As Christmas is rapidly approaching I thought I would take the time to put together a list of some of our favourite games. I have previously written a list of recommended games so I am not going to repeat any of those again. You can find my first list here. As with the other list these games are in no particular order.
Some games for the younger ones
Snail Sprint was designed by Marie Fort and Wilfried Fort and published by HABA. It plays 2-4 players aged 5 and over.
In Snail Sprint you are racing to get your snails to the finish line. Each player receives a card which shows a picture of three different coloured snails these are the snails that you want to get onto the winning podium at the end of the game. To move the snails players roll two dice with coloured symbols on them, these symbols match both the snails and the spaces on the board. The player whose turn it is will choose which dice represents the snail they want to move and which one the symbol they will move it to. Players are racing to get their snails onto the finishing podium. At the end of the game all players will receive points for any of the snails on the podium that are shown on their card. The player with the most points will win the game.
One of the really fun elements to this game is that you are racing the snails up and over the outside of the metal game box as all the snails are magnetic. If you combine this fun idea with beautiful wooden snails and straightforward game play I think it makes a wonderful game for children.
Farm Rescue was designed by Harris Tsagas and published by Brain Games. It plays 1-5 players aged 4 and over.
Farm Rescue is a rather lovely cooperative memory game, in it all the players are working together to try and help the farmer catch the wolf before the wolf runs away! On their turn a player will roll the two dice, one die has the different colours on it and the other the different animals. Both dice also have one side which is a wild, i.e. can be used for any animal or any colour depending on which die it is. If a player rolls a red horse then they must find that coloured animal and turn it upside down. If that animal is already face down the player must remember, with the help of the other players, whereabouts it is in the grid. If they choose correctly where a face down animal is they can move the farmer one space forward. If however they guess incorrectly they will move the wolf forward one space instead. If the wolf reaches the end before the farmer catches him then the players will lose. If the farmer catches the wolf they win!
I was very impressed by this game. I really liked how easy it would be to teach to very young children and yet it is still a challenging memory game. The cooperative nature means that it is easy for the other players to support those who need help although typically children do rather well at memory games in my experience. The components are also really well made and will stand up well to use with small children.
Other games for children
Zombie Kidz Evolution
Zombie Kidz Evolution was designed by Annick Lobet and published by Le Scorpion Masqué. It plays 2-4 players aged 7 and over.
This is a very unusual game as it will change the more you play it. Each time you play the game you will add a sticker to the tracker in your game book, at certain intervals on this track you are allowed to open envelopes. These will add new rules to the game changing the way it plays slightly. I’m not going to say anything about what those envelopes contain as I really don’t want to spoil any of the surprises.
The base game is very straightforward in it you are trying to kick the Zombies out of your school and lock the gates so no more can enter. On a players turn they must firstly roll a coloured die to determine if a new Zombie spawns and if so in what coloured room it arrives. After rolling the dice they are then able to move one space and perform an action such as kicking out zombies or locking a gate. A player is able to remove up to two zombies at a time. Locking a gate requires two players to be in the same space next to the gate, they then high-five to lock it and place a lock token on the gate. The only other rule is that if there are 3 zombies in a room at any one time this room is now blocked and cannot be entered any more.
The game play for this one is very straight forward but you really do need to work together otherwise you can quickly become overwhelmed by the zombies! We really like the addition of the envelopes and the changes to the game play as it keeps things very fresh and interesting. Another lovely addition are the trophies, these are achievements that you can unlock for example by winning a game at all player counts, or by having no zombies in your pool at the end of the game. I like how these add challenge to the game and also if you complete a set of these trophies they count towards your main game tracker! It is also worth noting that the game plays really quickly, it states 5-15 minutes on the box and that feels fairly accurate to me! Overall this is a fast, easy to learn game which offers more surprises and interest the more you play it!
Ghost Fightin’ Treasure Hunters
Ghost Fightin’ Treasure Hunters was designed by Brian Yu and published by Mattel . It plays 2-4 players aged 8 and over.
This is another family favourite of ours in it you are all playing treasure hunters who are working together to collect all the treasures from a haunted house! As the game progresses however you will draw the attention of more and more ghosts and if the house becomes fully haunted before you can collect all the treasures you will lose!
On a players turn they will roll a dice for movement if there is a ghost visible on the die they will also need to draw a ghost card. This card will determine in which room that ghost will appear. Players can then choose to move that number of spaces anywhere in the house. If they finish in a space with a treasure they can place it in their backpack, players may only carry one treasure at a time. If they finish in a space with a ghost they must fight it, they do so by rolling the fight dice. If they roll a ghost they may remove one ghost from that room. When three ghosts are in one room they are removed and replaced by a haunt piece. These can only be fought by two players working together and a player cannot leave a room with a haunt if they are carrying a treasure. If all 6 haunt tokens are placed out on the board the players will lose, if however they manage to escape with all the treasures they will win!
This is one of my son’s favourite games at the moment and I can completely understand why! The game is really well made with fantastic components, I especially love the little ghost figures and all the details on the game board. The game rules are not complicated to understand but you really do have to work well together in order to win. If you’re looking for a good family cooperative game to play with children I would definitely recommend this one.
Dinosaur Tea Party
Dinosaur Tea Party was designed by Rob Daviau and Justin D Jacobson and was published by Restoration Games. It plays 3-5 players aged 7 and over.
This game has such a charming theme, in it you are all playing dinosaurs who are attending a tea party at Dinoton Abbey. The only trouble is that you have forgotten the names of your fellow dinosaurs so you are all trying to establish which dinosaur at the tea party the other players are.
On your turn you can ask another player about the traits their dinosaur has, or what they are currently doing or even the colour of the room that they are in. For example you could ask if they are currently eating or if they are wearing a hat. That player must answer truthfully (although there are some exceptions) and place a token in front of them to match their answer. There are however three dinosaurs (chosen randomly at the start of the game) who answer differently; there is one that always lies, there is one who always says no and lastly one who switches answers each time.
Once you think you may know another persons dinosaur you can on your turn use that name to see if you are correct. If you are correct then you receive a sugar lump, the first player with four of these will win the game. If your dinosaur is guessed by another player you simply draw another one and continue playing.
I really love playing this game with my children. The artwork is just delightful and really conveys the fun theme. We always put on our best silly accents as the game is set in Dinoton Abbey after all. The game itself has straightforward rules but it really tests your deduction skills. I love the twist of some of the dinosaurs having different ways of answering it really changes your thinking. Overall this is a really fun family game that I would definitely recommend.
Pyramid of Pengqueen
Pyramid of the Pengqueen was designed by Marcel-André C Merkle and published by Brain Games. It plays 2-5 players, aged 8 and over.
This is a new release I believe of an older game, but it has been re-themed using the same adorable penguins that are in Ice Cool. In case you are not aware Ice Cool is a really fun flicking game with penguins! In this game one player takes the role of the Mummy who is trying to catch the treasure hunters and the remaining players are of course the treasure hunters who are trying to gather up enough treasures to break the curse and flee the tomb.
All of this game takes place on a vertical magnetic board with the mummy player on one side and the treasure hunters on the other. The treasure hunters can see the location of the mummy but the mummy player has no idea where the treasure hunters are. At the beginning of the game the treasure hunters are each dealt one treasure card from each of the five different colours.
On a treasure hunters turn they roll the dice. These dice have different sorts of faces, some are numbers, some are arrows and the last kind are Mummy faces. All the Mummy faces are set to the side, I’ll explain those a bit more in a minute. The treasure hunter can then choose one of the other results which they must share with the Mummy player. They can then move their piece in accordance with that result, either counting that number of spaces or moving as far as they can one direction if they choose the arrow. They then pass the remaining dice to the next treasure hunter. This player can then choose to either re-roll all the dice including the Mummy faces or just those which are currently free. If they choose to re-roll the Mummy faces then the Mummy player immediately moves that number of spaces before the treasure hunter takes their turn.
After all the treasure hunters have taken a turn the Mummy player goes. On their turn they roll the Mummy dice and add any additional Mummy faces on the treasure hunters dice and move that number of spaces in any direction. The only clue the Mummy player gets is when a treasure hunter collects a treasure they must land on that space and reveal the treasure they have just collected!
If the Mummy player catches a treasure hunter by moving into their space, the Mummy player receives one life token from that player and that player is moved to the Mummy’s sarcophagus. Play continues in this way until the Mummy player has collecting enough life points to win (the number varies depending on the player count) or one treasure hunter has collected all their treasures in which case they win!
We all really enjoy this game there is something about sneaking around the board as the treasure hunters that is so much fun. It causes edge of your seat moments as the Mummy can pass through a space right next to you without them knowing it. At the same time playing as the Mummy is really fun as you try and puzzle out where they could be hiding! So many good moments of excitement. My children can play this game now without me needing to play it with them, although I absolutely love playing it too!
Games for the older ones
Harry Potter Hogwarts Battle
Harry Potter Hogwarts Battle was designed by the Forrest-Pruzan Creative, Kami Mandell and Andrew Wolf and it was published by The OP. It plays 2-4 players aged 11 and over.
In this game you play as either Hermione, Neville, Ron or Harry and work together to defeat Voldemort. The game contains 7 boxes one for each of the books in the series. You start with a deck of cards which can be used to gain influence and Lightning Bolts. Lightning bolts are used to do damage to the villains and influence is used to purchase more cards for your deck. The villains will also be attacking you directly and through effects caused by dark art cards which must be drawn at the beginning of your round. If you manage to defeat all the villains you will win the game however if they corrupt all the different locations you lose.
I can’t speak highly enough of this game, even if you aren’t a particular fan of the books the game plays really well. Game 1 is relatively straightforward and is clearly designed to teach you how to play this deck-building style of game. Each new box you open adds something to the game, always new locations, villains and cards for your deck but also many other new things which I won’t spoil for you. This game has got better and better each time we have played it. I highly recommend it if you are looking for a fun family game to play especially if you have any Harry Potter fans in your house!
Planet was designed by Urtis Šulinskas and it was published by Blue Orange Games. It plays 2-4 players aged 8 and over.
In this game you are trying to create the best planet in order to attract the most animals to it! The main feature of this game is the 3D planet which has magnetic sides onto which you can stick different pieces. These pieces are made up of a mixture of different land types for example ice, water or forest.
Over a number of rounds players will be choosing a piece to attach to their planet. Then players will compare the different land types to the animals available that round. For example the Octopus in the pictures below wants to live on the planet with the most water which is adjacent to mountain. The player who collects the most amount of animals on their planet will win the game.
This game is wonderfully tactile as you build up your planet but also the artwork for the animals is just gorgeous. The game offers some good choices in that you have to plan ahead a little bit to try and attract the most amount of animals. As the game progresses the decisions about where you choose to place your pieces on the planet gets more and more challenging which I really enjoy! Planet is a visually beautiful game and one that I would recommend to families, it overs some challenges in terms of planning ahead for goals but nothing too overly complicated.
Just One was designed by Ludovic Roudy and Bruno Sautter and it was published by Repos Productions. It plays 3-7 players aged 8 and over.
In Just One you are working together to try and help one person guess what the word in front of them is. Players do this by writing a single word clue onto a dry erase board. These clues are then compared with each other, any clues that are the same are then placed facedown. The remaining clues are then shown to the guesser and they have one chance at giving the correct answer. If a player guesses incorrectly then that card is lost along with another from the deck of 13 cards, if they choose not to answer then only the card played is lost. Each correct answer gives one point and the objective is to get a score as close to 13 as you can. It is worth noting that the game comes with a huge amount of cards and that you choose only one word from each card so the chances of coming across the same word again are very slim.
I am not really a big party game fan but I definitely enjoy this one. I really like the process of trying to come up with unique one word clues as it encourages everyone to really think and it creates some suspense as to what other people might be choosing. I have played this with my children although we usually make a judgement as to whether we think they will understand the word and choose another if necessary. I was surprised actually at how much enjoyment they got out of playing this one. I think for me a large part of why I enjoy it comes from the cooperative part of the game perhaps because it feels like it brings people together.
Squirrel was designed by Tom Sudall with help from Catriona Ross and published by Format 15. It plays 2 players aged 4 and over.
This is a lovely handmade two player game where players are squirrels trying to collect the most acorns. This is one I would recommend for the younger ones although again my children enjoy this one. I have written a full review of this game which you can find here. This game comes out with us nearly every time we’re going out for dinner or anywhere we might be waiting for a while, it’s lightweight and very portable.
Quirk! Legends was designed by Emma May and published by Emmerse Studios. It plays 2-6 players aged 5 and over.
This game is without a doubt the most played game in my house as the children play it against each other all the time. There are also other different versions such as the original Quirk! and also Quirk! Monsters. I really like the version we have which is Quirk! Legends but I do think it is a question of choosing the theme which attracts you the most.
In Quirk! you are trying to collect sets of three cards for example three zombies as pictured below. The player who collects the most sets or Quirks as they’re called is the winner of the game. On a players turn they can ask another player if they have a particular card but the only way you can ask is by making the noise that you think that creature might make. If they have any of that type of card then they must then pass them all to you. If not then you get to draw a card from the deck and it is the next players turn. When you have a full quirk you place it down in front of you. There are however other cards in the deck, ones that enable you to steal another players quirk, there are also cards which can block this and there are yet other cards which can make another player miss their turn.
Quirk! is one of those games that is just really fun and a bit silly to play. I had to put this on my Christmas recommended list because of how much the children love playing it. It always seems to provoke much laughter not just at all the silly sound-effects but also as they steal and then re-steal cards from each other. Please do check out Quirk! it is a great family party game in a small package!
I hope you found my suggestions helpful. Please do let me know in the comments below what games you would recommend for Christmas. Thanks for reading and I hope you have a lovely Christmas!