Friday, January 5, 2024

Ending the year with a family game

 The last game I learned (and played) in 2023 was Santa Cookie Elf Candy Snowman. It’s the holiday version of Cat Taco Burrito Goat Cheese. With a name like that,  I am convinced that the game originally started life as a drinking game.

The game itself is a variation of Slap Jack. The big difference is players say the words in the total as a sequence. The starting player says Santa as they lay down a card, the next player says cookie, etc. If the word and the card match, that’s when the slapping starts.

There are also some special action cards: reindeer, silent night and drum. When those cards come out, everyone does a silly action and slaps.

Last person to slap the stack of cards adds those cards to their personal stack with the goal being to empty your hand.

The designers also played the Jungle Speed trick of having some cards look like different suites, like Santa dressed in elf colors.

Santa et al is a silly, little party game. It isn’t a game that I’d pick instead of Catan or Agricola or even Food Chain Island. There are gamers who I wouldn’t recommend it to. But it’s clearly not meant to be. 

More than that, by building off of an established game and adding special cards that guarantee the board will get periodically cleared, Santa et al has a solid mechanical design. A lot of that design is ‘don’t fix what’s broken’ but that mantra gets ignored a lot more often than you’d think. (To be fair, I look at a lot of prototypes)

Santa et al gave us a cozy game to play and have fun with. That alone gives it lots of value and I think we will return to it.

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