Christmas Games for all the family
30 November 2022 -
Hopefully you know by now, that one of our favourite things at After Alice Ltd. are games & pursuits that bring families together. In this modern world it is so easy to be in our own little silos, happily following our own entertainment desires, physically together but somewhere completely apart in our heads.
We all need a bit of that, don't get me wrong, but Christmas and the lovely days around it, are a time to connect. And a great game at the right time can really help make that connection happen.
So, we have compiled our 2022 top 10 of Christmas games. In no particular order (you are all wonderfully different after all). Perfect for after the festive roast and just before you walk the dogs.
1). Don't Get Got.
A feisty alternative to a board game. Players are given 6 secret missions they have to try and pull off, without being rumbled by the other players. The first to successfully complete 3 missions is victorious. This game can last all day, or be finished within an hour (depending on the sneakiness and dedication of the players). This new addition to our site has caused much delight in the After Alice Ltd house. Perfect for engaging teens and tweens who may groan audibly if you mention a more traditional pursuit.
Think cocoa coloured Tetris. A fiendishly difficult puzzle for some (I include myself in this category). Whereas our friend Rose (14 years), carefully considered it for a while and then completed it twice in quick succession. Strangely compelling. Almost as addictive as the tasty stuff. A perfect pursuit after the big meal, once the plates are cleared. Trust me. Everyone will want a turn.
3). Sounds Fishy
Another showing from the Big Potato Games stable. But no surprise really, as again it is a quick to understand and quick to play game. Lucky that, as the Alices have named 'Dad reading out games instructions in that teacher voice' as a special circle of hell, and will do anything to avoid it. Sounds Fishy is essentially a quicker version of Balderdash, with all the fun left in. Players try to work out which is the right answer to the question, in a sea of red herrings. Lots of fun, no waiting for your turn (everyone is involved in every round) and plenty of opportunity to be creative with your responses. This is another big hit with the teens and tweens.
One for the cooler folk. Perfect to leave out on the coffee table. Find the pair of matching Campbell soup cans (some are fiendishly similar, you need to pay attention). Iconic and a very good work out for the grey matter.
Enough with all this cool calm. If you have younger diners or relatives that could do with a bit of livening up, Clack! is an energetic fun solution. Roll the dice to decide what colour and shape discs to collect, and then build a magnetic tower (with one hand unless you are really little). In our house this ends up being a good natured frenzy. Especially towards the end when the towers get taller and harder to control. And one go is never enough. Careful not to topple your tower or go for the wrong discs. This gets competitive but it does prevent Grandad from snoring on the couch for just a little bit longer.
6). Disney Codenames
We love the original, but this is a really charming edition, and perfect for the Disney lovers. A clever game that will delight younger players with their favourite characters, but still a decent cerebral workout for older folk too. Provide great clues so your team can select the right cards, whilst avoiding the similar but wrong ones.
7). Penguin Bowling
Doesn't need much explanation. These wooden skittles are very very cute, and on a wintry theme. They remind me a little of Feathers McGraw (the Wallace & Gromit villain) which helps when I am trying to knock them ruthlessly down. We find little ones enjoy being the official skittles stander-uppers (great for the motor skills, and yes that is a word), and Auntie Jean can still have a go from the comfort of the armchair. No age range on this one, every one can have a go.
I know I am not supposed to have favourites, but of all the Bingos we stock, this is definitely one of my favourites. A perfect Christmas Day game. Everyone can get involved. Little Alice used to love picking the cards out of the bag and describing the animal she could see for everyone to guess, later on, when she was learning to read she would sound out the name instead. This game is beautifully made by Laurence King and every time I play it, I always think what great value it is (especially at our price) . Grandparents will love this one as much as the younger crowd. It is a pleasantly leisurely paced game, ideal for the afternoon or evening. Dinosaur, James Bond, Bug, Ocean (and many more) Bingos also available on our site.
There is absolutely no reason to let the youngsters have all the fun. They have hogged the concept of Dobble for way too long. This arty elegant version is exactly the same principle - find the matching image across two cards - but it features details of works of art instead. Everyone can learn something new playing this game. Recognise your 'Girl with the pearl earring' from your Lichtenstein. If you prefer we also stock Dobble Minions, Pixar, Mandalorian . . .
10). Mindful String Games
And after the wonderful chaos of the day and all that washing up? Looking for a little peace and calm? A throwback to playground fun. Play on your own our choose your favourite person to help you out. Calming cats cradle.
Still haven't found what you are looking for. Take a look at our games collection here for plenty more inspiration.
Teens & Tweens. The After Alice Ltd. Christmas guide.
14 November 2022 -
Okay. We are getting stuck in. I have seen some Teen/Tween guides circulating and nobody does it quite like us. We are adding our voice to the mix.
Surprisingly for a toy and gift shop we are determinedly ANTI STUFF. This puts us in a rather precarious and unusual position as a commercial business. But let me reassure you, as a parent to a 11 year old and a 13 year old we are regularly talking about STUFF. Do we really need it? Do we just want it in the instant? Is it useful? Does it add something different to the stuff mountain we already have? It looks great but why does it cost so little, who is really paying the price for that unbelievably cheap cute outfit (yes SHEIN, I have no idea how to pronounce you but I am most definitely looking in your direction!).
Because these are questions we should all be asking as consumers. And encouraging our kids to ask too. Especially when (not long from now, perhaps rather hideously in early November) we are wandering around a plush store, Slade is belting out that hit, we are feeling all warm inside and wondering if it is too early for stollen / that festive flavoured latte . . . and we start on the dreaded impulse buys. Getting carried along on a whoosh of Mariah Carey all the way to the tills.
Hold firm dear friends. Beware the mindless / panic shop. Cast your mind to Christmas day. Release a vision of what you want to encounter. What pursuits do you want to see your teen engaging in after the big unwrap? And, more importantly, in the weeks that follow.
Slow down you crazy child, Billy Joel had it right. In a world that is constantly plunging young people into the societal scrum of comparison and competition, elect to give them something this Christmas to offset that. Just a little. A different way to spend their time. A watercolour set. An amazing puzzle. Something to get them writing or creating. A gift that relates to a passion they have, that keeps that little flame burning. Perhaps a game which means they finally have a reason to talk to their younger sibling / Auntie Jean!
Just to let you know, there is nothing in our Teen Alice section that you need to plug in, apart from some very nice lamps. We are unashamedly unplugged. Of course most teens have the electronic stuff and that is totally accepted (we'll leave to which degree up to your family) but shopping at After Alice Ltd will not be adding to any mini Japan that may be growing in your home. Also, aside from a sackful of Wow-type-presents-for-under-the-tree, there is very little in that teen section that costs more than £30 (with the vast majority falling under £20). That is not to say we are cheap! We are incredibly fussy about quality in the products we source. But we often find that simple, thoughtful and well made does not need to cost the earth.
So below are some examples of the kind of gift you could consider putting in a stocking (please say you still do those, they are never ever too old) or under the tree. Of course there is an entire Teen Alice collection to explore if you care for wider inspiration.
And however you do it, however well you think you have done, be prepared, their favourite thing will always be the random jit they get in the cracker . . .
Our top games this Christmas for bringing families together
07 December 2021 -
We love a good game at After Alice Ltd. Indeed we spend a fair portion of our time reviewing, playing and enjoying a wide range of boxed pursuits. Our following suggestions are based on the games that have stood the test of time for our family this year. Those beloved games that get chosen again and again. Some are rarely off our kitchen table. These are the ones we can't wait to introduce our friends to. So in no particular order -
You may well have Cluedo. You may well have delighted in hauling out your childhood battered box and introducing your young family to the delights of murder most posh. But as Outfoxed demonstrates, there are other great options for families who want to set young curious minds on the path of logic and deduction. Outfoxed replaces Colonel Mustard etc. with characterful foxes (some are still pretty posh, to be fair) who may or may not have stolen Mrs Plumpert's prize pie. Players eliminate the foxes that don't fit the descriptive clues they gain along their journey on the board. The styling is colourful and cute. There is a nifty clue decoder to build up the profile of the thief, but don't be mistaken, young players are still putting their grey matter through a rigorous workout in this fun foxy whodunnit. Suitable for cubs aged 5 years plus (yet still a fun game for all the family) with a harder level available for older siblings who need more of a challenge.
Ticket to Ride (Europe)
There are several nominations on this list that deserve the title 'Modern Classic', and Ticket to Ride is definitely one of them. Perfect for bringing the family together on a cold winter's day, this is an ideal way to engagingly pass some time (ideally in front of a warm fire).
Players set out to claim train routes across the continent. The board features the European map and stretches across Spain, Italy, Russia, Turkey . . . from brief travels across the Channel to extended journeys and everything in between.The longer train routes carry more risk but earn more points (and it is very satisfying seeing your colour carriage dominate across the map). On the way players have to navigate tunnels, claim ferry routes and erect stations. More seasoned players (and those with beginners luck) can thwart opponents by claiming popular tracks and forcing everyone else to go the long way round.
The original Ticket to Ride was set in USA, but we enjoy this version as it gives everyone a quick European geography lesson along the way. Play can last up to 1 hour (take note Monopoly!) so you can play a good meaty game, without feeling like the whole afternoon has been stolen. Train buffs will particularly enjoy this theme. Strangely engrossing. Recommended for players 8 years +.
Definitely a contender for the most played game in our house this year. And certainly a popular choice when other families come round to ours for a games night. The wonderful thing about Scrawl is that you don't have to be good at drawing to play it, in fact a combination of good, bad and ugly drawing talent is really what makes this game so amusing. Another plus is that everyone around the table is playing at once, which means no one gets bored waiting for their turn.
Essentially, this is Chinese whispers conveyed through both pictures and words. Players choose one suggestion to draw (reusable card and pen provided) and once finished, they pass their creation on to the next person. This player has to decide what has been drawn and describe it in words. They write this on their card, cover the original drawing and this is then passed on to the next player who has to draw it, pass it on etc., until the growing pile of cards makes its way back to the original artist. The suggestions are often quirky and inspired - raised by squirrels, suitcase aquarium, badly trained dentist (to name a few).
The real fun with Scrawl, is seeing how far away the final drawing or description has moved from the original. The evolutions can be very funny and unexpected. Points are given at the discretion of the lead player and can be based on how amusing certain cards are, rather than how good the drawing is.
Scrawl has given our family a lot of laughs this year. Lovely and inclusive. Recommended by manufacturer for players 12 years + but we have had 9 and 10 year olds thoroughly enjoy it too.
I shouldn't have favourites, but if I did, Dixit may well be it. I have never come across another game quite like it. I love the fact that it celebrates storytelling and creative thinking, over more obvious choices like logic and mathematics. Plus the 84 cards included are mini works of art. Whimsical, playful, mischievous, dark . . . engaging illustrations that provide great scope for the imagination.
So, how do you play? Each player takes their turn being the storyteller. From their hand of six cards the storyteller chooses one and picks a phrase, quote, word, sentence or maybe even a lyric or line of poetry which could be attributed to it. They announce it to the rest of the group. After some thinking time, the other players then surrender one of their cards to the storyteller that they feel could best fit that description. Cards are shuffled and laid face up in a line (including the original card). Players vote on which card they think belongs to the storyteller.
Playing this game feels like being given permission to day dream. Regular playing, I feel, is a great way of helping families connect with their inner storyteller, and build confidence in creative fiction. Play lasts about 30 minutes. Recommended for 8 years +
Taco Cat Goat Cheese Pizza
When I first heard about this game, it was a little tempting to dismiss it as an over-hyped faddy offering. Luckily we reviewed TCGCP and its brilliance soon became evident (around 2 minutes in when we were all roaring with laughter).
It is wonderfully silly. It doesn't try and be too clever. It is essentially snap where the words being spoken have to match the picture on the top card. But then there are some special action cards thrown it, which just keeps everyone on the edge of their seats. Release your inner Narwal. Stick this in a stocking this Christmas, you won't regret it. As an added bonus, once this kids are in bed, it makes an excellent drinking game (that bit is unofficial).
For players 8 years +
This has been a bestseller of our for the last few years. It is a simply wonderful addition to any stocking. Sleeping Queens relies on strategy, quick thinking and a little luck. Created by 6 year old Miranda Evarts (with a little help from her big sister) when she couldn't fall asleep one night. The cards are delightful, especially the wonderfully illustrated queens.
This is a simple game that is a great alternative to Uno. It is a small but significant step up (and provides some much needed variety to card games for young players). As my girls have got older and more sophisticated in their play they have added some extra rules to keep things challenging.
Manufacturer recommends for players aged 8 years + (but we have found popular with younger reviewers of approx 6 years + who are used to playing card games).
For fast furious fun, we love love LOVE this one.
You may remember the childhood slide puzzles of old, where there were moving tiles in a disjointed pattern and one space on the grid. By sliding tiles into the space you could reassemble the picture. Flash 8 is based on the same premise.
Each player has their own grid and it is a race to be the first to match the configuration on one of the cards in the middle.
Utterly engrossing. A wonderful grey matter work out. You'll be screaming in frustration one moment (when you get pipped to the post), and then urging everyone to move on to the next round.
If every one gets too cross with you, there is always single player mode.
For player 7 years +
One of our classic games. Not a huge seller for us, which I suspect is due to the packaging (little bit 80s) but this award winning game has a very deserved place on this list.
Pentago is perfect for fans of Connect 4 who are ready for the next challenge.
The aim is to be the first to get five-in-a-row. Line up your marbles but be careful - the tables can turn in an instant. Every time you place a marble, you turn one of the four moveable squares on the board.
Opportunities come and go - can you spot them before your opponent does? Can you surprise with the winning line that your adversary didn't see coming? A great mix of strategy, reaction, and just a little bit of luck.
For players 8 years +
So there we have it. I could continue but I know blogs can get a bit blah if they go on too long . . . Would love to know if you have tried any of these offerings. Or let us know what games you think we should stock. We always love recommendations.
Small and mighty. Fabulous things for stockings.
01 December 2021 -
There may be something bigger and officially more impressive waiting under the tree, but it is those Christmas mornings in bed with an oversized sock that we remember mostly warmly. So here are some stocking suggestions, from us to you. Read more...
BOOK REVIEW - The Girl Guide by Marawa Ibrahim
10 May 2021 -
If this book were a person it would be a cool, straight-talking American cousin who came to stay for the weekend, took your tween or young teen out for ice-cream and without embarrassment demystified the changes a girl’s body goes through in puberty. It is fresh, modern, factual and without apology. Read more...
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