We shared not long ago that Calliope Games, the publisher that brought you Tsuro, had taken over publishing 12 Days, a holiday card game that came to life via Kickstarter in 2012. Today, we are reviewing the Calliope Games edition of 12 Days. Most people know the song full of french hens, pipers piping, and so on. 12 Days is a tactical card game of set collection and victory point scoring that will get you and your family in the holiday mood!
12 Days comes in a small box and contains the following :
- 12 Holiday Cards
- 12 Drummers drumming cards
- 11 Pipers piping cards
- 10 Lords a-leaping cards
- 9 Ladies dancing cards
- 8 Maids a-milking cards
- 7 Swans a-swimming cards
- 6 Geese a-laying cards
- 5 Golden rings cards
- 4 Colly birds cards
- 3 French hens cards
- 2 Turtle dove cards
- 1 Partridge in a pear tree card
- 1 Santa Claus card
- 1 Mrs. Claus card
The art on the cards is very bright and drawn in a stained-glass style by Echo Chernik.
How To Play
A player will shuffle the deck of cards numbered 0-12 and deal 12 cards to each player. Take the 12 Holiday cards (white bordered cards) and place them in an ordered stack with day 12 at the bottom, and day 1 on top.
The important thing you need to know and share with new players going into this game is the following. During the game, you want to play low-numbered cards to win Holiday cards in the 12 rounds – the lowest value card played will win that day. So why hold on to high value cards? The player with the most cards of any value in their hand at the end of the 12 days will score bonus points, so make sure you keep this in mind. It is also worth noting the 0 value Santa and Mrs. Claus cards. These cards can cancel each other out, and are considered the lowest value and can be used to score day cards but with a twist. If you win a Holiday card with a Claus card, you MUST gift that card to another player.
Each round (or day) consists of 3 steps.
Step 1 is to pass a card from your hand to the player on your left.
Step 2 is to play a card face down as your bid card for the current day. All players flip their cards at this time and compare. The player with the lowest value card takes the card for the day! If there is a tie for lowest value, those cards are ignored and the card goes to the next lowest value. If there is a tie among all players, then no one wins that day! That day card is paired with the next day’s card and the winner of the next day wins both cards.
Step 3 is for players to draw back up to 12 cards.
This process continues until all 12 day cards have been scored and all players have 12 cards in their hand (complete step 3 of the 12th round).
Players will discuss to see which player has the most 1 value cards, 2 value cards, 3 value cards, etc in their hands. If you have the most 7 value cards, place one on top of your scored Holiday cards, and do this for all values 1-12. Then count up the points on your cards, the player with the most points wins!
On The 8th Round of 12 Days, My True Love Gave To Me…
As far as ease of learning, 12 Days was pleasantly simple. While the rules aren’t lengthy and the game is fairly straight-forward, there is a decent amount of strategy involved. Do you pass high cards to give other players an advantage in the bidding rounds for gift cards, or do you pass high ones – risking that they could be collecting these for end-game scoring.
We played 3 games in less than an hour on the first night, and the game seemed harder as we went on, but it was because we were getting better at developing strategy of what to keep and what to hold on to. I found myself in a lot of situations where I risked breaking up sets I wanted to collect for the end game or handing over some very low value cards. Timing of when you have this cards matters too – sometimes it is better to pass low value cards in the beginning because you want the later cards, but you may want to hold them for an advantage in those last few rounds.
The Claus cards were a nice touch – as you can actually “gift” them to other players – in one game a player only had one gift card and it was a low value, so I played it to win a 6 value gift card and gave it to them. Otherwise, getting the 0 value cards out of your hand as quick as possible seemed to be the best thing to do. You don’t want it in your hand at the end, because it is obviously worth nothing.
Knowing that there are only a set number of each card, players who like to play with probability may have an advantage in this game, but basic counting can make a difference. For example, let’s say you’ve collected six 10 value cards. There’s only 10 of them in the game, and you have 60% of the ones in the deck in your hand : you’re going to get those 10 points at the end of the game.
My biggest complaint about the game is that I wish there was some variant where you don’t always pass cards “to the player on the left”. If I am discarding cards of high (or low) value, the player on the left can be constantly collecting these cards. Depending on their hand that could mean nothing, but it could mean that you’ve handed them enough cards to win the game.
A wonderful stocking stuffer and gift for the holidays, 12 Days costs $12.00 and won’t break the bank. A great small-party game for up to 5 players, or up to 8 if you combine 2 copies of the game together. Realistically, 12 Days would be a good strategy-based card game for any time of the year, but the art style will absolutely get you and your friends and family in the Christmas spirit, which is one of the best gifts of all!
- Great theme
- Beautiful art
- Ever-changing strategy for replayability
- Quick to learn, set up, and play
- Uni-directional card passing can work against player