We definitely overdid it this year. Our goal for Christmas each year is to give our children four gifts – something to wear, something to read, something to eat, and something for play. With all of the disruption caused by a global pandemic, our holiday shopping plans spun out of control, and we blew past both our budget and total gift count.
The silver lining from that overspending is that we have a stack of new games to gab about! So for this Little Thumbs, Big Thumbs entry, why don’t we comb through our shiny new stack of boxes and chat about them!
ANIMAL UPON ANIMAL : XMAS EDITION
Much like Anna and Elsa from Olaf’s Frozen Adventure, our family is in the process of establishing our own holiday traditions, unique from those both Mrs Thumbs and I experienced separately. My favourite of these new traditions is probably choosing a new game to unwrap and explore on Christmas Eve. It gives our girls a taste of opening a gift, helps to lower their excess energy before bed, and brings the four of us together for an interactive activity.
The new Christmas Eve game for 2020 was HABA’s special Christmas Edition of Animal Upon Animal. It’s the familiar experience of the legendary stacking game, but with a few unique items replacing the classic assortment of creatures. Included in this edition are trees, stars, reindeer, and a handful of other wintry wonders for us all to stack. Smiles and laughter were had by all, and it was the perfect way to prepare for the final sleep before Noelle visited us that night!
Much like the old Halloween games of putting our hands into bowls of grapes and cold spaghetti, Master Fox is all about trying to identify objects while blindfolded. SuperLude and IELLO includes some oversized Fox masks in this game, which are ludicrous and fantastic.
Three cards are revealed each round, identifying the items that players need to find. Players then mask up, and simultaneously dip one hand into the game box to try to grab a few of those items. As soon as one player declares that they are done rummaging, everyone must stop and see how many objects they successfully found. Each matching item is worth one point, and every incorrect catch is worth a negative one. We quickly found that applying the negatives to the adults and giving our kids a pass lead to a more fun experience for all, and our girls have requested to play this one many times over!
A FISTFUL OF DAISIES
Space Cow, the kid-friendly publishing arm of Space Cowboys, wasn’t on my radar at all before this holiday season. While hunting down a different game at Montreal’s Randolph Pub Ludique, I spotted Pour une Poignée de Marguerites, which I believe hasn’t yet been released in English. It was an absolute impulse purchase based solely on the quirky artwork, and the unique flavour of the graphic design carries through into the gameplay.
Bumbling around the board, players are trying to steer their cow to eat a balanced diet of colourful flowers and clovers. However, if two cows ever wind up on the same board space, they become irrationally defensive of their territory, and a cattle battle breaks out! Stepping into the center of the board, everything suddenly resembles a wrestling match. Players push their cow by the tail, aiming to collide with the opposing cow, and when one or both of the horned heroes fall, the one with the most spots visible wins the war. This manner of resolving a conflict is unlike anything I’ve seen before, and it’s simultaneously ridiculous and brilliant!
I’ll absolutely be pulling this one out with my grownup friends over drinks in the near future. I suspect it will tickle many other players, young and old, the way it has for me!
ZOMBIE TEENZ EVOLUTION
We are literally one game away from ending our run with Zombie Kidz Evolution, opening the final envelope and putting a bow on this near-perfect gaming experience. Near-perfect is also how I’d describe our timing, as the sequel game, Zombie Teenz, joined our collection on Christmas morning!
I’ve only played a sample game with my wife, but so far it’s looking like a slam dunk winner of a game. The turns are a bit more involved than the first game, and as such, I suspect Little Bean won’t be able to join in the fun. But given that we spent over a year making our way through Zombie Kidz, it’s entirely possible that her capacity for complexity may rise before we finish exploring all of the content.
It’s too early to say for sure, but I’m expecting this one to wind up being one of my favourite releases from 2020. Whether or not you have young players at your gaming table, this is an easily digestible legacy-style game that’s worth checking out!
VALLEY OF THE VIKINGS
If you follow much Little Thumbs content, you’ll know that we love us some HABA games, and how could we possibly deny the 2019 Kinderspiel winner? Valley of the Vikings is primarily a dexterity game, where players are rolling a giant boulder into the center of the table. Four barrels are placed in the middle, matching the available player colours (all of which are used regardless of how many players are involved). Each time a player’s barrel is knocked over, a matching token is moved along a track, and once a player’s token falls off the end of that track, everyone else will earn coins – either from the general supply, or by stealing from other players. Once the general supply of coins is exhausted, the game ends and whoever has collected the most coins is declared the winner!
Surprisingly, this game actually reminds me a bit of Hedgehog Haberdash, which we covered in a recent Little Thumbs video review. In both games, there is an outside chance that a non-player could win the game, and both are children’s games with mild opportunities for conflict between players. And most importantly, both are truly excellent games, on par with the all-time great HABA titles such as Monza or Animal Upon Animal!
LOST RUINS OF ARNAK
Mrs Thumbs surprised me by putting this hot new title under the tree, and in our early plays, The Lost Ruins of Arnak is absolutely a candidate for being the best game released in 2020. Bringing together two of the most popular game mechanics of the modern era of tabletop gaming – deck building and worker placement – players compete to discover the deepest, darkest secret of this unexplored region.
The best news of all, however, is that my wife really enjoys the game, and has asked for repeated plays in the two weeks it has lived on our game shelves! Obviously, this is firmly in the Big Thumbs category, but it packs enough of a fun factor to make me feel like a kid again.
For some, this influx of gift games might be a small number. For others, it’s a massive injection of gaming goodness. For us, we feel we went overboard with our holiday spending, and are very much feeling spoiled. Although the January credit card bills are going to sting, we’re trying not to beat ourselves up too much. After all, 2020 has been a mess of a year, and parts of our lives are expected to be a mess as a result.
Did you receive any board gaming gifts this holiday season? We’d love to hear about them! Drop us a line on Twitter, either directly to the DWP, or to our Little Thumbs, Big Thumbs crew!