12 Days

12 Jan


On the 12th day of January, the internet gave to me, a review of 12 Days… a Christmas themed card game designed by James Ernest and Mike Selinker.  Two famous designers.  A famous theme.   Do the two add up to a game worthy of future family holidays?  And, how ridiculous should you feel trying to get this game played anytime other than the week before Christmas?

12 Days by Gamesmith, LLC

12 Days is a simultaneous play trick-taking card game, with a hint of hand management.  I can feel many of you leaving right now, but please bear with me.    12 Days is family friendly, absolutely gorgeous to look at, and only only takes 15 minutes or so to play… how far wrong can it all go?

The Unboxing


Inside the box, you get 92 cards and a sheet of instructions.  The rules do a wonderful job of making the game clear to play and teach.  The ease of play belies the depth of strategy just a little bit.  On the front of the box, it even suggests the game only takes 2 minutes to learn.  I would say that the second half of the game MAY take some more explanation, but even then…you should be up and running within 5 minutes.

How does it look?

I can honestly say that the cards in 12 Days are some of the best looking cards I have ever laid eyes on.  The artist’s name is Echo Chernik.  Check out more of her art here.  I feel like she needs some special recognition for making this package what it is.  To be honest, (and even James Ernest has said so much) this game can be played with a Great Dalmuti deck.  The rules are available for free at http://cheapass.com/freegames/12days.  However, it is the card art makes this edition THE one to get, if this game sounds good to you.


How do I win?

12 Days is played over two rounds.  In the first round, you are trying to win “gift” cards.  The player that plays the lowest numbered card wins the trick, and gains the gift card for the round.  The first trick is played for 1 point, and it goes up to 12 points for the final trick.  In the second half of the game, players will gain points based on who has the most of each numbered card in hand.  Whoever has the most points wins.

How do you play?

As I stated before, the game is played in two parts.  I’ll call them the Gift Rounds, and the Bonus Round.

Gift Rounds

Each player is dealt 12 cards at the beginning of the game.  Each trick starts with players passing 1 card to the player on their left.  The next step, each player plays a card, face down, to the center of the table with the goal of trying to win the gift card.  Once each player has chosen a card, they are all flipped over and compared.  The lowest numbered card (with one exception) wins, and gains the gift card for that round.


There are two special cards to note.  Santa and Mrs. Claus!  They are rank 0, meaning they trump everything.  However, if you win a hand using them…you have to give the gift card to another player!  A very clever twist.  If for some reason, there is a tie for lowest card…then the NEXT lowest card takes the gift card!  And if there is no winner, the gift card carries over until the next round (a la golf Skins Game scoring).

Bonus Round

Once all 12 gift cards are gone…players still have a hand of 12 cards.  You then start with rank 1, and find out who is holding the most of each rank’s cards.  If someone is holding the most of any given numbered card, they add just one of those cards to their score pile, as bonus points.  If there is a tie, all tied players get to add a card to their score pile.

What do you think?

I’m pretty enamored with this game.  I love short, little games like this.  I can’t help but have a smile on my face.  Even as I’m banging my head against the table when my 3 gets tied, and the guy playing a 12 wins the 11 point card.  It’s a chaotic game, to be sure.  But I think the game’s length and game style really begs for that chaos.  12 Days plays 3-5 players, and I find it much better with four and five players than with three.  Although, with three players, it is easier to “count” cards, and use that to your advantage. Even that little bit of control does go out the window with 4-5, because there will be a reshuffle of discards.

The rules also suggest that with two decks, you can play up to eight players.  I think that would be a riot and a half.

Final Thought

If you can’t handle chaos, don’t play this game.  Of course, you probably tuned out of this review long ago, content to sit in the corner slowly stroking the box to the latest frowning middle age farmer game anyway.  I have mentioned there is a lot of chaos in the game, but I don’t want it to sound like you can just play it randomly like a Fluxx-style game.  You still have lots of decisions to make because you are trying to groom a hand of cards that will work for you in the second half of the game.

I liken this game quite favorably to For Sale… another one of my favorite filler games.  You have lots of meaningful decisions, but there’s still a fair amount of luck involved. I actually think this may work even better for some than For Sale, if only because there’s no auctions.

The only downside I can really think of is that I have no idea how to get a copy of this version of the game right now.  If you go to The 12 Days website  they point people to the Kickstarter page, which ended last October.  Still, there’s the free PDF (linked above) and even links to an Artscow deck…but the true way to play the game is with the new artwork.  I hope this version sneaks onto store shelves very soon.  Even if it’s not the right season.

Oh, there’s also a Hannukah variant included.  How awesome is that?

4 Responses to “12 Days”

  1. Michael Webb November 27, 2013 at 12:16 pm #

    The game is available in retail stores this holiday season!

    • Snow White November 4, 2014 at 7:29 pm #

      Only problem I might have with it is that the set wouldn’t have a box, and that they’ll only be regular card size (I believe from watching tabletop that they were larger?)

      • scooterb23 November 5, 2014 at 7:13 am #

        The cards I got were regular sized through the Kickstarter campaign. Looking very quickly at the Tabletop episode, it looked like they had regular sized cards as well.

        I’ve never used Drive-Thru Cards (but I probably should at some point) so I don’t know what kind of packaging you would get if you ordered through them. The game came in a fairly standard (but cheap) tuckbox, much like many card games in mass-market stores.

        At worst, you could go to your friendly local game store, and get a small Ultra Pro deck box to hold the cards in. By my count, there are under 100 cards in this game, So even the item below would work.


        Thanks for the comment! Enjoy the game.

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