As a mother of 2 and a wife of an ever so clever gamer, blogger, and game website owner, I get to be the one in the house stressing over the Christmas shopping. Don’t get me wrong, my husband is an EXCELLENT Christmas shopper, and a WONDERFUL gift giver, but to him, you cannot even begin to think about Christmas until after you have nearly exploded and have woken from your turkey coma.
I, however, am not like that. I like to have my lists started round about the end of October, and at least 1 gift per person purchased and ready to go under the tree prior to Thanksgiving for 2 simple reasons: 1. I DO NOT do Black Friday, and 2. We always put up our tree the weekend after Thanksgiving and you simple CANNOT put up a tree with nothing under it!
As previously stated, I am a gamer wife and a mother, which means there are usually at least 2 games under the tree at our house – and since I love gaming and want to spread the joy of gaming and of course the joy of Christmas, I wanted to put out a list of games I believe should be in every household – and by extension, under your tree this year!
Now, before I go any further, please remember I am not a “game reviewer” like my husband, I just know what I like to play, so my brief descriptions will not be as detailed or even as good as any of the reviews he puts out.
Qwirkle: It is a 2-4 player game, but personally it is best played with just 2 players. In a nutshell this is scrabble with no words. Just colors and shapes. There are 6 colors and 6 shapes. In scrabble you are looking to get the most points for words, well in Qwirkle you are trying to get the most points by placing a run of as many of the same shapes or as many of the same color as you can each turn. Getting a run of all 6 – color or shape – and boo- ya, you get a Qwirkle. This game keeps your attention on your next play and kids from as young as 7 could enjoy this game.
RA: The Dice Game: This game is also a 2-4 player game and is just as good with 2 as it is 4. As in the name, it is a dice game, but not your standard dice with the 1-6 dots. This one has symbols on it. If I had to compare this game to one of the “standard” games out there, I would say it is somewhat is the vein of Yahtzee, only WAY better. You get 3 rolls of the set of dice and from there you decide whether you are going to build civilizations, take a ride of the river, get ahead on the pharaoh track, work on end game
buildings – or even roll enough suns to damage your opponents round. It sounds like a lot, but really, it is another one that keeps the attention, and really focuses a child on what to do with each roll. This game would probably best suit a bright 10-year-old, and of course on up from there.
Carcassonne: This game is also 2-4 players. This game is a tile laying game, or as my daughter calls it, “a build it game”. In Carcassonne, the object is to build long roads, big cities, and have the largest area of farm land with the most cities touching it. This one is a good one for 7 yr olds and up. It has expansions to go with it, so it can be played as simple or as complex as you want to get. Since you only have a limited number of Meeples, you (and your child) have to decide when and where to use the Meeples to get the most points possible out of your little guys.
Dominion: This game, too is a 2 -4 player. Unlike the other games, this is a card game (which I have to admit, I have a soft spot for card games, so this one ranks in my personal top 5). A little more complicated, so I would say more for ages 12 and up, but still a great game. To nut-shell this game, it is semi a deck builder where you “buy” additional cards to make your desk cycle therefore giving you the opportunity to get points. Please know that is the basic of basic explanations for Dominion, but what I like more is that it has several expansions giving you (and your child/children) more ways to figure out the best way to make their deck. One could say this game is an ongoing story problem, and how many story problems has your child worked through and at end said, “Gee Mom, that was the best story problem ever, let’s do it again!” Well they will with this one. Although I recommend that you keep my story problem analogy to yourself. Get them hooked before you tell them that they are problem solving.
Love Letter: I really feel the name of this one is a little misleading and could potentially throw a teen boy off of the idea of playing the game before he even starts, but it really is a great game. I believe this is a great game to get the teens to the table. The rules for this one could not be more simple. The game starts and you have 1 card in your hand. On your turn you draw a card and decide, according to the 2 cards you now hold which one to follow. Each card tells you exactly what to do. The reason I say teens is because there is an element of “Gotcha” as well as an element of “oh crap, you got me” that teens would love. Although very straight forward, one still have to be crafty to make this one work.
Jungle Speed: This is a 2-4 player game, and is really like a combo between spoons, slap jack, and uno… if that is even possible. The object is to get rid of all of the cards in your hand by recognizing matches between yourself and the other player(s) first and grabbing the totem in the middle… sounds easy, I know, but it SOOO is not! The symbols are very similar and there are actually cards in there meant to trip you up. The best part about this game is you can use it for kids as young as 5 – as long as they have a decent attention span. It can get crazy at times, so it is very easy to get off task. This game is actually used to teach cognitive processing skills. Need I say more?
Forbidden Island: Normally I am not really a co-op player, but I do like this one. If you have arguing siblings THIS is the game for them. This game can handle 2 – 6 players and I really believe that the more players, the better this game is. Basic idea is the island is sinking and you as the team, have to get all of the treasures AND get off of the island TOGETHER. If one person dies, everyone loses. It’s all or nothing here. This means taking a few kids who normally would not see eye to eye, and have them work through the problem at hand… sneaky moms love this game!
Dixit: This is a 3 – 6 player game. Personally I have never played with more than 4, but I really could see it being better with more. In this game you have cards, and as the “it” person you take one of your cards and give a short description of what you think it is. Then the other players pick a card in their hand that they think fits that same description. The key is to make sure not everyone gets it, AND not everyone misses it… you want at least 1 person to guess your card because that is where the points come from. The cards are crazy pictures, but it has replay-ability and it give your 9 yr old and up a chance to use their imaginations!
7 Wonders: This game goes anywhere from 2 – 7 players. THIS GAME IS #1 ON MY PERSONAL LIST!! We are getting into the older kids games. I would say this one is from 10-11ish and up. This is a mix of board game and card game and money and battle and buildings. This game has it all. As in all games, this point is to get the most points, but there are so many ways to get there, and figuring out what path to take is where it gets tough. They will be using their brains and they won’t even know it!
Citadels: This one goes from 3 – 7 players and is WAY better the more people you get to the table. This too, is a game I would recommend for teens. Like Love Letter you have the gotcha elements, but in this one, you have to figure out what each is going to do, while figuring out what character they are, while trying to hide what you are doing, while hiding what character you are, while figuring out how you are going to get enough gold to do what you want, while keeping your gold safe. Sound like a lot, I know, but the fun part is watching your teenager look at what you have, what their sibling has and figure out what character they are going to pick and how to stop them. As a parent, if you want your kid to KNOW you KNOW what they are going to do before they do it – this is the game for you. Again, the rules are simple as each character has a defined role as to what they can do, it is up to you and your child to choose wisely.
I have always believed that giving a game as a gift is a wonderful opportunity to gather at the table to laugh, cut up, and generally have a good time, but over the last couple of years I have realized a little something else to that… if I do not start educating my children outside of the classroom they really won’t be ready for the real world. Every game that I have listed above has a bit of learning in it (Shhhh, don’t tell them or they won’t play), and I bring them all to the table as often as possible.
I do believe I have given you poor descriptions of all of these awesome games (what can I say, I am not the writer in this family), but I can promise you that I would never steer you wrong when it comes to gaming, the kids, and especially Christmas.
If you are interested in purchasing any of the above games please consider Circle City Games.