During the festive season many families tend to favour games that are easy to learn, quick to get started and can accommodate lots of people of different generations. Here is my 2019 Top 10 family games for Christmas that can be played with 6 or more players.
The lovely Christmas meeple decorations in the picture above are available to buy from EtchableLaserDesign on Etsy.
Monikers (4-20 players)
Players split into teams to play Monikers. Each team is allocated a stack of cards, each one giving the name of a well-known person. Each team selects a clue-giver. The clue-giver aims to get her team to correctly guess as many cards as possible over three rounds.
Each round is strictly timed. In round 1, the clue-giver may say anything they want, except giving the name of the person on the card. Any correctly guessed cards are placed to one side. In round 2, the clue-giver may only say one single word for each card. Any cards that have still not been correctly guessed at the end of this round, move to round 3. In round 3, the clue-giver may not speak, but must communicate only through mime.
The aim is for the team to guess as many cards as possible over the three rounds. The clue-giver must weigh up how much time they spend on each card in the early round. Should they keep going until players guess the cards, or should they give a bit of information about lots of different cards before they run out of time? Warning: This game may get silly.
Sushi Go Party (2-8 players)
Sushi Go Party is a set collection game. Players are dealt a hand of cards – consisting of a mix of wonderful Japanese dishes – from which they select one and pass the remaining cards to the player on their left. Players then reveal the card they have selected, placing it face-up on the table. Each type of dish scores in a different way – some give straight up points, others reward multiples, while some give you penalties if you get too many. Rounds are quick, play is simultaneous and games can be customised by selecting different dishes. What’s not to love?
Concept (4-12 players)
In Concept, players work in teams of two to try to get other teams to guess their chosen secret word. To lead players in the right direction, markers are placed on the board, indicating relevant ideas, concepts and associations. The large question mark marker is placed on the area that signifies the main concept, while extra cubes are placed on supporting ideas.
The board contains all sorts of sets of concepts, which, when grouped together effectively, will lead players to almost any word. Points are awarded to the first player to successfully discover a word or phrase. The team placing the concept also gains points. The player who has the most points wins. This is another game you can play without scoring. Choose your partner carefully. You need an ally who is on your wavelength!
Camel Up (2-8 players)
Camel Up is a racing game – with camels. There are five camels in the race and players must bet on which camel will win each leg and which will win the overall race. If a camel lands on top of another camel it is stacked on top. When a camel moves, it moves with the camel on top, giving it a free ride further in the race. On her turn, a player may choose to
- Upend the super-cool pyramid and reveal a dice. Each dice relates to a camel, which will then move either 1, 2, or 3 spaces in the race.
- Bet on a camel to win this leg.
- Bet on a camel to win or lose the entire race. Or
- Place an oasis or mirage tile on the board, which forces camels to jump forward or move back if they land on it.
There is so much tension about when to bet. The earlier you place a bet, the bigger the potential reward. But of course, the earlier you bet, the less information you have. This game will have you out of your chair – shouting at and cheering for camels.
Skull (3-6 players)
Skull is a simple bluffing game in which each player has a set of four cards. Three of the cards are roses, one is a skull. Players take it in turns to play cards, face down in front of them. At any point, a player may stop the placements of cards and declare a bid. The bid is the number of cards that player feels they can turn up without revealing a skull. Other players may place higher bids.
The highest bidder then reveals cards one by one in front of players of her choosing. If she successfully manages to reveal the number of roses that she has bid, she wins a point. If she uncovers a rose, she loses one of her cards at random. Then a new round occurs. Players must win two points to win the game. This is a game where a poker face is a true asset. The most devious are rewarded!
Dixit (3-6 players)
Dixit is based around a set of beautifully surreal picture cards. The scenes depicted on these cards are strange but captivating. On each turn, one player is the storyteller. She secretly selects a card from her hand and chooses a word or phase by which to describe it. The description is spoken out loud and each other player must select a card that could also fit this description. The players pass their chosen card face down to the storyteller, who adds her own card to the pile and shuffles all the cards. Then she places all the cards face up on the table. Each player, other than the storyteller, secretly votes on which card best fits the description.
Players get points for each vote they receive and for correctly guessing the storyteller’s card. The storyteller must try to avoid everybody or nobody guessing her card – as in each case she is penalised. The simultaneous action keeps everyone involved all the time. Dixit is calm and rather lovely. Ditch the official scoring to play with more people. There are loads of sets of expansion cards with which to bulk out your game.
Dixit also features in my 4 easy to teach games video.
Colt Express (2-6 players)
Colt Express is a wild west themed programming game. There is a delightful 3D train that takes centre stage on the table. Elements of scenery, placed around the train add to the atmostphere. Each player is a bandit, attempting to loot the train. Every round has two phases. In phase 1 – Schemin’ – players select cards from their hand which they play to a central pile. Each card is an action that that player will take. Some cards are movement cards, enabling players to move between carriages or go up onto the roof. Some cards allow players to shoot or loot, and one card moves the marshall. Players can see what cards are being put down – unless the train happens to be going through a tunnel – but none of the bandits move during phase 1.
Players must try to remember what they and others have played and in what order, so that they can predict the movement of each bandit and the outcomes of the actions when phase 2 is reached. In Phase 2 – Stealin’ – all the actions are carried out in the order they were placed. The aim is to get the most loot, whilst avoiding being shot at. When you are shot, you must take bullet cards, which clog up your hand and give you fewer action options in future rounds. Each bandit has a special power that will help them in some way. This game is so much fun. The theme is excellent and the characters are fun. It lends itself to ridiculous accents and cowboy antics.
Codenames (2-8 players)
Codenames is a modern classic. Players split into two teams. At the start of each round, each player elects a spymaster. The spymasters sit on one side of the table, next to each other, while the rest of their teams sit opposite them. On the table is a tableau of cards – each one containing a word. Some of the words are red team words (red agents), some are blue team words (blue agents), some are neutral (innocent bystander), but one is the assassin. The spymasters are aware which words are which. On their team’s turn, the spymaster gives a single word clue and then states the number of cards the clue relates to. For example, if the red spymaster said, “Hospital, 3”, it would signify that there are three red words that relate to hospital on the board. The team then decides which words to choose on the table. At each point, the spymaster must try to give clues that will lead their team to as many of their own words as possible, without selecting words that belong to the other team, and of course, always avoiding the assassin. There is skill in chosing and interpreting the clues and deciding how far to push. Codenames also has plenty of room for in-jokes and clues based on shared experiences. It officially says 8 players, but you can play with bigger teams if you wish, as long as everyone can see the cards.
Telestrations (4-8 players)
Telestrations is a hilarious drawing game based on the idea of chinese whispers. Each player takes a word from a card and writes it on the first page of her book. Books are then passed clockwise around the room. Each player looks at the word written and, on the next page of the book, draws a picture showing that word or phrase. When the book is passed on again, the next player may only look at the picture drawn. She then writes the word or phrase she thinks the picture is depicting. And so it continues. Each time the player only looks at the page before. Everyone plays simultaneously, so books are zooming around the room, with accompanying ripples of laughter.
Eventually the books make their way back to their original owners. The climax is the big reveal of each book – page by page. Which words have ended exactly as they’ve started and which have changed beyond all recognition? I’m not actually sure if there is any scoring, but we’ve never played with any. This is a fun romp of a family game, only improved by the odd glass of wine.
Telestrations also features in my 8 games for 8 different occasions.
Just One (3-7 players)
Just One is a cooperative game in which players try to work together to solve as many clues as possible. Each game a stack of cards is selected at random. The active player draws a card and places it on her card stand – facing out – so that she can’t see it, but all the other players can. Each other player uses her dry erase pen to write a one-word clue on her board. When all players have written a clue, they compare their clues and remove any duplicates. The remaining clues are revealed to the active player, who must guess the word on the card. If she guesses correctly, the group wins the card. If she guesses incorrectly, the group loses the card and the next card in the stack. If she doesn’t wish to guess, then she can pass and just lose the current card. The group aims to win as many cards as possible. It’s deliciously thinky but compellingly simple.