TTG's Top 10: Ten of the best stocking fillers


We all know what big-box game we hope to be turning up under the Christmas tree, but sometimes it’s the little games that count. Check out our small(ish) games for Christmas

ASSEMBLY

If you’re looking for a two-player game for the Christmas period, then filling a stocking with space-station disaster management puzzle game, Assembly, is a fine choice. The ship’s computer has gone all a bit HAL on you and your crewmates, and you’ll need to take back control if you want to survive. Work together to align the locks with the keys in a circular pattern. The Glitches expansion, and the upcoming 4-player version (using two sets of the original game) also provides long-term brain-burning fun.

 

THE MIND

For those searching for a game to keep everyone happy between Christmas food comas, The Mind might be
it. Deceptively simple, but extraordinary to play. Play 100 cards in the right order, with your friends and family. It’s simple, but because you can’t confer with the others around the table your task is made all the more difficult. With that there is a ‘reading the table’ aspect that keeps everyone engaged. So much so that you might even put off having pudding for another round.

 

TINY EPIC MECHS

A big game in a small box. The initial game will take a little while to learn, but that only expresses the depth available. With up to four players and open to multiple play styles, this cute but deep robot-smash-em-up is perfect for playing beyond the paper-ripping frenzy of Christmas morning itself. For those who don’t want to strap their meeples mech suits to do battle, there are other equally as rich flavours of Tiny Epic games available.

 

SUSHI ROLL

This is the even more diminutive, and dice-based, version of the conveyor-belt-sushi selection game. Using the same pick and pass mechanics of the popular card version, this dicey outing adds a feeling of more randomisation to the game, as well as a joyful clatter of dice. Collect up delicious sashimi, nigiri and maki from your roll, or use your chopsticks to steal tempting tempura from the plates of others. Christmas is a time for sharing after all.

 

HANABAI

With a deluxe edition arriving shortly, this modern classic knows how to make a bang. Arranging the perfect fireworks show comes in the form of laying out cards in a 1-5 order – but the twist is that only others can see your cards, as you hold them facing away from you. Work together to put on a display worth remembering. If you want a stocking filler that’s going to remain in regular rotation for years to come, then there’s few better choices that this firecracker.

 

SET A WATCH

For some, the festive period is about sitting around a re and periodically getting up to give it a poke or throw on another log. Add in the threat of a goblin bursting in to the front room and you have a good thematic fit with Set a Watch. This smallish box offers dice management in a fantasy setting where your resting party has to keep the fire alight while fending of vicious beasties. It’s a delightful theme for those familiar with fantasy RPG ‘resting’ tropes, while also being thoroughly challenging.

 

COMBO FIGHTER

The closest thing you’re going to get to entirely analogue button mashing. It’s rare for a card game to provide visceral thrills, but Combo Fighter comes close. Like arcade classic, Streetfighter, the game is about carefully taking your chances and pushing your luck with longer combos. Play combos of cards from your hand to beat down your opponent, while trying to predict your opponent’s moves in this particularly punchy game of rock paper scissors. As games only take around 10 minutes it’s also perfect for snatching moments of down time during the holiday period.

 

VILLAGERS

A tough slog through rebuilding communities of those in post-plague Middle Ages, made fun with characterful cards. The game is one about making your village amenable to those who wish to join it. Build the engine of your village to create a series of pleasing interactions to score you game winning points, or unlock new cards. The message of the game is one that focuses charity, sharing, and helping one another around the table even if it is at a cost  which certainly suits the Christmas spirit.

 

IMPACT: BATTLE  OF ELEMENTS

This is a fast game of dice shaking, and losing, fun. Start the game with five dice and one by one throw dice into the arena. Blanks are removed and matching dice are claimed. If the arena is empty throw everything in in the hope of claiming some back. It’s a game about keeping hold of your dice as long as you can – as the last one with dice in their hands is the winner. The simple matching elements and the high risk that can be set up on any one turn makes it is a great place to start an argument between family members.

 

TUKI

It wouldn’t be a list of familyish games without some kind of stacking game. Tuki is wonky stacker where you attempt to create “ tukilik” (an Inuit term for an object that carries a message) matching a dice roll. There’s only so much space for creating the structure in the snow however, so careful balancing and counterbalancing is required to keep your shape full of meaning, rather than on the floor. A great little party puzzler which has a snow theme, even if it’s not going to be a white Christmas.