Quick Look: Bah Humbug: A Twelve Days of Christmas Bluffing Game
Designer: Emily Willix
Artists: Olha Bondarenko
Publisher: Small Furry Games
Year Published: 2021
No. of Players: 2-4
Playing Time: 10-30 minutes
Mail your True Love one Christmas card each day—and be sure to boast to everyone else about it. In order to keep up with all the other suitors, you might have to lie about what you’ve sent. But lying is half the fun! Will you win by being the sneakiest liar, or by catching others in THEIR lies?
Bah! Humbug! is a bluffing and deduction card game that uses a special card deck based on the traditional “Twelve Days of Christmas” carol (12 x Drummers Drumming, 11 x Pipers Piping, etc.) plus a deck of 12 cards that form a circular wreath or calendar in the center of the table.
Each round, players are dealt a hand of Christmas cards. They then take turns secretly mailing 1 Christmas card to their True Love (playing a card face-down on the calendar). These cards are played in descending order, from 12 to 1. As each player boasts about what card they’ve sent, other players may shout, “Bah! Humbug!” to catch them in a lie. Lies that go unchallenged are awarded “coal” at the end of the round, while lies that are successfully caught earn the accuser 1 “holly berry” (or take away holly berries, if the accuser is wrong.)
A player can win Bah! Humbug! in either of two ways: by being the most successful liar (collecting the most coal tokens), or by being the best at catching other liars (collecting the most holly berries).
“The Twelve Days of Christmas” is one of my favorite Christmas Carols. So, when I saw a print and play game based on it, I had to see for myself how different it was from 12 Days. Both are card games. Both are centered around the theme of the Christmas carol. But that is about it. Bah! Humbug! has bluffing and tokens! I eagerly downloaded, printed, laminated, cut apart, and set out to lie my way to victory!
Rules & Setup:
First, set the 12 wreath cards in the center of the playing area in the shape of a wreath. This should look like a clock when you are done. Set the Bah Humbug/Letterbox card in the center, letterbox side up. Shuffle the rest of the deck together and deal each player (the more the merrier) 8 cards (or 10 if you only have 2 players). Place the 17 coal tokens and 10 berry tokens in the center of the wreath as well. You will have to supply these yourself. Give the first player the designated first player token (once again you supply this), and you are ready to go.
Theme and Mechanics:
The theme of the game is that we are mailing our loved ones the presents from the famous song “The Twelve Days of Christmas.” As I said, this is my favorite Christmas song behind “Carol of the Bells.” Mechanically, this is a bluffing game. You either play the card required, or you lie about it. That’s right, you lie in Christmas game. I do believe there is another Christmas carol about Santa knowing if you have been bad or good. So… Anyway, the mechanic works well. The amount of cards equal to the day’s number are in the deck. One card shows the partridge in the pear tree, two have turtle doves, etc. The other aspect of the mechanic is card counting. Keeping track of how many of each card has been played. It is a fun deduction mechanic.
The first player will start by reciting, “On the 12th day of Christmas, my true love gave to me 12 drummers drumming.” Then, place a card facedown by the 12 of the wreath. Then pause, giving everyone a chance to decide if you actually played a 12 drummers drumming card or not. You don’t have to play the designated card for that day. As a matter of fact, you can win by lying and getting away with it more than the other players! We usually just asked, “Anyone doubt it?” If not, the next player moves to the next day and the next line of the song. Eleven pipers piping, ten lord a leaping, etc, until someone calls “Bah! Humbug!” That player would then flip the card in the middle of the wreath that side. The other way the round ends is if someone gets all the way to the Partridge in the pear tree card.
How do you know whether to call the bluff? Each day has that many cards in the deck. That means, there are 12 drummers drumming cards, but only 5 gold ring cards, and 1 partridge in the pear tree card. When each round ends, by either method, the cards used are picked up and placed on the bottom of the deck. Pay attention to what was played!
So, the round has ended. If a Bah! Humbug! was called, the last card is flipped. If it is the correct card, the accused takes a berry from the accuser. If the accuser does not have any, a berry is taken from the stash in the middle. If the card is NOT correct, the accuser takes a berry from the liar, or the stash if the liar has none. There is a third outcome, the postman card. I will get to him in a moment.
After resolving the “Bah Humbug,” or if you reach the 1, you resolve the cards played on the wreath one at a time. Flip the cards over, starting at the lowest value. If the matches, nothing happens. If it doesn’t match, place a coal token on it. Continue doing this until you reach the 12 or the postman. Again, more on him in a moment. If you uncover the postman card, STOP flipping over cards. The rest of the cards will not be revealed. Anyone that successfully lied gets to take a maximum of one coal token, no matter how many lies they told.
Finally, the postman. If he is revealed, he is treated as being the correct card. In the case of a “Bah Humbug”, a berry goes to the player that played him. Whether he is revealed, or you reach the 12, all played cards are shuffled and placed on the bottom of the draw pile. A new round is dealt, and the first player token moves to the left.
End game occurs when a single player has either 5 coal or 3 berries (7 or 5 in 2-player).
Artwork and Components:
The artwork by Olha Bondarenko fits the theme very well. It feels like it came straight out of Charles Dicken’s A Christmas Carol world as imagined through the eyes of Arnold Lobel’s beloved Frog & Toad books. Each of the cards looks unique. My favorite depiction is the 9th day. I just like the nine ladybugs dancing. Honestly, though, all of them are amazingly drawn. This game just looks beautiful.
As for components, you must supply your own first player token, coal cubes, and berry cubes. I do wish that Olha Bondarenko had made some chits for these components that could have been printed off and used. A coal and berry chit would have hammered the theme home a little more!
Bah! Humbug! looks beautiful when played out on your table. The game is quick and easy to learn and teach. It fits its theme perfectly. Mechanically, it is a solid filler game. There is a lot to love about Bah! Humbug!
As far a print and plays go, Bah! Humbug! only has three misses. First, the Bah Humbug and Mailbox card. There is no need for it to be two-sided. They could easily serve the same purpose as two different cards. I am not that advanced in my PDF manipulation as others, so creating the two-sided card with he fold is harder than it should be. So, I just made two separate cards, and nothing changed. Secondly, the formatting of the rulebook is a bit of a mess. This could use a little work to make it a bit more printer friendly. Lastly, I know that I have a lot of game bits around my house. Other people might not. Adding a sheet at the end that is just coal and berry chits along with a first player marker would be nice. It also gives a chance to add to the theme. A black cube looks less like coal than a nice chit with a coal depiction.
My only gameplay complaint comes from the central idea. You are trying to lie in a Christmas game. If you are successful, you get a piece of coal. And that is a good thing! So, it is a little weird in that you are rewarded for being bad.
I love this quick hit filler game. Bah! Humbug! scratches the itch well. It is simpler than social deduction games. It is easy to teach. It plays fast. I will be using this game every holiday season, and maybe not in the holidays, to play a game while waiting on everyone to show up to the game night. It is simple enough, and strategic enough, that it goes well with a nice mug of mulled wine or glass of eggnog. Happy Holidays!
Players Who Like:
Bluffing, fast filler games, getting coal for Christmas (but in a good way?)
Find out more at BGG.
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