Happy Groundhog Day! Like Punxsutawney Phil, we’re finally emerging with a bit of good news: we’re ready to announce the Top 3 (and winner) of the 18-Card Holiday Challenge! We’ve been steadily playing, analyzing, and discussing our favorite entries from the 15 finalists. As we narrowed down our lists we had to cut some really excellent games. For this challenge in particular, we needed to balance thematic considerations alongside the mechanical ones. We feel the games we chose truly celebrated their chosen holiday while still being interesting and fun to play. As a reminder, here are our 15 finalists. You can read more about each of them in our finalist post here.
Ascent! The Bristol Balloon Fiesta Game - Jacques Carver
Christmas Cutthroats - Nick Huster & Diana Lanzas Calero
Clowder - Nate LaFave
Dionysia - Franco De Joya & Joebyn Sewell
Dyngus Day - Corey Andalora
Find the Afikomen - Marceline Leiman
Gifts Swap - Poki Chen
Krampusnacht - Adam Danoff
Leaping Lions - Darryl Tan
Lest We Forget - Nick Smith
Noche Buena - Juan Miguel Ala-Tolentino
Parol - Christmas Lanterns - Ricky Andrade Jr.
Sir Gawain & the Green Knight - A Yuletide Quest - Josiah Miles
Then to the Maypole - Mark Tuck
Ugly Christmas Sweater - Jeremy Henderson
Gifts Swap - by Poki Chen
We saw a few games about swapping gifts around, White Elephant style, but what makes Gifts Swap stand out is the way it gives players just enough information to make their decisions. As players peek at or open their gifts they learn more about what remains, allowing them to slowly uncover their strategy. A sprinkling of special abilities and scoring tweaks leaves just enough depth for players to maneuver without overwhelming new players. This casual but compelling game is perfect for loved ones to enjoy together on Christmas morning.
Dionysia - by Franco De Joya & Joebyn Sewell
Dionysia hit the holiday theme from an unusual angle by commemorating the festivals for Dionysus common to ancient Greece. This interesting and unexpected theme isn’t just set dressing: it carries through the whole game. From the cards being placed across a standard 3-act structure to the specific scenes available and the use of upstaging/downstaging to splay cards, Dionysia hit all the right notes. And its novel scoring mechanic, where players need to create specific lines of icons across their 9 cards to match their scoring scenes, earned applause from our judges.
And the Winner is...
Leaping Lions - by Darryl Tan
This Malaysian take on Chinese New Year delivered on everything we were looking for. Vibrant and elegant, it celebrated its holiday theme in every aspect of play. Seeing the lion dance across the platforms is pure fun, but it’s the complex interplay between the various platform cards that really makes the game shine. Every game requires a delicate dance between choosing unique abilities or scoring elements, playing cards or discarding them for upgrades, and managing the pool of draftable cards for the next turn. With a variety of ways to score and the potential for explosive combos, our games were full of big exciting moments that made us want to play Leaping Lions again and again.
Congratulations to the winner, our runners-up, our finalists, and everyone who submitted! We’re already working on plans for the next 18-card challenge which we are excited to announce as soon as it’s ready. For all the latest information on challenges, as well as a supportive community of designers across all skill levels and styles, join the Button Shy Discord here: https://discord.gg/aUBMvnu