a mechanic for moving around the track, though.

  5. I miss playing 500. I've been waiting for a good smartphone app but have never found a decent one.

    1. We used to play 500 all night long at the lake in the summer. Great game.

      I've found that Euchre players generally don't like 500 (small sample size). But bridge players like all card games (and excel at all of them).

      1. Euchre = Buck, correct? In my mind it was "Uecker".
        I played that a bunch in high school. It was about cheating and fast hands (having only six cards).
        We took pride in being able to "lay down" when all of the (remaining) tricks were determined.

          1. Yeah, we played Buck at lunch when I was working for the county highway department (this was not optional, I found out), and it's slightly different than Euchre I think. Still a trick-taking game with a trump suit, but there were some differences that escape me at the moment.

              1. We had no kitty. All 24 cards were dealt.
                I see it's a version of what Wikipedia calls "Bid Uecker."
                We had options for no trump, low card (like no trump, but low card won the trick). You could get really screwed with no trump if the other team grabbed a trick early (because cards other than trump or the suit led were worthless).
                Pretty sure "Shoot the Moon" was claiming all tricks without your partner's help. There was another phrase for all six hands with help.
                I think that whichever team got the bid was allowed to swap cards, but I think before declaring what was trump (hence one of the cheats was to signal high card or low card or red or black). I think there was a way to say no to that (so if you were shooting the moon and had a lay-down hand).
                The dealer had to bid if no one else did.

  6. I got the Oregon Trail cardgame and Exploding Kittens, and the kids have been pretty excited about both.

    Oregon Trail is better for those who never played the computer game (sheesh, just to make me feel kinda old). I thought the best part of that game was going hunting, and that's not an option here. You can still die instantly if you draw the wrong card, so that's interesting. The main issue the game suffers from is that it's cooperative play towards a common goal (have at least one player reach Oregon alive!) with no competitive element. Good for a group of siblings that tend towards arguments in "normal" games, but it lacks any real edge. Plus, players can die pretty fast and then they tend to wander off and find other things to do.

    Exploding Kittens is something pretty different. Reminds me of something someone would come up with for a Spookymilk Survivor challenge, and that's a good thing. Basically it comes down to not drawing an exploding kitten card, though they can be "defused" with another card. Once you're familiar with the concepts and gameplay, there's a few different strategies and gameplay is fast. Every time we played it, we played multiple games. I'm already thinking about buying the expansion packs.

    1. I saw some other folks I know playing Oregon Trail and I was... curious. Does it shape up to be random chance a lot, or is there legitimate cooperative strategy?

        1. The skeletons were already picked clean. You catch the first gust of the approaching winter...

      1. It's pretty random. Basically you need to collect as many supplies as you can, and you have to use your supplies to save your other party members or you'll all lose. Not a lot of variation in the gameplay, I think it's mostly trading on name recognition.

    2. That's hilarious that there's an Oregon Trail card game because a couple of my buddies spent, like, all of their free time last winter discussing that very concept. They even got as fast as making a prototype.

  7. My game group has enjoyed learning Terra Mystica the last couple of nights we've gotten together. It seems like a game that is harder to learn than it is to play once you've learned it, if that makes any sense. There are quite a few actions to take in the game, but once you understand what they are, it's not so hard to understand what your options are, but it is difficult to figure out what the best strategy would be given those options, so it seems like it'll be a good game.

    Played Seven Wonders with some other friends over the weekend, haven't done that in a while, and I really liked it. It's relatively straightforward to explain and games are pretty quick but with interesting decisions.

    1. Love love LOVE Terra Mystica. It is very deep, but oh so much fun to plan and expand. If you like playing online, is a great way to play online. The interface takes some getting used to, but I've been playing on there for a couple years now. My favorite races are the Darklings and Cultists.

  8. Thanks Philo for putting this together.

    Didn't get many games for Christmas this year. I did get the kids Can't Stop and Love Letter Premium. Can't Stop was a hit for a day or two, but it gets somewhat long between turns. Especially with younger kids that can't make up their mind. Love Letter Premium has also been fun, but still haven't played it as much as I thought we would.

    Just before Christmas, I picked up Scythe and the expansion. Love this game! Taught it to a couple friends and just recently taught my son. He really took to it and clobbered me. He spread out on the map and kept me from going too far.

    I also started a monthly game night at my subdivision clubhouse. Our first night was hampered by an ice storm and Rogue One (yeah, brilliant scheduling by me!) We only had four people, but we still had fun playing San Juan, Castles of Burgundy, Quadropolis, and Dead of Winter. Our next one is planned for tomorrow, and lo and behold, the weather calls for ice again. Oh well. I'll be there and I know at least one other will come regardless. Hoping to play a 7 player Scythe and maybe Mansions of Madness or Five Tribes.

  9. Got Quirkle, Ticket to Ride, and Dominion for the holidays. Quirkle and Ticket to Ride we've played at my parents' so now we have our own version. Can't wait to try Dominion.

  10. I got my sister Patchwork on a lark, and it turned out to be a great quick 2 player game. It takes 15-25 minutes and has pretty great replay value. It's perfect for conversational gameplay.

    I got Pandemic: In the Lab, which is the second expansion and builds upon On the Brink. It adds more complexity to a already complex game, but we enjoy the game enough that it is a worthwhile addition. On the Brink is also a great game that adds quite a few challenges to the original game.

    We also got Ticket to Ride First Journey, which is a simplified game meant to introduce kids to the game. We've only played it once, but it is perfect for a 6 year old and our 4.5 year old did well with some help.

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