Five Golden Touques--A Double-Take Review of 12 Days

We know we just celebrated Easter, but today we're traveling back to Christmas to review 12 Days, a trick-taking and set-collection game from Calliope Games. It's for 3-5 players from ages 8 and up. Is 12 Days a gift to gamers, or nothing more than a fruitcake? Let's find out!

The Gameplay

12 Days comes with 12 Day cards, which help you track rounds. The rest of the cards are Gift cards, and come in 12 "suits"--each one corresponding to the name and number from the song. For example, there are 11 Pipers Piping cards, and six Geese a-Laying cards. In addition, there's a Santa card and a Mrs. Claus card. 

After you deal out 12 cards to each player, there are three parts to a turn. 

  1. Pass a Gift card to the left. 
  2. Play a Gift card to the table. 
  3. Refill your hand. 

After passing your card, each player chooses a card and players reveal them simultaneously. The lowest card wins the trick--and if there's a tie, then it's the next lowest that wins. What you win is the Day card for that round. And the Day cards are worth the number value on them, so the cards are more valuable as the Days go on. 

The Santa and Mrs. Clause cards are different. They're each a value of zero, so unless they're both played and cancel each other out, that card will win the trick. But you have to then "gift" the Day card to another player. 

After the hand, each person grabs a new Gift card from the draw pile. 

I mentioned set collection, and that's because after you've played all 12 Days, people will still have 12 cards in their hands. Each person counts the number of each card they still have, and whoever has the most of that number gets that many points added to his or her score. If there's a tie for most, both players get the points. So all those 12 cards won't win you any tricks during the game, but if you have the most at the end, you'll get 12 points. It adds another layer to think about as you're passing and playing cards. 

The Verdict

Firestone--12 Days is a light trick-taking game, but it's a good choice for introducing the whole concept to people. And the theme makes it a good game to play over the holidays.

Jeremiah--The mechanics of 12 Days are super light and very accessible for the casual gamer. I played this a good deal over Christmas break with friends and family. It's fun guessing where the low cards are, who has them, and when they're going to play them--it adds a fun, light tension to the game!

Jeremiah--Most non-gamers have a similar reaction to the Claus cards: "why would anyone want to use that card!?" But in a sense the fat man is a king maker. He's at his best in the mid/late rounds when players are pulling out their low cards. It's maddening to throw down your one just to have a Claus come out and send those points elsewhere. But if you're in a close game it makes a ton of sense to allocate some late round points to another player. Which in turn makes it a closer game and keeps more players involved. 

Firestone--I'm not a big fan of the Claus cards. I don't like king-making, so I don't like cards that force people to become king-makers. 

Jeremiah--For a straight up trick taking card game I have to say that this is some of my favorite artwork, ever! It's a gorgeous stained-glass motif that is simply stunning!

Firestone--The artwork is definitely evocative. 

Firestone's Final Thoughts--It's a fine filler, but there's not much meat there to please gamers. But the theme means it's a great game to bring out with family and nongamers over the holidays, and it's a good introduction to the trick-taking genre. 

Jeremiah's Final Thoughts--While 12 Days isn't the deepest trick taker you'll play, it's fun theme, amazing art, and accessible gameplay make it a wonderful addition to your family gatherings! 

Theology of Games would like to thank Calliope Games for providing review copies of 12 Days. This in no way affected our opinions of the game. 

Thanks for reading!