5 Small Box Games to Entertain Over the Holidays

Reading Time: 9 minutes

small box games to entertain We love board games here at GeekDad, as you know if you follow us with any regularity or take a look at the weekly round-up of games played in our ReRoll column. The holiday season is upon, along with, for many of us, several months of grotty, inclement weather (he says, looking out of the window). It’s perfect game playing time.

Whilst, huge sweeping strategic games are great to play and can take up those long winter hours, they’re time-consuming and often have age barriers, which can cause family strife. During a hectic holiday period, when you’re caught up in the social whirl of the season, you want games that are quick to set up, fast to play and even faster to explain. Here then are 5 small box games to entertain over the holiday period.

1. Soundiculous

Soundiculous by the UK’s Gamely Games is the next logical evolution of the game of charades, we’ve had miming (I played Masquerade endlessly in my formative years), drawing (Pictionary), describing (Who’s in the Bag, Articulate) and, err, making things with dough (Rapidough). Now, with Soundiculous, we have making noises. Yes, it’s time to sit on your hands and let your mouth do the talking. Well, not talking because that would make the game rather easy. In Soundiculous players have to become the thing they are describing, with their very best impersonation of it.

How does it work?

The game is for 3 or more players and can last for as little or as long as you want to play.

With no miming or gesticulating you have to make the sound of the word written on your card. Cards are divided into three categories Easy, Medium, and Hard. On your turn, you can pick a card from any of the 3 piles, Easy will score you 1 point, medium 2, and hard 3. Each card is dived into two halves, with a word on each side. Before the game starts, players decide between them whether they will use the pink side or the red side of the cards.

After you’ve drawn your card you have to make the noise of your chosen clue. If the card is guessed you put the card between you and the person who guessed the card. You will both score the points at the end of the game. After your turn is complete, whether your impression was successfully guessed or not, play passes to the next player on your left.

Is it fun?

Soundiculous is great fun. It’s silly and just about anybody can join in, as long as they don’t mind mooing like a cow or whooshing like an airplane. I have to say due to the disparate ages in our family, we don’t tend to play by the rules. We usually allow the sounding out of either of the words on the cards (and sometimes both), and we rarely bother scoring.

We just sit around the table and make noises at each other. The main sound is laughter. You don’t actually need a table either, the game is extremely portable and can be played just about anywhere. The only restriction would be how embarrassed you might be by complete strangers hearing you thrash out your best fox sounds…

2. The Pretender.

With The Pretender, Gamely take the basic charades game and add a bluffing element. In this version, everybody knows what’s being mimed except one person – the pretender. Each person has to mime what’s on the card and the pretender has to attempt to work out what they might be miming and act out their own mime that fits in with it.

Mimes are in categories, so the Pretender does at least have half a chance at miming something vaguely related. As with Soundiculous, cards have two halves, with a category on each side. Each category has 10 possible mimes (which are selected by one person shouting out a number. That person then goes first.) and there are 18 categories altogether. Each player is given a card – category cards are identical except the pretender’s card will have “pretender” written 10 times, instead of any mime cues.

After everybody has had a turn, players simultaneously guess which person they think is the pretender. If nobody guesses correctly then the pretender scores a point. Otherwise, those who guessed scored a point, but the pretender can also score if they correctly guess what it was the other players were miming. Miming can be tricky because if you perform too good a mime, then the pretender will easily guess what the clue is and blend in accordingly. If your mime is too vague, then again, it’s easy for the pretender to hide.

Much like Soundiculous, scoring Pretender is almost beside the point. The game is about having a laugh and probably making a fool of yourself. It’s a clever riff on a family classic. Pretender is a party game for 4-6 players and because of the bluffing nature of the game, it’s for ages 12 upwards.

You can pick up a copy of The Pretender, here in the US and here, in the UK

3. Anomia: Kids.

I love Anomia but I’ve never played with the family. Different reading abilities and the cognitive leaps required to be good at the game are too much for disparate ages. Step up Anomia: Kids. The game is largely the same as Anomia except that there are no words on the cards, only pictures. Other than that the game plays in exactly the same way.

Never played Anomia?

Here’s a quick rundown of how it works.

Each card has two components a picture and a symbol. The symbols on the cards are bold shapes reminiscent of the Zener cards used in the Ghostbusters movie. The pictures are pictures of easily identifiable and well know things.  Players take turns drawing from a central draw deck (or two if there are lots you playing, just to make it easier to reach). Drawn cards are placed face up in front of you. When play returns to you, you place the next card directly on top of your existing cards.

Play continues until two players have a card that has the same SYMBOL (not picture). At this point, we have a “face-off.” The two players whose symbols match will now compete to win one another’s cards.

How will they do this?

It’s pretty simple really, each player has to name something that begins with the same beginning SOUND as the PICTURE on the other player’s card. If two players had the spots symbol, they would be in a face-off with each other. If one player had a picture of a frog in front of them, and the other a boat, the frog player would need to shout out something beginning with “B” and the Boat player something beginning with “F.” The trick to this game is not blurting out something that starts with the picture on your own card. Whoever shouts out first (correctly) wins the card from their opponent.

The removal of a card may, of course, reveal another card that was beneath it, which in turn may bring about a new face-off; a so-called “cascade.” This face-off is immediately resolved, as are any subsequent face-offs. The cascade will continue there are no more matching symbols. Once there are no more face-offs, players begin to draw again starting off with the next person who it was was to draw at the time of the first face-off. Play continues until there are no more cards left to draw.

And that is pretty much it.

There are additional wild cards, which cause additional mayhem. When drawn they sit in the middle of the table for all to see. They have two symbols on them and they provide an extra combination for a face-off to occur. e.g. If there are spots and triangles on the wild card, players with triangles and spots may face-off against one another.

Anomia Kids is for 3 – 6 players, aged 5 and up.

Why Play Anomia Kids?

It’s fast, it’s frenetic, and above all it’s fun. The game still works best with players of a similar age, but the use of pictures and sounds levels the playing field compared with the full game. We’ve played with the whole family and it provides some proper belly laughs as dad manages to completely fluff his answers. You can make things fairer by not allowing older players to repeat any words already used in the game that session. I also gently persuade my older boys from going all out on their six-year-old brother. Like many of these family, party games, it’s not so much about the winning but about sharing laughs with the ones you love. In this respect Anomia: Kids delivers.

You can pick up Anomia Kids, here.

4. Wibbell++ 

I was completely enchanted by Wibbell++ when I played it at the UK Games Expo back in June. Being a tardy fellow, it’s only now that I’ve managed to write about it.  Wibbell++ is a small deck of cards that delivers just about as many playing experiences as you can imagine with more being added all the time. Its creator, Bez, is a force of nature and her creation simple, yet very special. The Wibell++ system actively encourages user creation of fresh new games.

The two games we mainly play are “Grabbell” and “Wibbell,” both of which work for 2-7 players, with 4 probably being the optimum.

What is “Grabbell?”

Grabbell is as simple as they come. Each player takes a card and holds it in their palm face outwards. The rest of the cards are scattered face up on the playing surface. Wibbell++‘s gorgeously stylized alphabetic cards have two letters on them and a border pattern. You then have to match any of the cards lying face up, pick that card up and place in your hand on top of the card already there. (A match is with either of the letters or the cards’ border pattern.) You now have to match that one, and the next and the next, whilst your opponent is doing exactly the same.

At some point, a player will shout out “Grabbell” and slam their pile on the table. Once everybody bar one person has done this, play stops. The last person to shout out gets to keep all the remaining cards on the table. All the players who shouted “Grabbell” get 10 bonus points. Everybody then counts the cards they have in their hand (after checking they didn’t cheat by picking up a wrong card in their chain). The person with the most is the winner. If one player is significantly better than their opponents you can make them play with their card hand up over their head so they have to keep looking up, away from the piles of cards. That should slow them a little.

What is “Wibbell?”

Wibbell is my main goto game for the Wibbell++ deck. It’s a word game that self-corrects for difficulty for players of differing ability. The game starts with two cards face up on the table. Players have to use a letter from each card to form a word. The first person to do so takes a card from the table, which is then replaced. The player then places that card in front of them. From now on they have to use letters from any (and all) of the cards in front of them AND one from each of the cards in the center. Play continues until there are no more cards left. As you can see, the more cards you have the harder the game is.

OK – so I’ve included this in my small box games for the holidays but it’s from a small publisher (Bez herself!), so the likelihood is that you won’t be able to get it in time for Christmas, especially if you live in the US, but here’s the place to go, if you would like a copy or what more information about the myriad ways to play.

5. I saw it First!

Strictly, this isn’t a small-box game because the box is quite large but it does have a small-box simplicity. It’s essentially a massive game of I-Spy. Made by Laurence King (who often feature in my Word Wednesday columns) the game is, as you might expect (LK’s production values are always excellent), beautiful to behold. It has a pleasing but difficult to store triangular box.

The board comes as six triangular pieces that fit together to form a hexagon. The completed board is covered in small pictures of animals, 300 in all. It’s worth noting that the board pieces are double-sided and fit together in any order, meaning there is a number of different combinations in which the animals can be configured. This makes it much harder for regular players of the game to remember where certain species might be hiding.

The rest of the game is a host of animal counters, which are placed in a box and then taken out randomly. The counters have a little picture of an animal on them, and the name of the animal too (this is purely for educational purposes). Players then race to find the animal on the board.

As the pictures aren’t necessarily a) to scale or b) of an animal you’ve ever heard of, spotting the animal can be quite tricky. It is however very addictive. Games last as long as you want them too, which is often a lot longer than I expect, when we all get into it. There’s an added bonus game as one animal is on the board but doesn’t have a chip for it. The challenge is to find who this extra sneaky critter is.

My youngest loves playing I Saw it First! and we’ve learned about all manner of creatures, big and small, since we’ve started playing. I Saw it First is a true entry-level game, that all the family can join in. It is entirely a visual game, however. The artwork is stunning, but it wouldn’t be suitable for people with a visual impairment.

So there we have it, five small box games to entertain over the holidays. What are your favorite quick plays, your go-to games for instant entertainment? Let us know in the comments below.

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Disclosure: GeekDad received a copy of this game for review purposes.

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