Cracking Christmas Games

The festive season is fast approaching and with it comes overeating, Christmas specials and the inevitable pulling out of boardgames to get the family around the table together. I present to you a list of alternatives to play this year, not because what they are replacing are objectively bad games, but more because there is such a breadth of games out now that I would hate to think you are playing the same game over and over. There is such a wealth of mechanics, themes and weight available that I hope I can show you a new family favourite.

Cluedo – Mysterium

Still the most attractive looking game in my collection, I mean just look at this thing:

Mysterium is a beautiful game where you all play psychics meeting at an old scottish manor house to noodle out how the ghostly occupant was killed. One of you will play the aforementioned victim, handing out psychic clues in the form of tarot cards showing strange, ethereal images on them. The others will try and guess what the ghost could possibly be on about and there may be a real murder as the Ghost tears their hair out trying to make themselves heard. Oh yeah, the Ghost doesn’t speak throughout the process so make sure your most talkative relative takes on that role!

Monopoly – Lords of Vegas


You can read my full review of this one here, but it’s a fantastic, emotional rollercoaster of a game, with excellent components and an easy to explain system of mechanics. It’s one of my goto gateway games for a reason and it continues to delight me every time I bring it to the table.

Scrabble – Wordsy


Though not the world’s biggest word game fan, Wordsy struck a chord with me. It’s a fast playing word game with some nifty little mechanics that make it zip along and mean it doesn’t outstay it’s welcome. A constantly shifting pattern of letters and a little bit of risk reward in the mix makes for a very entertaining little game.

Snap – Dobble or Jungle Speed

Dobble is nearly always in my bag when I go to a gaming gathering as it’s so small and never fails to entertain, with multiple games in a tiny package. It comes in a massive range of flavours as well but from what I’ve read about those variants the original is still the best.

Jungle Speed is a slightly different affair, being basically a version of snap that is turned all the way up to 11. Combined with a totem in the middle of the table that is grabbed when you see a matching shape can make it a slightly confrontational affair but it’s great fun.

Cards against Humanity – Mafia de Cuba

91INdCjLjYL._SL1500_I know CAH is (was?) the game de jour, something risque to pull out at a family occasion, but I really find it quite distasteful. There are better games out there that do a similar thing like Monikers and Apples to Apples, which CAH is based heavily on, but if you want a really interesting party game I recommend Mafia de Cuba. A quick playing, beautifully presented game of mobsters trying to get away with theft, outrageous Italian accents are mandatory.

Jenga – Rhino Hero Super Battle


This one isn’t in my collection just now but you can read about my time with it at the Glasgow Games Festival in my review here. Jenga is great and I’ve had many a happy time playing it at family gatherings, but Rhino Hero is bigger, brighter and bolder: Jenga with super hero animals!

Risk – Kemet


I haven’t played this as much as I would like but if you want a quick playing man on maps game then this is the one for you. It’s not for the light hearted though as it rewards aggression and getting in people’s faces, but if you have to get this kind of game to the table then I really recommend it. If you want something a little more sedate with science fiction theme, you could also try out Cry Havoc.

I have such things to show you…

The world of board games is immense these days, stretching to the horizon and beyond with so many possibilities. Game Cafes are all over the place and are more than happy to welcome people of all sorts of experience and help you learn some new games. The hobby has expanded massively in the last few years, becoming wider, more welcoming and catering to tastes from light casual games to hardcore hours long affairs.

I would say I don’t care what you play just that you play at all, but that would be cliched and untrue. Bringing out Monopoly or Cluedo again and again is like only watching 1 film, listening to one CD or reading 1 book. Take a punt on something new and unfamiliar, I guarantee you won’t be disappointed.



Iain McAllister

Tabletop games reviewer and podcaster based in Dalkeith, Scotland.

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4 Responses

  1. Jonathan says:

    Really great list, I really want to check out Wordsy now. I agree with you about CAH, I’d also reccomend Snake Oil as something closer in gameplay but more interesting. Mafia de Cuba is one I’ve had my eye on for awhile, mostly because I like the cigar box container.

  2. Rich says:

    I’d have gone with Acquire as a monopoly replacement, but that might just be because I love that game so much.

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