A quick glance at our score sheets would have shown that I was clearly in the lead when Christmas Day arrived, ending the game. Little did they know that just before entering December, I had landed on the Family Vacation space requiring me to take a gift with three value cards. Being the only gift I had at that point, all three very high valued cards were attached to the gift which was…coal! I couldn’t get rid of it before the game ended, and the huge debt ($900!) dropped me out of the lead. While it wasn’t my best moment, it was super fulfilling to watch my son cheer after the unexpected win.
Holiday Fever is a delightful game leading a family through a typical Christmas season. Amidst the hustle and bustle of the media-frenzied season, it reminds us of what can still be possible: goodness, kindness, compassion, connections. Take turns shopping around the town of Eastern Star purchasing gifts, incurring and absolving debts, and earning Christmas Spirit. Take your time there or hurry to the month of December to get to Christmas Day first!
I truly didn’t think that the sharing side of Holiday Fever would be so rewarding. It even caught me off guard a bit. Prompted by a Naughty or Nice card, my wife shared a fond and personal memory of Christmas as a child that I had never heard before in 13 years of marriage. Our kids shared very specific memories from years past that we had completely forgotten about. We even added several vacation ideas to our list that our kids brought up after landing on the Family Vacation space! This game is a real-world means to connect with friends and members of your family.
There are SO many fun spaces to land on with many different actions and consequences. After quite a few gameplays, there are still several that I haven’t been able to try. While it can take a bit of time to learn the spaces when you first start playing Holiday Fever (there is a handy glossary to help!), I love this variety. Even the same type of space (like Stores) offer different benefits at different costs. I get quickly bored with the same never-ending, around-and-around games which provide only a slight variation of actions. Holiday Fever is not one of these. =-)
The Naughty or Nice cards are one of the best aspects of the game. They are exciting each time they get drawn. With some requiring immediate play and others which you can save for later, they can quickly tip the scales in your favor. There are even Naughty or Nice spaces which will pay out big time if you roll the correct doubles when you leave that space.
While the game is not overtly comical, there are many aspects that have made us laugh: my coveted $850 pair of sweat pants which I fiercely protected throughout the game or my wife’s $20 pair of diamond earrings (do I detect some cubic zirconia?) or my young daughter’s ginormous lights on her Christmas tree (I’m talking 3-foot-long lights here). Holiday Fever is a game which facilitates those ad hoc funny moments which can’t be auto-generated or forced.
Tips & Tricks
- Read the game introduction before your first play! Without understanding the intentional “virtue or vice” aspect of the game, on the surface it could initially seem like a game promoting a very materialistic Christmas season. It’s definitely not!
- Find a good balance between taking advantage of every store you land on (incurring more debt by purchasing more gifts) and being judicious with your purchases. While we don’t believe in consumer debt as a practice, this would be sage advice for real-world holiday shoppers!
- Don’t forget about your “Play Anytime” Naughty or Nice cards! They won’t do you any good once the game is over.
Scoring & Wrap-up
- Facilitates actual connections between friends and family members
- Great variety of actions and consequences on board spaces and cards
- Naughty or Nice cards!
- Fun integration of light-weight drawing by adding lights and ornaments to your personal Christmas tree
- Festive holiday artwork with the perfect amount of cartoon detail
- Holiday Fever requires a solid reading foundation to play which could exclude some young children. The solution? Help them out or play as a team!
- If any single player races to December for that Christmas Day bonus or to finish the game as quickly as possible (rare), it causes all other players to “keep up” by doing the same. While there are definitely real-world applications to this uber-competitive mentality, it can make for a shorter-than-desired game. I would recommend making it a bit more difficult to enter December so quickly.
Whether its Dad’s awful drawings of Christmas ornaments, Dad’s not-so-great singing ability, or your child’s unintentional facial response when she draws coal, Holiday Fever is guaranteed to induce plenty of smiles and fits of laughter. If the goal of playing board games together is to draw you closer as a family and if you love all things Christmas, Holiday Fever will become a family tradition for many years to come. At the end of our very first game, my wife said, “This is an adorable Christmas game. I really, really liked that.” I couldn’t agree more.
Disclaimer: I received this game for free in exchange for my review, but believe me, I post authentic reviews every time and will be brazenly blunt if needs be.