12 Days from Calliope Games packs all the gift-giving cheer of the famous Christmas carol into a single box. Most everyone is familiar with the song of maximum presents from one’s true love over the course of the holidays, and now players have the chance to put those geese-a-laying and pipers-piping to work earning points to see who wins Christmas.
12 Days consists of a deck of 80 Gift cards featuring the famed presents, each in number of the day they were given; i.e. 12 drummers drumming, five golden rings, and one partridge in a pear tree. In addition to the gifts from the carol, there are also Santa and Mrs. Claus cards worth zero as they are all about the giving.
Each player is dealt 12 cards at random to create an initial hand, adding another drawn with every round. Through 12 rounds enumerated by Holiday cards, players perform two actions: passing a card to left, and playing a card face down on the table. The passing mechanic shakes up decision-making as players will need to be cognizant not only of what they are playing but also what they are giving to other players.
At the same time, the face-down cards are flipped. The lowest numbered card, being the rarest, wins the round. Rounds are worth the points listed on the Holiday card, meaning that the earlier rounds are worth fewer points and the later rounds worth much more. Players must choose their strategy and quickly adapt, whether to wait to go for the big points, grab plenty of points early on and hope to hold the lead, or a mixture of both. Experts will judge other players from their strategies, guessing their plans from how they act, such as playing high numbers early to save up for plenty of points late in the game. Careful players will also count cards to see what low numbers have been used up and make best use of their middle cards late in the game. Whoever has the most points at the end of the 12th round wins.
In addition to the game’s addictive gameplay, the strong Christmas theme shines through its stained glass art by Echo Chernik. Cookies and candles adorn the picturesque images of windows featuring each of the gifts from simpler days. Simply looking through the gorgeous deck is enough to fill players with the holiday spirit.
12 Days is a trick-taking card game for three to five players aged eight and up. Games are short, lasting about 15 minutes for quick players and perhaps a half hour for players who take a little more time choosing their plays. With the social aspect of passing cards as well as playing, 12 Days will be a yuletide favorite inspiring plenty of laughter.
Since 12 cards at once might be tricky for small hands to hold and it could be difficult for small children to choose which cards to pass and which to play, players younger than eight would certainly need to sit out. For groups with kids a little older, 12 Days is a great family game, making a fine stocking-stuffer that will bring folks together at the gaming table.[amazon template=iframe image&asin=B015TD81IA]