0194D: Christmas Gaming

It is a family tradition that we get into some sort of a group activity during the Christmas holidays when we're all together - and more often than not it's some sort of a game.Whether this results in us playing bingo for the rights to a McChicken, rounds and rounds of mah jong, Texas hold'em poker or the Disney version of Scene It! there's always some sort of a game that's part of the even. And believe me, we're a pretty serious group of board game players dating back to the days when all we played were Monopoly, Sorry! and The Game of Life.

So I was going over the holiday schedule with my mom this morning when she ask me to figure out this year's games since we have a lot of time together starting Christmas Eve all the way through the weekend. And given how last year I was able to introduce them to Dixit and Fluxx, the goal now is to present games that will be fun yet challenging for everyone. It's quite the little puzzle and I've been thinking about it all morning and have bounced a few ideas off of Tobie.

A first choice seems to be Lords of Waterdeep. This work replacement game was pretty impressive right out of the gate and I think it easier enough to learn but still provides a lot of challenge. Thankfully it supports 5 players, which is a somewhat quirky number when it comes to modern board games. Most games max out at 4 players since keeping things in check beyond that point is pretty tricky.

Another game that feels right for the family is Citadels, again nicely strategic, a lot of fun for larger groups and requires a fair amount of bluffing. It has been quite the hit among friends during bigger game nights and is actually one of our older games. I think it'll work out well given our family dynamic, but I also expect a lot of trash talk going around because we're happily competitive that way.

Last game that I'm seriously considering, although it may be risky, is Shadows Over Camelot. It's the only cooperative game on this list so far, but of course it's also not a cooperative game at times. The game is hard enough to win when you're just trying to defeat the board, but things get worse when one of the players turns out to be the Traitor. And I think this traitor dynamic is what will make this game really great. Plus the folks have a decent respect for Arthurian lore, so that should help things along.

Other games that might be fun but I'm a little hesitant about complexity or player count just doesn't work includes Forbidden Desert (too stressful), Settlers of Catan (too cutthroat), Last Night on Earth (1 zombie player versus 4 human players sounds bad), and Takenoko (only 4 players). I'll probably just bring Sushi Go! as a back-up game and possibly Once Upon a Time.

What games would you recommend for a holiday with the family? Our lower limit was probably Dixit - I think we need more serious games to make this truly worthwhile.