6 family games you can play at Xmas

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  • Halle Berry
    Halle Berry
    American artist
  • Tom Cruise
    Tom Cruise
    American actor and producer

It’s Christmas day. You’re slumped on the sofa and going cross-eyed after staring at the TV for 11 hours straight. Even worse: small talk with the extended family has run completely dry. Fear not, however – here are some ideas to alleviate that Christmas tedium. All you need: bored relatives, some imagination and possibly a pack of playing cards.

1: Spoons
Good for:
Three or more players. Supposed to be a kids’ game but adults will get seriously into this too.
You’ll need: A normal deck of cards. And some spoons. The title is literal.
How to play: First pick one spoon for each player except one – so six players = five spoons.

Then sort the deck so there are four cards of the same rank for each player. For example – with four players, pick 5s, 6s, 7s and 8s. Shuffle the cards and deal four to each player. Theatrically place the spoons in the middle of the table.

So it begins: players choose one card from their hands and pass it left, whilst picking up a card from their opponent on the right. Think a circular motion. Never have more than four cards.

When a player gets four of a kind, he must – as subtly as possible – take a spoon and place it in front of himself. Last player to grab a spoon – and obviously realise they’re all gone – is eliminated. Game goes on until only one spoon grabber is left.

Will it cause a fight?
All we’ll say is: for goodness’ sake, don’t play with forks instead.

2: Go Fish
Good for: Three-six players works best for this family classic. The vocal element makes it perfect for little ‘uns/gobby drunken adults.
You’ll need:
A normal decks of cards; a good memory
How to play: Deal five cards to each player. Put remaining cards face down in a draw pile.

A random family member goes first and will ask another player for a specific card rank: “Bill, give me your Jacks.” You must hold at least one card you ask for.

If the player has any cards of rank – Jacks in this case – then they must give them to you. If you nab one or more cards, you get another go. You can even ask another player for the same rank.

If Bill doesn’t have any Jacks, however, he says “go fish”. Pick a card from the draw pile. If it’s the rank you’re after, show the players and get another turn. If not, the person who said “go fish” goes next.

If you get four cards of the same rank, place your victorious hand face-up in front of you. Game goes on until either someone has run out of cards, or the draw pile runs out. Win by getting most sets of four.

Will it cause a fight?
The potential for picking on particular players is high, so quite possibly. Plus it’s easy to drunkenly swap “go fish” with a less pleasant command.

3: Charades
Good for: Four or more players of varying ages works best. Be warned – any drama students playing will be insufferable.
You’ll need: Two teams of fairly energetic family members; a stopwatch.
How to play:
Either nominate an independent scorekeeper/timekeeper, or make players from each team take turns.

Each team thinks up one or several “secret” words or phrases – most usually films, TV shows, songs, books etc. that are written on a slip of paper.

Said paper is revealed to one member of the other team. This poor guy/gal becomes the “actor” – and must convey the secret phrase to the rest of his team (“the guessers”) using the power of mime within a limited time period.

Typically no sounds or lip movements can be used, though what exactly is and isn’t allowed can be worked out beforehand. Guessers can make suggestions and ask questions. If the guessers get it within the time, they win – if not, the other team win. Carry on until everyone has had the chance to “act”, then tot up the scores at the end. (Check this for a guide to all the recognised gestures)

Will it cause a fight?
Fairly loose rules mean arguments over supposedly illegal hand gestures can happen. Picking obscure Finnish films for the other team to mime also won’t go down well.

4: Cracker
Good for:
Big, slightly awkward get-togethers where ice-breakage is a must.
You’ll need: Plenty of guests and some paper hats. If necessary, make yourself.
How to play: Give every guest a hat. Then one person (i.e. you – as you know the rules) announces that no one can take off their hat before you do.

Let the conversation start and eventually remove your hat on the sly. People will cotton on, and the hats will start coming off. Last man or woman with a hat on – probably the party bore too busy with a tedious anecdote to notice – is the loser.
Maybe give them a forfeit.

Will it cause a fight? Hopefully not. It’s all about relieving social tension.

5: The Shopping List
Good for: The whole family after the Christmas lunch; or add booze, subtract kids and you have the perfect drinking game.
You’ll need: Just people.
How to play: Sit everyone in a circle. First person starts with: "I went to a shop and I bought...." (feel free to change this to a specific shop).

They then have to add an item beginning with A (artichoke? aspirin?) and it should relate to the shop they are buying from.

The next person repeats the phrase and the item beginning with A, then adds an item beginning with B and so on. Go on until you complete the alphabet.

If you a) pause, b) can’t think of one or c) get one wrong then it’s forfeit time. Either that or the player is knocked out.

Will it cause a fight?
Depends what forfeits are picked...

6: The Name Game

Good for: The whole family - though the really young might struggle.
You’ll need: A vague awareness of celebrity culture.
How to play: Another memory game with a celeb twist. Sit in a circle, and each person says the name of a famous person.

The guest to their right then does the same, but the name must start with the first letter of the surname of the previously mentioned celeb. For example: “Tom Cruise” - “Christine Hamilton” – “Halle Berry” and so on around the table/group.

Some more rules: don’t mention the same name twice and change direction if the first name and surname of the celeb begins with the same letter (“Marilyn Monroe”). Forfeits for: pausing; repeating a name; not answering. Or eliminate people from the game if they slip up.

Will it cause a fight? Possible point of conflict: “You can’t tell me the runner-up to ‘Big Brother 2006’ is a ‘celebrity’!”

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