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Naughty Xmas Review

Quick Look: Naughty Xmas

Designer: Nicolas Marjanovic and Philippe Perret du Cray
Publisher: KAP Innovation
Year Published: 2018
No. of Players: 2-6
Ages: 8+
Playing Time: 30 min

From the publisher:

Santa is about to retire and needs to find a worthy successor. You must distribute as many gifts as possible during Christmas Eve to inherit this prestigious job. But the competition will be tough, as you are just one of many who hope to take his place! During your journey, you may confront a Blocked Chimney, Bad Cold, or Limping Reindeer. Fortunately, you can defend yourself with Bonus cards, such as a Boomerang, Espionage, or Athletic Reindeer.

The simple rules and hilarious characters of this game will give you, your friends, or the entire family hours of fun and laughs!

Review: Naughty Xmas

Overview and Theme:
Let's start here: this game isn't naughty in the adult sort of way! The game was created in Switzerland and sold in Europe in the early 2000's and recently has been translated into English for sale in the US. It's a little unfortunate that the timing brings this game out during the same year that there is a rush of adult versions of games in the stores...when I told my friends I wanted to play Naughty Xmas to review it, they got a little wide-eyed and gestured towards the kids in the room. It's not that kind of naughty!  Think of the word in its old-fashioned context as mildly ill-behaved...are you naughty or nice?.. and you'll be on the right track.

In fact, Naughty Xmas is about trying to deliver gifts on Christmas Eve in order to make Santa proud and become his successor. Your job won't be easy, since your competitors will be naughty and trying to slow you down with the Wrong Address or a Broken Sleigh. Each round is an hour on the clock, and after all 12 hours, the player who has delivered the highest value in gifts will be the winner.

Components and Setup:
Naughty Xmas is a card game in a two-piece box. There are 117 glossy cards including 12 Clock Strike cards and 105 Santa cards. The art is cheerfully cartoony, and we especially liked the Santa-in-the-lineup illustration on the card backs.

To set up, simply set the Clock cards out in a pile with 1 o'clock on the top and 12 o'clock on the bottom.  Shuffle the rest of the cards, deal 5 to each player, and you're ready to begin.

Game Play and Mechanics:
On your turn, you must make 3 moves from the following 4 choices:
  • Distribute a Gift (or Bundle) in front of you
  • Play a Bonus card (for yourself) or a Naughty card (on an opponent)
  • Draw a card from the deck (hand limit of 5)
  • Discard a card
You can do the same move multiple times, but you must use all of your 3 available moves.

When you draw a card, you might draw a blue Action card like Christmas Truce or Elves on Strike. If you draw an Action card, you'll resolve it immediately and then draw a new card to replace it.

The gift cards each have from 1-4 present icons on them, showing how valuable they are, and they can be bundled with Bundle cards to make them more valuable. Bonus cards will give you positive extra effects, such as Booster, which gives you 2 extra moves on this turn. Naughty cards will hurt your opponents, such as Sabotage, which gives an opponent 2 fewer turns on their next turn.

Each time play passes all the way around the table back to the first player, they flip over the top clock card, revealing the next hour. After you have played all 12 hours, the game is over, and you add up the present icons on all the Gifts, Bundles, and applicable Bonus cards in front of you. Highest number of presents is the winner and becomes the new Santa!

The Good:
Naughty Xmas is a light-hearted holiday game. It's easy to learn and teach, and fairly quick to play at about 25-30 minutes playtime. The cartoony art and interesting card ideas are fun for families, and the seasonal theme gives it a place in our December rotation of games.

The Bad:
The translations (including the game's title) are not always easy to understand, and the rulebook is a tiny bit muddled, mostly due to terminology (moves vs. actions vs. strategies), but having an adult read the rules closely and then teach the game works well. Similarly, some of the card text felt just slightly off, or awkward, and although the illustrations are fun, the actual card layouts could be improved just a bit to make gameplay a little smoother.

Players Who Like:
Players who enjoy family-style card games like Mille Bornes or Fluxx and who want to add a Christmas theme to their game nights will enjoy Naughty Xmas.

Final Thoughts:
Naughty Xmas has solidly fun, family-style game play with a little bit of take-that and plenty of player interaction and amusing illustrations. I would love to see a new version with updated card layouts and rule text, but those slight issues don't take away the fun of playing the game with the kids at Christmas time, and we'll keep this one with our December rotation for sure.

Check out Naughty Xmas on:


About the Author:

My name is Alexa: I'm a life-long game player and homeschooling mom to two awesome kids. I've loved board games since my early days playing Scrabble and Gin Rummy with my grandmother, and life only got more interesting when I married a Battletech enthusiast and fellow game lover. We've played games with our kids since they were small, and I helped start a thriving homeschool co-op where we have weekly sessions of board games with kids.  In a family with kids raised on Catan and Pandemic, life is sure to be fun! You may run into me on Twitter, BoardGameGeek, and other social media as MamaGames. Be sure to say hi!
Naughty Xmas Review Naughty Xmas Review Reviewed by MamaGames - Alexa C. on January 07, 2019 Rating: 5

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