Christmas Tree is a board game for 2 to 4 players designed by Nagy Balázs and published by Clevergreen Board Games. In this game you take on the role of a Christmas tree decorator. Your job is to decorate the most beautiful and most precious Christmas tree. The decorator who does the best job wins the game.
I am going to start by explaining the normal game for three to four players. There are a few extra rules to consider when playing with two players or for the family and advanced game but more on this later in this review.
Each player receives a player board in the form of an empty Christmas tree. You form a deck of cards by using the correct amount of glass ornament and wrapped candy cards. Afterwards you shuffle three random gingerbread cards per player into the deck. Each player receives three linzer cookies and 4 randomly chosen objective cards marked with one or two bells and you are ready to start playing.
The game has three rounds and each round has 4 phases. During the first phase each player receives 8 ornament cards. After receiving said cards we immediately go to the second phase where get to choose the objective card for the round and place it face down in the center of the table. When every player has chosen their objective cards they are revealed. Now the players know what will be evaluated and score points at the end of the round.
The third phase of the round is decorating the Christmas tree and uses the core mechanic of the game, drafting. Each player chooses one of the cards in their hand that they want to add to their Christmas tree and places it face down in front of them. Once everybody has chosen their card it is time to reveal them and start decorating the tree by placing it anywhere on the foreseen free spots on their board and even rotate them. Afterwards they pass their remaining cards to the player on their left. After placing a card you also have the option to use one of your linzer cookies if you still have any left. This gives you two options, switching two already placed cards form place even possibly rotating them in the process or simply rotate one already placed card.
This continues until every player has only one card left which is discarded. Afterwards the fourth phase, evaluation, takes place. You check every objective, even the ones your opponents chose, and get snowflakes for each one you completed. After everyone has received their snowflakes for the objectives, these are discarded and it is time to start the next round.
After three rounds your Christmas tree will be fully decorated and a final scoring will occur. During the final scoring you get extra snowflakes for each showing on your glass ornaments and wrapped candies. Your gingerbread cookies gives you more snowflakes depending on the number of correct neighbors it has. A Christmas is not complete without lightbulbs so for each one you completed you get two extra snowflakes. The person with the most snowflakes is the best Christmas tree decorator and wins the game.
Now let us dive deeper into the different game modes. First let us start with the two player game. The setup is the same as the three player game and you sue one neutral player who has its own board. The neutral player always chooses its objective and ornament card at random. He places its card on any free space on its board and his cards only count for objective cards that deal with majorities.
The family game has some differences to the normal game to simplify things. You do not use the linzer cookies and only use the objectives with one bell as these are easier to grasp. The objectives are not dealt to the players, instead during the choose objectives phase three random cards are drawn from the deck and used as the current objectives. The rest of the game plays exact as the normal game.
The advanced game is another story. During setup you use all objectives including the ones with three bells and each player is dealt 5 objective cards and 4 linzer cookies. The objective cards are not revealed once chosen. Instead they place it into their hand and gives it round with their other cards. As soon as their objective card comes back to the original player it is placed face up in the middle of the table. Placing your cards on your tree also differs from the normal game. The first card can placed anywhere on your tree but all subsequent cards much be placed next to an already placed card. The direction of passing the cards also changes from round. The first round they are passed to the left, the second round to the right and the third round to the left again.
Christams Tree is one of those games that is easy enough as a gateway game yet can provide lots of strategy for experienced gamers thanks to all the different game modes. You can even mix and match the rules to your liking. We personally love to play the standard game with all the objectives included. These objectives can make for some interesting choices. When to choose which objective to play, do you prepare for the last one over the entirety of the game so you can surprise your opponents at the end or just score as much points as possible each round. Also after the first round you will be considering the opponent’s boards as well because you might have an objective that gives one of your opponent’s a lot of points just because of how their Christmas Tree is made. There are a lot of things to consider while making your tree, does the card you play do anything for one of the objectives, does it complete some lightbulbs or might it score me some points in the end. All these different ways of scoring to consider and yet all our games we played so far where fairly close. Some went heavy on the objectives, others on the gingerbread cookies and the candy. The components are descent for this game. The cards have a linen finish and a good thickness yet the tree cards chip very easily. The snowflakes are very thematic. The tree board itself is a good size and once your tree is done you have a nice looking Christmas Tree ready to be photographed. All this combined makes for an interesting and fun game to play that can be made as strategic as you want. No better game to play around Christmas time then Christmas Tree and I think we will be decorating our Christmas Tree again in Spring, Summer and Autumn…
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