Christmas Lights, from THA Games, is a wonderfully fun small box game in which players are racing against each other to be the first to complete a working set of christmas lights. We all know the frustration of pulling out strands of lights only to plug them in and have them not work. The game combines elements of trading, memory, hand management and deduction together to create an easy to learn, thematic experience.
In Christmas lights, player’s first draw a pattern card – which they keep hidden during play. This card depicts the order in which they must play the coloured bulbs to complete their sets of lights. Next, the players are dealt a hand of five cards which depict the six coloured bulbs, broken bulbs and plugs – but don’t forget, you aren’t allowed to look at you own cards! Hold your cards backwards so that other players can see your cards, and you can see your opponents cards.
On a player’s turn, you must Yankee Swap a card from your hand to an opponent’s, Play a card, host a Yard Sale, and finally Draw back up to five cards.
The Yankee Swap, provides you the opportunity of trading a potentially unknown card out of your hand for a known card from an opponent’s. The only drawback here being of course that you could unwittingly give away the very card you needed, or give your opponent exactly what they need.
When you Play a card, you aren’t always guaranteed to be able to use the card. If the card you played doesn’t happen to fit into your sequence next, it is discarded instead.
The Yard Sale is a very cool aspect of the game, where players put down one card from their hand in addition to the top card off the deck. Out of the two cards presented, the active player may choose one to play, or may offer a choice of the cards to an opponent in exchange for information. The player asks a question attempting to glean information about the unknown cards in their hand, and if the selected opponent agrees on the question, the exchange takes place. Of course your opponent may not wish to disclose the information requested or no one may be able to use the cards presented – as you must immediately play the card, it cannot be placed into your hand.
After the the previous three phases are complete, the player Draws back up to five cards – being careful not to look at them of course – and play continues to the next player.
There are six different coloured bulbs, which you must play out in order based on your pattern card – but there are also broken bulbs and plugs.
The broken bulbs allow a player to fill a slot, so they can move on with the rest of the pattern and don’t get stuck forever. However, players must place the correct coloured bulb on top of the broken bulb before a plug can be placed at the end of the pattern to complete the set.
The first player to correctly play three sets of bulbs, following their specific pattern, with a plug finishing each set, is the winner. Any ties are broken by the player who used the least broken bulbs, so choose wisely when to utilize them.
Components and Art
The copy of Christmas Lights that I have been playing with is a prototype, though the final product will be very similar just with upgraded quality and perhaps some small changes. As is, the game has a simple yet thematic art design to it, which provides a comforting, familiar feeling. The box is sturdy and is small to make it easy for storage and transport.
Overall, Christmas Lights is an enjoyable experience. Gameplay is light but engaging, and games don’t feel like they drag on. I will say that I find it plays better with three/four players as there is more opportunity for exchange during the “Yard Sale” step. For anyone that’s a Holiday fanatic, definitely a must have for the collection.
Christmas Lights is currently on Kickstarter, so if you are looking to add a fun Holiday themed game to your collection, or perhaps have someone who might enjoy a stocking stuffer, check out the campaign here.