With winter winds picking up and temperatures plummeting, going outside looks less and less appealing by the day. Christmas means spending time with family and, if you’re not going outdoors as much, will involve…ugh…interacting with them.
But why get out the battered old scrabble set? Why argue over whether you can use props in charades? Why keep playing monopoly year after year even though you know that dad is just going to get drunk again, buy all the property on Mayfair and then keep claiming he’s just ‘friends with the chief of police’ every time he gets sent to jail?
Instead, sit down, make a nice warm drink and peruse over the Athena Games world-famous (if you’re a board-game enthusiast, in Norwich,) Christmas list! Know that you could break out any one of these alternatives to the joy, amazement and undisguised envy of everyone around you.
5. Carcassone – £27.99 + Expansions
Carcassone, though sounding like something from The Canterbury Tales, is one of the ‘new classics,’ a wave of board-games that are now established enough to last, but just a little too late to become a mainstream game like Risk or Cluedo. It’s up there with Settlers of Catan or Dominions and entails making a beautiful French countryside, creating rolling fields alongside baroque cities while winding roads between them. The aesthetic belies the impressively robust worker-placement game beneath, with options to take over opponents cities or focus all your attention on a single area of the map, tweaking it to point-generating perfection! Ultimately this is a hugely accessible & relaxing game for any member of the family, with generous expansions adding everything from dragons to rivers and lakes!
4. Ticket to Ride – £32.99 (25.99 for UK expansion)
Ticket to Ride, a game of planning train routes which criss-cross the map, is undoubtedly one of the more strategic on this list, with players at the start of the game choosing their own goals. These range from short routes between cities, lines that can be covered in just a few turns of placing carriages, all the way to huge cross-country routes that will require most of the game to complete, a generous bounty of points at stake. It’s also likely to be one of the more competitive, with players jostling to make sure they get the lines they want. But despite this, Ticket to Ride rarely deviates from its simple formula, choosing a route & placing trains. Yet the Uk & Pennsylvania map expansion adds technology to TtR, allowing for ferries across water along with a whole bevy of new options.
3. Sheriff of Nottingham – £26.99
Of all the party games that could make it onto this list, Sheriff of Nottingham is by far the most suited to playing with family. In the game, bags are filled with contraband or legitimate goods, to be sent into the city of Nottingham under the watchful eye of the sheriff, who checks the bag or not as is his whim (or the money in his pocket.) While fathers may take on the gruff tones and authoritative air of the sheriff, sons and daughters will milk every ounce of cuteness at their disposal to make you please not check that bag it’s fine I’m sure it’s…oh, full of crossbows, how odd…
2. Codenames – £13.99
An unexpected hit this year from Vlaada Chvatil, Codenames is a team game played with a 5×5 grid of words. Captains can see which of the words are their colour, which words belong to the other team, which words are neutral and which word is the assassin. But can only communicate this to their team with one word clues. This is a game that asks you to find a link between words like ‘Gecko,’ ‘Berlin’ and ‘Cap.’ Spoiler: There are NO words that link them together! Fiendishly clever, hugely re-playable and surprisingly affordable, Codenames is easy to recommend to anyone at any level of play.
1. Smash Up – £26.99
Have you ever wondered who would win in a fight between robot pirates and ninja dinosaurs? In Smash Up you can find out! The game’s main strength and the reason it’s topping our Athena Christmas List this year lies within its simplicity. You take two decks, from two different factions, slam them together and then it’s time to take on all comers! Pitting gnome faeries against alien zombies? Sure! Smash-up also possesses a number of expansions that add entirely new decks to combine and play. Being both easy enough for kids to pick up and deep enough for veteran gamers is hard for most boardgames, but Smash-up manages to do it with a deft hand and focus on fun. The laser-toting dinosaurs might help too of course…
And there you have it, five board-game suggestions that’d perfectly suit the festive season. Merry Christmas!
Have more suggestions? Think I’ve overlooked something? Leave a comment below!