SNAP Review – Christmas Lights

Christmas Lights game

Let’s get those Christmas lights up!

It’s time to put up our Christmas lights – but they’re all tangled, some of them are broken, and some are blinking!

Listen to our review of Christmas Lights in five and a half minutes, or read on below.

Game

Christmas Lights is a card game for 2-6 players, age 6 and up, from Adam Collins and Chad Head. It’s published by 25th Century Games.

In the box you get cards for the title game (“Christmas Lights”), as well as instructions for 12 bonus games. 12 days of Christmas means 12 days of games, right?

Art

We love Dave Perillo’s art for Christmas Lights, starting with the box styling – it’s a standard sized box for a double deck of cards, but it looks like it’s one you’d find on a hardware store shelf holding a string of incandescent bulbs!

Christmas Lights game - present cards, bubble bulb card, tree card, power surge card

The cards themselves show happy bulbs, happy Christmas trees, and cute characters. The aesthetic makes us think of animated Christmas TV specials.

Illustrated wires reach to the edges of each bulb card and line up nicely when placing several cards in a row – which is part of the central mechanic of the game.

Mechanics

In the primary game of Christmas Lights, your goal is to complete your strings of lights first. You can look at your pattern cards, but not at your bulb cards – these you hold out so all other players can see them.

  • First, play cards from your hand down into your string – or discard them if they didn’t match the pattern you were trying to make. Then you may (in order):
  • swap a card from your hand with any card from another player’s hand
  • “sell” 1-2 cards to other players to gain information about the cards in your hand
  • then refill your hand to 5 cards.

Special cards such as “broken bulbs” and “bubble bulbs” allow you to continue playing into your string even if you don’t have the matching bulbs right now. The bubble bulbs trigger “event” cards that can be good or bad – watch out!

Lastly, make sure you have a plug card to play to connect your two strings of lights! You can’t start on your second string if you can’t plug it into your first set.

Expectations

We (Andrew and Anitra) generally enjoy games of deducing the cards in our own hand (Hanabi, Concluzio, Beyond Baker Street). We were hoping Christmas Lights would bring a nice family-friendly holiday theme to this sort of deduction game.

The box design and attractive cards won us over right away, and knowing that there were bonus games didn’t hurt, either.

Christmas Lights - Bonus Games. Do not open until Christmas* - Just kidding, you can open it now!

Surprises

There was less deduction in the game than we expected. There was certainly some, but a lot more of swapping (stealing) cards we needed or playing cards out blindly hoping for some luck.

This probably has to do with playing in our family with younger kids. If they aren’t as skilled with deduction, they start “spamming” the puzzle just trying to hit on anything that might work. Sometimes this leads to frustration, but sometimes to happiness (when you get lucky). Ultimately, instead of being a clever deduction mechanic where we were all trying to figure out what is in our hands, it became a source of frustration. Once players start playing this way, they bring the rest of the table down to their level.

Light bulb cards laid side by side. From left to right: green, red, blue, pink, yellow
Getting your string laid out depends not just on laying the right cards, but being able to get them at the right time.

It seems like all of the games end up relying a lot on luck and only a little on skill (even the solo games). This is fine for casual play, but just didn’t hook us. (Maybe it would have been better in a group of all adults.)

Our favorite of the mini-games was one called “Blink” which was basically a way to adapt UNO to use the Christmas Lights cards.

The age recommendation of 6+ seems a little off. We got our 6 year old to understand the rules, but there were just a few more steps to a turn than he could handle, especially when combined with the difficulty in holding cards face-out and the temptation to look at them, while also trying to match a secret pattern card.

There was a disconnect between the age recommendation, art style, and the dynamics of play. We think this deduction mechanic works better for 8+ or even 10+.

Asher checked out the two solo games in the box. They didn’t blow him away, but they were pretty good.

We rate Christmas Lights 3 out of 5 blinking lights. It’s a fine diversion for the Christmas season and playing with grown-up family, but not our favorite. If it’s on your nice list, find it on Amazon or at your local game store.

Christmas Lights game

The Family Gamers received a copy of Christmas Lights from 25th Century Games for this review.

This post contains Amazon affiliate links, which do not change your price, but help support The Family Gamers.

SNAP review music is Avalanche, provided courtesy of You Bred Raptors?

Christmas Lights
  • Blinking Lights
3

Summary

Number of Players: 2-6

Age Range: 6+ (we say 8+)

Playtime: 10-30 minutes

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