24 Days of Gaming Stocking Stuffers – Part 2
Last week in 24 Days of Gaming Stocking Stuffers – Part 1, I provided 8 short reviews of games and gaming accessories that would make great gaming stocking stuffers or make a great play list for the holiday season. This week, I continue the coverage with 8 more. However you utilize this list, I hope it will lead to lots of fun and laughter with your loved ones.
All of the items reviewed here are inexpensive and small enough to fit in a regular-sized Christmas stocking. On to the games…
Day 9: Hive Pocket
Hive Pocket is a small travel-size version of the award-winning Hive, a very chess-like two-player game “buzzing with possibilities.” Hive is sometimes called “Nature Chess” because the pieces are different types of creatures instead of people: bees, ants, spiders, beetles, ladybugs, mosquitoes, etc. Each creature has its own way of moving about the Hive. Your goal is to be the first player to surround your opponent’s Queen Bee.
To succeed, you’ll need to keep one eye on the growing Hive – which you both add to – and the other on your opponent’s reserves as you plan your moves to capture your opponent’s Queen Bee – all while keeping your own Queen free, of course! One wrong move may see your Queen Bee quickly engulfed. Ahhh!
Hive’s rules are simpler than chess and can be explained in a few minutes. It will take longer to master the game, though. Probably not as long as it takes to master Chess! Hive is a fantastic game for two, played with highly tactile Bakelite tiles. The tiles in Hive Pocket are smaller, but of the same quality material with a nice feel. The handy travel bag makes it easy to take anywhere – or stuff in a stocking! You don’t need a board, so you can play it just about anywhere!
Recommended for ages 9 and up with a short 20-minute playtime, Hive Pocket includes both the Mosquito and Ladybug expansions that, for the full-sized game, you have to purchase separately. MSRP: $26.
Day 10: Love Letter
Love Letter is a game of risk, deduction, and luck for 2–4 players. Your goal is to get your love letter into Princess Annette’s hands while deflecting the letters from competing suitors. From a deck with only sixteen cards, each player starts with one card in hand and one card is removed from play.
On your turn, draw one card, and play one card, trying to expose others and knock them out of the game. Powerful cards lead to early gains, but make you a target. Rely on weaker cards for too long, however, and your letter may be tossed in the fire! The winner is the last player remaining or the player with the highest card in their hand when the deck runs out.
Love Letter has become such a sensation that the publisher has spun off numerous versions, each with its own theme and special twist, including: Letters to Santa, Adventure Time, Limited Edition Kanai Factory, Batman, The Hobbit, Legend of the Five Rings, and Munchkin: Loot Letter. The designer, Seiji Kanai, created another Love Letter-like series: Lost Legacy whose entries can be played stand-alone or combined together for more interesting play. Two other game designers developed their own Love Letter-type games: Cypher and Empire Engine. MSRP: $9.99 to $12.99
If you already own and love Love Letter or want to upgrade a Love Letter stocking stuffer, check out Here Be Books & Games’ sparkly heart tokens to replace the boring wooden love tokens that come with the game. MSRP: $2.99.
Day 11: We Didn’t Playtest This At All
We Didn’t Playtest This At All card gane is pure chaos in a box: you might win because you’re short, or lose because a dragon ate you. But don’t despair, the next game is just moments away.
In this exceptionally silly and awesome game, your objective is to win! Simple enough. If you lose, you have not won and you are, in fact, out of the game. If everyone except you has lost, you win!
Unfortunately, all of your opponents have the same simple goal, and they’re trying to make you lose.
Everyone starts with 2 cards. On your turn, draw one card from the deck, and then play one from your hand following the instructions on the card. There are many hazards to avoid, including: bombs, dragons, arrows, laser pointers, arrows, black holes, Rock Paper Scissors battles, number battles, zombies, etc. Luckily items abound that can save you, too: spaceships, science, shields, dinosaurs and a kitten ambush!
There are also Star Cards: they are clearly superior to normal cards. Every player has an equal chance of drawing a Star Card from the deck.
We Didn’t Playtest This At All includes a Bonus: the Chaos Pack Expansion and some blank cards so you can make up your own rules! The sequels, We Didn’t Playtest This Either, We Didn’t Playtest This: Legacies and We Didn’t Playtest This Pasted On Theme can each be played alone or combined with the original.
I personally don’t recommend Legacies by itself: for some reason it runs long. Legacies has a really cool mechanic, though: whenever you win with a card, you get to write your name on it. Should you ever lose by that card in a future game, you don’t lose after all and remain in the game. There are other fun Legacy features in it, too, like opening envelopes when certain conditions occur.
Whichever We Didn’t Playtest This game you choose, you’re sure to have a ball! MSRP: $15.
Day 12: Keltis Card Game, Keltis Dice Game and Keltis Stones
The whole Keltis series of games is a spin-off of Lost Cities, though you wouldn’t know it from the artwork. While Lost Cities has an Indian Jones antique expedition look and feel, Keltis has a lovely bright green Irish Celtic flavor.
In Lost Cities and Keltis: The Card Game, players each have a hand of 8 cards. On your turn, you must either play a card to one of your columns (you can have one for each of the five colors, but usually only maintain a few columns) or you can discard a card to one of the five discard piles. Then you draw a card from either the draw pile or one of the discard piles (if available). I know it’s weird: play then draw instead of draw then play. It takes a bit of getting used to.
The more cards you play in a column, the more points you score – too few and you’ll score negative points (each column you start begins with a -20 score and each card is worth its face value in points). There’s another catch: when you play cards to your columns they must be in sequence. In Lost Cities you can only go up, while in the Keltis games you can go up or down. For example, if you play a red 4, then play a red 6, your red column is now set to play in ascending order. So, on any future turns, you can only play red cards greater than or equal to 6. If you play a green 9 then play a green 8, your green cards are set to descending order.
Keltis games also include Wishing Stones. You have to collect a few at least to avoid losing points. In addition to the Wishing Stones, there are a few other differences between Lost Cities and Keltis: The Card Game, like the addition of a grey suit, but the basics remain the same. In all of the games, the player with most points wins.
Keltis: Das Würfelspiel (Keltis: The Dice Game) recreates the Keltis gaming system as a dice game, with players once again trying to blaze through regions of negative points to reach sweet, VP-rich territory.
Keltis: The Dice Game consists of five dice (with a different colored symbol on each face), a double-sided game board (for standard and challenging play), 40 wishing stone tiles, and 16 wooden playing pieces. On your turn, roll all the dice – you can reroll any number of dice once – then choose a track on which to advance one of your four playing pieces. The first spaces on each of the five colored tracks score negative points for the playing pieces sitting on them at game’s end, so you’ll want to make sure to advance your pieces far enough to score positive points. Along the way, you also need to collect wishing stones, either by rolling two wishing stone symbols or by moving your playing pieces onto wishing stone spaces. At game end, you’ll either gain or lose points based on the number of wishing stones you collect. After a certain number of playing pieces reach the far fields on the track, the game ends and the player with the most points wins.
Keltis Stones (in German called Keltis Mitbringspiel which means bring-along game or travel game) adds a push-your-luck element to the Keltis mix. There are 5 colors of path stones (blue, yellow, pink, brown and green) with the stones numbered 0 thru 10. As in other Keltis games, players can build their paths in either ascending or descending order. On your turn, you can turn over a stone, flipping it face up, or take one of the already revealed stones. When turning over a new stone, you have to decide whether to continue one of your paths of stones (or begin a new one), or simply leave it in the middle of the table.
There are a few special stones that either provide a point bonus, depict a wishing stone or give you an extra turn (yellow clover). As in Keltis: The Card Game, the longer a path of stones, the more points the path scores. Really short paths earn you negative points.
While Lost Cities only supports 2 players (and is way too wide to fit in a stocking), the Keltis card, dice and stones games support 2 to 4 players ages 7 or 8 and up (and make great stocking stuffers). Playtimes run 20 to 30 minutes. None of the Keltis games have ever been published in the U.S., but we like them so much we imported them from Germany so we could share them with you. MSRP: $15 to $20.
Day 13: Mamma Mia!
A pinch of luck, a bit of tactics and strategy, and a pound of memory are the key ingredients in the pizza-making card game Mamma Mia!. Your goal is to fulfill as many pizza orders as possible from your personal 8-order deck. Will your signature ingredient be pepperoni, pineapple, mushrooms, green peppers, or black olives?
As pizza chefs, you and your fellow players take turns piling ingredients face-up into the oven, represented as a discard pile in the middle of the table. From time to time you or another player may place an order on the oven as well – usually when you think all the ingredients necessary to fulfill the order are already in the pile. If they are, when the supply deck runs out, your pizza gets baked and delivered, if not, oops – no pizza for you!
You start with a random hand of six ingredient cards and one order card from your recipe deck. On your turn, you must place at least one ingredient (you may play more than one as long as they’re the same type) into the oven. After playing an ingredient(s), you may optionally place an order card on the pile. Then you draw your hand back up to seven cards, taking cards either from the ingredient supply deck or from your personal order deck, but not both. If you draw the Mamma Mia! card, set it aside and draw a replacement – you’re Mamma Mia for this round. Mamma Mia is responsible for examining the pizza stack for correctly filled orders at the end of the round and is the start player for the next round.
Play continues with players piling ingredients, and optionally orders, into the oven until the supply deck runs out. Then Mamma Mia (the person holding that card) turns the oven pile over, and starts dealing out ingredients, arranging them by type. When an order pops up, she checks the order’s requirements against the available ingredients. If there are enough of the right ingredients to make the pizza, the pizza order is fulfilled: place the order face up in front of the happy and successful chef. Discard the ingredients used to make the pizza. The remaining ingredients are available for succeeding pizza orders. If the order’s requirements aren’t fulfilled, the player whose order it is gets one last chance to complete the pizza by playing the missing ingredients from the cards in her hand. If she doesn’t have the needed ingredients, the order can’t be completed and the order card goes to bottom of the player’s order deck. Any ingredients left over after Mamma Mia goes through the oven remain in the oven pile for use in the next round’s orders. Play continues for three rounds. The player who fulfilled the most orders wins the game!
Mamma Mia! is a fun, filler memory card game the whole family can play. Its sequel Sole Mio! can be combined with Mamma Mia! for a Grande Mamma Mia! game or played alone. Both games support 2 to 5 players ages 8 and up – it’s more fun with three plus players – and play in about 30 minutes. Warning: you better order a pizza, because all that talk of pizza will make you hungry! MSRP: $15.
Day 14: Qwixx
Qwixx is the quick-playing dice game that will have you on the edge of your seat from beginning to end! There is simply no downtime, no matter whose turn it is. While Qwixx is simple to play – and teach – each decision is crucial. The more numbers you cross off, the more points you score. However, you can only cross off a number if it’s to the right of all other crossed-off numbers in the same row. If you cross a number further down the row too early, you may rue that decision later. Hard choices, man.
Players each take a scoresheet with numbers in four colored rows. The red and yellow rows show the numbers 2 thru 12 in ascending order, while the green and blue rows show them in descending order, 12 thru 2.
On your turn, roll all six dice (2 white, 1 red, 1 yellow, 1 green and 1 blue), then announce the sum of the two white dice. Your fellow players may, if they choose, mark off the white dice sum on any one of their four colored rows. You, however, must use the sum of one of the white dice plus one of the colored dice to mark off a number in one of your colored rows. If you cannot, you really, really don’t want to, you can instead mark off one of the four penalty boxes in the lower right of the score sheet; each marked off penalty box counts -5 points against your score at the end of the game.
When everyone’s ready – some rolls present agonizing decisions: to mark or not to mark – pass the dice to the next player so she can do likewise. Oh, the lock symbols! I almost forgot: marking off the last number in a row presents a special case. You can only mark off the last number in the row, if you have already marked off 5 other numbers in that row. If you successfully mark off the last number in the row, also mark off the lock symbol. It counts as another marked off box for scoring purposes, plus it locks the row, so no one else can mark off any more numbers in that colored row; remove the corresponding die from the game.
Play continues until either two rows are locked or one player marks off all four of his penalty boxes. Players then tally their points for each color using the handy scorer at the bottom of their sheets, add ’em up and subtract five points for each marked penalty box. The player with the highest score wins.
Qwixx supports 2 to 5 players ages 8 and up and can be played in about 15 minutes. The scoresheets are conveniently 2-sided because of course you’ll want to immediately play again! The pocket-sized box fits neatly in a stocking. MSRP: $10.99.
Day 15: Roll For It!
Roll For It! is a fun, family-friendly dice game with simple rules: Roll It! Match It! Score It! But watch out, one of your opponents may steal the card you’re shooting for! Take turns rolling dice to match combinations on the three face-up target cards. Each card whose combination you match, scores you points. Your goal: be the first to accumulate 40 points worth of cards.
Each player starts the game with six dice of a single color. Three target cards are placed face-up on the table. On your turn, roll all of your available dice – those that haven’t already been assigned to target cards. (You can first choose to reclaim all of your dice already assigned to cards if you want to.) After rolling your dice, you can place any that match on the appropriate target cards. If your dice complete the combination on a target card, claim the card and take back your dice, returning any other dice on the card to their owners. Turn up a new target card to replace the one you just completed. Each roll presents new opportunities with fun decisions to make.
Roll For It! supports 2 to 4 players (2 to 8 with both sets) ages 8 and up and plays in 20 to 40 minutes. The box is quite small and stuffs easily into a stocking.There are two sets of Roll For It! available — the red set comes with translucent dice and the purple set comes with pearl dice. There are no duplicate target cards between the two sets. MSRP: $14.99.
Day 16: Red7
Red7 is a game of simple rules: be winning at the end of your turn or you’re out! You won’t be out for long, though, as each game only lasts 5 to 10 minutes. The last player in the game wins.
The Red7 deck consists of 49 cards in seven colors, each numbered 1 to 7. They rank highest to lowest. However, when comparing two cards of the same number, they also rank by the colors of the rainbow (red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, violet) with red highest and violet lowest. So a red 5 would beat a yellow 5. There’s one more twist: the rules for winning change according to the card currently on the Canvas (rules pile).
On your turn you must play a card such that you will be winning at the end of your turn. You can either a) Play a card to your palette in front of you, or b) Play a card to the canvas to change the rules, or c) Play a card to your palette and play a card to the canvas. As long as you have the winning palette at the end of your turn, you’re still in the game. The last player in the game wins.
Red7’s rulebook provides two more options for play: a scoring mechanism for a multi-round game and rules for an Advanced Game in which some of the cards have actions that activate when you play them. There’s more strategy in this little card game then first appears. It’s short playtime – if you’re just playing a hand or two – makes it a great filler. For a meatier game, utilize the scoring rules.
Red7 supports 2 to 4 players ages 9 and up and plays in 10 to 15 minutes. With the scoring rules it runs 20 to 30 minutes. Slides right into a stocking, too! MSRP: $12.