Late 2015 Calliope released 2 titles in a small box format. One of them was 12 Days designed by James Ernest and Mike Selinker and published under license from Lone Shark Games. 12 Days is a casual family style card game that is a reverse trick taking game as well as a set collection game of sorts revolving around the theme of the 12 Days of Christmas.
12 Days is a card game for 3-5 players, ages 8+ that plays in about 15 minutes. The setting of the game is set around The Twelve Days of Christmas with cards in the game revolving around that. The components in the game are: 92 cards, with 80 of them being gift cards and 12 being Holiday Cards. The Gift cards are made up of cards representing the different gifts from each of the days in the Christmas Carol. In addition each card has a different number in the deck based upon the day of Christmas. For example, in the deck there are 6 of the Geese-a-laying cards, while only 2 of the Turtle Dove Cards. Each card has their numerical value printed in the upper left corner of the card. There are also 2 special cards in the gift deck: Santa and Mrs. Claus. The Holiday Deck contains 12 numbered Day Cards one for each of the 12 rounds of the game and they represent how many points that day is worth.
The rules of the game are simple, yet the game has a bit of strategy in it. Keep in mind the game is a light style filler and would be on par with the same difficulty as playing traditional card games like Hearts or Spades. Before I get into how to play the game, the interesting thing about 12 Days is there are 2 ways to score points. The whole game revolves around hand management and the cards you want to use to score points one way are not basically the cards you want to use to score points the other way, keeping players engaged the whole time.
To play the game, arrange the Holiday Deck in numerical order starting with Day 1 on Top. Shuffle the Gift Deck and deal each player 12 cards. This is the player’s hand is kept secret from other players. The rest of the cards are placed face down in the center of the table as a draw deck. There are no player turns as the game is played simultaneously, making for the game to move at a good pace.
For each round, or in the game, called a day, each player passes one Gift card from their hand to the player on their left. That card is placed face down and slid to the player on the left. The card passed to each player is then taken into his or her hand. Next, players will play a card from their hand in an attempt to win the Day. Each player selects a card and places it face down in front of them. To win the Day, the lowest value card played is the one that wins. Players simultaneously reveal their played cards and the Day card is awarded to the player who played the best Gift card, which is the one with the lowest value.
There are 2 Claus cards in the deck that both carry a value of 0 and will win the Day. However, instead of taking that Holiday card for themselves, they must give that Holiday card to a player of their choice.
If both Claus cards are played by players, they cancel each other out. With ties for the Day, the tied cards cancel each other out, and the player with the next lowest value card wins the Day. If all players are tied, no one wins the Day card that round and it will be awarded the next round along with the next Day card. The winning player takes the Holiday card and places it face up in front of him or herself. The number of the day represents the number of points won, so earlier days are not worth as many points as the later days. Finally each player draws a card to bring their hand back up to 12 cards. While trying to win Day cards is a way to score points during the game by playing low value cards, players are also trying to build their hand into sets of cards to receive bonus points at the end of the game. Once the final Holiday card has been awarded, players earn bonus points for the Gift Cards they hold in their hands. Points are awarded for the majority of each Gift card and players receive that number of points, by placing one of the Gift cards into their scoring pile. For example, whoever has the most 6 cards will earn 6 points, and so forth. If players are tied for the most cards, all tied players receive the full points for that Gift. Players total all their points and whoever has the most points wins.
Right away, I know this game is going to appeal to people who like strategic card games. It will fall into the wheel house of those who like games like 6 Nimmt!, Link0, Tichu, Hearts, Spades, etc. Designer James Ernest released a Pub-style card game in 2014, which I very much enjoyed and I like how this game has a similar deck makeup with the pyramid, meaning there are 1, 1s, 2 2s, 3 3s, etc. The component quality is good with decent card stock that has a slight linen finish. I love the artwork on the cards, reminding me of stained glass for each picture, although keep and eye on the 11s and 12s as the cards look very similar.
Like the game Thieves! that was released along with 12 Days, the black borders on the cards may become subject to wear and may cause marking, so I recommend sleeves for these cards. In sleeving the cards, they will not fit in the original box, but a deck box that can hold a Commander deck for the card game Magic the Gathering will hold the game and the rules. The rules of the game are simple, yet the way the game plays out, offers a bit of a challenge to those playing. This is a casual strategic card game and families can certainly enjoy this as well as a gamer crowd too. I like the strategic elements of building your hand and passing cards, and then also the gamble of what card to play to try to win the Day card. With the Claus cards in the deck, you never know if on the 12th Day, playing the 1 Partridge in a Pear Tree is enough to win the 12 points or not.
There is a variant in the rules to make the game even more challenging called 8 Nights, where cards are removed and hand size is 8 and there are only 8 rounds. Another nice feature to this game is that if you want to accommodate up to 8 players combine the Gift cards from 2 12 Days games together.
We enjoyed this game, even including the youngest players in the house who are ages 7 and 9. They really enjoy a game called Cover Your A$$ets and so this was right up their alley. We played a number of games of this in one evening and had a fun time playing it. Even though the game has a Christmas theme and would be more suited for play around the holidays, I think the game can be played any time of the year. I think that beautiful card art, simple rules, a quick-playing time and a challenge while playing earn praises from me and a recommendation for those looking for a casual strategic card game with some cool elements that will appeal to a wide audience.