As we begin the final countdown to Christmas Day, and the elf looks for ever more unusual places to hide, we are finding ourselves with some fidgety kids on our hands. My kids are five, eight, and eleven, and still fully sold into the jolly old elf himself. They are currently wired to the max. If your household is similarly functioning right now, I’ve got three games for you that are quick to learn, quick to play, and great to diffuse a wound-up kid or just an easy way to find something to do in between holiday specials.
The first has become a fast favorite in our house, so much so that we have given it as a gift this year to family in the UK, and there may be three other editions in a certain three stockings next week. Something Wild is a character card game from Funko that comes with its own miniature Pop. We played the version based around Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas, but there are several other editions based on Disney movies and characters.
The game comes with 45 character cards (9 of each color), 10 power cards, and 1 Pop figure, in this case, Jack Skellington. You win by collecting and playing character cards to earn the power card currently in play. The first person to claim three power cards is the winner. There are two ways to win a power card: by playing a set of three cards with the same number or a run of three cards in the same color. Yes, if you love Phase 10 you will love this game, but hatred of that game is not a deal-breaker for Something Wild.
Gameplay is simple. Once you have set up the cards, three hidden to each player, with the ten power cards shuffled and the top one placed face-up, you take it in turns to draw a card and play a card. If you play a card that is the same color as the power card in play, then you get the Jack figure. Only the player with Jack may use the power on the power card in play or any of the powers they have already won. Once you use the power, Jack returns to the middle. If someone plays a card to claim Jack before you have used it, then you have snoozed and you lose.
We all really enjoy this game and find it entertaining enough for the grown-ups but easy enough for the five-year-old. All the variants of the game can be combined into one mega game. So we are looking forward to that on Christmas Day.
The second game helping us while away the peppermint-scented hours combines one of my favorite holiday movies with one of my favorite board game mechanics—National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation meets Carcassonne. Another game where you win in threes—thank you, Funko—the object of the game is to string up lights and be the first to complete your three patterns.
Each player gets three pattern cards to complete, and the game starts with two light tiles played together. On each turn, you draw a tile and place a tile. Your opponent may play a tile that completes your pattern, but you cannot score on that pattern until the end of your next turn. Some tiles have a loose connection and break the chain, while others have a plus sign that enables you to play on top of an existing tile and change the pattern in play. When you draw a broken wire, you can play it or give it to another player. They must play it on their next turn and do not get to draw a tile.
Best played without the five-year-old, National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation Twinkling Lights Game is a really fun way to spend half an hour or so. The best part however is the impressions that your various family members will undoubtedly perform as pattern cards are played. In our house, we daily employ “I don’t know Margo” and “That there is an RV” so this game plays into our regular holiday routines.
Last but not least, you may not shoot your eye out with this game, but you’ll have a lot of fun with A Christmas Story: A Major Card Game. This game is perhaps the trickiest of the three, as it flexes the same memory muscles as in a good, old fashioned game of Clue. Using all the cunning of a well-worded theme, you need to determine the location of Ralphie’s most sought after gifts. If you can find the Decoder Pin and the BB Gun before the other players, and without being left with Scot Farkus or Grover Dill then you win a major A-ward, or at least bragging rights until the next game.
Each player starts with a set number of cards, depending on the number of players, and on each turn, you can do one of three actions. Firstly you can swap a card with a card from the middle of the table, peek at the card, and then place a peek token on top. The peek tokens are little cardboard foil bows, and I want to decorate my house with them. Your second choice is to dare an opponent to swap cards with you, and if they deny the dare you get the leg lamp and have three further choices. To Triple Dog Dare and force the swap, peek at one of your un-peeked cards, or wait until you are dared and then use the leg lamp to deny the dare. Your third choice on each turn is to Open the Present; this means that if you think you know where the Decoder Pin and BB Gun are, you announce that you are going to open the presents and look at the cards you chose.
If you open the presents and are correct, then you flip your cards, as long as you don’t have the bully you win. If you are incorrect you are out of the game and the remaining players continue. If you like Clue but not the length of the game, then you will love this.
I’m a sucker for really fun board game pieces, and between the foil bows from Ralphie’s house, the twinkle light tiles from Clark Griswold, and the mini Funko Jack, I am in game piece heaven. The games are all produced by Funko, and so are all of excellent quality. We have played them successfully, and with much merriment, with everyone from age five to age sixty-nine.
GeekMom received these games for review.