Everything You Need to Know About 12 Days!

12 Days Logo

Everything You Need to Know About 12 Days

Okay okay, I know what you’re thinking! “Risa, it’s only November! It’s not time for Christmas yet!” and to that I say, “you haven’t been in my house, my fiancé has been playing Christmas music for a week now.” But regardless of your views on when it’s acceptable to play holiday music, I swear I have a good reason for featuring 12 Days in November: gift giving! Sincerely, with shipping being… unpredictable at best, it’s not a bad idea to start planning for the holiday season now, and 12 Days is an excellent game for this time of year, and for all sorts of gamers. So with that in mind, let’s learn all about 12 Days!

12 Days Box and components

12 Days by James Ernest (Lords of Vegas) and Mike Selinker (Pathfinder, Betrayal at House on the Hill) is a trick-taking, set-collecting, bidding game, and if none of that means anything to you I can sum it up thusly: it’s a card game! You’ll be using numbered Gift cards to try win each Day in the 12 Days of Christmas, and if at the end you manage to have the most of a specific type of Gift, you can win that many points (so if you have the most Golden Rings, you’ll win 5 points). You’ll also be passing cards to other players, because it’s the season of giving! And it’s in that passing mechanic that the game goes from good to great, fun to delightful, thoughtful to diabolical. Okay, that last one might just be when I’m playing.

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How to Play

Quick Start Guide

12 Days gameplay setup

Place the Days cards face up in ascending order (1 on top, 12 on the bottom). Shuffle the Gift deck and deal 12 cards to each player.

Note: There are the exact amount of gift cards as the number in the song. So there’s 12 drummers drumming, 5 golden rings, 1 partridge in a pear tree, you get the idea. There are also 1 Santa and 1 Mrs. Claus card, each with a value of 0.

12 Days gameplay

The game is played over 12 rounds, called Days. Each Day, players will pass a card from their hand to the player on their left (consider it a gift!), then play a card from their hand to try to win the Day card. Cards are revealed simultaneously, and the player with the lowest card value wins the Day card. (Spoiler:  the end of the game, you score a number of points equal to the value of the Day card you won. So if you win day 4, you get 4 points)

If you win the day using the Santa or Mrs. Claus card, you don’t get to keep the Day card, but must instead gift it to another player. After the winning player takes their Day card, players draw back up to 12 cards. You’ll keep playing like that for all 12 Days. As you’ll see from scoring, it might be worth it not to spend low valued cards on early Days, and not to give another player too many of the same Gift.

12 Days end of game scoring

After the final Day card has been won, gameplay ends and scoring begins. You score a number of points equal to the Day cards you have won. Additionally, if you manage to be the person to have the most of a certain gift in your hand, you also win a number of points equal to the value on the card. So if you have the most Maids a Milking cards, you win 8 points. Combine the points won from the Day and Gift cards, and the player with the most points wins!

12 Days box and components in front of a Christmas tree

Frequently Asked Questions

Is this game language-dependent?
No! The cards have numbers on them, but aside from the rules there are no words in the game, which makes it a great choice for young ones still working on reading, or families with multiple languages.

Do we have to play with Santa and Mrs. Claus?
It’s your game, so technically you can do whatever you want! Use it to play 92 pickup if you’d like! But in all seriousness, we think the game loses something by not having Santa and Mrs. Claus, but if your house rules don’t include them, the game is still perfectly playable.

If I want to sleeve the cards, what size do I use?
According to a user on BoardGameGeek, they were successful with Sleeve Kings 63.5mm x 88mm sleeves.

Reviews and Playthroughs

Tabletop- Wil Wheaton, Kelly Hu, Meredith Salenger, and Nolan Kopp play a game of 12 Days
Calliope Games- Team Calliope Games gathered for a virtual game of 12 Days on Tabletop Simulator
Family Game Shelf Written review focusing on games for the family
Coffee and Cooperation- Morgan loves coffee, board games, and talking about coffee and board games!

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